We knew this time would come. From the day he was named Offensive Coordinator, it was understood that San Diego was simply a pit stop for Ken Whisenhunt. The 2013 season would be an audition for him to prove that he still was one of the elite offensive minds in the NFL. He's proven that, and then some. It's pretty staggering how much he's improved the offense in just one season.
I've really grown to appreciate Football Outsiders recently so I made a chart that included, in my opinion, the top 5 offensive categories as far as team success and offensive line success to help illustrate just how good the 2013 San Diego Chargers have been. I've also added yards per play, which is the best metric to see how consistently an offense moves the ball, as it accounts for pace (unlike total offense). Each definition can be described in full here.
|Yards Per Play||30th||3rd|
As you can see, it's like night and day. The offense is 3rd in yards per play at 6.1, while Denver (who plays San Diego twice) is 1st at 6.3. What Whisenhunt has done is nothing short of amazing.
There's been some recent speculation that Whisenhunt is the lead candidate to replace Gary Kubiak as the Texans next head coach.
Chargers OC Ken Whisenhunt and Texans GM Rick Smith worked together for 1 year on NFL comp committee. Whisenhunt will be Texans HC candidate— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 8, 2013
We all knew he was on a 1 year rental. RT@JasonLaCanfora Early guess on guys McNair might target for Texans: Ken Whisenhunt.— Kyle Posey (@The_KP_Show) December 6, 2013
Chargers not shocked if Ken Whisenhunt in high demand this offseason. Mike McCoy: "It wouldn't surprise me at all" - http://t.co/1IuO8x4hqt— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) December 7, 2013
If not the Texans, my dark-horse is to the Jets, whose assistant GM hired Whisenhunt as a head coach back in 2007. Nothing is set in stone, obviously, but I thought it'd be fun to play the hypothetical game on who should replace Whisenhunt.
The current QB coach of the Chargers has previously worked with the Colts (and Tom Telesco) from 2008-11, where he served as an offensive coaching assistant, in addition to a QB/WR coach for a year. He then was with the Cardinals (with Ken Whisenhunt) for a year as the WR coach before joining the Chargers staff this year.
With a year under his belt, he's more familiar with the current scheme than any other possible candidate. The argument can be made that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." You wouldn't have to break the bank with Reich, and can use that money to replace whoever is calling plays on defense next year.
The obvious downsides are: he's never called plays; he's 52; and would you really want to waste your franchise quarterback's prime under an offensive coordinator who is so green? If this were to happen, I'd imagine McCoy would be much more hands–on with the play–calling duties.
Washington is a team that could go through a lot of turnover. It seems clear that head coach Mike Shanahan — who also happens to be Kyle's dad — could be fired, and I have a hard time believing they keep the offensive coordinator either. Kid Shanahan has taken his fair share of heat this year, most notably for not adjusting his scheme since Robert Griffin had his knee injury.
Just a year ago, many fans were in love with the idea of having Shanahan not only calling plays, but being the head coach. From a DVOA/yards per play standpoint, Washington was 5th/3rd a year ago. I refuse to believe Shanahan forgot how to coach in a year. The only thing that has regressed is his QB.
In case you forgot, he was also the Texans offensive coordinator for the Texans from 2008-09. In both years, Houston was 3rd & 7th in the NFL on a yards per play basis. I won't get too deep into his scheme, I'll just say he likes to stretch the field vertically and is 90% zone blocking, but by no means is he married to one scheme. Kid Shanahan will be 34 later this month and is a bright offensive mind who could come in and continue the success the Chargers have had on offense.
A great football mind that will be forever linked to the horrible Carson Palmer trade. Good news here: he wouldn't be tied to any personnel decisions in San Diego. The work he did with Oakland in 2010 deserves a standing ovation and a slow clap.
So why isn't Jackson a coordinator? SI wrote this article last march with some GMs describing Jackson as a "me" guy who wants to be in charge. Some even considered him "brash" and someone who will overstep his boundaries.
I believe his situation would be very different in San Diego, where he'd have an established veteran QB he could rely on. Jackson could simply come in, call plays, and continue to develop young talent, just like he did with Darren McFadden, Joe Flacco, Chad Johnson, Roddy White, and (this year) Gio Bernard.
Studesville has familiarity with Mike McCoy. He's been the RB coach in Denver since 2009. He too comes from the John Fox coaching tree and would have an upper-hand in knowing what McCoy wants to do on offense. Studesville was also pegged as the interim head coach over McCoy in 2010 during the final 4 games after Josh McDaniels was fired.
Studesville has always had the reputation of being a very smart guy and someone who fellow coaches could trust. In 2009 he served as the running game coordinator for the Bills, after spending the previous 6 years as the RB coach. That would tie him into the current, and phenomenal, OL coach Joe D'Alessandris. In 2009, Chris Mortensen reported that the offensive coordinator position was more of a "collective" duty, though Studesville never officially has called plays.
Yes, the grandson of Vince. Lombardi has been the QB coach of the Saints for the last 5 years, and spent the previous 2 years as an offensive assistant. Since Drew Brees has really flourished as a passer since Lombardi has taken over, he does deserve some of the credit. Lombardi interviewed for the Jets offensive coordinator position, but didn't get it. The Chargers would be a perfect fit for Lombardi to come in and establish himself as a play-caller.
He is only 32, which might scare some fans off, but he's been coaching in the NFL for 7 years. As an assistant he was involved heavily in putting together the Saints passing attack, and we saw how well that worked out. It's hard to question the pedigree of a guy that the trophy is named after.
Whom would you prefer?
Each one of my candidates have either a great coaching background, or strong ties to the current coaching staff. The common theme is they are all tied to some sort of spread offense, and are very good at developing players.
In the NFL, you want your coordinators to be gurus on the chalkboard, and can succeed at getting the most out of your players. It's general manager Tom Telesco's job to draft the best players, regardless of position, and the coaching staff's job to develop talent.
Each of these guys are either young, or first–time play–callers, so they'd almost be guaranteed to stick with the Chargers for multiple years. There are no "rentals" in this group.
As I said, it's not set in stone, but it seems like a strong possibility that Whisenhunt is going to be a Head Coach somewhere. Which of the 5 guys I've listed would you prefer to be calling plays in San Diego next season? Or is there another name out there, maybe in the college ranks?