Advertisement

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn is winning players over with a super sense of culture

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn is winning players over with a super sense of culture
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn gestures during the first half against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland on Sunday. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

The Chargers have zero Super Bowl wins.

That’s not the same as having zero Super Bowl winners, Michael Schofield, Virgil Green and Russell Okung among the current Chargers who have experienced NFL championships elsewhere.

Advertisement

Also, coach Anthony Lynn won a pair of Super Bowls as a player with Denver.

No one in this locker room, however, has lived championship culture quite like linebacker Kyle Emanuel.

He won four national titles and lost only three games total during his career at North Dakota State.

Going 58-3 over four seasons does suggest a certain level of expertise.

“Culture is a hard thing to describe unless you’re inside of it,” Emanuel said Wednesday. “Then you know what it is. I will say we have developed a culture around here.”

After opening last season with four consecutive defeats, the Chargers are 16-5. They have the highest winning percentage (.813, 13-3) in the league since Week 11 of 2017.

Under the direction of Lynn, who as a running back entering Texas Tech drew comparisons to Eric Dickerson, the Chargers have gone from failing to fulfill potential to succeeding in generating expectation.

“There’s definitely a mentality now,” Emanuel said. “There’s a mindset that we’re going to go into a game and we’re going to find a way to win.”

The Chargers represented Lynn’s sixth attempt to become a head coach. San Francisco interviewed him twice and turned elsewhere.

When he finally was hired in January 2017, Lynn stepped in front of a microphone at StubHub Center and announced how proud he was to be the new coach of the “San Di…”

Then he caught himself and audibled to “L.A. Chargers.” Lynn has been correcting things around here since ... and convincing his players to come along with him.

“He’s not a fake guy,” Green said. “When you can walk into a room and be yourself and not have to pretend, it’s easy for guys to follow you. We see that about him. We know he’s not a pretender.”

While his team has been busy outscoring its past six opponents 158-93, Lynn repeatedly has explained that the momentum from the 9-3 finish a season ago did not carry over to this season.

But the culture, he always adds, almost certainly did. In salvaging what could have been a disastrous 2017 after an 0-4 start, the Chargers learned how to win and learned even more about themselves.

Advertisement

“It starts from top to bottom,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “And that’s Anthony. The way we finished last season told us we had a special unit. Coming into this season, we believed we could win. We knew we could. We expected it.”

On Sunday, the Chargers face Denver at StubHub Center, where they’ve won seven of eight, the average margin in those victories being nearly 17 points.

For a team that supposedly has the least credible home-field advantage in the NFL, the Chargers have tilted the field in a manner much more one-sided than the way the fans in the seats generally lean.

And it started a little more than a year ago, with the Broncos’ most recent visit. On a Sunday afternoon in Carson, the Chargers forced three turnovers, permitted only 12 first downs and buried Denver 21-0.

“I think the way we finished, the camaraderie we had, the mentality, the make-up, I do think those things have carried over,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “I think we came into the offseason hungry and excited because of the way last year finished. Couldn’t get here soon enough.

“Then you add some pieces and you kind of got to regenerate it a little bit. But it’s there, and I think we’ve done that so far. So now it’s maintaining it and finding ways to improve … and never relax. You know, success, yeah, we’ve had some on some Sundays. But we certainly by no means have done anything yet.”

Like all football coaches and teams, Lynn and the Chargers live day-by-day, cliche-by-cliche. The repeated phrases include “get 1% better each day” and “protect every inch” on defense.

But the messenger seems as genuine as some of the messages seem manufactured. Five weeks from his 50th birthday, Lynn appears to already have hit a milestone in connecting with his players.

Last week, he lightened their workload in pads by one day, a decision applauded by veterans and rookies alike. The past two Mondays, he rewarded their victorious efforts by giving them additional time off.

“He’s really an impressive person,” defensive end Isaac Rochell said. “His impact is obvious. You’re seeing guys out there truly getting excited for one another, just enjoying being out there together. That’s the mood he has set.”

It’s a culture, one in which the Chargers are thriving. Lynn recently described his team as “blue-collar,” and he wasn’t referring to powder blue. He was talking about something much deeper, something inside the jersey.

A franchise trying to establish itself in a new market is being led by a coach whose presence is undeniable. And that’s part of the culture too.

“I don't know if it’s just because he played and won a Super Bowl,” running back Melvin Gordon said. “I don’t know. But there are just some guys that just have it. You can’t really explain it. They just have it.”

Lynn appears to have it. Now he’s trying to pass it on to his football team.

Advertisement
Advertisement