Less than 24 hours after the San Diego Chargers season came to a close, former Charger’s Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt signed as the Head Coach of the Tennessee Titans.
This week Ken Whisenhunt interviewed with the Titans, Lions, and Browns leading up to Sundays Divisional Round matchup against the Broncos. Many people in San Diego are buzzing about just how ‘all-in’ Whisenhunt was in preparation for the Playoff game. The Chargers had a lackluster first half performance where they gained less than 100 yards and were held scoreless.
Despite this poor outing on offense, Ken Whisenhunt has had a very successful season as the Chargers Offensive Coordinator. Mike McCoy must have known when hiring Ken that it may be a one-and-done type year for the new Titan’s head coach. Philip Rivers has had what many think as a renaissance year where he set a career record in completion percentage leading the league at 69.5%. Rivers was also top 5 in the league in passing yards, touchdowns, and QB Rating. Rivers had his first ProBowl season in a couple years and truly deserved it. Whisenhunt did a good job at pinpointing Rivers strengths and added a short passing game which proved to be effective. He also greatly improved his turnovers as he only had 11 interceptions all season and 1 lost fumble. The 11 interceptions were the fewest since 2009 in which he only threw 9. Rivers also enjoyed his highest yards per attempt since 2009.
Not only did Whisenhunt improve the overall efficiency of the passing game, but he also resurrected the Chargers running game. Ryan Mathews had arguably his best season of his career rushing for 1,255 yards and 6 touchdowns. He set a career high in rushing yards after rushing for less than 800 yards last season. He also enjoyed his first full 16-game season. He left a few of these games early (including a game early in the season where he only rushed 3 times for 8 yards). Although Mathews had much more passing receptions and yards in previous seasons, his opportunities were limited with the emergence of Danny Woodhead in the Charger’s offense and passing game.
For the Titans:
The Titans have to be pretty satisfied with who they obtained as a head coach. Jake Locker is an up-and-coming quarterback with his own Ben Roethlisberger-esque style of play. Tennessee has a few playmakers on offense including Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson. Both are set to be free agents so depending on if they retain those players this could be a different team. If they can retain those players than I would expect CJ2K to have a rebound season. Norv Turner led Chargers teams of the past were known for abandoning the run. Ken Whisenhunt committed to the run for the first time since LT was with the Chargers and it proved dividends for both the running and passing games.
Many thought that Ken Whisenhunt would have taken the Detroit Lions job, as did I. The Lions have a potential elite defense stacked with talent, especially on the front 7. Also they have playmakers on offense. Matt Stafford has had similar problems that people saw in Rivers in past years. Ken Whisenhunt would have been a perfect candidate to ‘fix’ Stafford and resurrect his career as he did to Rivers’. Also, the Lions have the NFL’s best Wide Receiver in Calvin Johnson. Reggie Bush has proven himself as a legitimate feature back in the past couple seasons as well.
There must have been something he saw in Tennessee.
Tennessee has historically had a solid defense, but it has not been as good in recent years. Ken Whisenhunt really does not have any defensive experience and it will be interesting to see what route he goes with his hirings. One thing to mention is that when he had success in Arizona it was with a Hall of Fame quarterback in Kurt Warner. Before that his success in Pittsburgh was with Super Bowl winning QB Big Ben. Just this last year he has had success with a great QB in Philip Rivers. The success of Ken Whisenhunt will be judged primarily on the progress and production of Titans QB Jake Locker.
But who knows? Maybe Ken wants to completely switch it up and get new players all around.
What this means for Chargers:
Mike McCoy and San Diego’s front office now need to start looking for an Offensive Coordinator. Ken Whisenhunt was an excellent addition to McCoy’s staff in his first year. As mentioned above, he truly resurrected Philip Rivers career.
WIth that said, this has been a pretty conservative year for the Charger’s offense. Yea, Ken did a good job in committing to the run, but he also got away from the passing game at times. Also, he had some questionable play calling at times (see Washington game).
The major reason for all of this conservative play calling was to limit Philip River’s turnovers. He did a great job in this. With the experience of this year under his belt, I feel Rivers will continue to make strides next year. The Chargers should still incorporate the short passing game and lock and load with the run. I believe Rivers will get back to his gunslinging ways in 2014. The Chargers should have an additional deep threat WR (depending on the future of Malcom Floyd/Danario Alexander) next year which will help Rivers numbers and help all the other players on the offense get open as well.
So what’s next? Many people have speculated that Chargers will promote QB Coach Frank Reich to Offensive Coordinator. Those are also the same people that thought Ken Whisenhunt would sign with the Detroit Lions, so who knows. Frank has done a great job with Rivers this year. The only concern really is that he has not been an OC or called plays in 8 years.
Will McCoy call plays next year? Mike McCoy could go back to calling plays until Frank Reich gets his feet wet as an offense coordinator and becomes comfortable calling plays. Personally, I think the Chargers should consider this option, but not be blind to outside options as well. There are not many good candidates for OC positions because most good OC’s are trying to be head coaches and non of the coaches that got fired this year were among the better OC’s in the league. Maybe Rod Chudzinski will be looked at.
Either way the Chargers offense has a lot to look forward to next year and should be happy with what Ken Whisenhunt has brought this team. His one year here will leave lasting impressions with the Changes he made to the passing and running game. Best of luck to Whiz.