Armed with a hand-picked offensive coordinator and a fresh face at quarterback, Anthony Lynn believed the 2020 season would turn around his tenure as the Los Angeles Chargers head coach.
Instead, the campaign quickly took a turn for the worst and never recovered. Injuries swept the locker room, claiming All-Pro safety Derwin James and wiping out the offensive line. Meanwhile, Lynn continuously put his team in difficult positions with poor in-game decisions. The end result — a 7-9 record which included seven losses decided by one possession — proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Lynn’s tenure.
After moving on from Lynn, the Chargers hired Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their new head coach. Staley brings a new defensive philosophy as well as a fresh approach to a team that fell short of expectations for too long.
Los Angeles Chargers Super Bowl 56 odds: +3300
Despite back-to-back losing seasons, the Chargers boast a talented roster headlined by quarterback Justin Herbert. The 6-foot-6, cannon-armed signal-caller set rookie records for passing touchdowns (31) and completions (396) last year despite not starting in Week 1. While he has all the makings of a superstar and should reach that status at some point, the Chargers need him to perform like an MVP in 2021 if they hope to compete for Super Bowl LVI. That seems like a big ask, but great QBs have done so in Year 2 after a good but flawed rookie season, most recently Lamar Jackson.
But Herbert cannot carry the team by himself, and the defense has to demonstrate significant improvement in order to make a title run realistic. The unit ranked 20th or worse by DVOA the past two seasons despite the presence of field-tilters like Joey Bosa and Chris Harris Jr. Derwin James’ absence certainly contributed to the poor results, and his healthy return in 2021 should provide a boost. However, Staley’s defensive system — built on the principles he learned under Vic Fangio — will need to better utilize players like Uchenna Nwosu, Kenneth Murray, and a slew of other young playmakers.
The Chargers also probably need to catch a few breaks. They play in the same division as Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, the back-to-back defending AFC champions. Los Angeles doesn’t necessarily have to win the AFC West crown to make a Super Bowl run, but a wild-card berth might still require a victory over Kansas City in the postseason.
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