Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell announced on Monday afternoon that the team had officially parted ways with offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn after just one season.
“Felt like this is just best for both of us,” Campbell said. “Look, he came here, took a leap of faith with us under the impression that he would be calling the plays. And so, it was not going to go that direction. Again, that’s not fair to him either. I wish him the best. He’s been a true pro, he works his tail off and he gave us everything he had. So, I appreciate him for that.”
With Lynn calling plays for the first half of the season, the Lions averaged just 16.8 points per game, and only finished above 20 points in a single contest—the season opener. The passing game, in particular, struggled to push the ball downfield as Jared Goff was amongst the lowest in the league in average intended air yards.
After the bye week, Campbell took over as play caller and the Lions averaged 21.2 points per game, including four of nine contests where the Lions scored 29 points or more. Goff became a much more efficient and aggressive passer, as the Lions won three of his final four starts of the season.
When asked, Campbell couldn’t put his finger on what exactly went wrong between Lynn and himself, there was just a lack of chemistry.
“I think it just wasn’t a fit,” Campbell said. “You want it to be, but I think we never found our groove or our rhythm, if you will, and it’s hard to really, truly pinpoint. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you want.”
As for plans going forward, Campbell isn’t going to rush to any decisions. He said he’ll spend the next few weeks trying to figure out not what he wants, but what is best for the team.
“Everything’s got to start with, somewhat, me deciding what I want to do. Do I want to continue to call—‘want to’ is not the right word. What I think is best for us and as a team, and I need time to think about that,” Campbell said.
Campbell acknowledged that could mean him calling plays next year, but the name that continues to be mentioned by just about everyone in the organization—including Campbell—is Ben Johnson. Tight end T.J. Hockenson acknowledged Monday that Johnson officially became the passing game coordinator halfway through the season this year with offensive quality control coach Tanner Engstrand taking over as tight ends coach.
On Monday, Goff explained what that change meant for the offense.
“Ben really stepped in there about halfway through the year and became very involved in having a lot of ideas and installing things and having his hand in a lot of the stuff the quarterback was doing and really every position, wide receivers, and really tightening everybody,” Goff said. “His ceiling is—the sky’s the limit for him. I’m excited to hopefully have him back, and we’ll see where that goes.”
As for Lynn, Goff wanted to leave some parting words for the veteran NFL coach.
“I want to thank Coach Lynn for everything he did, and his hard work. It doesn’t go unnoticed. I hope I get to talk to him at some point here soon, and let him know the way he handled the whole season is remarkable and truly professional.”
UPDATE: Lynn offered a brief statement via text message to Josina Anderson: