What if Philip Rivers can regain 2013 form?
By Travis Wakeman
If you choose to look at the glass as half empty, you’d look at the fact that the defending Super Bowl champions are in the AFC West. You’d also look at the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders seem to be teams on the rise, teams that can contend for the division title. You’d also look at the San Diego Chargers as likely the fourth-best team in a four-team division.
However, if you prefer to look at the glass as half full, you’d see things in a completely different light for this particular Chargers team.
The Chargers have made many moves this offseason, but none may be more important than bringing back Ken Whisenhunt to be the team’s offensive coordinator. He was able to earn his second head-coaching position after a successful stint as the offensive coordinator in San Diego during the 2013 season.
Perhaps no one is more excited about having him back than San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who had arguably the best season of his career in 2013. That year, Rivers passed for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also completed 69.5 percent of his throws, easily the best number he’s posted in that category in a single season.
More importantly, the Chargers qualified for the playoffs that season. Going on the road in the postseason, the Chargers picked up a relatively easy 27-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals before going to Sports Authority Field where they gave the eventual AFC champion Denver Broncos all they wanted in a 24-17 loss.
The Chargers haven’t returned to the playoffs since, and though Rivers has put up big numbers since that season, he hasn’t nearly been as sharp as when Whisenhunt was calling plays and steering him toward league MVP consideration.
In addition to bringing back Whisenhunt, general manager Tom Telesco has made some solid moves this offseason which have seemingly improved a team that is coming off a highly disappointing 4-12 season. But it begs the question, can the Chargers turn things around in one season?
When Rivers and Whisenhunt found success together, the team didn’t have a running back as dynamic as Melvin Gordon. Keenan Allen was on the team, but the Chargers didn’t have a playmaker with the ability of Travis Benjamin. Plus, the team still has the entire draft to find more weapons.
Not only did Whisenhunt help Rivers to a huge season in 2013, he designed a rushing attack in which Ryan Mathews ran for 1,255 yards. That is about double what the team’s leading rusher—Gordon—had last season.
These are all reasons for fans to be excited. Whisenhunt has proven to be one of the most innovative play-callers in the league. He will be determined to run the ball and create a system that supports Rivers, allowing one of the league’s most gifted passers to do what he does best. Last season, when you saw Rivers running for his life and trying to make desperate plays as protection broke down will be a thing of the past. Instead, Rivers will be able to rely on a greatly improved rushing attack and a passing game with familiar options in Allen and Antonio Gates, as well as an intriguing new on in Benjamin.
If Rivers can play like he did in 2013, look out. The Chargers may be a team that goes from 4-12 to 12-4.