When a head coach fizzles out in the NFL, he’s often seen as a premier coordinator hire at his next stop. That was the Detroit Lions’ mindset when they signed former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn to be their OC this year.
The Lions’ offense has been a disaster, but the blame doesn’t entirely belong with Lynn. Head coach Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties in the middle of November with no greater success. The change also begs the question: What’s the plan with Anthony Lynn?
In Lynn’s defense, he’s taking the right approach with what is essentially a demotion. You won’t find Lynn calling it that, even when he received the news.
“I wouldn’t say that. I don’t know, I don’t see it as a demotion,” Lynn said, per the Detroit Free Press. “I’ve been in Dan’s shoes, and if I was 0-8 and I need to spark my team, then as an offensive guy, I probably would’ve done the same thing, to be honest with you, and I have. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t agree with what he did.”
As Lynn alluded to at the time, the Lions were 0-8. Fast forward three weeks, and the Lions are 0-10-1. The offense isn’t any better off with Campbell than with Lynn. There’s a solid case to be made that it’s been worse. The impossible has become a reality as the Lions have gotten even more conservative on offense, with Campbell pushing the buttons. It’s left Lynn looking around, wondering what he’s supposed to do.
Taking away his play-calling duties stripped Lynn of his primary responsibilities and left his future foggy.
For the Lions, there’s always a possibility that they move on from Lynn after one year. And there’s always a chance that Lynn wants to move on from Detroit. If you’re in his shoes, why would you stick around if you have the title but not the actual gig? This was supposed to be a chance for Lynn to prove himself. He could show that while the head coaching thing didn’t work out with the Chargers, he can still be a damn good offensive mind. Campbell neutered him by taking away his primary purpose on the staff. And, let’s be honest, what could the expectations have possibly been for Lynn in Year 1 with this roster?
Jared Goff has not been good at quarterback, which causes one gigantic domino effect. Lynn wasn’t effective as offensive coordinator because he flat-out doesn’t have a great signal-caller. And his quarterback hasn’t played well because the talent around him is scarce. You could plop just about any QB in Goff’s exact spot, and the results may be better, but not by much. Did Campbell expect Lynn to come in and work some sort of magic with this roster? If they did, it was a foolish idea, given this team’s talent pool — or lack thereof.
This isn’t to excuse Lynn’s role in all of this. He was not good as the offensive coordinator, but there are so many factors that play into their collective failure. It’s this coaching staff’s first year together, working with a notoriously talent-deficient lineup. Campbell ripping away play-calling responsibilities has resulted in way more questions than answers.
Lynn still gets asked about his role and how he’s handling it. As recently as Thursday, he provided an interesting answer, per Justin Rogers of Detroit News.
“I’m very comfortable with the role. Don’t mistake comfortable for liking the role, but I’m very comfortable with the role and I want to help and assist Dan the best I can.”
Who could blame him for not liking it?
“I’m doing what I feel is best for our team right now,” Campbell said. “This is not about me. This is not about my ego. I’m doing what I believe I need to do right now and what I feel is best for us.”
When asked specifically on Tuesday on The Stoney & Jansen Show if he will call plays the rest of the year, Campbell said, “Yeah, I think right now I probably am.”
Detroit may have to make a move at the end of the year and shake up some of Campbell’s coaching staff to look like they are least trying to solve the puzzle. At first glance, Lynn seems like an obvious candidate. He’s an offensive coordinator who no longer calls the plays for a unit that ranks near the bottom of the NFL in just about every important statistical category. However, Lynn may already have his bags packed before the Lions try to show him the door.