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The Case To Make An Unknown The Chargers Next Head Coach

The Chargers have a cheap, experienced, in-house option that has coached all three phases of the game and has been successful doing so.
Ryan Ficken

The first reaction when reading “Why Ryan Ficken Could Become The Chargers Next Head Coach” might be “who?” That would be justified, as Ficken is a fairly unknown coach in the general media, due to his status as a special teams coordinator for a team that has not been good this season. The current Chargers special teams coordinator, Ryan Ficken is more than capable of becoming a great head coach for this organization.

Why Ryan Ficken Could Become the Chargers Next Head Coach

Ryan Ficken Background/History

Like most coaches, Ficken started his career as a player. Playing wide receiver for two years at Arizona State (1998-1999) Ficken eventually graduated and moved into a coaching role in 2004 as a defensive assistant at UCLA, then transitioned to an offensive assistant in 2006. A few notable players he coached during his time as a UCLA assistant were Matthew Slater, Kai Forbath, and Mercedes Lewis. All players who were in the league a very long time, two of which were for their special teams’ ability.

Moving into the NFL in 2007, Ficken found a home in Minnesota with the Vikings. He started as an assistant running backs coach, doing that until 2009. Staying with the Vikings, Ficken moved to become the assistant wide receivers coach from 2009 to 2012, Where he developed Sidney Rice from a high-potential backup to an elite receiver in his first year as an assistant. Though Rice couldn’t stay healthy after, it shows that Fickens’ impact was extreme on Rice. The next player Fickens coached was the rookie Percy Harvin in 2009. Throughout his tenure with the Vikings, Harvin was electric and saw all of his success as a pro. Ficken was extreme for the development of the Vikings receivers, and those results showed up on the stat sheet.

In 2013, Ficken moved to the third phase of the game, special teams. He became the Assistant Special Teams Coach in 2013, eventually being promoted in 2021. From 2013 to 2020, Ficken spent his eight seasons coaching up players like Cordarrelle Patterson, Marcus Sherels, Kai Forbath, Mike Boone, Dan Bailey, and Adam Thielen. The Vikings special teams unit was always explosive, and credit must be due to Ficken.

Work As A Special Teams Coordinator

When finally given his chance as a full-time special teams coordinator in 2021 with the Vikings, and he didn’t disappoint. According to Pro Football Focus, his unit was the ninth-best unit in the league. He also helped coach an unknown returner in Kene Nwagnwu into a spot on the All-Rookie team. Ngwagnwu wasn’t the only success story, as C.J. Ham and long snapper Andrew Depaola earned Pro Bowl alternates due to their work as core special teamers for coach Ficken.

The 2022 Chargers wanted Ficken after his run with the Vikings and eventually hired him after firing Derius Swinton. There was an immediate difference for the Bolts, as kicker Dustin Hopkins was on his way to a Pro Bowl until injury. The backup kicker, Cameron Dicker had no problem stepping up, and eventually set the NFL’s rookie single-season field goal percentage record among players with 15 or more attempts. Dicker is now the Chargers’ long-term answer at the kicker position, after decades of miserable kicking failures. Furthermore, the punting situation was just as incredible, as JK Scott recorded a 41.5 net punting average, which was the best Chargers punting average in 20 seasons.

The coverage team was also incredible, only allowing 3.1 yards per punt return which was the best average by any Chargers team in 50 seasons. Overall, this 2022 Chargers special team unit had three pro-bowl alternates: JK Scott, Josh Harris, and DeAndre Carter.

In 2023, the Chargers currently rank T-2nd in overall special teams according to PFF, fourth in field goal percentage, seventh best in punt return yards allowed, sixth best in kick return yards allowed, combining their ranks with forcing multiple turnovers on special teams, a punt return touchdown, and the development of gunners. Some notable players he’s developed with the Chargers as gunners are, Ja’Sir Taylor, AJ Finley, Deane Leonard, Jaylinn Hawkins, and Kemon Hall.

Wrapping Up

The best unit for the last two years on the Los Angeles Chargers has been the special teams, all thanks to Ficken. Ryan Ficken has shown the ability to take anyone from the streets of the NFL and turn them into good special teamers. His ability to coach, develop, and strengthen a unit with smart personnel decisions is unmatched. Why can’t Ficken become a head coach? The Chargers have a cheap, experienced, in-house option that has coached all three phases of the game and has been successful in doing so. The case for Ficken is strong, and as a fan, I hope to see him at least get an interview with the Bolts during this coaching search.

Main Photo: Kirby Lee – USA Today Sports


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