D.A.: Can the Chargers afford to keep Anthony Lynn? 

The Los Angeles Chargers are exactly who they are, Damon Amendolara says: the worst-coached team in the league

Damon Amendolara
December 18, 2020 - 2:06 pm

Thursday night in Las Vegas was just another broken bloke, down-on-his-luck and pulling that slot machine, hoping for a different result. Anthony Lynn watched from the sidelines as his team once again tried to gag away a game. The Chargers put on full display their penchant for special teams calamity, botched play-calling, and game mismanagement. Over the course of the fourth quarter and overtime, L.A. summarized its season of distress in one neat and tidy package for national television. Can the Chargers possibly afford to keep doing business the same way

The reason it's such a pressing question at the moment is the quarterback. The Chargers nailed their franchise signal-caller in April's draft. Justin Herbert has proved beyond capable as just a rookie. He's looked like a star in the making. His arm is tantalizing. Herbert's deep passes are launched out of a cannon, tight spirals, and plenty of distance. He can move around in the pocket, and doesn't seem overwhelmed by many situations. He has put up impressive numbers in his first season, nearly 3,800 yards, 27 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in just 13 games. Just about everyone around the league agrees he has star potential. 

Will the franchise be able to support him, though? Or is Herbert destined to become the modern Matthew Stafford, a strong-armed, gutsy QB stuck on a franchise of ineptitude and problematic coaching? The Chargers should've never been in overtime on Thursday. They had two potential game-winning field goals missed late in the game. This has followed a season-long trend of special teams disasters. Jay Feely was a 14-year kicker in the NFL and is now an analyst for CBS. “They’ve been the worst special teams unit," Feely told me, "I’m not speaking in hyperbole here – maybe of all time in NFL history this year. They’re right up there. They’re missing kicks more than anybody in the NFL, they’ve had three blocked punts, they’re giving up returns, they’re last in the NFL in return yardage, they’re last in the NFL in coverage yardage – they are atrocious on special teams.”

That was highlighted on the go-ahead attempt with 3:38 to play, a bad snap, a bad hold, and a missed kick. An interception set up a short field and an easier FG to win with 1:00 to play. On 3rd-and-2 from the Raiders' 25, the Chargers were looking at a 43-yard attempt if they didn't gain any more yards. In a fourth quarter of extremely conservative play-calling, the Chargers suddenly reversed course and ran a pass play. Unfortunately, the blocking fell apart and Herbert was sacked for an 8-yard loss. That meant a 51-yard FG attempt, and that was of course also no good. The Chargers had already reassigned their special teams coach a few weeks ago. Clearly that didn't help. 

It meant the Chargers had to win in overtime, but that should've never been the case. After shredding the porous Raiders defense for the first three quarters, the offense suddenly went into a shell. Herbert attempted just one pass in the entire quarter. It was mind-blowing, as though the Chargers had suddenly lost all memory of the previous two hours of their lives. In OT, they lined up from inside the 2-yard line and ran Herbert three times in four plays. Forget using running backs. Each snap meant a crashing of the defense directly into L.A.'s franchise savior. It was as though the health of Herbert was a complete afterthought. Finally, Herbert pushed his way into the end zone. He had won the game, overcoming a minefield of self-inflicted Chargers wounds. 

This is only one moment in a season full of disasters. Four times this season they have coughed up a lead of 16 points or more. The likely Offensive Rookie of the Year built a lead of two touchdowns for an entire month and watched his defense puke it away. The game management at the end of the Bills game was comical, a debacle deserving of the Benny Hill theme. Against the Patriots, the special teams had arguably the worst day in the NFL's 100-year history. The Chargers are exactly who they are. The worst-coached team in the league. 

Yes, L.A. is more poorly coached than the winless Jets because they have far more talent. The Jets don't blow big leads. They never have them. The Jets would love to have Herbert, Keenan Allen, and Joey Bosa. They are stars. What Anthony Lynn has done is nothing short of criminal. He may be well-liked around the NFL. He may have gone 12-4 a few years ago. He is, however, driving the franchise into the ground. 

If he can't help fix a defense that blows huge leads, can't correct a special teams that is historically bad, and can't manage the end of games, what exactly is the point of his employment? Will Herbert be doomed to David Carr's existence? Archie Manning's toil? Will he be a great quarterback surrounded by buffoonery and losing through no fault of his own? The Chargers can't afford to keep Lynn, because they can't afford to waste Herbert. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 6:00AM-10:00AM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.