Shane Steichen will make his debut as the Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator and play caller Sunday when they play host to the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Steichen replaces Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired Monday, one day after the Chargers failed to score more than 20 points for the sixth time in seven games.
“That was not an easy decision,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “It’s never about one person winning or losing but it’s a team. I felt like there was a change that definitely needed to be made.”
Lynn said he “just felt like it was time” to make the change.
“If I was eventually going to do it, why not just do it right now?” Lynn said. “We have eight weeks left in this season and we still have everything in front of us that we want. I feel like this move would be smoother for us.”
Lynn described the 34-year-old Steichen as young, innovative and “a good communicator.” He is three years younger than the quarterback he will be calling plays for, Philip Rivers.
Lynn said he has advised Steichen to “cut back, simplify and let these young men play fast and physical.”
Lynn said he will assist Steichen in play calling, just like he assisted Whisenhunt.
“I do not want him looking over his shoulder for any reason,” Lynn said. “I have a lot of confidence in Shane and our offensive staff to get this done.”
Offensive line coach Pat Meyer will be the run game coordinator, helping Steichen call the run game, Lynn said.
Steichen said there would “be little tweaks here and there” in the Chargers offense, but declined to provide specifics.
The Chargers (3-5) are 23rd in the NFL in scoring, averaging 19.6 points per game. They are 28th in rushing in the 32-team league, averaging 69.5 yards.
The Chargers have rushed for 39 yards or less for four consecutive games, including 36 yards on 12 carries in last Sunday’s 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears. The span coincides with Melvin Gordon’s return to play after not reporting to the team as he sought a contract extension.
“Sometimes it’s hard to reach 40 yards if you don’t have enough rushing attempts, but that wasn’t all on Ken,” Lynn said. “It was just there was no flow, there was no rhythm.
“You have to give guys the chance to get into a rhythm and flow. Sometimes, you can do that through play calling. We’ll see moving forward if we can get into that rhythm, if the offensive line can take over a game on the ground and stay on the field.”
First-half double-digit deficits against Denver Oct. 6 and Pittsburgh Oct. 13 limited the Chargers to 16 and 14 rushing attempts.
Gordon has rushed for 42 yards or less for eight consecutive games dating back to last season, including the playoffs. The streak began after Gordon suffered a knee injury Nov. 25 that sidelined him the next three games.
Gordon ran for 31 yards on 18 carries against the Bears, including a 19-yard touchdown run with two minutes, 12 seconds left in the first half.
Whisenhunt was in the fourth season of his second stint as Chargers offensive coordinator, rejoining the team in 2016, one year before Lynn became coach. Whisenhunt was also the Chargers offensive coordinator in 2013, then became coach of the Tennessee Titans.
Whisenhunt was the Arizona Cardinals coach from 2007-12, including guiding them to Super Bowl XLIII in the 2008 season.
Steichen joined the Chargers in 2011 as a defensive assistant, a position he held through the 2012 season. He spent the 2013 season as an offensive quality control coach with the Cleveland Browns, working with the quarterbacks.
Steichen returned to the Chargers in 2014 as an offensive quality control coach working primarily with their receivers. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2016, a post he held until his promotion to offensive coordinator.
The game is expected to be the 2019 debut of Chargers kicker Michael Badgley who missed the first eight games because of a groin injury. The Chargers released Chase McLaughlin, who had kicked for them the past four games, on Tuesday.
Badgley made a team-record 93.8% of his field goal attempts in 2018, including a 59-yarder, also a team record.
The Chargers will be without defensive tackle Justin Jones (shoulder) and nose tackle Brandon Mebane (knee), both starters, for the third consecutive game.
Starting safety Roderic Teamer is out because of a groin injury.
The Chargers promoted safety Shalom Luani from the practice squad on Saturday. Luani made 18 tackles in 16 games in 2017 for the Oakland Raiders, who selected him in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL draft out of Washington State. He made nine tackles in 12 games for the Seattle Seahawks in 2018.
Luani also played eight games for the America Samoa men’s national soccer team in 2011, scoring three goals in eight games.
The 7-1 Packers share the league’s third-best record with New Orleans Saints, behind the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, who are both 8-0. They have won four consecutive games since their lone loss, 34-27, to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 26.
Green Bay is off to its best start since 2011 when it began the season 8-0 en route to a 15-1 record, in a season it was upset by the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the divisional playoffs.
The Chargers 1-10 record against the Packers is their worst against any opponent. Their only victory came in 1984 a 34-28 win at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
The Chargers have lost the last seven games in the series, including a 27-20 loss in the most recent meeting in 2015, when Rivers set records for passes (65), completions (43) and passing yards (503).
The Chargers are 0-6 in home games against Green Bay.
Green Bay’s roster includes two UCLA alumni, tight end Marcedes Lewis and defensive lineman Kenny Clark.
The game is the Chargers Salute to Service game. World War II veterans Rudolfo “Roy” Huereque, Howard Buford, Tom Foreman, Lawrence “Larry” Stevens and Arthur Del Rey will handle the ceremonial firing of the cannon.
There will be collection boxes in Lots 10, 11 and 12 to receive supplies for Operation Gratitude, which will then send items to troops deployed overseas. Operation Gratitude sends more than 300,000 care packages to servicemen and women, first responders, veterans and their children.
Requested items include travel sized toiletries, sunscreen and hand sanitizer. All items collected on Sunday will be packed by Chargers staff, volunteers and active duty military on Tuesday as part of “Huddle for 100,” the NFL’s effort to get people to donate 100 minutes of their time in connection with the league’s 100th season.
Each NFL team designates a home game in November as its Salute to Service game. Players wear camouflage equipment including quarterback towels and captain’s patches.
Game-worn Salute to Service merchandise and footballs will be auctioned at NFL.com/Auction. Special camouflage merchandise will be available at NFLShop.com.
The NFL does not profit from the sale of Salute to Service products, a league official said. All charitable contributions are donated to the league’s core military nonprofit partners, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, the Pat Tillman Foundation, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), USO and the Wounded Warrior Project.