The Chargers Best Off-Season Addition

New (old) offensive coordinator is the key to success

There is something magical about scoring 25 points in an NFL game. It seems to be that mythical cutoff line that separates elite teams from average ones. Submitted for your approval:

In 2015 there were nine NFL teams that averaged at least 25 points per game. Here’s the list:

1)    Carolina (31.1)
2)    Arizona (29.4)
3)    New England (28.3)
4)    NY Giants (26.2)
5)    Cincinnati (25.6)
6)    New Orleans (25.5)
7)    Pittsburgh (25.4)
8)    Seattle (25.4)
9)    Kansas City (25.3)

You might notice that seven of those teams ended up in the playoffs and one was in the Super Bowl. The Chargers averaged 20.0 points per game, putting them 25th in the league and 3rd in the NFL Draft. A lot of the blame for the offensive ineptitude (fair or not) landed at the feet of offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who never seemed to show a real feel for play calling.

So the best off-season acquisition the Chargers made was not any of their (signed) Draft picks or free agents. It was hiring Ken Whisenhunt back to be their offensive coordinator.

“He’s aggressive. You’ve gotta love that as an offensive player,” said left guard Orlando Franklin. “A coordinator that’s going to go out there and be aggressive and just basically try to run up the scoreboard as quickly as possible. He has the mindset that the games don’t need to be close.”

That is music to the ears of Chargers fans who have routinely criticized McCoy for his conservative tendencies.

“The thing I love most about him, and I tell people this all the time, is his confidence,” said right tackle Joe Barksdale. “He knows how he’s going to get it done and he knows how to put things together so I’m really excited to have him here.”

In 2013 Whisenhunt held the same position in San Diego and resuscitated the Bolts offense. He and first-year head coach Mike McCoy installed a new offense that had a few growing pains but once it clicked, it REALLY clicked. In the final eight games of that season (including the playoffs) the Bolts averaged 26.5 points per game.

If they did that over the duration of an entire season, and with Rivers already in command of Whisenhunt’s scheme that is to be expected, the Bolts would be the 4th-highest scoring team in the league (based on 2015 rankings). That should get you out a few more wins.

Whisenhunt’s impact was in display in the first series of their preseason opener against the Titans. It’s probably not a coincidence that running back Melvin Gordon, who went the entire 2015 season without finding the end zone, scored a touchdown on his first drive with Coach Whis.

When he returned to San Diego Whisenhunt acknowledged the Chargers have to improve on the running game. Keep in mind, Ryan Mathews had hands down the best year of his career in his lone season under Whisenhunt, whose re-integration in San Diego has obviously not taken long.

“From Day 1,” said McCoy. “We talked about this four years ago when he got here. We put our system in place for the long haul, it wasn’t for one year.”

So what is the secret to unlocking the Chargers offense in 2016?

“It’s our guys,” said Whisenhunt. “Believing in the plan and making some plays. Just like in practice, we started off quick on a couple of things and that’s the mentality that we’re trying to establish again. We’ll build on it as we go and hopefully be ready to roll.”

Rivers says there is no need to think the offensive issues were just on Reich. Injuries and the defense consistently giving up points early in games often forced the Bolts to change the way they approached play calling. But there is no denying how things were clicking in 2013.

“I do think Whis has a feel for the game as it’s going, both in the preparation part and adjusting as the game’s going that’s very good.”

Very good is a very good way to describe what San Diego’s offense can be with Whisenhunt at the helm.

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