Can Anthony Lynn Survive Much Longer?
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
By Connor Brosnan.
The Chargers again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
How on earth do the Chargers keep doing this? I spoke in a piece last week about one of life's inevitabilities being how Atlanta seem to always manage to throw games away regardless of the lead they have, but if there's one other team who can attest to that feeling it's the Los Angeles Chargers.
It's a pretty long-standing joke in the NFL that the Chargers will always find new and inventive ways to lose games, but it's never been more true than this season. As the 4th quarter was playing out on Sunday, for as bad as the Denver Broncos had played all day, you could just feel the momentum beginning to switch and that feeling of “surely not?” drifting over.
Surely, they couldn't throw away a 24-3 lead against a team with little to play for and a struggling quarterback? Not after the mighty impressive performance that their own quarterback, rookie sensation Justin Herbert, was putting in. Even this sort of collapse would be too much for the Chargers.
Sensing the inevitable collapse
But as each drive went by it started to seem more and more possible. The Chargers couldn't add another touchdown on any of their final five drives, while the Broncos kept chipping away with touchdowns of their own. That sinking feeling seemed to be eking onto the field and the Chargers looked like a team that had been here before and couldn't figure out a way to stop the rot, while the Broncos were a team growing in confidence, seeing their AFC West rivals starting to struggle and sensed the opportunity to snatch a seemingly impossible win.
With a little over two minutes remaining, Drew Lock started impressively marching his side up the field. Down by six and helped along the way by a couple of defensive pass interference calls that kept the drive alive, most notably on 4th & 4 in what would have been the final play of the game, the Broncos wound up getting one more play from the one yard line. One final chance for the Chargers to dig themselves out of the hole that they'd dug themselves into in the first place.
However, in keeping with the way the rest of the quarter had gone, Drew Lock was able to create space to find an open receiver and delivered a strike to KJ Hamler to tie things up. Lock's little dance after his biggest moment of the season feels like this season’s version of the clip of him rapping on the sideline last year in that his personality seems to be buying him a lot more fans than maybe his performances warrant.
Admittedly though, for as poor as he was for the most part on Sunday, when it mattered most he dug deep and stepped up and has bought himself more time to escape questions over his future as a potential franchise QB. Brandon McManus then stepped up to kick the inevitable PAT which condemned the Chargers to possibly their roughest defeat of the season, which is saying something.
This is now the fourth straight game that the Chargers have thrown away a 16+ point lead, which extends their own unwanted NFL record from last week.
Questions have to be asked of the coaching staff
When something like that keeps happening, the fingers can't solely be pointed at the players and you have to start asking questions of the coaching staff, and that starts with head coach Anthony Lynn. He accepted the blame for the defeat, but how much longer can a team just accept the fact that he's taking responsibility as being good enough. This should have been something that they addressed the first time it happened. Or the second. Or the third. How many more chances can you get before they've had enough?
There's a lot of faith in the Chargers franchise that Lynn is the right man to take the team forward and I can't imagine a few losses would change that considering the opportunities they've had in the past to fire him, but it's getting to the stage where I feel we're repeating the same old story with the Chargers and there's very little sign of them progressing forwards.
The quality of their offense is making the Chargers one of the must-watch teams each week and helping to build these big leads that they end up throwing away, and we have to give Lynn his props for that, but all of that hard work counts for nothing if you can't coach your team to get the results.
Justin Herbert became only the second QB to throw 3+ TD's in four consecutive games, which is a remarkable stat for a rookie who continues to shine every week, but the Chargers aren't getting the wins that his performances deserve because of failings in other areas of the game.
Turnovers a key problem
LA rank among the very lowest in the league on turnover differential, with the majority of that deficit being from their lack of ability to produce turnovers. It's a talented defensive roster for the most part, and obviously they're missing key pieces in Derwin James and Chris Harris Jr, but it's a roster that doesn't know how to get off the field, particularly in the later stages of games when even one or two big stops, or the odd turnover, would help to see them across the line and it's down to the coaching staff to make sure that they can do that.
Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley is regarded as one of the best in the NFL in that role, and he's been successful in building a strong and competitive defense in his first few years at the franchise, but never quite good enough depth wise to consistently make them a threat for a playoff push.
SoFi, so bad
This feels like a crucial time in history for the LA Chargers franchise and it's as crucial as ever that they get things right soon. The move to a big market city, where they've struggled to garner much of a fanbase already and with the transition into the stunning new SoFi Stadium this season they need to make sure they're in a place to be able to attract as many fans as possible.
They've even got their franchise QB sorted and on the basis of his first seven games he's the sort of player that fans are going to love to watch and is the perfect quarterback to attract new or neutral fans to follow the franchise. The only thing missing to ensure the Chargers can bring in big numbers to justify this move to Los Angeles is a winning team, but you'll struggle to draw people in to follow a team that are going to be perennial strugglers.
So far the move to LA hasn't been anywhere near as successful as the Spanos family had hoped, but after finally moving on from quarterback Phillip Rivers, you have to wonder if Anthony Lynn will be on a short leash now too because this is the perfect opportunity for the franchise to really start making big strides forward and it feels almost like it’s now or never for them to be a success in LA and so a complete fresh start again with a new coach to go along with the new quarterback may end up being the way forward and may be the best way to revitalise the franchise.
The Chargers have a lot of pieces in place to build a very successful team, but they can't keep wasting that for much longer and they need to make sure they have the right long-term plan in place to ensure they get the best out of Herbert in the coming years.
That may mean making that tough decision on getting different coaching around him to do so, since it doesn't appear that the current system is able to produce consistent and winning football, particularly over the last two years.
Aside from dead-man walking Adam Gase and the usual suspects Matt Patricia and Doug Marrone, Anthony Lynn now moves up to being one of the favourites to be next in line to follow Dan Quinn and Bill O'Brien in being fired before the season is out. If we were doing our updated hot-seat rankings, it's safe to say that Lynn's seat would be getting a little too toasty for comfort.