Chargers’ Lynn deserves coach of the year, while Dodgers and Galaxy deserve credit
Andy Reid entrusted the Kansas City Chiefs offense to an inexperienced quarterback who has thrived under his guidance. Bill O’Brien got the Houston Texans on track after a slow start. Matt Nagy has taken the Chicago Bears from last place to first in the NFC North.
None of them has overcome the problems Anthony Lynn has encountered as the coach of the Chargers.
Lynn is fond of saying, “We don’t make excuses,” and his players haven’t.
How these obstacles have faded into the background speaks to the degree to which Lynn has changed the franchise culture. And how the Chargers are now tied for the best record in the AFC illustrates why Lynn should succeed crosstown counterpart Sean McVay as the NFL’s coach of the year.
Start with where they play. The majority of their home games have felt like road games, with their 30,000-seat stadium overtaken every other week by fans of teams such as the Chiefs, Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.
Not only have they played almost every game in front of a hostile crowd, they have also done so short-handed. Defensive end Joey Bosa missed the first nine games. Tight end Hunter Henry hasn’t played a down.
This ability to replace their wounded was showcased in the team’s signature win of the season, the come-from-behind victory Thursday in Kansas City.
The team’s top two running backs, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, were out. Run stopper Denzel Perryman was already finished for the season. Defensive lineman Brandon Mebane didn’t play because of a family medical situation. And if that wasn’t problematic enough, the Chargers lost receiver Keenan Allen in the second quarter.
The Chargers were a fashionable dark horse pick in the preseason, including by yours truly. But almost every optimistic prediction was hedged by a warning of what could go wrong. And plenty that could go wrong has gone wrong. The fact the Chargers have nonetheless outperformed the most hopeful of projections is a credit to Lynn.
The Dodgers didn’t sign Bryce Harper at the winter meetings. They didn’t land Corey Kluber. They didn’t trade for J.T. Realmuto.
Which wasn’t a surprise. There was no urgency.
Before the meetings even started, the Arizona Diamondbacks essentially conceded the National League West to them by trading franchise cornerstone Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals. Talk about an early Christmas present.
With minimal modifications to their roster, the Dodgers will enter the upcoming season as the overwhelming favorites to win a seventh consecutive division championship. The only other team that’s even trying to win is the Colorado Rockies.
Such a cautious approach might be underwhelming in a market that is now home to LeBron James and two playoff-bound NFL teams, but the Dodgers have offered no reason to think they will change their approach. This is how they have operated under Andrew Friedman, prioritizing depth over stardom in the winter and maintaining the flexibility necessary to pick up a frontline player at the trade deadline.
As hard as Joe Kelly throws and as well as he pitched in the postseason for the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers reached when they offered him the three-year, $25-million contract that he accepted. The right-hander told Boston radio station WEEI the Dodgers were the only team that offered him a three-year deal.
His ERA in the three seasons he has pitched primarily as a reliever: 4.39 in 2018, 2.79 in 2017 and 5.18 in 2016.
The Dodgers either think Kelly has figured out something or believe they can improve his performance by using analytics to change his approach. Of course, such thinking once led them to give $48 million to Brandon McCarthy.
But whereas McCarthy’s disposition was always a question mark, Kelly comes to the Dodgers with high marks as a competitor. An executive for one of Kelly’s former teams said that regardless of how he pitches, he should be a significant asset in the clubhouse. “His makeup is off the charts,” the executive said.
The Galaxy has become Major League Soccer’s version of the New York Knicks, the once-glamorous job of coaching the five-time league champions diminished to where Caleb Porter rejected it to accept a similar position with the Columbus Crew.
So, yeah, the Galaxy has serious problems and its coaching vacancy isn’t the worst of them. The team has a $6 million albatross in Gio dos Santos, who has played down to his reputation as talented but indifferent attacker while occupying one of the team’s three designated player slots.
The situation could be worse. Considerably worse, actually. To their credit, the Galaxy made the one move it absolutely had to make this offseason, as the franchise has re-signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a new contract, according to The Times’ tireless soccer writer Kevin Baxter.
Crosstown rival Los Angeles Football Club plays more attractively than the Galaxy and has the new centrally located stadium with modern amenities, but Ibrahimovic is the only transcendent soccer talent in this market. There will always be a segment of the population that will prefer to pay to see what traces of genius remain in Ibrahimovic’s 37-year-old body over whatever LAFC has to offer. However dysfunctional the Galaxy becomes, the franchise will remain relevant because of Ibrahimovic.
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