Tagged in: head coach

Eric Bieniemy returning as Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator for 2022 season

Eric Bieniemy is returning to the Kansas City Chiefs as offensive coordinator for the 2022 season, a source confirmed to ESPN on Thursday.

The news was first reported by NFL Network, which also reported he will be returning on a one-year deal.

Bieniemy’s contract expired after last season, and he and head coach Andy Reid recently met to discuss his future with the team. Bieniemy also worked on an expiring contract in 2020.

He had contemplated coaching in college, listening to other offers or even taking off a year after a physically and mentally draining season in which the Chiefs fell one game short of the Super Bowl and Bieniemy was again bypassed in the head-coach hiring cycle, ESPN’s Adam Schefter had reported.

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The Chiefs still have to fill their quarterbacks coach job after Mike Kafka left to become the New York Giants’ offensive coordinator.

Bieniemy has been on the Kansas City staff since 2013 and has spent the past four seasons as the offensive coordinator. His tenure as coordinator has coincided with Patrick Mahomes’ four-year stretch as Kansas City’s starting quarterback, and the Chiefs’ offense has ranked no worse than sixth in the NFL each season under Bieniemy.

Bieniemy, 52, has been a candidate for multiple head-coaching jobs in recent seasons and had interviewed for the Denver Broncos’ and New Orleans Saints’ positions this year.

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores included a section on Bieniemy’s inability to land a head-coaching job despite his success as an NFL assistant in his lawsuit versus the NFL and three teams (the Broncos, Giants and Dolphins) that alleges racial discrimination in the league’s hiring practices.

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Minnesota Vikings officially hire ‘innovative’ Kevin O’Connell as new head coach

The Vikings formally hired Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as the 10th head coach in franchise history Wednesday.

Vikings co-owner and president Mark Wilf called O’Connell “a strong leader, an innovative coach and an excellent communicator” in a statement issued from the team.

“Kevin played the game at all levels, which gives him a unique connection to players, and he is highly respected throughout the league,” he said.

Co-owner and chairman Zygi Wilf lauded O’Connell for his “football IQ” and said he “is passionate about preparing, developing and communicating with his players.”

“Beyond the Xs and Os, everyone we spoke with throughout this search process spoke highly of Kevin’s ability to motivate players, coaches and staff,” he said.

The Vikings plan to hold a news conference to introduce O’Connell as their new coach Thursday.

O’Connell, 36, becomes the second-youngest current NFL head coach, behind his now-former boss, Sean McVay, also 36 but eight months younger.

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Minnesota had not been permitted to revealed that it was hiring O’Connell while the Rams were still playing in the postseason.

Los Angeles’ season ended Sunday, culminating with its Super Bowl LVI triumph.

O’Connell was one of four candidates to receive a second interview with the Vikings, along with Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, then-Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

“As I spent time with Kevin during the interview process, it became immediately clear he will be a great partner in building this football team for long-term success,” Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in the statement. “He understands what is critical to leading a team that wins at the highest level, and he has an ability to simplify the complex, which will help us in problem-solving in all football areas. He is a genuinely positive person who will help create a high-energy internal environment.”

O’Connell is expected to take Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator Wes Phillips with him to Minnesota as his offensive coordinator or passing game coordinator, league sources have told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown also will interview with the Vikings for their offensive coordinator job, per Schefter.

The Vikings also have their defensive coordinator for O’Connell’s staff, officially hiring Ed Donatell on Thursday. In addition, veteran defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has been added as assistant head coach.

O’Connell becomes the second coordinator in two years on Sean McVay’s staff to land a head-coaching job, joining former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who was hired by the Chargers last year. He is the fourth current NFL head coach who worked under McVay. The Bengals’ Zac Taylor and Packers’ Matt LaFleur are the others.

O’Connell replaces Mike Zimmer, who was fired last month after eight seasons. The Vikings finished with an 8-9 record and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

O’Connell finished his second season as the Rams’ offensive coordinator since joining the franchise in 2020. Before that, he was with Washington for three seasons, as offensive coordinator in 2019, passing game coordinator in 2018 and quarterbacks coach in 2017 when he supervised current Vikings starter Kirk Cousins.

After dabbling in broadcasting, his first NFL coaching job came with the Browns in 2015 as their quarterbacks coach. The following year, he worked on special projects for the 49ers, when he befriended Adofo-Mensah, the recently appointed GM of the Vikings who was in research and development for San Francisco.

O’Connell was a quarterback in the NFL, taken by the Patriots in the third round of the 2008 draft and also spending time with the Lions, Jets, Dolphins and Chargers in five seasons through 2012.

He attempted only six passes for the Patriots as a rookie, the only regular-season attempts of his career, and he was released the following year.

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Miami Dolphins to hire Los Angeles Chargers’ Frank Smith as offensive coordinator

The Dolphins’ offensive staff under head coach Mike McDaniel continues to come together, as the team will hire Frank Smith as its offensive coordinator, a league source confirmed Monday.

Smith will work in conjunction with McDaniel, who will call plays, and wide receivers coach Wes Welker, who will help develop Miami’s passing game plan.

He is the fourth new hire on McDaniel’s offensive staff, joining Welker, tight ends coach Jon Embree and offensive line coach Matt Applebaum.

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NFL Network was the first to report the news of Smith’s hiring.

Smith, 40, joins McDaniel’s staff after a season as the Los Angeles Chargers’ run game coordinator and offensive line coach.

Under Smith, the Chargers finished 11th in pass block win rate in 2021, and 20th in run block win rate — improved from 19th and 32nd in 2020, respectively.

He takes over a Dolphins offense that ranked 25th in the NFL in yards per match last season, including 17th in passing yards and 30th in rushing. Miami’s offensive line also ranked last in pass block win rate, but was a far better run-blocking unit, concluding ninth in run block win rate.

Before his stint in Los Angeles, Smith worked as the tight ends coach for the Raiders from 2018-2020, the tight ends coach for the Bears from 2015-2017 and assistant offensive line coach for the Saints from 2010-2014.

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Tennessee Titans extend contracts for head coach Mike Vrabel, GM Jon Robinson

The Titans announced Tuesday that they have extended the contracts of general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Vrabel.

“I am proud to say that Jon and Mike will be leading our football team for years to come,” Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement.

“I have seen the team improve on a yearly basis under their direction, and I know their singular goal is to deliver a championship for our fans. Together they have developed a culture within our organization that has been essential to our success. Their values align with mine and what I want the Titans to be. They demand excellence from themselves and others, work well together, are always striving to improve and they care deeply for our players and staff.”

Vrabel joined the Titans in 2018 and matched Jack Pardee’s franchise record for wins (43) over the first four seasons with the team. Vrabel’s .614 career winning percentage (43-27, including playoffs) ranks the highest in franchise history.

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He led the team to the AFC Championship Game in 2019 and back-to-back AFC South titles over the past two campaigns. Vrabel earned Coach of the Year honors by the Pro Football Writers of America this past season after guiding the Titans to a 12-5 record and the top seed in the AFC.

Robinson joined the Titans in 2016 and helped lead them to a winning record in all six of his seasons in charge.

In that time, Robinson has become the second-winningest general manager in franchise history with 62 wins, trailing only Floyd Reese (111 wins).

During Robinson’s tenure with the Titans, the team has added nine Pro Bowl players to the roster through the draft (S Kevin Byard, RB Derrick Henry, WR A.J. Brown, DT Jeffery Simmons, OLB Harold Landry), free agency (G Rodger Saffold, ST Brynden Trawick) and trades (RB DeMarco Murray, QB Ryan Tannehill).

Additionally, the team added two coaches to its staff on Tuesday: Tim Kelly as passing game coordinator and Bobby King as inside linebackers coach.

Kelly joins the Titans after spending the past eight seasons with the Houston Texans, the last three of which were as the offensive coordinator. Before becoming the offensive coordinator, Kelly spent two seasons (2017-18) coaching the tight ends for the Texans.

King brings 12 years of NFL coaching experience to the Titans, counting eight seasons (2017-21, 2011-13) with the Texans. King coached the Texans’ defensive line this season after coaching the inside linebackers the previous four seasons.

The team also revealed that Jim Haslett (inside linebackers), Matt Edwards (assistant special teams), Kenechi Udeze (defensive line assistant) and Mondray Gee (strength and conditioning assistant) will not be returning to the coaching staff.

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Green Bay Packers to hire Rich Bisaccia to fix special teams

The Packers will ultimately have an experienced coach running their special teams. They are expected to hire veteran special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, who most recently served as the Raiders’ interim head coach.

A source stated Monday that an announcement is coming soon after some final details are worked out. NFL Network was first to report that the Packers were expected to hire Bisaccia.

He will be the third person to coordinate the Packers special teams in as many seasons, but he’s the first one with NFL experience doing so. Bisaccia was in his 20th season as an NFL special teams coordinator when the Raiders made him their interim coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation during 2021.

He joined the Raiders in 2018 after previously coaching special teams for the Cowboys (2013-17), Chargers (2011-12) and Buccaneers (2002-10). The 61-year-old also had 19 years of college coaching experience before entering the NFL.

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Bisaccia will replace Maurice Drayton, who was fired last week following the Packers’ disastrous special teams performance in the NFL divisional playoff loss to the 49ers.

Drayton’s units had a field goal and a punt blocked, the latter of which was returned for a touchdown. The Packers became the first team in 33 years to have both a punt and a field goal blocked during the same playoff game.

The playoff game was not an anomaly. The Packers special teams ranked 31st in ESPN’s FPI and dead last in Rick Gosselin’s widely respected special teams rankings. Drayton was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2021 after serving for two years as an assistant to Shawn Mennenga, whose units ranked 26th and 29th. Neither had been a special teams coordinator in the NFL before coming to Green Bay.

The Packers special teams problem isn’t unique to Matt LaFleur’s tenure.

Dating to the start of Mike McCarthy’s run as head coach in 2006, the Packers have ranked in the top 10 in special teams only once (2007). In that span, they have finished in the top half of the special teams rankings only four times — most recently 16th in 2017. In that same span, Bisaccia’s special teams have six top-10 finishes plus a No. 11 ranking this past season.

LaFleur acknowledged after the season that a coaching modification might not be the only necessary fix for the Packers’ special teams.

“Just one takeaway, just watching that game back, San Francisco had a lot of their starters on special teams,” LaFleur said. “That’s going to be something that I want to do some studies around the league and see how many teams operate that way. Again, does it have some inherent risk? Absolutely.”

Bisaccia interviewed for the Raiders’ permanent head-coaching job, which ultimately went to Josh McDaniels even after quarterback Derek Carr was among the players who threw their public support behind the interim coach.

Bisaccia went 7-5 after Gruden resigned, and the Raiders (10-7 overall) made the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

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Las Vegas Raiders to hire New York Giants’ Patrick Graham as defensive coordinator

The Las Vegas Raiders are hiring New York Giants assistant head coach Patrick Graham as their defensive coordinator, sources confirmed to ESPN.

Graham, 43, joins newly hired head coach Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas after spending the past two seasons as the Giants’ defensive coordinator under Joe Judge.

Graham replaces Gus Bradley, who is heading to the Indianapolis Colts to be their defensive coordinator after one season with the Raiders.

The Raiders have also hired a new quarterbacks coach in former New England Patriots quality control/QB coach Bo Hardegree and are keeping receivers coach Edgar Bennett, sources told ESPN.

McDaniels, in his introductory news conference on Monday, was asked what defensive scheme he planned on using with the Raiders.

“Most of it today is actually built out of the nickel anyway,” he said. “We talk a lot about 4-3, 3-4, [but] 85 percent of the game is now ‘sub’ defense, so your decision-making process might be a little different than it was 15 years ago, when you were playing a lot more base defense.”

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Graham ran a 3-4 base with the Giants, while the Raiders have run a 4-3 scheme.

“We’ll make those considerations and determine how we want to go forward here as we kind of build the staff and move along with the team, but I think right now it’s built in that mode,” McDaniels said.

“But like I said, most of these games you’re playing a four-man line and nickel defense anyway, so that’s almost become your base.

“So, the vision for us is going to need to be — there’s five starting defensive backs now, and there’s two linebackers and so on and so forth. We’ll do the due diligence as we hire our staff and then evaluate our team and decide what’s best as we move forward.”

Graham was with the Patriots from 2009-2015, serving as a defensive assistant as well as the defensive line and linebackers coach in his time there, which coincided with McDaniels’ return to New England in 2012.

Under Bradley, the Raiders defense improved from the No. 25 overall defense in 2020 to No. 17 last season, but was last in the NFL in red-zone defense under Bradley (83.3% touchdowns and 6.29 points per red-zone-zone trip) and was next-to-last in red-zone takeaways per red-zone drive.

Raiders Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby was asked after the AFC’s practice on Thursday what he wanted to see in a defensive coordinator.

“I love Gus and I feel like he has us going in the right direction,” Crosby said. “Obviously, I don’t know, I don’t have any control of that, but we’ll see. We’ll have to see.”

Graham also worked with new Giants head coach Brian Daboll from their time together (2013-15) in New England. Daboll stated the team had hoped to keep Graham if he did not land a head-coaching job elsewhere.

“I’ve had a good relationship with Pat for some time in this league,” Daboll said at his introductory news conference earlier this week. “He’s very diligent. He’s smart. I think the players respect him. He understands different defenses and I have a good working relationship with him. I did when I was back at New England.

“Certainly, we hope that he has an opportunity to become a head coach. I think that’s everybody’s dream, but selfishly, I would love him to be here. He offers a lot to our program. I think he’d be a great support system for me and I’m hoping that that works out.”

The Giants’ defense was ranked 12th in the NFL in 2020 under Graham. It was 21st this past campaign. Graham is held in high regard by the Giants organization and had interviewed for its head-coaching position.

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Chicago Bears to hire Indianapolis Colts DC Matt Eberflus as head coach

The Chicago Bears will hire Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as their head coach.

Eberflus, 51, also was considered a candidate for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head-coaching vacancy. He will join new general manager Ryan Poles in taking over a Bears team that went 6-11 in 2021 under Matt Nagy and has missed the playoffs in nine of the past 11 seasons.

Chicago also interviewed Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell for the job.

Eberflus has spent the past four seasons as the Colts’ defensive coordinator under coach Frank Reich. His defenses finished in the top 10 in scoring three times, including being tied for ninth in 2021 at 21.5 points per match.

Eberflus will inherit a Bears team that ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense in 2021 but struggled offensively and endured instability at quarterback, where Andy Dalton alternated as the starter with rookie Justin Fields.

The first big question for Eberflus in Chicago will be selecting an offensive coordinator, since a big part of the job for the new coach and GM will be solidifying the quarterback position that has haunted the founding NFL franchise for decades.

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The Bears do not have a first-round draft pick in 2022 because they traded that selection to the New York Giants to select Fields, who showed flashes of potential as a passer and as a runner but concluded with just seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Chicago went 2-8 in the 10 games Fields started this past season.

The Bears made two postseason appearances in their four years under Nagy but last won a playoff game in 2010. They are 1-3 in the postseason since appearing in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, a game the Colts won.

Eberflus, a former linebacker at the University of Toledo who began his coaching career at his alma mater and hometown school, also interviewed for head-coaching jobs last year after his third season with Indianapolis, where he developed a reputation for demanding relentless effort out of his players.

Eberflus’ high standards included counting “loafs” — a term former Bears coach Lovie Smith also used in his Tampa 2 defense. Eberflus refined his style and terminology during a seven-year stint in Dallas, where he worked with Rod Marinelli, who, like Smith, came from the coaching tree of Hall of Famer Tony Dungy.

Now Eberflus will be the second coordinator to leave Indianapolis in two seasons.

Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles filled their head-coaching vacancy with Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who took a handful of Colts assistants with him.

It’s unclear how many, if any, assistants will follow Eberflus from Indy or Philly to Chicago.

When Eberflus started his coaching career at Toledo in 1992, he spent nine years with the Rockets as a student assistant, grad assistant, outside linebackers and defensive backs coach.

He spent the next eight seasons as Missouri’s defensive coordinator (2001-08) before making the jump to the NFL, where he coached linebackers in Cleveland (2009-10) and Dallas (2011-17) before joining the Colts ahead of the 2018 season.

In Eberflus’ first season in Indianapolis, the Colts improved from 30th to 10th in scoring defense, from 30th to 11th in total defense and from 26th to eighth in rush defense.

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New York Giants fire coach Joe Judge after just two seasons

The New York Giants fired coach Joe Judge on Tuesday after his two losing seasons with the crew.

The move comes a day after general manager Dave Gettleman retired after four seasons on the job.

Judge, a first-time head coach, went 10-23 in his two years. He is the third consecutive Giants coach to be fired after two seasons or less, following Ben McAdoo (13-15) and Pat Shurmur (9-23), as the once-proud franchise stumbles through one of the worst 10-year stretches in its history.

The move comes after Judge was left dangling for most of the past two days. He operated Monday as if he would stay, holding a team meeting before speaking with ownership in the afternoon. But the Giants did not mention that Judge would return when they sent out a news release revealing Gettleman’s retirement.

Judge had more meetings scheduled with ownership on the direction of the team Tuesday. It was during one of those meetings that Judge was informed he would not return for a third season.

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Judge, 40, appeared safe until late in the season, when the Giants started spiraling out of control after losing quarterback Daniel Jones to injury. They couldn’t move the ball and scored more than 10 points once in those six games with Mike Glennon and then Jake Fromm, claimed off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad, starting.

The Giants used three starting quarterbacks in a single season for the first time since 1992. That was in Ray Handley’s second season as head coach, and he too was fired after the season.

Giants ownership had wanted to keep Judge. Mara even gave Judge a vote of confidence earlier this campaign despite a slow start.

But an animated 11-minute ramble after a loss to the Chicago Bears two weeks ago rankled the organization, and running back-to-back quarterback sneaks from inside their own 5-yard line on second and third downs during Sunday’s 22-7 defeat to the Washington Football Team made Judge an easy target and the Giants a running joke.

The Giants were big spenders last offseason, and the expectation from ownership was that they would at least be playoff contenders.

But a slow start, 1-5 this season, doomed Judge. New York started 0-5 under him in 2020 and has missed the playoffs nine of the past 10 seasons.

Judge’s .303 winning percentage is third worst in Giants franchise history, just above Shurmur, the man he replaced.

The Giants were among the league leaders in games missed due to injury this season. All their key offensive players — Jones, running back Saquon Barkley, left tackle Andrew Thomas, and wide receivers Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney — missed at least two games.

Judge came to the Giants after eight seasons with the New England Patriots, mostly as the special-teams coordinator, and was highly recommended by Bill Belichick. Judge had previously worked under Nick Saban at Alabama.

New York lured Judge with a five-year contract. He was set to become the head coach at Mississippi State, his alma mater, before this opportunity arose. Two years and four days later, he’s out.

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New Orleans Pelicans officially name Willie Green as next head coach

The New Orleans Pelicans officially named Willie Green as their next head coach Thursday.

Green is coming off a stint as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns, who just made a run to the NBA Finals, which delayed the timing of the Pelicans’ announcement.

“After an extensive and collaborative search, Willie stood out among an impressive group of candidates as the best person to lead our team moving forward,” Pelicans governor Gayle Benson said in a statement.

“We are very happy to welcome Willie as our new head coach and we look forward to working with him to guide our team on the court as we work towards bringing a championship to New Orleans.”

Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin called Green, a 12-year NBA veteran, one of the “most respected assistant coaches in the NBA.”

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“He brings a vast amount of basketball knowledge and experience to our team as both a coach and former player, along with exceptional leadership qualities and an innate ability to connect with players, staff and fans alike,” Griffin said in a statement.

Green spent three seasons as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors before joining Phoenix.

“I want to thank Mrs. Benson, David Griffin, and the entire Pelicans organization for having faith in me to lead this talented group of players moving forward,” Green said. “It’s a blessing and an honor to get this opportunity in a special place like New Orleans. I look forward to getting to work and immersing myself and my family into the local community.”

As a player, Green made the playoffs in seven of his 12 seasons, including the lone year in New Orleans (2010-11), one of just seven playoff trips the team has made in franchise history.

That season, Green made it on a team coached by Monty Williams and led by point guard Chris Paul. Now the Pelicans are hiring Green away from a Suns team led by Williams and Paul.

Green replaces Stan Van Gundy, who mutually agreed to leave the Pelicans after just one campaign. The Pelicans went 31-41 last season, a disappointing result after the season started with playoff aspirations.

In the end, New Orleans didn’t even make the Western Conference play-in. At 39, Green becomes the third-youngest coach in the NBA behind Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault and Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins.

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Lions to hire ex-Chargers coach Anthony Lynn as offensive coordinator

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell knew he wanted to get some experience around him on his coaching staff, and on Saturday he did that, signing former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn as the team’s offensive coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano.

The 52-year-old Lynn had been with the Chargers from 2017 to ’20 with a record of 33-31. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills for one season, in 2016.

He and Campbell have familiarity with each other, too. Lynn was the running backs coach in Dallas in 2005 when Campbell was a tight end with the team.

“What’s more important than anything to me as far as an offensive coordinator is someone that I believe has the vision of the offense kind of the way I do,” Campbell stated Thursday.

“Just in regard to, ‘Listen, I’m not going to get hung up on what you want to call the terminology. I’m not going to get hung up on the style of system that you want to put in.’

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“I’m more into, ‘Man, show me what are the nuts and bolts that you believe in.'”

One thing Campbell stressed in his introductory news conference is making sure his coordinators — the team officially informed Aaron Glenn as its defensive coordinator Saturday — can identify and exploit matchup mismatches.

In Buffalo in 2016, Lynn had the best rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 164.4 yards a game and 5.35 yards per carry with LeSean McCoy as his main back. Lynn has also shown a willingness to throw.

His Chargers team this past season was sixth in the league in passing yards per match (270.6) with a rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert, behind center the majority of the season and had the No. 6 passing offense in 2019 (276.6 yards per game).

Lynn will likely be working with a new quarterback in 2021, too, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Matthew Stafford has requested a trade from Detroit — the only place he has played in his career after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2009.

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