Column: Chargers owners have to realize they need to fire Anthony Lynn

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn looks on from the sideline during a game.
The Chargers are set to make a decision about coach Anthony Lynn’s future with the team Monday.
(Peter Joneleit / Associated Press)

When the Chargers relocated to Los Angeles, warnings about their owners traveled across county lines with them.

How they are incomprehensibly tone deaf.

How they are cheap.

How they mess up everything.

In the four years since the team’s move, the Spanos family has maintained a low profile in these parts.

With Jerry Buss’ heirs, Steve Ballmer and the chief executive of Guggenheim Partners counted among the owners of the city’s sports teams, the Spanoses are virtually non-entities, which has spared them the from the kind of vitriol that was directed at them in the Chargers’ previous hometown of San Diego.


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But the family can’t hide forever.

In the near future, perhaps as early as Monday, coach Anthony Lynn will learn if he will return next season.

What the Spanoses do will inform Los Angeles of what they’re about.

Will they retain Lynn and demonstrate they are still the goofs who ran the Chargers into the ground in San Diego? Or will they move on and show they have learned something over the last four years about operating a franchise in a major market?

The Chargers completed another underwhelming season Sunday, their 38-21 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs reserves extending their win streak to four games. If this were a normal season, there were multiple points during the 7-9 campaign at which a properly functioning organization would have dismissed its coach.

Like after the Chargers blew leads of 16 or more in four consecutive games, including three losses.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, left, talks with Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, left, talks with Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid after the Chargers’ 38-21 win on Sunday.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Or after their historic, gaffe-packed 45-0 loss to the New England Patriots at home.


Or when they ran the ball without any timeouts in the final minute of a loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Or when they made the same mistake at the end of the first half in a win over the Atlanta Falcons.

How often the Chargers lost was only part of the problem. How they lost was equally, if not more, troublesome.

Lynn’s teams made the mistakes that should never happen at the professional level. Keeping him would be tantamount to endorsing this brand of amateurish football. That’s not the statement the Spanoses should want to make, especially here, especially with the possibility that SoFi Stadium will be open to fans next season.

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The decision should be a no-brainer, but the Spanoses’ history makes it a toss-up.

These are the same people who retained Mike Riley after he went 1-15 in 2000. They were a season or two too late in dismissing Norv Turner and repeated the same mistake with Mike McCoy.

There are financial reasons the Spanoses would want to hold on to Lynn, starting with the fact he has another year on his contract.


In a season in which a pandemic prevented them from selling tickets and concessions, the Chargers paid more than $60 million up front in signing bonuses to Joey Bosa and Keenan Allen. They also remain liable for the majority of their $650-million relocation fee.

Simultaneously paying the salaries to two head coaches isn’t something they want to do.

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But as Frank McCourt painfully learned when he owned the beloved Dodgers, this is the wrong place to compromise the on-field product to save a few dollars — or a few million.

Lynn’s strong character and likeable personality are on his side. However, that too will count for only so much in this city. Doc Rivers guided the Clippers through the Donald Sterling scandal and was an important voice when NBA players became involved in the social justice movement that swept the country this year. Rivers was nonetheless fired.

The city’s other “Doc,” Dave Roberts, was the charismatic leader of the Dodgers when they reached their first World Series in 29 years. Two years later, he was on the proverbial hot seat. He remained there until the Dodgers won the World Series this year.

Fair or not, that is the reality in this market.

The move from San Diego to Los Angeles gained the Chargers access to a potentially larger fan base. They are now playing in a state-of-the-art stadium that was financed by another team.


But nothing is free. As the owners of every team from the Rams to the Kings to LAFC can attest, there are standards here. The Spanoses now have a choice: Live up to them or become the type of outlier no one wants to be.