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Losing the scowl, Chargers coach Mike McCoy tries softer tone

SAN DIEGO -- The scowl was gone for San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy during the AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings last week, replaced by a more relaxed smile.

McCoy looked reporters in the eye when they asked questions, taking his time to offer an informed response.

And even though McCoy’s table was one of the most sparsely attended among reporters there last week -- a 4-12 record will do that -- he stayed for the entire session.

After three years of on-the-job training that has led to awkward confrontations at times, McCoy is working harder to find his comfort zone with the media.

“It’s a learning experience,” McCoy said. “In everything you do, there’s going to be some mistakes that you make. Working with Bill [Johnston, Chargers PR director,] every day, I always want his advice too, and have him evaluate me like a player. He’s the coach, and I’m the player. So I want him to evaluate some things to see if there’s a better way I can give information to you guys and say it differently.”

During his first two years on the job, McCoy at times came off as wooden, giving rote answers like “We’ll play the best 46” or “You’ll find out on Sunday” to any question he did not want to provide a specific answer for.

McCoy will never offer the blunt responses of Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, provide the enthusiasm of Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley or engage in the witty banter of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

And he will always shy away from answering questions about injuries, in-game strategy or scheme for fear of divulging something about his team that could lead to a competitive disadvantage -- call it head coach paranoia.

But he should provide a specific answer to a specific question, and McCoy seems more willing to do that.

“I have a very strong opinion on certain things that I’m not going to talk about, or I don’t believe in talking about for competitive reasons,” McCoy said. “But I’ll try and help you guys as much as I can.”

That said, McCoy is making a sincere attempt to improve his interactions and standing with the media, and also his interactions with fans. He’s hosted live chats on the team’s website and fielded questions from fans in order to foster a better relationship.

McCoy should do that. Whether he likes it or not, it’s part of the job. McCoy is one of the faces of the franchise, and the most heard voice of the organization during the regular season.

And for a franchise trying to win what likely will be a contentious vote on a downtown stadium, the Chargers need a likable coach who can help give them all the positive publicity they can get.

And it would also help the team’s upcoming November campaign to win some games sooner rather than later once the regular season begins.

Given just a one-year extension at the end of last season, McCoy will be one of the coaches listed on the hot seat once the 2016 season begins, so his job security likely depends on winning early.

Asked if he’s changed his approach to handling the media, McCoy said only the reporters know.

“Only you can answer that,” McCoy said. “You have to answer that yourself in terms of how you think I’ve done things -- how I’ve changed, or if I have or haven’t changed -- the good and the bad.

“I just try and be as honest as I can, and try and help you guys as much as I can.”