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Chargers coach Anthony Lynn feels he’s still ‘the right guy for the job’

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, left, works the sideline during the second half against the Buffalo Bills.
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn admitted there was a lot of miscommunication during their game against the Buffalo Bills.
(Adrian Kraus / Associated Press)

Three NFL coaches already have been fired — and it’s not even December.

Plenty of additional changes are likely over the next several weeks with the Chargers’ Anthony Lynn just one of the many facing uncertain futures.

“It comes with the territory,” he said Monday. “I control what I can control, and I don’t worry about that. Of course, I like my job and I want to be here, and I believe that I’m the right guy for the job and can turn this around. But that’s not my decision.”

After finishing 9-7 and 12-4 with a playoff victory in his first two seasons, Lynn’s teams have nosedived. The Chargers are 8-20 since beating Baltimore in the AFC wild-card round in January of 2019.

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A loss Sunday in Buffalo dropped Lynn’s regular-season record with the Chargers to 29-30. The team is last in the AFC West and hasn’t won a game in the division in 23 months.

The Chargers have squandered double-digit leads in four of eight losses this season and have dropped 16 of their last 19 one-score games. They’ve lost four of five entering Sunday, when they play New England at SoFi Stadium.

The Ravens-Steelers game is pushed again, this time to Wednesday, as NFL begins to run out of options to play all the games amid pandemic.

After their most recent defeat — a 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills — Lynn and his staff were ridiculed both locally and nationally because of numerous debatable issues with in-game decisions and clock management.

The low point came when the offense, with time ticking away in the final frantic seconds, attempted a running play near the goal line when logic dictated they either spike the ball or throw a pass.

“That was embarrassing,” Lynn admitted. “I have to be honest with you on that. That was just embarrassing. It wasn’t the reason why we lost the game. But it was embarrassing to finish the game like that.”

Just as he did immediately after the loss, Lynn blamed the play on “poor communication,” something he also said happened offensively just before the end of the first half against Buffalo.

Though he refused to provide details, somewhere among Lynn, offensive coordinator and play caller Shane Steichen and rookie quarterback Justin Herbert there was a breakdown.

“At the end of the day, that’s my responsibility,” Lynn said. “That falls on me. … That was screwed up and it looked bad. I completely understand that.”

Lynn, who turns 52 this month, took over for Mike McCoy following the 2016 season. An NFL assistant since 2000, Lynn’s only head coaching experience had been one game as the interim with the 2016 Bills.

In October of last year, with the Chargers struggling, Lynn fired Ken Whisenhunt and promoted Steichen to offensive coordinator. Last week, he reassigned special teams coordinator George Stewart with that unit underperforming.

“I’m frustrated, disappointed,” Lynn said. “But I’m going to be myself. That’s all I know to do. I’ve been down before. And this team has been down before. We’ll fight back. We’ll regroup. We’ll battle again. It’s tough to go through so many of these and you come out on the wrong end. This is what we signed up for. We’re going to finish.”

The Chargers haven’t dismissed a head coach during the season since June Jones replaced Kevin Gilbride after six games in October of 1998.

On Sunday, the Chargers face a Patriots team that has won three of four and is still fighting for a playoff berth. New England is 5-6 and has won eight of the last nine meetings between these franchises, including the postseason.

Chargers cornerback Chris Harris (25) writhes in pain after injuring his foot against the Carolina Panthers.
Chargers cornerback Chris Harris (25) writhes in pain after injuring his foot against the Carolina Panthers in September.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Harris is back

Veteran cornerback Chris Harris Jr. returned against the Bills after missing seven games because of a foot injury, an injury he suggested was more significant than what he originally believed.

In his first public comments since getting hurt in a Week 3 loss to Carolina, Harris said he was in a walking boot for a month. He said he suffered a high-ankle sprain, a low-ankle sprain, broken bones and substantial swelling and bruising.

“You never realize how many muscles and tendons you have in there until it happens to you,” Harris said. “I definitely don’t wish any foot injuries on anybody.”

He said the injury occurred when he ended up under Chargers nose tackle Linval Joseph and a Panthers offensive lineman.

“I mean,” Harris said, smiling, “I had 700 pounds land on my foot.”

After Josh Kelley failed to get a first down on a key third and one in the fourth quarter, the Chargers had to settle for a field goal in their loss at Buffalo.

Against Buffalo, he played all but one of the Chargers’ 62 defensive snaps. Harris finished with three tackles.

He said he was determined to make it back this year, particularly with the Chargers struggling. He also entered this season having missed only five games over his first nine NFL seasons.

“I think most guys would have been done for the year with the injury that I had,” Harris said. “I was definitely motivated to try to do whatever I could to get back and help this team.”

Ekeler too

Running back Austin Ekeler also returned against Buffalo after being out since Week 4 because of a hamstring strain.

He finished with 25 touches for 129 yards. Ekeler played a career-high 60 of the Chargers’ 83 offensive snaps.

“I told him, ‘Whenever you’re tired, whenever you start feeling fatigued, get out of the game. I do not want you getting hurt,’ ” Lynn said. “At the same time, he knows we’re in a position where we can’t really save anybody. That was more snaps than I really wanted him to get.”


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