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Gus Bradley, Ken Whisenhunt Back in 2018
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The Los Angeles Chargers made it clear they hoped to retain their offensive and defensive coordinators this offseason.
“We’d like to keep this together if we can,” Head Coach Anthony Lynn said once the season ended about bringing both coordinators back. “I know some guys, the contracts are up. We’re working on that right now. We’re trying to keep this staff together, this nucleus together, because I think we got better as a coaching staff as the season went on."
On Tuesday, they announced they’ve done just that as Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley will return for the 2018 season.
"I'm very excited to have Whiz back for another year," Philip Rivers said. "We have a chance to really improve and continue the things we have done well. And getting Gus back is really great for our team and our defense. He has brought a lot to our team."
The Bolts’ offense flourished in 2017 as the team ranked first in the NFL in passing (276.9 yards per game) and fourth in total offense (376.6). In addition, the Chargers were the only team to surpass 485 yards three times this season. Just one other team had multiple games over that number (New Orleans Saints), while only 12 other teams had one each.
A number of players also flourished under Whiz.
Keenan Allen authored the greatest single season for a wide receiver in team history, setting a franchise record with 102 catches and the second-most receiving yards with 1,393. He also ranked third in receiving yards in the league this season, while he set the franchise record and paced the NFL with 36 catches on third down.
In addition, Philip Rivers had one of his best seasons in what is sure to be a Hall of Fame career. He ranked second in the NFL in passing yards (4,515) while throwing only 10 picks on the year. Rivers also became only the ninth player in league history to surpass 50,000 career passing yards and also tied Fran Tarkenton for the sixth-most career passing touchdowns (342).
On the ground, Melvin Gordon emerged as one of the league’s most complete running backs. He posted his first 1,000-yard rushing season, ranking seventh in the NFL with 1,105. His 72 total points were the fourth-most of any non-kicker while his 80 total first downs ranked third.
“I’m excited to hear that Whiz is coming back,” said Hunter Henry, who is regarded as one of the top tight ends in the league after two seasons under Whisenhunt’s tutelage. “It’s nice to continue what we have been doing and continue to get better. It fires me up for next season. I can’t wait to get to work.”
"I'm so excited that Whiz is back," echoed Russell Okung. "He's a genius that understands the strengths of the offense. We need all hands on deck to win the AFC West. Whiz is a large part of who we are, and what we need, to take the division."
Meanwhile, Bradley brought the defense to new heights in his first year with the Bolts, which is why news he was coming back music to his players' ears.
"I'm soooo excited to have Gus back," said an enthusiastic Casey Hayward. "Man, we love Gus on this defense. He helped give us an identity on defense, and we feel like if we add some pieces and stay healthy in his scheme, we have a chance to be very special. Man, I read all the rumors about he may be interviewing for other jobs and whatnot. And I was excited for him because he is a great coach and an even better person. But in the back of my head I was hoping we retained him, and we did. So let's make this thing special next year, and this is a start to a great year."
The Chargers only gave up an average of 17.0 points per game, which was the third lowest in the league. It was also the fewest amount of points since 1992, and the third lowest in franchise history for a 16-game season. In addition, the team totaled the fifth-most sacks in the NFL (43) and gave up only 197.3 passing yards per game, which was the third fewest in the league.
Perhaps most impressive is that the Bolts boasted the league’s best red zone defense. The team allowed a touchdown at only a 36.1 percent clip, which was far and away the lowest percentage in 2017. Furthermore, the Chargers totaled 18 interceptions, which were the sixth-most in the NFL.
"I'm very excited to have Coach Gus back with us," said Jahleel Addae, who led the team in tackles under Bradley. "He's a players coach. Guys love him. He's a coach who brings the best out of you as a player. Someone you want to go to battle with. This defense is headed in the right direction with him leading us."
"Man, that's a true players coach right there," added Jason Verrett, who figures to play a big role on defense next season in his return from an ACL injury. "He's a solid guy that always approaches the day the same way, and I have the utmost respect for him. I can't wait to see how this year goes, and I'm glad to have him back."