Advertisement

Anthony Lynn’s devotion to life, equality and football endears him to Chargers

 Anthony Lynn, center, works with players on the Chargers.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, center, instructs players at the team’s practice facility in Costa Mesa on Aug. 17. Lynn is entering his fourth season as Chargers coach.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

His career as a full-time head coach began with an audible thud, the sort of depressing sound made by most massive first-quarter deficits.

Anthony Lynn’s maiden Chargers team started 0-4, one of those defeats coming on a last-second blocked field-goal attempt and another on a last-minute 54-yard successful field goal by the opposition.

Then, in a U-turn violent enough to produce G-forces, those Chargers won nine of their remaining 12 games and next season evolved into a team that would go 12-4 and advance to the AFC divisional round of the playoffs.

Now, entering his fourth year, Lynn and the Chargers are trying to bounce back again, from an even louder thud, under conditions even more stressed and less predictable.

Advertisement

The 2019 Chargers finished a stunning 5-11, their underwhelming performance marred by injuries, turnovers and a maddening inability to win close games.

Yet, in February, the team signed Lynn to an extension, providing at least a bit of security to a coach who — in a way as clear as his signature on that new contract — still has the trust of his bosses.

“He’s special,” Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos said. “Anthony’s special. He’s unique. He’s his own man, and he has the respect of the players but also the organization and ownership.”

Advertisement

All of which is encouraging but none of which lessens the lofty expectations for a talented roster, even as the franchise transitions from longtime starting quarterback Philip Rivers.

Lynn needs to win and will try to do so with a revamped offensive scheme and a rebuilt offensive line amid a pandemic and ongoing national social unrest that has presented American sports with challenges heretofore unforeseen.

The burden is squarely on the Chargers’ head coach and, therefore, on the Chargers themselves.

“At the end of the day, you can say this about a coach or that about a coach but we’re on the field,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “We have to execute and get the job done. ... The pieces are there on this team.”

Advertisement

And so is the leader. Lynn has emerged as few coaches have across all sports during protests that have flared over the past several months.

While many teams and individuals have offered prepared statements of support, Lynn has shared in detail his experiences. He has spoken on panels, podcasts and national television shows.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn watches from the sideline during a game.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn has worked with team ownership to help them understand what needs to happen in the push for racial equality.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

“I’m very grateful to be playing for a coach who’s aware of everything, on and off the field. Coach Lynn, he just understands, know what I mean?

Rayshawn Jenkins, Chargers safety

Advertisement

He attended a protest in Huntington Beach, announced live on the NFL Network that the Chargers were canceling a scrimmage in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting and never has stopped encouraging his players who feel compelled to participate to do so.

“That says a lot about coach Lynn because, at the end of the day, we’re not just football players,” safety Rayshawn Jenkins said. “We’re human beings who just happen to put on a football helmet to work.

“I’m very grateful to be playing for a coach who’s aware of everything, on and off the field. Coach Lynn, he just understands, know what I mean? It’s been a blessing for all of us.”

Spanos said he and Lynn have spoken often over the past several months about the issues currently facing society.

Advertisement

The two regularly played golf together in the summer and spent hours discussing more than just birdie putts.

At one point, Spanos said he asked Lynn what, as team owner, he could do regarding the players. Spanos explained that Lynn told him this movement requires patience, the sort of unified front that defines team and strong direction.

That’s precisely what Lynn provided in late August, when, before a planned scrimmage at SoFi Stadium, he called for a team meeting as emotions over the Blake shooting refused to pass.

Advertisement

Sensing his players just needed to talk, Lynn began a group discussion that would become so deep that one player said he saw an assistant coach crying.

Afterward, general manager Tom Telesco told the NFL Network, “We follow Anthony’s lead.”

Said tight end Virgil Green: “Coach Lynn is a very confident person. When he talks to you, you look him in the eye. It’s tough to not see the kind of man coach Lynn is because his actions speak.”

At least three NFL head coaches have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Advertisement

New Orleans’ Sean Payton and Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson shared their experiences through the media.

No one outside the Chargers organization or Lynn’s family and close friends knew he had tested positive until the first episode of “Hard Knocks.”

Were the Chargers not a featured team on the HBO show this year, it’s likely no one on the outside would have known.

His feelings were as real as his tears and just as raw, too, Anthony Lynn later describing himself as being “emotionally ambushed” and “hijacked” by the experience.

Advertisement

“He’s played in the league, man,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “He’s won Super Bowls here. He has the respect of being a player.

“That goes a long ways when you got a coach who has experience doing this and can understand the pain and what goes into being an NFL player.”

But now, Lynn is a coach and most certainly needs to coach this fall. Another five-win season is not what’s expected of this team.

In looking to rebound in 2020, the Chargers can reflect on that 0-4 start to the 2017 season and what came next: a rookie head coach suddenly and emphatically announcing his arrival.

Advertisement

“He really came to the surface in that very difficult time,” Spanos said. “He’s the right guy to bring it all together.”


Advertisement