Anthony Lynn was a dead man walking in Detroit Lions hoodie for weeks. And on Monday afternoon, the Lions showed him the door out of town.
Dan Campbell announced that he relieved Lynn of his duties as offensive coordinator on Monday morning. Lynn’s firing isn’t a shocker to anyone. The writing was on the wall for quite some time.
In Lynn’s first eight weeks as the primary play-caller on offense, the Lions hadn’t registered a win. And the offense looked atrocious. Under his offense, Jared Goff didn’t appear to be a quarterback worthy of being an NFL starter. The passing attack left a lot to be desired. Rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown and journeyman Kalif Raymond appeared to be misused. Their red zone offense was laughable at best, one of the worst in the league. And the only bright spot on the offense was the rushing attack.
On a team filled with many sore spots, the offense’s lack of production stood out the most. That’s why Campbell had to strip Lynn of his playcalling duties. The vibe was off. Campbell confirmed that on Monday.
“It just wasn’t a fit,” said Campbell. “You want it to be, but we never found or groove or rhythm. It’s hard to truly pinpoint [it].”
Campbell took over Lynn’s duties in that department, and sought influence from tight ends coach Ben Johnson. Initially, it appeared to be a bad decision. There were questions about Campbell play-calling acumen, and why he overstepped Lynn.
However, it proved to be the right decision as the Detroit Lions finished the season 3-5-1. And had lady luck been on their side in Browns and Bears games, the win-loss column could’ve been flipped. With Campbell-Johnson leading the Lions’ offense, Goff appeared to be more comfortable and confident in the direction.
In particular, Goff credited Campbell for stepping in as the reason he finished the season playing better. He cited things from preparation to attention to detail to how they practiced as key changes. The proof is in the results, too. Missing two of the Lions final eight games, Goff finished 3-2-1 as the Lions’ starter. He completed 67% of his passes, throwing for 1,250 yards, and 11 touchdowns to two interceptions.
Also with the Campbell-Johnson combo, rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown became a bigger focal point in the offense. Granted, St. Brown received more looks due to the Lions being thin at wideout, but they didn’t shy away from him in favor of veteran talent they acquired. In St. Brown’s first eight weeks under Lynn, he had 27 receptions for 250 yards.
Nothing to write home about, right? Well, what about his finish under Campbell-Johnson. Over the last nine games under that combo leading the way, St. Brown 63 receptions for 662 yards, and five touchdowns. St. Brown finished owning the Lions’ rookie record for single-season receiving yards. He also holds their rookie record for most receptions in a season.
The running back department, as mentioned, had the least of issues with their offense this year. At the same time, however, with Goff’s elevated play, the rushing attack appeared to improve. Opposing defenses had to be a little more honest to finish the season when playing Detroit.
One last thing that didn’t happen for Anthony Lynn during his time in Detroit was praise from players and coaching staff. Yes, Dan Campbell gave Lynn his “flowers” on Monday after firing him, but it wasn’t much love for Lynn during the season. And if it was, I missed it. Players on offense voluntarily heaped praise on Dan Campbell, Duce Staley, Antwaan Randle-El, Hank Fraley, and Ben Johnson.
Surely one would think the OC would get some praise, right? After all, Lynn came to Detroit with a respected resume.
Rarely, if ever, did players go out of their way to praise Lynn. In his case, that doesn’t mean there was something wrong with Lynn per se, but sometimes what isn’t said speaks louder than what is said. Don’t forget that before their Week 11 matchup vs. the Browns, reports surfaced of a rift between Goff-Lynn regarding play-calling in previous weeks.
With Lynn out, Dan Campbell said he’s in no rush to appoint a replacement. Before he makes that choice, he wants time. While Ben Johnson is a hot name in the Motor City to replace Lynn, there’s no need to rush into giving him the offensive coordinator title right now. Over the next few weeks, a ton of candidates will become available to Detroit. It would be foolish to make a snap decision. Nevertheless, parting ways with Anthony Lynn had to happen.
In the end, when the offensive coordinator’s input into the offense is reduced, he’s essentially useless. And as Lynn said several weeks ago, it’s not what he came to the Detroit Lions for, but because he wasn’t good at his role, that’s the reason he’s exiting.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.