Fans of the Los Angeles Chargers had all eyes on Saturday’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos. Not because their favorite team is playing the Broncos next week, or because the game had a big impact on the AFC playoff picture. No, Chargers fans were watching because the Bills offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, is one of the hottest commodities in the coaching world right now, and boy did he put on a show against the Broncos. The Bills beat the Broncos 48-19 on Saturday and earned their first AFC East division title since 1995. They are one of the hottest teams in the league and are arguably the biggest threat to the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chargers have not yet fired Anthony Lynn, and have opted to give him the full season before making that decision. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that story, along with the initial report of him being on the hot seat BEFORE the Chargers got shut out 45-0 by the New England Patriots. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported the day after the Chargers beat the Las Vegas Raiders that he still expects Lynn to be fired. Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline wrote in his weekly mailbag this week that he’s hearing Lynn has less than a 20% chance of keeping his job past this season. That’s a lot of well-respected journalists who are still expecting the Chargers to move on from Lynn after the season.
Once they do, the Chargers will arguably have the most attractive coaching vacancy in the league. With Justin Herbert having one of the best rookie seasons in league history, it is clear that the Chargers window to contend is wide open. They have a very talented, albeit top-heavy, roster that will (hopefully) get Derwin James back and healthy next season. Many around the league believe they are truly a legitimate coach away from being contenders, which will separate the job from teams who are headed to full-on rebuilds, or others who don’t have a clear path to contending. Everyone will have their own preferences as to who the Chargers should hire, but Daboll should be number one on the Chargers’ list.
Daboll has quite an impressive, and lengthy resume at this point in his career. It’s something that separates him from the other coordinators that are being mentioned in this coaching cycle. I like Joe Brady and Arthur Smith a lot, but both of those men are coordinating offenses for the first time in their careers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Daboll has been an offensive coordinator for four different NFL teams throughout his career, and once for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2017. Some have pointed to his previous stints as an offensive coordinator as a weakness, but he’s never had anything close to a top tier quarterback until this stint with Josh Allen. Now that he does, their offense is thriving.
There are two things that stand out about Daboll’s twenty-year resume: versatility and winning. He got his coaching start in the NFL serving as a defensive assistant for the Patriots in the early 2000’s. From there he’s also served as a position coach for wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks. Being able to lean on that experience in which he’s coached on both sides of the ball, and multiple position groups will help him tremendously as a future head coach.
The Chargers need their next head coach to bring in a winning culture, and Daboll has been a part of some incredible teams. Obviously, that starts with the Patriots, where he served as a coach two separate times and won five Super Bowls. He coached one season at Alabama under Nick Saban and coordinated the SEC’s number one offense to a National Championship. Now in Buffalo, he’s played a huge part in turning around the Bills franchise and reaching heights they hadn’t reached in over two decades.
Aside from his experience on paper, he also has a strong history of player development. In 2011 he helped Reggie Bush get his first 1,000 yard rushing season as a professional while serving as the offensive coordinator in Miami. That same season he led an offense that allowed Brandon Marshall to get 1,000 yards receiving, which was the first time ever that the Dolphins had a 1,000 yard rusher and receiver.
In 2012, while serving as the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, he helped Jamaal Charles set a career-high in 1,509 yards rushing. After his time in Kansas City, he returned to New England to coach tight ends and Rob Gronkowski.
His shining gem of player development is his latest project in Buffalo, quarterback Josh Allen. Quarterback development is a little tricky to nail down with how much time these players spend with quarterback “gurus” in the offseason, but under Daboll, Allen has gone from completing 52% of his passes as a rookie to nearly 70% of them this season. Allen has stated that he has a great relationship with his offensive coordinator and looks at Daboll as an older brother. It’s a relationship that has paid huge dividends for the Bills.
Daboll was someone I had my eye on earlier in the season, but over the last few games he has vaulted up to my number one choice. He has some great qualities, but the biggest reason he has moved up my list is that he calls an offense that is aggressive 24/7. The Chargers have always struggled to maintain leads under Lynn, even in the 2018 season when they went 12-4 and won a playoff game. This year, it was taken to a new extreme.
Lynn is obsessed with running the football, even if the passing game is humming on all cylinders. On Saturday against the Broncos, the Bills got a defensive touchdown, forced a punt on the next Denver series, and then proceeded to take a shot deep to Stefon Diggs the very next offensive play. Daboll goes for the jugular whenever they get a big momentum swing in their favor, and it usually predictably pays off in their favor. Six of their last seven victories this season have been by more than 10 points. That is a result of Daboll’s aggressive mentality.
There is a notion out there that the Chargers need to hire an experienced head coach and not a first-timer for the third time in a row. Hiring a guy like Marvin Lewis or Jack Del Rio could make sense, but retread coaches are retread for a reason. Changing coaches is risky, you never know what the end result will be. It certainly seemed like the Chargers were headed in the right direction under Lynn after the 2018 season. People would look very differently at the Andy Reid era in Kansas City if not for Patrick Mahomes. Same with Seattle and Russell Wilson. The bottom line is that the Chargers have their franchise quarterback on a rookie contract, now they just need to hire the right coach. Daboll is making a great case for himself to be that guy.