One of the Chargers moves that has flown a bit under the radar this offseason is Head Coach Anthony Lynn’s contract extension. The extension was a reported one-year extension, basically meaning through the 2021 season. This surprised some fans because how do you extend a coach following a 5-11, nightmare season?
I think that’s a fair comment but it’s important to realize that this is basically like a 2021 team-option. If this season goes disastrously, the extension is not going to stop the team from potentially moving on. The more important question is: Is Anthony Lynn the right man to bring the team it’s first Super Bowl?
One important part of this conversation is that it’s probably too soon to know for sure. Three seasons is a very small sample size, ask Bill Belichick. In his first gig with the Cleveland Browns, the greatest coach of all-time was 25-23 through his first three seasons. Lynn is 26-22 over the same span.
The unique thing about Coach Lynn is that he came to Chargers with no real coaching specialty. The hot thing-to-do is usually to hire the trendiest coordinator. What he did bring was his experience as a former NFL running back and a Super Bowl champion. He also coached 17 years in the league, mostly as a running backs coach. Unfortunately, that experience hasn’t translated to success for the Chargers. They haven’t finished in the top-15 in rushing yards since he took over in 2017. Two of the seasons ranked 24th overall or worse.
One of my biggest gripes with this coaching staff and Coach Lynn is a lack of game planning and adjustments. Time and time again we have seen this team show up to games and get off to frustratingly slow starts. The numbers back it up as well. The Chargers ranked 26th in the NFL, according to teamrankings.com, scoring just 3.3 points on average in the first quarter of 2019 games. It’s incredibly hard to win when you start games the way Philip Rivers starts to scramble.
Now onto the adjustments, or lack thereof. Lynn’s team stayed competitive through a downtrodden year, but there were many games lost in the third quarter. In 2019, the Chargers not only ranked 20th in scoring in the third quarter, but they also allowed the 10th most points scored against them. You can blame these numbers on coordinators, but that’s a cop-out. One of the things that separate good coaches from bad ones, is the ability to make in-game adjustments. This has been a serious issue in the Lynn era.
Some character issues arose under Lynn’s watch last season. Most notably, when Denzel Perryman and rookie Roderic Teamer were sent home before their Week 14 game against the Jaguars. The rumors were that they missed a meeting. The next week, even more mysteriously, Desmond King was forced to miss the game due to the coach’s decision.
The fact that these stories didn’t come out in the media as something worse is positive. I would say that one questionable thing is that Perryman started the very next week even though rookie Drue Tranquill was playing well without getting sent away.
None of these incidents show that there are locker room culture issues and they all stayed incredibly low-key. Overall, during Coach Lynn’s tenure, the most public controversy has been Derwin James getting robbed at gunpoint. For the most part, the Chargers have one of the most well-behaved rosters in the NFL.
When looking at the other positives that Lynn brings to the table it’s impossible not to mention the relocation. The fact that Lynn was able to lead his team to a winning record in each of his first two seasons is no small feat. He also did it while having to fight other teams’ fanbases in their stadium. So much so that at times Philip Rivers had to use a silent snap count at home.
He’s also the prototypical player’s coach. This is good because it means that players want to play for him. He is always there to go to bat for his guys, sometimes to his detriment. As far as leadership goes, all accounts show that his team respects him and most importantly they play hard for him. I think this was greatest exemplified when he led the team to a 9-7 record after starting 0-4 in 2017.
Unfortunately, sometimes Coach Lynn sticks with “his guys” too fervently. A great example of this is him having faith and publicly saying offensive tackles Trent Scott and Sam Tevi were the answer at right tackle. Spoiler alert: they were not. He has also made claims of free safety Rayshawn Jenkins being “elite” and recently doubled down. Even though he led the team with three interceptions, he is far from one of the top players at his position. This threatens to keep their supremely talented, 2nd-round pick Nasir Adderley off the field.
Similar situations have led him to stick with Dan Feeney at left guard, who has objectively been one of the worst at the position. Don’t get me started on him letting Desmond King muff four punts last year.
When you are a head coach without the label of offensive guru or defensive mastermind, these are the decisions you are judged by. As a fan, you want to know that your head coach is going to field the best possible team. It’s hard to have confidence in that, three seasons in.
This upcoming season is huge for Lynn. This will be the first non-Rivers season, and they will have to be an incredibly well-coached team to find meaningful success. Tyrod Taylor is fine, but he is not going to carry you to a Super Bowl. If they decide to draft a rookie quarterback, it makes the job that much more difficult.
10 active NFL coaches have won a Super Bowl. It takes great talent and impeccable coaching to achieve it. The Chargers have talent, but I don’t think they are one of the top 10 best-coached teams in the league. The franchise has never won an NFL championship and I don’t think Anthony Lynn is the man to break the curse.
Anthony Lynn is a fine coach, and it was not wrong to add a year to his contract. That being said, I do not believe him to be an elite coach. See what I did there? At the very least if he is given a very talented team, which he has had, he can manage them well enough to find success. I just don’t believe that’s enough to bring the team it’s first Super Bowl.