COSTA MESA, Calif. — The firing of Los Angeles Chargers' offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt took many by surprised when the team announced the decision Monday evening. That includes the Chargers' players, who heard about the change largely the same way fans and media did.
"When the Chargers tweeted it out, I found out about it," starting right guard Michael Schofield says. "I didn't hear anything until I got home from meetings and I was going through Twitter a couple of minutes after they tweeted it and said, 'Oh man, wow.' Kind of surprised by that."
Schofield and other players say they saw Whisenhunt around the Chargers' Costa Mesa facilities on "Victory Monday." Whisenhunt nor anyone on the coaching staff provided any indication that a change might occur.
But then came the tweet. Monday at 7:11 p.m. PT, the Chargers Twitter account sent out a single sentence announcing Whisenhunt's firing. The team followed up seven minutes later with an official statement from head coach Anthony Lynn, one that did not clarify the reasons for the change nor Whisenhunt's replacement. Players missed the news on social media and had to hear about it second hand.
"One of my teammates," center Scott Quessenberry says of how he learned the news.
Lynn provided more information Wednesday during his press conference. In addition to confirming that quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen would handle the offensive play-calling duties moving forward, Lynn said the move resulted from multiple factors, among them the Chargers' ineffective running game. The offense failed to reach 40 yards on the ground in each of their last four games, something no NFL team had done since the year after World War II ended. That clearly bothered Lynn, who played running back and coached the position earlier in his career.
"Sometimes it's hard to reach 40 yards when you don't have enough rush attempts," Lynn says. "That wasn't all on Ken. There was no flow. There was no rhythm. It was time for a change in my opinion."
Because Lynn made the move in the middle of the season, the Chargers cannot make any foundational changes to the offensive system Whisenhunt installed. Rather, any alteration will come in the form of different play selection and how Steichen stacks plays on top of one another.
How exactly Steichen's play-calling will diverge from Whisenhunt's remains a mystery for now. Running back Austin Ekeler called the Chargers' new offensive play-caller "an extension of Whiz" for his knowledge of the scheme and relationship with quarterback Philip Rivers. Tight end Lance Kendricks, who dealt with a similar change last year with the Green Bay Packers, doesn't expect a seismic shift either: "We still apply the same principles to playing the game."
But while the impact from the transition remains unclear, it has made players feel as though the team has put them on notice.
"It sucks because, in a way, we got a guy fired because we weren’t performing that well," Schofield says. "It's on us. We got to get going. I guess it kind of motivates us. We got to get going now because people are starting to get fired, and it could be us next. You never know."
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH