Report: Detroit Lions to hire Anthony Lynn as offensive coordinator

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Erik Schlitt
·4 min read
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ESPN’s Dan Graziano is reporting the Detroit Lions will be hiring former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn as their next offensive coordinator.

Multiple reporters have backed up Graziano’s claim, including his colleague at ESPN Adam Schefter, who noted that “Lynn had OC options, but wanted to work with Lions’ HC Dan Campbell and DC Aaron Glenn, who played for the Cowboys at the time Lynn coached in Dallas”.

Like Campbell and Glenn, Lynn is a former NFL player. He played running back for the New York Giants in 1992, Denver Broncos in 1993, San Francisco 49ers in 1995-6, and back to Denver in 1997-9, where he won two Super Bowls with the Broncos in 1997-8.

Lynn retired in 2000 due to a neck injury and took a job with Denver as a special teams assistant. Two years later the Jacksonville Jaguars hired him as their running backs coach. He would coach running backs for the 12 years in the NFL, spending time with the Cleveland Browns, Cowboys — where he met Campbell and Glenn — and New York Jets. In 2013-4, in addition to his running backs coaching duties with the Jets, Lynn was also promoted to assistant head coach.

In 2015 he was hired by the Buffalo Bills as their assistant head coach/running backs coach. In 2016, he started the year in the same role but just two weeks into the season he was promoted to offensive coordinator after Greg Roman was fired. Before the season was over, he would once again be promoted, this time to interim head coach after then-coach Rex Ryan was fired in December.

Following the season, Lynn had head coaching interviews with the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and San Francisco 49ers, but accepted the Chargers job. He held the position for four seasons before being fired earlier this month.

As a coordinator in Buffalo, Lynn’s offense led the league in rushing yards with 2,630 yards and rushing touchdowns with 29 on the season. As a team, they averaged 5.3 yards per carry. LeSean McCoy led the team with 1,267 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, with Mike Gillislee rushing for 577 yards and eight touchdowns as a backup.

“I want to play smart, physical football,” Lynn said of his approach to the Bills offense. “I want to be explosive down the field. Right now, I just want to stay on the damn field. We’re going to play a little bit faster and see if we can put a little pressure on the defense. Just execute.”

That sounds an awful lot like what Campbell said at his press conference last Thursday.

But before you fall into the “he’s too old school” trap, it’s important to look at how he adjusted his offense when he took over the Chargers.

In Lynn’s very first season with the Chargers (2017), they led the league in passing yards. In 2018, they finished tenth, 2019 and 2020 both saw sixth-place finishes, and this past season they accomplished this feat with a rookie quarterback (Justin Herbert) under center.

To recap for clarity: in the last five years, Lynn went from coordinating the best rushing offense in the league one season, to coaching the best passing offense in the league the next. Then, he was able to maintain a top-10 finish each year, despite having a rookie quarterback this past season.

Lynn is capable of adapting his scheme to fit the personnel.

Things will be a little harder for Lynn now that quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions have decided to part ways, and if the Lions plan on looking to the draft for his replacement, they’ll need a veteran quarterback to step in.

Last season, when the Chargers were going through an almost identical situation after Philip Rivers left LA, Lynn turned back to his quarterback during his Buffalo days, Tyrod Taylor, to help him stabilize the position.

Campbell will surely turn to Lynn for advice on how to handle the quarterback position and with Taylor once again a potential unrestricted free agent, it’s fair to speculate that the Lions may try an repeat the Chargers’ plan of action by bringing in the veteran and looking to the draft for longevity at the position.