Chargers fire head coach Anthony Lynn
January 7, 2021
Despite closing out the 2020 regular season with a four-game winning streak, the Los Angeles Chargers have decided to part ways with head coach Anthony Lynn after four seasons at the helm. Lynn was informed Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the Chargers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs on the road, 38-21. The Chargers ended the season with a record of 7-9 and the Chiefs finished at 14-2.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos made the decision to go in a different direction. In a statement, Spanos said that, "This morning I informed Anthony Lynn that we have made the decision to part ways with him as our head coach. I'm not sure there is another person in this league more respected as a human being than Anthony, and I want to sincerely express my deepest gratitude for his leadership during a time of great change for our organization. As we all know, this is a results-driven business and, simply put, the results of the past two years have fallen short of expectations."
Lynn leaves with a regular season record of 33-31 as the Chargers head coach, which included a 12-4 record in 2018 and a playoff win at Baltimore over the Ravens. After a rough 0-4 start in his first season in 2017, Lynn won 22 of his next 29 regular season games and appeared to have the Chargers on the road to the playoffs again in 2019.
But the Chargers stumbled in 2019 and again in 2020, struggling to close out games and struggling to consistently run the ball. Lynn came to the Chargers with a reputation as a running game guru and just never was able to find consistent success running the ball. The rushing offense ranked 24th in 2017, 15th in 2018, 28th in 2019 and 18th in 2020.
There was speculation that Lynn might have saved his job with the closing argument of a four-game winning streak, but there were games this season that just seemed to get away from the Chargers. The Chargers became the first team in NFL history to blow a lead of at least 16 points in four straight games, three of which turned into losses. The 45-0 blowout loss at home to the New England Patriots may have been the fatal blow for Lynn. The Chargers got outplayed and outcoached in that contest at home.
The next head coach will inherit a talented young quarterback in Justin Herbert. The rookie quarterback spent the season breaking rookie passing records and against the Chiefs on Sunday, Herbert completed 22 of 31 passes, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another in the easy win. The Chiefs, with the best record in the NFL, decided to give some key players a rest, a reward for already securing the top seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Herbert broke NFL records this season as a rookie quarterback for most completions with 396, most touchdown passes with 31 and most 300 yard passing games with eight. Herbert passed for 4,336 yards in 15 games, just missing the rookie record of 4,374 yards that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck set in 2012, while playing in all 16 games.
Herbert and Luck do have something in common. They were both coached by Pep Hamilton, who coached Luck at Stanford and with the Colts and has been Herbert's quarterback coach this season with the Chargers. It is possible that Hamilton stays on the next staff and it is also possible that Hamilton is a candidate for the head coaching job.
The next head coach will also inherit a talented group of wide receivers led by Keenan Allen, a versatile running back in Austin Ekeler, and a talented defense led by defensive end Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James.
The Chargers will have all seven of their draft picks available, plus an extra sixth round pick from the trade of Desmond King to the Tennessee Titans just prior to the 2020 NFL trade deadline in early November. The Chargers are likely to have an extra 3rd round compensatory pick due to the loss of Philip Rivers to the Indianapolis Colts. That would give the Chargers a total of nine draft picks in the 2021 draft.
As it is, the new head coach and General Manager Tom Telesco will have the No. 13 pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft this season, which should bring another good player. But first the Chargers need to hire a head coach and they will have a lot to think about. They have already asked for interviews with seven different coaches and there will probably be more.
Among the candidates are Jason Garrett, the former Dallas Cowboy head coach and current offensive coordinator with the New York Giants. Garrett had an 85-67 record as a head coach and 2-3 in the playoffs. Garrett was the NFL Coach of the Year in 2016. Another candidate is Brian Daboll, the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator.
Daboll has done an outstanding job with another young quarterback, Josh Allen and he went to the same high school as Telesco. They both attended St. Francis high school in Buffalo, New York. Telesco graduated in 1991 and Daboll in 1993. In Buffalo, Daboll's offense was aggressive and he liked to run trick plays. They were entertaining to watch. Buffalo averaged 31.3 points per game, 2nd in the NFL.
Other candidates that the Chargers have contacted include Eric Bieniemy, the offensive coordinator with the Chiefs, Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator, and Arthur Smith, Titans offensive coordinator. On the defensive side, the Chargers have contacted Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus for the head coaching position.
Bieniemy played high school football at Bishop Amat high school in La Puente and was a second-round draft pick of the Chargers in 1991. He played for the Chargers for four seasons and was a member of the Chargers team that won the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh and played in the Super Bowl. Bienemy also coached three years at UCLA as a running backs coach from 2003-2005. The 2005 team went 10-2.
But whoever gets the job has a challenging task. Lynn was respected and well-liked within the organization, including by the players. As Herbert said of Lynn after he was let go, "He was a leader. He made me a better player. I'll remember all the lessons he taught me. I enjoyed our time working together."
As Spanos said after parting ways with Lynn, "We will redouble our efforts to both build and maintain a championship-caliber program. We have been innovative in many facets of our organization in recent years, and we need to carry that over to our entire operation. Our fans need to know that the Los Angeles Chargers are committed to consistent, winning football." Drafting Herbert was a good start, now the Chargers just need a good head coach to lead the football team to consistent winning.