Quite a day for the San Diego ... er, make that, Los Angeles Chargers.
It started with Chargers owner Dean Spanos officially moving the franchise to Los Angeles for the 2017 season. It ended with the news, as reported by The MMQB’s Albert Breer, that Anthony Lynn would be the Chargers’ next head coach.
A whirlwind to say the least, although Lynn’s entire year has been a bit on the wild side. As of the start of September, he still was in place as the Bills’ running backs coach—the 14th consecutive season, spanning five teams, that he had held that post. Following the Bills’ Week 2 loss to the Jets, though, he was promoted to offensive coordinator (replacing Greg Roman) and then ahead of Week 17 was named the team’s interim coach (replacing Rex Ryan).
He initially seemed to be a decent bet to stick as Buffalo’s coach, too, but that all changed when the Bills hired Sean McDermott to man that post.
A day later, Lynn reportedly finalized his deal with San Diego.
To say that he has his work cut out for him is a massive understatement. Not only does he have to help oversee the Chargers’ messy move to L.A., he stands to inherit a team that has won a combined nine games the past two seasons while finishing a distant fourth place in the competitive AFC West.
Merely drumming up enthusiasm for the Chargers in their new locale will be a challenge. The Rams already have a year head start in the L.A. relocation derby, and early reports are that the Chargers plan play their 2017 games in the StubHub Center, a 27,000 seat MLS stadium.
All of it is enough to make one wonder if Lynn was the Chargers’ first choice, or if he was the first choice among those coaches willing to deal with all this. Other candidates confirmed by the club were Teryl Austin, Matt Patricia, Dave Toub, Mike Smith and McDermott.
That’s not to say Lynn is doomed to fail. He was a candidate for all six of the coaching openings that came available following the 2016 regular season. Bills players spoke highly of Lynn, with RB LeSean McCoy even going so far as to tell WIVB-TV’s Tom Martin, “[He’s the] type of coach we need. ... Dealing with him on a day-to-day basis, I fell in love with him. [I’m] excited he’s up for the job.”
Lynn’s personality ran in stark contrast to that of Ryan, a boisterous, in-your-face presence. From that standpoint, at least, Lynn may have the steady demeanor necessary to handle this tumultuous Chargers situation.
He also did yeoman’s work after taking over for Roman as the Bills’ play caller, helping to guide an attack that ranked first in rushing and 10th in points scored. For a Chargers team that has ranked 30th, 31st and 26th in rushing yards the past three seasons, respectively, Lynn’s commitment to the ground game bodes well; ditto for Melvin Gordon, who enjoyed a bounce-back 2016 season prior to injuring his hip and knee.
There’s certainly talent on the Chargers’ offense, led by veteran QB Philip Rivers. It remains to be seen exactly how Rivers reacts to the relocation news—his contract runs through 2019, but he’ll turn 36 next season so likely will not be all that thrilled if the Chargers lay out a multi-year rebuilding plan.
The defense’s future begins with likely Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa, who has the look of a perennial All-Pro up front. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday night that "the goal" for Lynn is to hire ex-Jaguars coach Gus Bradley as his defensive coordinator, with Ken Whisenhunt as O.C. Bradley bombed as a head coach, but he enjoyed an outstanding run as Seattle’s defensive coordinator before that.
It is anyone’s guess how this plays out for Lynn in 2017, and beyond. The Chargers were highly competitive for much of the season, despite their 5-11 record. With a little better injury luck and a lot better knack for closing games, they could have been in the wild-card mix.
But there’s a lot happening right now.
Grade: B. While Lynn was relatively impressive in his time as offensive coordinator, those 14 games calling plays (including one, a loss to the Jets, as interim coach) are the only experience he has higher than special-teams assistant or RBs coach. Others like Patricia, Josh McDaniels and Kyle Shanahan were believed to be ahead of Lynn in the coaching-promotion pecking order, so fair or not, Lynn will be expected to justify his leap to the top.
Lynn will need his coordinators to carry their weight, both so he can find his footing and so he can deal with the hectic San Diego-to-L.A. relocation. This upcoming season will be a very trying one for the entire organization.