McCoy and Fox are kindred spirits

SAN DIEGO -- Mike McCoy and John Fox’s first meeting as head coaches did not take place earlier this season, as Fox was in the hospital recovering from heart surgery when Denver traveled to San Diego to take on the Chargers in November.

So McCoy will face his mentor for the first time when the Chargers meet the Broncos in Denver on Thursday.

“I remembered him as a player,” Fox said. “I definitely thought he had head coaching capabilities, and he’s done a fine job in his first year with the Chargers. Mike’s level-headed. He’s smart. He understands ball. He played in the league. He’s got a good feel for people skills and those types of things. As coaches we spent a lot of time together, so his traits come out. I knew he would do a good job once given the opportunity.”

McCoy coached under Fox for the better part of decade, including seven seasons in Carolina and two as the offensive coordinator in Denver. Working for Fox, McCoy gleaned some of the skills he uses as a head coach, including his weekly schedule, practice habits, game preparation and how he handles the media.

Both have a no-nonsense approach when it comes to coaching football.

“It’s great to see him back out there,” McCoy said. “I wouldn’t be here today without John Fox. The seven years we were together in Carolina and then in Denver, he is a great football coach but he is an even better person. With the scare he had, you understand there are more important things in life when something like that happens to a close friend. Fortunately he is back out there doing a great job. He loves to coach. He’s a good coach.”

McCoy said the two texted back and forth during Fox’s time in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. Fox, 58, underwent aortic valve replacement surgery at a hospital in Charlotte, N.C., after he became dizzy playing golf near his offseason home in the Charlotte last month.

Fox had a pre-existing heart condition, and hoped to put off the operation until after the season.

Last week’s Denver game at home against Tennessee was Fox’s first on the sideline since the surgery. He missed the first meeting earlier this season between the two teams in San Diego, a 28-20 win for the Broncos on Nov. 10.

“Re-entry is never easy, but we managed to get through it,” Fox said. “It was pretty tough conditions weather-wise all last week, and I made it through just fine. So I got Week 1 of the re-entry all done, and I’m ready for a short week for Week 2.”

Fox is in the unique position of having two of his former coaches now serving as head coaches for division rivals. His former defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen, is the coach at Oakland. That makes for some odd moments standing across the sidelines competing against guys he helped groom.

“Mike’s a good friend,” Fox said. “I know his family. I know his wife, Kellie. I’ve spent a lot of time with his whole family. But it’s still competitive. He’s trying to beat our brains out and we’re trying to beat his brains out. But you develop a lot of close relationships in this league over time.”