The Los Angeles Chargers made it a priority to bring Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley back in 2018.
The team announced late Tuesday that the highly coveted coordinators would return in the same capacity under Head Coach Anthony Lynn.
For Whisenhunt, the opportunity to continue what they began together in 2017 was too good to pass up.
"With the way we finished, there is a lot of excitement about going forward," he said. "But every year is a new year. I think the most important thing is the people that you work with. We've actually gone through a season together, so going forward, now we know what we're capable of doing. We've just got to focus on getting better at doing some things that we need to get better at. But there is a lot of excitement because of the chemistry of our team, the chemistry with our coaching staff and obviously what we were able to do over the last 12 games. It was pretty exciting. A lot of success comes with continuity, and I give the organization a lot of credit because they are trying to do that."
With Whiz at the helm of the offense, the Chargers finished the year as the league's number one passing offense (276.9) and fourth in total offense (376.6). The high-powered offense ranked 13th in total points, and would have been much higher if not for well-documented woes in the kicking game the team has vowed to correct.
Still, while he acknowledged the positives to come out of 2017, Whisenhunt is also already hard at work figuring out ways to improve their shortcomings.
"Over the last seven games of the season, we were one of the best, if not the best¸ offenses in the league," he said. "But there are still a lot of things we want to get better at. We want to be better on third down and be more efficient in the red zone. There were a lot of times this year we didn't score on the opening drive with the proficiency that we did the year before. Those are things we'll work on and get better on."
The good news is that Whiz has a proven track record at correcting what needs to improve.
It was just last year that he stressed the team had to cut down on turnovers while doing a better job protecting Philip Rivers. Not only did the quarterback cut his interceptions down by more than half, throwing only 10 on the season, he was also sacked the fewest times in the league (18).
Still, there is one thing Whisenhunt stressed is a must as they enter a new year.
"Recapturing the chemistry that we had at the end of the season, as far as how we operated and how we worked together as a unit is one of the things we need to try to get back to. Every year is a new year, but I think we've got some players that have established themselves as some tremendous forces in this league. And we've got some young guys that we want to continue to see grow and get better. If we can mesh that group, we have a chance to have a good offense."
Players appreciate coaches who refuse to rest on their laurels and past success the way Whiz described. It's for that very reason the team was thrilled to learn he'd be back in 2018. Perhaps no one summed up their collective feelings better than Russell Okung.
"I'm so excited that Whiz is back," he said. "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."
The offensive players all spoke about what it means to be in this thing together. Having been in the NFL for 30 years, Whisenhunt knows the importance of that mindset.
"I think it's a testament to the character of the guys that we have," he said. "That they're unselfish, which is a big part of being a successful team. Every one of those guys had to make sacrifices throughout the year. That's an important piece of it. So I feel honored to be a part of it. We had a tremendous staff that worked very well together, and worked hard to put some of these guys in positions to be successful. But I think again it speaks to the chemistry that we have together as a unit, and that's a big thing."
Leading that staff was Anthony Lynn, who Whiz heaped a ton of praise on as a first-year head coach. He sees only better things ahead in year two.
"Coach Lynn deserves a lot of credit for the way everything was put together, and the fact that we were able to focus on going forward as a team. That's a big part of what he believes in. Accountability is another thing that he believes in. When you're 0-4, it's a tough road to overcome that and be able to finish the way we did. He held true to his beliefs, and we responded to that. I think that's a big thing."