Ken Whisenhunt withdrew his name from consideration for the Georgia Tech head coaching job Thursday and will remain with the Chargers as offensive coordinator, according to a person familiar with his decision but not authorized to speak publicly about it.
Whisenhunt, 56, played for the Yellow Jackets in the early 1980s and was a teammate of current Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury.
Though he did not travel to Atlanta this week to formally interview for the job, Whisenhunt spoke to school officials about the position and appeared to be in the running as of early Thursday afternoon, when he held his weekly press briefing at the Chargers’ Costa Mesa training facility.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be considered for that position at a school that I played for and have very strong feelings for, and the process is still ongoing,” Whisenhunt said. “But right now my focus is still on our team.”
Whisenhunt, who spent eight years as an NFL head coach in Arizona and Tennessee, withdrew a few hours later. Subsequent reports tabbed Temple coach Geoff Collins as the favorite for the Georgia Tech job.
Whisenhunt spent 2013 as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator before leaving for the Titans job. He returned to the Chargers in 2016 and has led an offense that ranks sixth in the NFL in scoring (28.3 points per game) and fifth in total yards (399.3) this season.
The Chargers are 9-3 entering Sunday’s game against Cincinnati in StubHub Center and are positioned to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“Whiz has had a ton of success in this league,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “When you look at where he’s been, he’s able to kind of tailor things for the personnel and what they do best. He’s a heck of a football coach.”
It takes a thief
The San Fernando Valley home of Antonio Gates was burglarized over the weekend while the veteran tight end was in Pittsburgh with the Chargers.
Surveillance cameras captured the suspects leaving with a trash bag filled with jewelry and “some stuff around the house,” Gates said. Neither Sasha nor the children were harmed. Police are investigating the crime.
“The only problem I had with it was my kids are in there,” Gates said. “You can take whatever from me, all my stuff is insured, do what you want to do, but when it comes to your kids and your wife, it bothers you.”
Gates was the second Chargers player targeted by thieves this year. In June, rookie safety Derwin James was robbed at gunpoint of his Rolex and chain while leaving a restaurant on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.
Fly by night
Pittsburgh cornerback Artie Burns nearly blocked Michael Badgley’s game-winning 29-yard field goal with no time left Sunday night … with his feet.
That’s how far offsides Burns, a college teammate of Badgley’s at Miami, was on the Chargers kicker’s third and final field-goal attempt after the Steelers were ruled offsides on two previous kicks, the first of which was wide left and the second of which was blocked.
Burns got such a quick jump off the left edge of the Steelers’ line that he dived past holder Donnie Jones before Badgley’s kick, which appeared to sail over Burns’ calves before traveling through the uprights for a 33-30 victory.
“I actually kicked it over his legs, which was crazy — I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before,” Badgley said. “Artie Burns, I played with him in Miami, so I knew he was fast. He sold out trying to make a play and was clearly offsides.”
A season that began with a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances and ended with a torn quad tendon in mid-November took an uplifting turn for Corey Liuget on Thursday.
The defensive lineman was selected as the Chargers’ nominee for the 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which recognizes a player’s excellence on and off the field. The eight-year veteran has participated in numerous community events and has a longtime working relationship with the American Heart Assn.
The Payton Award, to be chosen among the 32 team nominees, will be announced during the NFL Honors ceremony in Atlanta the night before Super Bowl LIII.
Thursday’s practice was canceled because of rain, but the team was able to conduct a walk-through in the Costa Mesa High gym. Running back Melvin Gordon, who missed Sunday night’s game in Pittsburgh because of a right-knee injury, did not participate. … The Chargers probably will decide next week whether tight end Hunter Henry, who underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last June, can return to practice with an eye toward returning this season. But rookie linebacker Kyzir White, who had minor knee surgery in October, is out for the season.
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna