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Notes: How Lions OC Anthony Lynn can tap into Jared Goff’s potential

Tales from Anthony Lynn’s history are encouraging

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Cleveland Browns v New York Jets Photo by Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty Images

The Athletic’s Chris Burke went to the NFL Next Gen Stats diagrams showing quarterback rating by air yards and location (i.e. where on the field the pass was being thrown to) for newly-acquired Lions quarterback Jared Goff. The difference in deep passes is striking when we compare the Rams’ Super Bowl season in 2018 against last year:

While there are some left-to-right tendencies built into the chart, the clear difference are those blood red zones over 20 yards down the field in 2020. Our own Jeremy Reisman pointed out the lack of deep throws in more recent years by Goff in the Rams offense, so this is known. What’s more interesting is how the Lions might get their new passer into a comfort zone to do so.

The trick, according to a great film article by Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield (thanks for finding this, Mike Payton), is to structure the quarterback’s point of view within the scheme to look like the Bear Raid Cal offense that made Goff a number one overall pick in the first place. When the Rams put him in the shotgun with an empty backfield even in his mediocre 2020 season, the Rams got aggressive attacking reads down the field out of Goff.

It’s clear to everyone now that Goff is not a world-beater who is going to put the team on his back, but those stats in the early years with the Rams didn’t just post themselves. Can offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn shape the offense to Goff’s comfort zones? Let’s go back to 2016 and how Lynn brought LeSean McCoy back to being a feared running back. Here’s Bucky Brooks from NFL.com:

That’s why the promotion of Lynn to play caller has paid immediate dividends for McCoy and the Bills. The former running backs coach knows the strengths and weaknesses of his RB1 as a playmaker. Moreover, Lynn asked his star pupil for his favorite plays and built the running portion of the game plan around his skills. I’m sure it seems like a no-brainer for a coach to ask one of his top players for input, but a lot of offensive coaches elect to make their game-planning decisions without consulting others. That lack of communication can prevent players from fully buying into the plan.

Lynn, on the other hand, empowers McCoy and his teammates by soliciting their opinions when formulating his game plan. This simple act gives ownership to the players, which increases their interest in seeing the plan work successfully.

“[Lynn] immediately sought out the quarterbacks and a few other offensive stars to get their opinion on what plays worked for them,” a Bills official told me. “As a former player, he realizes that it’s a ‘player’s game,’ and the coach’s job is to put players in a position to succeed. Sometimes that requires seeking their input and trusting what they tell you.”

One of the major adjustments to making McCoy more successful was bringing the run calls back to shotgun-heavy inside plays that helped Shady lead the league in Philadelphia. While the position and play type are different, that’s the kind of formation and player comfort zone adaptability that Schofield’s Bear Raid article suggests Goff’s passing reads can benefit from.

We’ve mentioned in the past that Anthony Lynn has connections to Bill Parcells by way of being an assistant coach to the Hall of Fame legend in Dallas. The two-way communication technique of mentoring and teaching by soliciting input is something the new coach picked up early in his coaching career from Parcells in Dallas. From Demasio and Parcells’ biography (p.383):

Before long, Anthony Lynn glimpsed a secret to Parcells’s success in creating a huge coaching tree. During staff meetings, the new running backs coach took meticulous notes; seeing his eagerness to learn, Parcells started dropping by Lynn’s office to exchange thoughts.

“A guy this brilliant values your feedback. He would pick your brain,” Lynn recalls. “But at the end of the conversation, there was a lesson in there. You thought you were giving him something, but he was really teaching you.”

It now falls upon Lynn and quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell to ensure the Lions offense is how it’s supposed to feel for Jared Goff to be successful. Who knows, maybe the Lions can make real progress in 2021 with the former Rams quarterback, even getting back to something like 7-9?

Now, on to the rest of today’s Notes:

  • In addition to the virtual offseason comments we talked about in yesterday’s Notes from league commissioner Roger Goodell, there were some scheduling nuggets. The league is open to considering starting the international series games again, and has an option to expand to 17 games in the regular season:

  • NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein’s new mock draft yesterday has the Lions taking a wide receiver instead of a quarterback at the seventh overall pick. Both Trey Lance and Justin Fields were still on the board for the team’s pick.

  • Lions fans probably don’t want to hear it, but MLive’s Ben Raven has a preview of five tight end prospects that the team might consider drafting to improve depth at the position beyond T.J. Hockenson.

  • This is just really cool to think about as the Lions try to build towards being a winning franchise: