The Los Angeles Chargers wrapped up their 2020 season by beating the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The game was played with a ton of backups, on both sides. But still, the Chargers, and Justin Herbert, were able to take care of their business. The win was their fourth in a row and third divisional win in a row. Herbert is rightfully the talk of the town and should be a shoo-in for the offensive rookie of the year.
The win streak was fun to watch, particularly the victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday Night Football. But in the end, it was too little too late for the Chargers head coach. On Monday morning the team announced that they had decided to part ways with Anthony Lynn.
Statement from Dean Spanos pic.twitter.com/aR8z0OqnEG
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) January 4, 2021
Despite the frustrations over the last two seasons, Lynn should be remembered fondly by Chargers fans. He brought a refreshing amount of leadership and charisma to the franchise that previously dealt with Norv Turner and Mike McCoy. Some fans like to wonder if they made the right hire back in 2017, the problem is that no top tier coaching candidate at the time actually wanted to take a job where they’d be leading a transition period in a new city while playing in a soccer stadium.
Lynn was a fantastic leader of men, and his players love him. It would have been very easy for this football team to pack it up after getting utterly destroyed by the New England Patriots last month. Instead, they battled back and closed the season out with four consecutive victories. That says a lot about the character of this football team, and Lynn deserves credit for that.
That being said, the game management issues were simply too much to overcome. The Chargers football team has a good culture and the right mentality. Now they just need to get a coach that can help them master the X’s and O’s.
The Chargers opening becomes the sixth vacancy around the league, and I thought it would be fun to rank each of the openings. The current teams with openings are the Chargers, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, New York Jets, and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Lions, Falcons, and Texans each fired their previous coaches a few months ago, and seem unlikely to retain their interim head coaches. It looks like there won’t be a Freddie Kitchens scenario this year. Let’s get started
Sixth Best Opening: Detroit Lions
The Lions seemed to be heading in the right direction under Jim Caldwell a few years ago. He led them to two playoff berths in four years and won 56% of his games, the highest mark of a Lions head coach to coach a full season since the ’50s. No, that is not a typo. Still, they decided to fire Caldwell after going 9-7 in 2017 and missing the playoffs. They felt like Matt Patricia was the right man to get them over the hump. Patricia was one of the hottest names of that coaching cycle. He ended up coaching 43 games for them and only won 13.
This job is the lowest on the list due to the overall lack of continuity. If you count the interim coaches, there have been nine individuals who have coached games for the Lions since 2000, and not a single one lasted longer than five years. The potential lack of longevity should be a major red flag for any potential coach. In terms of roster construction, Patricia shredded this roster to the ground. Outside of their 2020 rookie class, and T.J. Hockenson, there aren’t many long term building blocks on the current roster. They are already rumored to be looking to move Matthew Stafford, which only adds to the uncertainty surrounding the position.
Fifth Best Opening: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons probably aren’t in this kind of situation if they hadn’t blown a 28-3 lead against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The challenge of the Falcons job is due to their roster being in rather poor shape with few long term building blocks outside of Calvin Ridley and Grady Jarrett. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones used to be top tier players but are closer to retirement than they are to returning to elite form.
They are also looking for a general manager, and that individual could be tempted to draft a quarterback with their first-round selection. However, they have a ton of roster holes and have the least amount of cap space of these six teams. They get bumped ahead of the Lions because of their more positive history.
Fourth Best Opening: New York Jets
The Jets have a ton of draft picks coming their way, and could accumulate even more if they are able to trade Sam Darnold. They could be one of the more popular “worst to first” candidates if they are able to get the head coaching hire right. They do have Mekhi Becton and Quinnen Williams as future building blocks, which is a good sign too.
Some coaches will be tempted by the ability to take a job like the Jets and be able to build it exactly as they want. But the reality of the Jets position is that they haven’t had a coach finish their tenure with a winning record since Bill Parcells was in town. The New York franchise and media are impatient, they want coaches to win immediately. If they decide to keep Darnold and the next coach isn’t able to develop him, that individual could find themselves in the same position as Adam Gase. This seems like a high risk-high reward position, which is why it falls in at fourth.
Third Best Opening: Houston Texans
This one is pretty simple, despite how barren their cupboard of assets is, the Texans have Deshaun Watson. Watson was able to overcome a terrible supporting cast, a miserable offensive line (outside of Laremy Tunsil), and the firing of Bill O’Brien to lead the league in passing yards.
He played at an incredibly high level this year but just wasn’t able to keep the Texans full afloat in terms of wins due to everything around him. The opportunity to work with one of the league’s best quarterbacks should be enticing for any coaching candidate. The Texans have shown the ability to be patient with their coaches too.
Second Best Opening: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars opening is very similar to the Jets, due to the lack of positive history and future building blocks on the roster. However, there is one key difference: the Jaguars have the number one overall pick, which will likely be Clemson’s, Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence took some slack after losing to Ohio State last week but he’s still easily the best quarterback prospect that we’ve seen in quite some time, and at least since Andrew Luck. People have been comparing him and Herbert over the last few weeks, and their skill sets are very similar. But Lawrence is a better athlete and a more natural thrower of the football at this point in their careers. Like Herbert, Lawrence will enter the NFL and immediately have a top-five arm.
The Jaguars also have a ton of draft picks and the most cap space of any team in the league. The ability to build something from the ground up is very appealing to coaches, and specifically for former college candidates (IE Urban Meyer). Like the Jets, they could be turned around very quickly.
The Best Opening: Los Angeles Chargers
Call it homerism if you want, but the Chargers are clearly the best opening. They have Herbert, fresh off the best rookie season of all time. They have a great supporting cast around him in Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry – who I fully expect to be re-signed. The offensive line needs to be rebuilt but the supporting cast is a great start.
Defensively they have a top-five pass rusher in Joey Bosa, who despite missing four games still finished in the top five in the league in quarterback pressures and hits, and pass rush efficiency rate. Derwin James hasn’t been able to stay on the field but when he has, he’s been a game-changing talent at the safety position. Kenneth Murray experienced some growing pains this season but is an uber-talented linebacker fresh off a 100 tackle season. There is a lot of young talent on this team that should be very appealing to a coaching candidate.
Lynn was essentially let go due to the close losses and overall deficiencies in situational football. The Chargers played every team very close except the Patriots this season and easily could have won nine games, despite all the injuries. The ability to win now and build a contending level team separates them from the rest of this bunch. And the Chargers are in a positive cap situation and have nine draft picks in the upcoming draft.
Let me know how you would rank the six openings in the comments.
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