We grade the new Los Angeles Chargers coaching staff
Prior to the coaching hires, I wrote extensively about the best possible fits for each team, the best head coaching candidates and even the best coordinator candidates.
I waited to grade all the moves until the coaching staffs were complete and filled because coordinators and assistants do factor heavily into the success of a team’s staff.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest team in this series:
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
HEAD COACH: Anthony Lynn
Anthony Lynn has been one of the most respected assistant coaches in the league for a while now. However, for the vast majority of his career, he’s been a running back coach. Because of the NFL’s emphasis on the passing game, even the most acclaimed RB coaches in the league (Lynn, Kirby Wilson on CLE, Eric Studesville on DEN) tend to stay as RB coaches. Lynn was no exception, holding the same title for over a decade.
But suddenly, all that changed this year. Lynn had one of the most meteoric rises you’ll see a lifer assistant make. He got promoted to offensive coordinator following the firing of OC Greg Roman after Week 2, then got promoted again to interim HEAD COACH after Rex Ryan got the boot. His impressive showing earned him interviews with all six teams, landing the job with the Chargers.
Still, the question remains: has the league finally come to appreciate an under-appreciated man? Or is a natural RB coach riding the wave and landing way over his head?
Although he’s earned praise for his personality and leadership traits, I’m still inclined to believe the latter. After all, Lynn’s feather in his cap has been the success of the Bills’ running game. Make no mistake: it’s a great one; in fact, the team almost rushed for more yards (2630) than they acquired through the air (3250). However — I don’t believe that Lynn is primarily responsible for that. The Bills’ running game system largely comes from departed OC Greg Roman, who established the creative power rushing attack with Stanford and with the San Francisco 49ers. Roman’s had success running the ball wherever he’s been. Lynn inherited a great running system, and continued to run well — but it’s hard to claim he’s the mastermind behind it. In fact, the Bills also have one of the top OL coaches in the league in Aaron Kromer, aiding the attack even further. Without Roman, without Kromer, and without Shady McCoy, what is Anthony Lynn? At the end of the day, that may just be a great RB coach. grade: C.
On the surface, Lynn should be an immediate boost for the Chargers’ running game, a long-standing area of weakness for them. Despite the fantasy success of Melvin Gordon, he still rushed for less than 4.0 yards per carry. A Bills’-style running game (regardless of who deserves credit for it) should spike their efficiency there.
The problem is: I don’t know if the Bills’ running system will translate well to this Chargers’ roster. Greg Roman’s running games tended to work well with the threat of a mobile QB, be it Colin Kaepernick or Tyrod Taylor. No defense is shaking in their boots, worried about Philip Rivers keeping it on a zone read and hoofing for that first down.
Furthermore, one of the problems that plagued Mike McCoy was game management. Time will tell how Anthony Lynn fares in that department, but he’s an inexperienced head coach (with only 2 games in charge) and may face a learning curve there. All in all, I’m not bullish on this hire, nor the fit. Grade: C+
It’s rare for an offensive-minded head coach like Anthony Lynn to retain the old offensive staff, but that’s exactly what the Chargers did. Current OC Ken Whisenhunt will be back, and will presumably handle the reins of this offense.
In this case, it’s a smart move. Whisenhunt may have struggled as a head coach, but as far as OC’s go, he’s among the most experienced you’ll find. The team’s familiarity with him and his playbook will help the transition, as will Whisenhunt’s strong relationship with Rivers. grade: A-
When I wrote about the Chargers’ offseason blueprint, I mentioned the big decision they were going to have to make on the defensive side of the ball: should the team retain John Pagano and their 3-4, which has been making modest improvements? Or should they completely rebuild around promising rookie Joey Bosa, and convert to more of a 4-3?
They clearly answered that question with the hiring of Gus Bradley as their new DC. Bradley, of course, employs the Seattle-style 4-3 that will require some adjustments. Fortunately, the team’s well positioned to make that change. They can either re-sign Melvin Ingram and have him add weight in order to play DE or draft a DE high in the draft (Missouri’s Charles Harris and Tennessee’s Derek Barnett would both be great picks at #7). Presuming they make that investment, the team has the potential for a strong d- line that can anchor their defense and elevate them into playoff contention.
The flexibility of their defensive roster, coupled with the experience of Gus Bradley, makes this a strong hire for the team. grade: A-
Despite being an in-demand candidate, Anthony Lynn was one of the most underwhelming choices in my mind. In fact, he didn’t even crack my top 15 of potential head coaches that I would have hired if I was running a franchise.
However, with the Chargers, Lynn is going to be surrounded by two strong and experienced lieutenants in Whisenhunt and Gus Bradley, which should help him tremendously. Both Whisenhunt and Bradley made my list of best available coordinators (#8 for Whiz, #2 for Bradley). So while I dock the team for Lynn, the staff as a whole is in decent shape. STAFF GRADE: B/B-