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Bolts Notebook: Return of the Whiz


It’s an odd time to be a fan of the San Diego Chargers. While Dean Spanos takes a few weeks to decide whether to play the 2016 season in San Diego or Los Angeles, fans are left in limbo. That makes it difficult to know how to feel about on-field developments, such as Wednesday’s revelation that Ken Whisenhunt will return as offensive coordinator.

Whisenhunt’s return was first reported by Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union Tribube. The reunion brings back memories of Whisenhunt’s lone season in San Diego (2013), when the offense ranked No. 5 overall and included a 1,200-yard campaign by Ryan Mathews.

The hope is that Whisenhunt’s return will be followed by the return of a consistent running game, which has been missing since he left to take over as head coach of the Titans in 2014. That is encouraging for Melvin Gordon, who struggled as a rookie in Frank Reich’s pass-happy offense.

Gordon will be given another shot to prove he can be a bell-cow back. He must demonstrate he can stay healthy and hang onto the football, but those were the same issues that plagued Mathews prior to Whisenhunt’s arrival. After fumbling 12 times in his first three seasons (losing seven), Mathews lost just one fumble during his lone season with Whisenhunt despite touching the ball more than 300 times.

The rehiring of Whisenhunt is a reminder that fresh starts are possible (something Spanos hopefully takes into consideration over the coming weeks).

Shortly before leaving the Chargers, Whisenhunt was heavily criticized for interviewing for three head coaching positions while the Chargers were preparing the face the Broncos in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Chargers looked woefully unprepared for that game in Denver, falling behind 24-17 before a late rally fell just short.

Whisenhunt then made another mistake by taking the job in Tennessee instead of an offer from the Lions. Had he taken the job in Detroit, he would likely still be a head coach. Instead, his loss appears to be San Diego’s gain … and everything evens out in the end.

His return is reason for Chargers fans to be excited for the upcoming season. His offenses are always balanced; they stay on schedule; and they dominate time of possession. Those are all good things … unless those things end of benefiting the Los Angeles Chargers.

Like I said, it’s an odd time be a Chargers fan.

Lightning Quicks

-Whisenhunt is the second assistant coach to join the staff this offseason. He is joined by new linebackers coach Bob Babich, who spent the last three seasons as Jacksonville’s defensive coordinator. Babich also spent nine seasons as an assistant coach with the Bears, where he oversaw a dominant linebacker corps that featured Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.

Babich replaces Mike Nolan, who declined an offer to return after spending just one season in San Diego.

-Also new to the Chargers is linebacker-safety hybrid Dexter McCoil, who spent the last two seasons with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos. McCoil intercepted nine passes over the last two seasons and will have a chance to fill the void at strong safety, which has been a revolving door since Rodney Harrison left town after the 2002 season.

The Chargers have done well with CFL exports recently, including bringing in WR Dontrelle Inman and OLB Cordarro Law in 2014. Inman finished the 2015 season with 35 catches for 486 yards and three touchdowns. Law played 241 total snaps this season, including 160 on special teams, and chipped in a dozen tackles.

What are your thoughts on the return of Ken Whisenhunt? Discuss inside our new message boards!

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has also been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter @NFLinsider_Mike.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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