If anyone picks up a dictionary today and Anthony Lynn does not have his picture next to the word “resilient,” then chances are that person has the wrong version. Ok, so maybe Lynn’s face in the dictionary is a bit of a stretch. After all, he’s only a football coach. Judging by his walk in life, though, he has a compelling case for it to be.
Anthony Lynn comes from a humble beginning filled with many obstacles.
The Detroit Lions hired Lynn, 52, as its new offensive coordinator on January 23rd, rounding out a massive front office overhaul. Lynn spent the previous four seasons as the Los Angeles Chargers’ head coach before the team dismissed him on January 4th.
However, that is not where Lynn’s story begins.
Lynn entered the world on December 21st, 1968, in McKinney, Texas, where he was born and raised by his single mother, Betty Jackson. Being raised by a single mother tends to come with disadvantages. Lynn’s case was no different. When he needed to get to school, he would often have to hitch a ride to school or walk.
Life didn’t get any easier for Lynn after his playing days at Celina High School, either.
While playing for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Lynn rushed for 1,982 yards and 20 touchdowns over four seasons. Along with that, he caught 37 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns. During his junior year (1990), he rushed for 884 yards and eight touchdowns, earning him All-Southwest Conference honors like his fellow Lions coordinator, Aaron Glenn.
And this is where Lynn’s story becomes quite interesting, showcasing a bit of the resiliency mentioned above.
After suffering a knee injury that impacted his senior season, he had to find his way to the NFL as an undrafted free agent. Lynn was a journeyman during his seven-year NFL career, playing for the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and being a member of the New York Giants’ practice squad. In 83 games, he rushed for 177 yards, with 164 coming in 1996 with the 49ers.
There is nothing else to discuss regarding Lynn’s playing career, as there are no significant highlights. There is no Youtube montage of his greatest plays. Heck, it’s quite the daunting task figuring his “best” game in the NFL. Nevertheless, with an unfortunate end to his college career––and a less than stellar NFL stint––Lynn eventually became a mainstay in the league.
And it was due to his football intelligence.
Lynn had a calling to be in the NFL––just as a coach, not a player.
There is not much to say about Anthony Lynn as a football player.
Anthony Lynn as a coach is a different story.
After retiring from the NFL in 2000, Lynn’s coaching career resembled his pro career being, as he was a journeyman yet again. He started his new job as the special teams assistant with Broncos for two seasons. From there, he had coaching stints over the next Jaguars, Cowboys, Browns, and Jets as each team’s running backs (RB) coach.
Lynn did an admirable job coaching the Jets’ running back corps. He didn’t hit his coaching stride until 2015, when he became the RB coach for the Bills. The Bills promoted Lynn to offensive coordinator the following season, and that’s when he resurrected LeSean McCoy’s career. McCoy rushed for 1,247 yards and 13 touchdowns under Lynn’s guidance, earning him a Pro Bowl nod. Additionally, McCoy averaged 5.4 yards per rush that season, the highest of his career. Those 13 touchdowns were are the second-highest he’s had in one season. During that season, the Bills were the NFL’s top rushing unit, averaging 164 rushing yards per game.
Lynn ended that 2016 season as interim coach. The Bills dismissed Rex Ryan just before the final game of the season. Lynn then parlayed his performance with the Bills into the Los Angeles Chargers’ head coaching position. And that’s where things get a bit interesting.
Somebody has to pay the price for a lousy job, and unfortunately, it fell on the shoulders of Lynn.
When Anthony Lynn took the Chargers’ head coach gig, he had a hell of a mountain to climb. In the two seasons before his arrival, they mustered a combined total of nine wins under then-coach Mike McCoy.
Despite coming to a franchise on a downward spiral, Lynn provided instant creditability to the Chargers franchise. He kicked things off by coaching them to back-to-back winning records, going 9-7 (2017) and 12-4 (2018), respectively. In the 2018 NFL playoffs, they fell short in the divisional round, losing 41-28 to the New England Patriots. While their playoff success was minimal, the Chargers still managed to be a top-11 offense in each of Lynn’s four seasons there.
Unfortunately for Lynn, they regressed the next season, falling to last in the division with a 5-11 record. Although they bounced back last season, improving to 7-9, they still finished 3rd in the AFC West. And that’s what led to the Chargers firing him last month. Since he had to deal with the Tyrod Taylor situation and starting rookie QB Justin Herbert earlier than expected, one might think that Lynn earning an extra year would seem ideal.
After all, look at his work with Hebert.
The rookie QB from Oregon threw for 4,331 yards and 31 touchdowns, earning him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Herbert’s impressive rookie campaign is a product of Lynn’s coaching and guidance. Nevertheless, the Chargers made their move, and now Lynn is in Detroit, reading to take on another Herculean task.
And that is giving the Lions’ offense an identity.
From Jared Goff to Kenny Golladay to D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson, having to be resilient is something they’ve all had to be in the past season leading into this new one. Now, more than ever in their careers, they’ll have to demonstrate that trait in the upcoming Lions’ season. Luckily for them, they have a coordinator in Lynn, who, as mentioned above, has dealt with needing to be resilient in all facets of life. Whether it was in his personal or professional life, Lynn has defied the odds stacked against him. Hopefully, for the Lions’ sake, he can duplicate quick success like his previous stops.