Chargers coach Anthony Lynn was scheduled for his regular day-after-game Zoom briefing at 1:30 Monday afternoon.
He showed up, as scheduled, and somewhere presumably money changed hands. NFL coaching tenures seem to be a fairly popular betting proposition these days.
So yes, the fact that Lynn is still employed as Chargers coach might be considered an upset by some after the 45-0 embarrassment the New England Patriots delivered Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
The most lopsided loss in franchise history included the traditional medley of the Charger special teams’ greatest misses: 70-yard punt return for a New England touchdown, missed field-goal attempt, blocked field-goal attempt returned for a Patriots touchdown, another 61-yard punt return allowed, 10 men on the field twice and 12 men on another occasion, and holding and false start penalties.
This is a franchise with a recent history of special teams woes and mishaps, anyway, one which began well before Lynn’s tenure. It reached the point two weeks ago that Lynn reassigned George Stewart from special teams coordinator to a “senior analyst” role, and Lynn said yesterday he’s debating whether to take over special teams coaching himself in addition to his other duties.
Sunday’s loss was “an aberration,” he said, but that’s mainly because so many of their losses in a 3-9 season have been far more excruciating – six, to be exact, by a touchdown or less.
The frustration has mounted. And the thing that could determine whether Lynn beats the odds (which, according to one online bookmaker, were 7/2 against him returning in 2021 as of mid-November) might be how hard his players fight over the last four games.
The Chargers haven’t fired a coach during the season since 1998, when June Jones took over for Kevin Gilbride after six games. Jones finished 3-7 in San Diego but landed on his feet at the University of Hawaii.
More recently, and the comparison that might apply best here: The afternoon the Chargers ended their 2016 season and San Diego tenure, but after Mike McCoy had a postgame news conference in which he made his pitch for another season, the Spanoses and General Manager Tom Telesco fired him and announced it by a press release dropped into reporters’ inboxes. Those covering the Chargers’ 2020 season finale, scheduled for Jan. 3 at Kansas City, might want to remember that precedent.
Joey Bosa, now a respected veteran, was a rookie on that 2016 team. Asked during Monday’s Zoom availability if there were any lessons he could impart from going through that 5-11 season, he said, “All I can do is control what I can control and do my best to help guys not go into a funk and not just have a miserable last month. This (New England) game … it’s definitely going to affect some guys. I’m just doing my best to be there for guys and try to lead by example and just be as positive as I can be throughout the rest of the year.”
Should Lynn be held accountable for all of those close losses? He has publicly held himself accountable and said Monday he doesn’t believe taking that responsibility enables his players to slide away from it.
But most of us know how this works. Often the head coach takes the blame, and the fall, for circumstances out of his control. Such as, for example, losing game-changing safety Derwin James to season-ending injuries two seasons in a row. Or a drastically reduced offseason program and preseason, thanks to the pandemic, that limited what he knew about some of his new players and might have been a factor in the special teams issues. But every team has injuries, and every team had to deal with the same limits that wiped out OTAs and preseason games.
From this (admittedly distant) vantage point, at least, the 3-9 Anthony Lynn of 2020 doesn’t seem radically different from the Anthony Lynn of 2017, whose team won nine of its last 12 during a relocation year and was in the playoff hunt until the final day, or the Anthony Lynn of 2018 whose team was 12-4 and lost the AFC West title on a tiebreaker (which, if it had gone the other way, would have meant avoiding a January playoff game in New England).
Should Lynn get at least one more year, and a chance to operate fully loaded with James and Bosa on one side of the ball and Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen, among others, on the other side? Put it another way: Do those close losses mean the team is close to being really good, or do they just mean the team needs a different voice?
Lynn was asked Monday to make the case for himself.
“I’ve worked my tail off my whole life to get here,” he said. “Yeah, I’m having a down year and I understand people want to take shots, people want to be critical. That’s to be expected. But we’ve had some success here as well. I think I’m the guy to get this back on the right track.
“I want to evaluate everything, starting with myself. But I do believe I have the mentors. I have the experience. I’ve been certain places and I’ve had success. And I’ve been through some peaks and valleys, some ups and downs, and I know when you’re down and how to come back. So yeah, I have a lot of confidence in myself because a lot of people have confidence in me.”
It’s also worth noting: Another change would mean a third head coach hired under Telesco’s watch in less than a decade.
How many general managers get three chances to get it right?
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