Maybe I made the unwitting mistake of watching Sean McVay’s (new Rams head coach) press conferences and interviews before I watched Anthony Lynn’s…but I walked away from the Anthony Lynn observations thinking Sean McVay is a genius, and a great hire while wondering if hiring Anthony Lynn was a prank by comparison. You might have the next Bill Belichick with Sean McVay…MIGHT…but you definitely do not have it with Anthony Lynn.
Because of his lack of frontline experience, it’s hard for anyone to make a definitive call on Lynn, but it’s my job to speculate on such things…so here we go.
Lynn was an NFL running back for six seasons and then entered the assistant coaching game. He’s mostly been a running backs coach for the entirety of his NFL coaching career. Special teams assistant for his first two years. Running backs coach for five different teams from 2003 to 2015 after that. One has to wonder if he was such a great running back coach – why five different moves, and never moving higher on the food chain? Once he hooked on with Rex Ryan in 2009 with the Jets, as RB coach, he rolled with Rex from the Jets to the Bills, eventually becoming an offensive coordinator for half a season in 2016. The Lynn career summary: bounces around the league as an RB coach and gets entangled into the Ryan family coaching circle, and when Rex runs out of options in 2016 – Lynn suddenly becomes a more important coach with the Buffalo Bills. On paper, this smacks of hardworking guy loyal to a coach most people wouldn’t hire to save their lives (Rex Ryan)…and winds up grinding his way into a head job.
After my studies, I still don’t know how Lynn was a must-hire candidate all the sudden in 2017. He’s not a personnel wiz. He’s not a mad offensive genius. He has no prior experience at the top to point to. He may be great in the end, but upfront I don’t think anyone could say why he needed to be hired…without using silly clichés about ‘tough’ and ‘dedicated’ and ‘protecting houses’, etc.
Lynn’s M.O., as best I can tell, is a Rex Ryan wannabe without the public speaking ability and comedic chops. He’s going to run the ball and try to be the toughest team on the block. Hello, 1970–1990. His Chargers’ press conference was laughable: “We’re going to be tough, physical, disciplined, and not turn the ball over.” Grreeaattt. Watching Lynn in press conferences and interviews, he’s straight out of central casting for an ‘overly desirous to prove to you he’s tough’ high school head coach. He’s a caricature of a high school football or assistant FCS head coach…and now he’s headed to L.A. to ‘fix’ an NFL franchise as the head man. How? Why?
His Chargers staff is a ‘Who’s Who’ of failed NFL coaches…ones who also tried to be known as ‘tough guys’ in coaching. I mean, guys who want you to know how tough and disciplined they are. It’s their only mode of conversation. After ‘tough’ and ‘battle’ they run out of things to describe their coaching philosophy. Ken Whisenhunt was a joke in Tennessee and Gus Bradley even worse in Jacksonville…they will head up his offense and defense. The bet is that Anthony Lynn with his Rex Ryan tutelage and no major management experience is going to take failed head coaches as coordinators – and turn the sinking Chargers’ ship around. Good luck with that.
When I see ‘old school’ coach with his professed ground-and-pound ways, it conjures up images of Mike Zimmer, Rex Ryan, and Jeff Fisher…notoriously awesome offensive minds (insert eye roll here). You’d have to bet everything you have on things being done conservatively and low-scoringly under Lynn. At the same time, Philip Rivers’s career continues in its slow descent into a tailspin. And Lynn’s going to ground and pound with a 215-pound, 4.5+ 40-time running tailback, Melvin Gordon, who is one of the worst running backs in the league at getting halted by defenses behind the line of scrimmage. He creates nothing – he is dependent upon help getting things opened for him. It’s a potential comedy of offensive errors and misfit toys converging all in one place.
Since Anthony Lynn doesn’t have a deep track record, none of us can have total confidence on whether he’ll be a coaching star or not. If you forced me to bet on what’s going to happen today after researching interviews, press conferences, and articles on him – a typical football coach ending. Grace for 1–2 years, and then either gone in year three or four. I’m sorry, “Good with Running Backs” is not a great cornerstone reason for picking a new leader of an NFL franchise.
In my book, if the Chargers were going to take a step forward, they needed to take a step back and clean house – draft or sign a Philip Rivers replacement, start moving Antonio Gates aside, and get a Melvin Gordon replacement ready – start rebuilding and restocking the offense for the future. Instead, they have the perfect staff to continue to suck up to and coddle Rivers…which has led to poor records in San Diego for years now. This Lynn hiring isn’t a bold coaching move…this is a can of Fix-A-Flat sprayed into a deflated tire. Its purpose is to patch up temporarily to get you to a place where you can get a brand new tire. The Chargers are going to ride that slow leak tire for another 2-3 seasons now.
The Chargers are clearly the worst team in the AFC West, partially because the other three teams have risen up to be really good teams. I don’t see where the Chargers’ coaching change for 2017 will make any difference in the AFC West pecking order.
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This offense has to be projected to decline even further. Rivers is tailing off…16 TDs/14 INTs in his final seven games of 2016. A career high 21 picks in 2016. He’ll be 36 years old this upcoming season. The offensive will be more conservative, by design. Only garbage time can save fantasy lines.
The winner: may be the Chargers’ defense. A talented group that will have a ground control offense.
The loser: it may be time to trade off Tyrell Williams before all of this fizzles. I’m not saying dump him…I’m saying ‘untouchable’ is off the table. You likely cannot get any fair value anyway, because he was undrafted coming out of college and playing on the West Coast for a team whose city didn’t even care about them…so Tyrell doesn’t exist in the media. All I hear is people filled with hope that Keenan Allen might come back. Tyrell Williams is considered lucky…if considered at all by the fantasy football media.
Speaking as the discoverer and promoter of Tyrell Williams before the Chargers signed him and while the Chargers were cutting him in 2015, so basically like he is one of my (fantasy) children – if Tyrell delights a potential trade partner, I’m open to moving Williams for the right price after getting an eyeful of Anthony Lynn study. Lynn will be there for another two years at least with a run-first mindset. We’ve seen what Zimmer-Fisher-Ryan do to passing games. Rivers isn’t getting any younger…and what’s their QB Plan-B? Sorry for the bad news…it pains me more than you.