Ken Whisenhunt back with Philip Rivers, ready to ignite Chargers' offense

The Philip Rivers-Ken Whisenhunt combination of 2013 produced impressive offensive numbers. Gregory Bull/AP Photo

SAN DIEGO -- They worked so well together the first time that Ken Whisenhunt returning to the San Diego Chargers was a no-brainer for head coach Mike McCoy.

"We had a system in place," said McCoy, who noted the two coaches were in sync from Day 1 of Whisenhunt's return to Chargers Park. "We talked about it four years ago when we got here. We put our system in place. And it was for the long haul -- it wasn't for one year.

"You tweak things every year. You make some changes with your personnel, scheme evaluation, and we made some changes when he was gone for a couple years. They did some things different in Tennessee. So we got together as a staff and talked about what type of team we want to be moving forward."

One of the reasons McCoy brought him back is how well Philip Rivers performed during Whisenhunt's one-year stint as San Diego's offensive coordinator in 2013.

After an uneven stretch of his career in which he threw a combined 48 interceptions from 2010 to 2012, Rivers experienced a rebirth under Whisenhunt, finishing in the top five in completion percentage (69.5 percent), yards per pass (8.23), passing yards (4,478), passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating (105.5) during the 2013 season.

Those numbers earned Rivers a Pro Bowl invitation and the 2013 Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year. The offensive production made Whisenhunt a top coaching candidate, and he was hired as head coach of the Tennessee Titans. He was fired during the 2015 season after a 1-6 start.

A ball-control offense with more of a focus on short throws, limiting turnovers and running the football played to Rivers' strengths.

Whisenhunt coached Ben Roethlisberger while serving as offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kurt Warner during his time as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and he served as strong, steadying influence on the offensive side of the football for Rivers.

"Whiz has a feel for the game as it's going, both in the preparation part and adjusting as the game is going, that's very good," Rivers said. "His demeanor in general when he stands in front of a room, you see the toughness right away."

Rivers also had a good relationship with Frank Reich, who was fired as San Diego's offensive coordinator at the end of the 2015 season and landed with the Philadelphia Eagles as that team's OC.

In his return to San Diego, Whisenhunt kept much of the same offense to keep some continuity, but the Chargers will work to be more balanced in 2016.

"Keeping the same terminology that we installed in 2013, that certainly helps a lot," Rivers said. "We really hit it off from that first year, so we just picked back up. He has a great feel for this offense, and I think he's getting a great feel for this personnel. And I think he'll do a heck of a job, along with the rest of the staff, of making us the balanced attack we want to be."

For his part, Whisenhunt is excited to be back coaching one of the best quarterbacks in the game.

"Obviously being back with Philip is exciting on my part because of how good of a football player he is," Whisenhunt said. "It's really good to sit in the meetings, talk about football and get out on the field with him. It's really been a lot of fun."