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Lynn, a 'stickler for details,' makes favorable first impression as Bills' interim head coach

It was practice and Buffalo Bills fullback Jerome Felton had just run a play. After returning the group of offensive teammates standing behind the line before the next snap, Felton took a knee.

Anthony Lynn, the Bills' assistant head coach/running backs at the time, wasn't happy.

"He looked at me like I was crazy," Felton recalled Wednesday. "He's like, 'Why are you on a knee? We want you to be into it, looking at what's going on.' He wanted me up and paying attention and into it. That's just a small thing, but he takes that type of stuff seriously."

The snapshot captures the essence of Lynn, who was elevated from offensive coordinator to interim head coach Tuesday after Rex Ryan was fired. He wants his players to be constantly on their toes, aware of all that is happening and ready to respond. He's someone who demands accountability, someone who believes that details matter.

"He's a stickler for the details," guard Richie Incognito said. "When he was a position coach with the running backs, he did a good job of getting them coached up. They always knew what they were doing, they always knew who to pick up in blitz protection. They were super accountable. And then, when he took over the offense, he said, 'I'm going to streamline the game plan, but what I do put in, I want you guys to know cold, inside and out. I don't want any mistakes.'"

Wednesday marked Lynn's first full day in charge of the entire squad. Ryan's 31 regular-season games as Buffalo's coach will be remembered for a lot of things, but keen attention to detail (see the Bills' loss against Miami Saturday when the defense had only 10 men on the field on the 57-yard run that set up the deciding points) wasn't among them.

Whether that and other qualities will be enough for Lynn to convince team owners Terry and Kim Pegula to allow him to keep the job beyond Sunday's season-finale against the New York Jets remains to be seen.

But let the record show that Felton has not taken a knee in practice ever since. Let the record also show that Lynn, who was promoted to offensive coordinator after the second game of the season, made a favorable impression in his first address to the team Wednesday morning and while overseeing practice in the afternoon.

Lynn wanted to keep his message as realistic as possible. He said he wasn't going to make any drastic changes, especially with only days left in the season.

"Let's go prepare and have a great week of practice and go win a game," Lynn told the players.

"There will be some little, small changes," he told reporters later. "And it's not because what we were doing wasn't right. It's just, that's my comfort level."

The biggest change will be facing the Jets without quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who had a career-best game against the Dolphins. Lynn said backup EJ Manuel will start, but that it wasn't his call. The coach vaguely referred to it as "a business decision," made by the owners and General Manager Doug Whaley, presumably to avoid the risk of injury that could force the Bills to pay Taylor $27.5 million if he suffered an injury that would prevent him from playing next season.

Preparing to play without his starting quarterback and answering difficult questions about it are only some of the challenges Lynn faced. He's still the offensive coordinator, so he's in charge of assembling the game plan for Sunday. He also was struggling with "losing a friend" to a firing. Ryan hired Lynn as running backs coach with the New York Jets and brought him to the Bills.

Another significant difference for Lynn will be calling plays from the sidelines rather than from the coach's box. Lynn preferred being able to see more of the field from above. Now, he'll rely on senior offensive assistant Chris Palmer and offensive assistant Pat Meyer to communicate with him from the box.

"They'll be my eyes," Lynn said. "I don't know" how it will work out. "This is a first. There have been a lot of firsts this year."

Dennis Thurman will keep his title as defensive coordinator through the Jets' game and have greater responsibility in preparing the defense with Ryan and his twin brother, Rob, the assistant head coach/defense, out the door. The Bills still are using Ryan's 3-4 scheme for the time being.

The Bills are planning to conduct a search for Ryan's replacement. However, according to multiple sources within the team, Lynn, who interviewed for head-coaching openings last year, is the front-runner.

He insisted that isn't his primary thought.

"As far as the permanent head-coaching job, I'm really not thinking that far down the road because I don't want to miss anything right now," Lynn said. "I want to stay in the now."

Does the position appeal to him?

"I want to be the guy here, make no mistake about it," Lynn said. When pressed whether he was ruling out any potential head-coaching opportunities elsewhere, he said, "I'm not saying I wouldn't leave my options open to be a head coach somewhere else."

Still, everything he does through Sunday will undoubtedly be part of the evaluation of him as the Bills' head-coaching candidate. Mark Preisler, the Bills' executive vice president of media and content, was the highest-ranking club official present for Lynn's first news conference as interim head coach. He was carefully observing how Lynn handled himself, because representing the team in such settings is an important consideration in the hiring process.

Lynn didn't want to talk about how he intended to make his case that he deserved to remain in the job beyond Sunday.

"I mean, that time is going to come, but right now, my case is just getting this team ready to play," he said. "I think that's the best way for me to make my case, is put a team out there on the field on Sunday that's going to play hard, fast and physical and make plays."

As far as several players are concerned, the case is easy for Lynn to make. All the Pegulas need to do, they say, is check the work he has done as a position coach and offensive coordinator.

"One thing I respect about him is he treats all the guys the same, because you'll have some coaches saying, 'I can say this to this player, he's a star and treat him this way,'" Felton said. "And I honestly think, with A-Lynn, he is who you get. It doesn't matter if you're the star running back or the star quarterback or the fullback. He's going to treat you the same. He's going to treat you like a man, also.

"This guy's been building for this his whole, entire life. "I'm sure that he has probably stacks of books of how he wants to run certain things. I'm sure he'll change from being an offensive coordinator to being a head coach, but I think you're getting somebody that's prepared, who's paid his dues. A lot of times an offensive coordinator, or whoever it may be, has a good year and all of a sudden it's, 'Oh, this guy is the hottest coaching candidate ever!'

"But me, personally, I feel like a guy who's put the work in, paid his dues, experienced every level of this game, I think is going to be somebody that's prepared to do the job."

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