Chargers earn morale-boosting win over Chiefs, but will Anthony Lynn keep his job?
Up next: a most intriguing offseason.
As is the case after each game, coach Anthony Lynn is scheduled to meet with team management Monday.
With the season over, the topics to be discussed include his employment. Lynn has a year remaining on his contract, but speculation has been mounting that he could be fired.
“I think we’ve done a good job here under the circumstances,” Lynn said. “Yeah, I’d like to be the head coach here. Right now, I am under contract. So I am the head coach here.”
Chargers ownership has a reputation for questionable decisions, but the team’s struggles make it clear they need to fire coach Anthony Lynn.
After a season-opening victory, the Chargers lost seven of eight. They suffered the most lopsided defeat in franchise history 45-0 to New England on Dec. 6 to fall to 3-9.
But they finished with four consecutive victories, the final three coming against the AFC West. At 7-9, the Chargers finished third in the division a year after losing all six of their AFC West games.
Still, with rumors circulating for weeks, ownership has issued no public endorsement of Lynn or general manager Tom Telesco, who just finished his eighth season on the job.
“I feel good about this football team,” Lynn said. “And I feel good about the way we finished. I know that the momentum going into the offseason, that can’t do anything but help us in 2021.”
The brightest spot of an otherwise mostly dreary season was the arrival of quarterback Justin Herbert. The rookie set numerous team and league records after being selected in the NFL draft No. 6 overall in April.
Lynn was asked if Herbert’s development and production could be selling points in his favor when he meets with his bosses.
“I didn’t know I was making a pitch to ownership,” he said, laughing. “Are you suggesting I make a pitch to ownership? Know something I don’t know? Go ahead and say it.”
Lynn, who turned 52 last month, is 33-31 (plus 1-1 in the playoffs) in four seasons with the Chargers, who gave him his first full-time head coaching job. He was the interim in Buffalo for one game at the end of the 2016 season.
After going 21-11 and winning a postseason game in his first two seasons, Lynn’s teams are 12-20. They’ve struggled to hold leads and win close decisions. At times, Lynn and his staff have glaringly mismanaged strategy.
During his tenure, Telesco’s teams are 60-68 in the regular season and 2-2 in the playoffs. Overall, the Chargers have made the postseason only twice over the last 11 seasons.
“I feel like he’s got the job done here,” wide receiver Mike Williams said of Lynn. “I feel like he’s a good coach. Ownership’s got to make that decision, though. But I’d like to see him come back.”
With six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, Williams was one of the stars Sunday in a game that somewhat resembled a preseason exhibition.
The Chiefs entered already having clinched the AFC’s top seed and rested several starters, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
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Because of injuries, the Chargers were missing much of their No. 1 defense and a few key offensive players, including receiver Keenan Allen. Running back Austin Ekeler then missed the second half because of a concussion.
All of which meant the game became about Herbert’s continued assault on the record books. He finished 22 of 31 for 302 yards and three touchdowns. His 134.1 passer rating was his second-highest.
Among the NFL single-season rookie marks Herbert set were: touchdown passes (31), total touchdowns (36), completions (396) and games with multiple touchdown passes (10).
He missed the passing yards mark set by Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck in 2012 by only 39. Herbert, who didn’t play in the Chargers’ season opener, finished with 4,336.
“No, I’m not disappointed,” he said of coming up short in one category. “I’m just glad we got the win. I’m glad we finished the season out strong.”
Herbert also set a franchise record with five rushing touchdowns for a quarterback and matched the single-season team mark with eight 300-yard passing games, joining Dan Fouts and Philip Rivers.
“I’m super excited to see what type of career he has,” defensive lineman Isaac Rochell said. “He has started on such a high note. Based on the way he’s played this year and his temperament and everything about him, the dude’s going to have an unbelievable career.”
Herbert is the favorite to win the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award, with Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson the only other viable candidate.
Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 38-21 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Sunday.
The lone Charger to receive that honor was running back Don Woods in 1974.
“I don’t think it’s an individual award,” Herbert said. “I think it’s based on the guys around you. … Anything like that that recognizes one guy, I think it’s because of everyone.”
Herbert also talked about the pride he felt in his teammates for closing the season on a four-game winning streak. He praised Lynn, as well as offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton.
He and Williams both referenced the Chargers’ young playmakers and the promise the franchise can carry into 2021.
“We have a vision for this program,” Lynn said. “That’s what we’re trying to build right now.”
Soon enough, Lynn will find out if his vision can continue.
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