The Chargers shocked fans several weeks ago when they announced the firing of special coordinator Derius Swinton II, citing a disconnect between him and Brandon Staley. Now several weeks after the fact, the team has finally found their guy in former Vikings special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken. The news was reported Thursday morning by NFL insider Tom Pelissero.
The #Chargers are hiring Ryan Ficken as their special teams coordinator, source said.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 3, 2022
Ficken spent the past 15 seasons in a variety of roles with Minnesota, where he was highly regarded. He initially was blocked, but L.A. pursued him hard and got him.
Ficken has spent the last 15 years in Minnesota holding down a variety of roles over the years. His first two seasons (2007-2008) were spent as the assistant running backs coach before transitioning to assistant wide receivers coach from 2009-2012. Starting in 2013, Ficken took the role as assistant special teams coordinator, a position he held until the 2020 season before being promoted to special teams coordinator prior to the 2021 season.
In his first season at the helm, Ficken helped improve a unit that was close to abysmal in 2020. The Vikings finished 15th in Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings and they earned a 90.0 overall special teams grade by Pro Football Focus, good for 10th in the league.
The Vikings finished second in the NFL in average yards per kickoff return at 26.5 yards and tied for third in average starting field position on kickoffs (26.6-yard line).
Rookie returner Kene Nwangwu enjoyed a breakout rookie season under Ficken en route to being name to the All-NFC Team by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA). He averaged 32.3 yards per kick return and was the only player with multiple kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2021.