The Chargers not only changed their head coach, they are moving to Los Angeles which alone will make every game like being on the road at least for the initial season. The Rams dropped from 7-9 to only 4-12 last year when they moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles.
The Colts went from 7-9 to 4-12 when they sneaked off to Indianapolis in 1984. The Raiders move from Los Angeles back to Oakland saw them only fall from 8-8 to 7-9 but they were returning home after leaving for Los Angeles back in the strike year of 1982. The Oilers became the Titans back in 1997 and maintained their 8-8 record. No NFL team in the modern era has moved and had a winning record in their first year. None improved.
Throwing in a change of head coach and defensive coordinator only makes it more challenging. But the stage is set for the Chargers to be become something new with the change in direction and location.
Anthony Lynn was an NFL running back for seven years and then joined the Broncos as a special teams assistant. He then spent the next 13 years as a running backs coach for the Jaguars, Cowboys, Browns, Jets and Bills. He took over as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo last year when Rex Ryan fired Greg Roman to start the season.
Lynn was saddled with running an offense that had no star receivers since Sammy Watkins missed much of the year and the lack of quality receivers wasn’t his fault. The Bills ended 2016 ranked 32nd in pass attempts and completions and yet were No. 1 with 23 rushing touchdowns from their running backs and No. 2 with 1,948 rushing yards. But that was largely a function of what he inherited.
Lynn will have plenty to keep him busy as a first-year head coach with a team that just moved. His background is all offense but he’ll be focused on the entire team much more than dabbling with the offense.
The Chargers opted to maintain continuity in their offense by retaining Ken Whisenhunt. This is his second stint with the team having directed the offense in 2013 before spending two seasons as the head coach in Tennessee before rejoining the Chargers last year. Whisenhunt’s unit ranked in the top ten in passing yards and touchdowns both in 2013 and again in 2016.
But at least in fantasy terms, Whisenhunt was able to get much more from Melvin Gordon who ran for 997 yards on 254 carries and caught 41 passes for 419 yards while scoring a total of 12 touchdowns. The Chargers also suffered through yet another year where they lost several starting wideouts.
There is promise to 2017 if only in fantasy terms with Philip Rivers good for at least one more year and rising stars in Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry. Keenan Allen will be an injury risk but a difference maker when he plays. But the Chargers should be no less likely to rely on the rushing offense given Lynn’s background and the success of Gordon last season.
The change from San Diego to Los Angeles will be a major factor for the team this year and the fantasy fortunes shouldn’t differ dramatically since Whisenhunt will have a second straight season to fine tune his offense. Gordon should benefit the most and even more so thanks to Danny Woodhead moving to Baltimore and not dominating as a receiving back.