Jen Ezpeleta

All Ball Sports: Chargers win Fourth straight; fire coach next day

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by Paul Teetor

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn learned his lesson the hard way: sometimes it’s not what have you done for me today, it’s what did you do in the middle of the season?

Lynn was fired Monday, after four years as head coach and only one playoff appearance. He was cut loose immediately after the Chargers knocked off defending Super Bowl champs Kansas City, who came into the game with the best record in the league and the top seed in the playoffs which start next Saturday.

The win carried an asterisk, because the Chiefs rested most of their starters, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the league’s most valuable player.

It was the Chargers fourth straight win, but that wasn’t enough to convince owner Dean Spanos to change his mind about the long-rumored firing at the end of a horrendous season that featured a streak of 7 losses in 8 games, four blown double-digit leads, horrendous clock management and play calling, and a failure to capitalize on the incredible success of rookie QB sensation Justin Herbert – at least not until the last four games.

“As we all know, this is a results-driven business and simply put, the results of the past two years have fallen short of expectations,” Spanos said in a prepared statement released by the team.

Now someone else will get to work with Herbert and try to improve his status as ONE of the best QB’s in the league to THE BEST. That’s the kind of potential Herbert flashed this year as he rewrote the rookie QB record book.

Herbert handled the news diplomatically.

“I really believed in Coach Lynn,” he said. “I enjoyed our time working together. Tough situation. But I believe in this locker room. I believe in this organization. And I know going forward we’re going to be better.”

The early front runner for the Chargers head coaching job: Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City’s Offensive Coordinator. He is given much of the credit for Mahomes’ development into the best QB in the league, so it feels like he would be a good fit for Herbert, who has morphed from an untested rookie to the Chargers’ best player in a single season. It’s clear their future will go as Herbert goes. That’s why the selection of the next head coach is so critical.

Meanwhile the Rams stumbled into the playoffs with a win over Arizona behind the surprising performance of backup QB John Wolford, who was playing in his first NFL game because Jared Goff had surgery on a fractured thumb. They will face the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle Saturday afternoon.

The big question: will the Rams stick with Wolford or try to rush Goff back into the lineup? Coach Sean McVay refused to commit either way until later in the week.

Stay tuned.

 

USC rearranging the deck chairs

 

While Alabama and Ohio State were reminding USC football fans of what used to be – the glory days of Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush routinely playing for national championships – the Trojan powers that be were busy re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Instead of making the hard but necessary decision to show head coach Clay Helton the door with the $9 million parachute his contract calls for, athletic director Mike Bohn signed off on a continued house cleaning of the coaching staff under Helton.

Irony alert: Bohn would have been widely applauded by Trojan fans and boosters for canning Helton, but he still couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger.   

Instead, USC fired offensive line coach Tom Drevno and declined to renew the contract of Strength and Conditioning Coach Aaron Ausmus over the weekend. Considering that USC had virtually no running game this past season, Drevno’s dismissal makes some sense. But strength and conditioning was not an obvious problem for the Trojans.     

Happy New Year and good luck in your future endeavors.

That reshuffle comes less than a year after USC fired defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and most of his staff, along with special teams coordinator John Baxter and his staff. And it comes less than two years after most of the offensive staff was fired

But somehow Helton continues to escape the ax.

Look, Helton is a nice guy to everybody he meets, press and public alike. He’s a grown-up Boy Scout in terms of his personal behavior. No drunken escapades or ego outbursts will ever be associated with his name.

He’s just not a very good head coach. He was born to be an offensive coordinator at a Division 1 University.

Just not at USC.

His whole history at USC is tied up with the crazy chaos left in the wake of Pete Carroll’s departure, and the dizzying sequence of head coaches: Lane Kiffin (ego problems,) Steve Sarkisian (alcohol problems)  and Ed Orgeron (voice problems)  trying to fill Carroll’s Size 15 sneakers.

Last year Helton was saved because Bohn was new on the job and didn’t want his first major decision to be firing the head coach of the school’s signature athletic program. He said so himself while vowing to give Helton one more year to turn it around.

And this year he appears to have been saved by the pandemic. Because of a shortened season, the Trojans didn’t play anybody any good, and still needed three last-minute miracle wins to achieve a 5-0 record against a bunch of PAC-12 cupcakes. When they finally did face a decent team in the PAC-12 Championship game, Oregon, which came in with a 3-2 record, dominated USC from start to finish.

Any other year, and Helton would have been done.

But the pandemic provided the perfect excuse to avoid the painful issue for yet another year. ER

 Contact: teetor.paul@gmail.com. Follow: @paulteetor. ER

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