I love Anthony Lynn. I was absolutely ecstatic when I found out he got hired as the new head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. This probably was not how the majority of fans felt at the time, however. His lack of coaching experience as anything other than a position coach brings with it a risk that Charger fans were not totally comfortable with.
In the months following his hire, I have seen the anxiousness and uncertainty being replaced with optimism and rejuvenated sense of hope for the future. Fans are starting to embrace the idea of Lynn and what he can bring to the table in terms of X’s and O’s. It also doesn’t hurt that he has garnered the title of “guru” within running back rooms around the league, especially given the RB situation the Chargers dealt with in 2016.
Since his hiring, I have been nothing but impressed by his cool, collected demeanor, with or without a camera in his face. He is calm but still glows with an excitement in a way that says “I know something great is about to happen, even if no one else can see it.”
After each interview, after each press conference, the more I found myself thinking “I would have loved to play for a guy like Anthony Lynn.” Now, before I delve into why, I need to show you where I’m coming from and give you all a little background on the coaches I had the opportunity to play for during my football career.
Fast Times at Washington High
As a student-athlete in high-school and at D-1 AA Drake University, I got the opportunity to play for a couple of coaches with very contrasting styles of coaching.
My high-school coach came to my town from a suburb of Chicago where was he supposedly canned for punching one of his former players. He had a mouth without a filter and there wasn’t a line he wouldn’t cross when berating a player. He was a coach you could joke with most of the time but don’t you DARE screw up on inside zone or ,God forbid, lay a hand on the quarterback during practice. The last guy to nudge the QB had fully-filled water jugs soar past his ears as he ran in circles for the foreseeable future.
Two years after I graduated, my coach was inevitably fired. His uncontrollable anger issues led to several off-field issues involving players from my own school and some at rival schools. This was the final straw in an otherwise successful stint at Cedar Rapids Washington High School.
Keepin’ it PG
Now, on the completely opposite end of the coaching spectrum sits my coach from Drake University. He was a man with a passion for the game of football that could only be matched by his love and devotion for the big man upstairs. For reference, I am not a very religious person. Drake is also not a religiously-affiliated school. This did not stop my coach from assembling a God-fearing staff and thrusting his way of life onto his players. This included a complete censoring of all language and material within the football team to, essentially, a PG level.
I’m not joking in the slightest.
It all hit me when I was scolded for shouting “damn” after I dropped a short pass during practice. You were unable to swear at anytime and topics discussed had to be okay for a 13-year old to listen to. You’d have been hard-pressed to convince me that I didn’t accidentally commit to Brigham Young instead.
I believe my tipping point on this matter was when a junior wide receiver went in to tell our coach he was walking away from football after sustaining his third concussion in as many years. What was our coach’s response?
“God will judge you for this.”
Yeah. It was that bad. Also, this receiver was by far the most spiritual person on our team. It wasn’t even close.
Naturally, I bolted out of there faster than you can say “Amen”.
Enter Anthony Lynn
It didn’t take long for me to notice that Anthony Lynn would be a very different coach from Mike McCoy. It really only took until Lynn opened his mouth to speak for the first time.
He was well-spoken, articulate, and his voice carried a sense of compassion for every topic that was discussed. His tone seemed to dominate the room. Not through intimidation, but through a sense of respect for a man who has obviously been around the block a few times and has seen his fair share over the years. His voice has a subtle hoarseness to it. It’s rough around the edges but comforting at the same time.
It makes me think his bedtime stories are just as rousing as his halftime speeches.
I’m definitely not the only one who has taken notice of the new baritone in the building. Second-year defensive end Joey Bosa had his own thoughts on his new head coach:
“We needed a strong head coach to come in and make players take accountability for what they do, which there wasn’t enough of last year. I feel like if we had a coach, nothing against Mike McCoy, I just don’t think he had the voice to really get s—t (done).”
I have to agree with Joey on this one.
Mike McCoy is a respectable coach in his own right. He was a heck of an offensive coordinator during his time with the Denver Broncos but some would argue that’s where he should have stayed. But who could say for sure? McCoy could still be the Bolt’s head coach if it wasn’t for the downright baffling injury bug that has plagued the team these last two years.
Regardless of the woulda’-coulda’-shoulda’, Mike McCoy was not the guy in the end. I never thought he had the “it” factor as a coach. He never found a way to carve out his own niche among the 31 other head coaches. For a lack of a better word, Mike McCoy was just boring.
There’s a collection of recycled phrases used by every NFL coach at some time or another. They are usually used to answer a matching set of recycled questions that reporters often ask. Questions like “What kind of coach are you going to be?” and “What are your plans going to be for X player?”
Although fans hear these questions asked dozens of times over a season, we still enjoy hearing our coach give his opinion. The most like-able coaches always seem to answer these questions by putting a little bit of their personalities into them. (See coaches like Greg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick, etc.).
It really comes down to the fact that I believe Lynn more than I ever did McCoy. When Lynn says “this” is the type of football the Chargers are going to be, I don’t doubt him for a second.
Players’ Coach, Not A Player’s Coach
One of the first statements Coach Lynn made about the type of coach he will be is that he is NOT a player’s coach.
For those of you who do not know what a player’s coach is: a player’s coach acts in the interest of player’s in order to better relate to them or to just make their players happy, in general.
A perfect example of a player’s coach is Rex Ryan, the formerly of the Buffalo Bills. During a post-game interview after their 2015 match-up with the Jets, LeSean McCoy explained what makes Ryan a player’s coach:
“As a small example, we had a short week. We didn’t practice at all. We had a lot of walkthroughs...mental stuff. ‘Cause our guys are banged up. We need rest (and) most coaches don’t look forward to doing that.”
As a former player, I never wanted to do a bunch of running after practice. When a coach would cut conditioning short, my teammates and I would erupt in cheers and think he was the greatest coach ever.
As great as this feeling is, it wasn’t what we always needed. Sometimes the players need to go through a little bit of hell and back, regardless if it’s at the the amateur or professional level. A gut-check here and there can be extremely humbling, something all athletes can use.
I believe Anthony Lynn is the coach the players need and the coach that the loyal fans deserve.
I like to think of Lynn as a “players’ coach” instead of a “player’s coach.”
What is the difference, you ask?
Well, Rex Ryan wanted to be a coach for his players. Lynn plans to be a coach of players. Lynn had this to say in an interview during his first press conference at the Stubhub Center:
“I think the real players, they crave the discipline. They crave the accountability, and that’s what I’m going to hold them to. We’re going to operate that way. And guys that don’t like that, they won’t be around.”
Lynn is correct. The guys that don’t like it will not be around, and that’s okay. They usually aren’t the right guys, anyway. The right players will understand every decision Coach Lynn makes is for the good of the team. They will see it for what it is: a passion to make the Chargers reach their ultimate potential.
The coaches from my past were quite the characters. However, they each had their own silver lining which left me a better man, and football player, when it all was said and done.
I see Lynn as a combination of these positives from each of my past coaches:
The unmatched, fiery passion I got to witness under those Friday night lights.
The unshakable faith that my teammates and I were all a part of something bigger than ourselves.
I know I will never get the chance to play for Anthony Lynn. However, for all these reasons, I know he would be that guy I would go to war for.
Every. Single. Day.