INDIANAPOLIS – A year ago, Anthony Lynn was a relative unknown to the casual NFL fan.
Running backs coach for the Buffalo Bills is certainly not a glamour position, but those inside the league thought highly of the man holding that position. So it's not entirely surprising that Lynn was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Bills, then interim head coach, and finally, the new head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.
"I think a lot of people in the league knew what he was, even though he hadn't been a coordinator yet," said Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco, the St. Francis High School graduate. "He had a pretty good reputation in this league both as a player and as a coach. I think his time as an assistant head coach with Rex Ryan, he did a lot of that work. It wasn't just a figurehead title. He's been in a lot of situations like that.
"Last year for him, obviously he can handle some pretty good adversity, as far as being running backs coach, a coordinator, and head coach all in one year. In some tough situations, he kept that team together and did a really excellent job."
After coaching the Bills' season finale as interim head coach, Lynn interviewed for the permanent job that ultimately went to Sean McDermott. He was hired as the Chargers' coach two days later.
"It has been a rapid rise," Lynn admitted during his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I'll probably get a chance to reflect on that this summer. Right now, I haven't had time. It's been like 0-to-100."
Lynn credited the guidance he got from Ryan in assisting him in his goal of becoming a head coach.
"Rex always treated me like a head coach, and that's what I like about Rex," he said. "He didn't just give me the assistant head coach title. He actually gave me the responsibilities of the assistant head coach. If Rex Ryan didn't feel like doing something, I did it. If he was sick and couldn't take it, I did it and I stepped in. I went to all the off-site meetings with him, all the salary cap meetings, all the administrative meetings. I went to all those. Rex Ryan helped me see the big picture and how to run an organization."
If Lynn has any bitterness about not getting the Bills' job, he's not showing it publicly.
"I think the Bills did what was best for them, and things definitely worked out for me," he said. "But I never really felt like that was my job. I knew it was a competition. I interviewed for the job, and they hired the guy who fit them best."
He also spoke highly of Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula.
"Those were two really good years. The management team is outstanding," he said. "We had some pretty good players and working with that offensive staff in the team that we had, we worked well together. I just think the things I learned from those guys helped me be there today. I don't think I'd be here without those guys and without those players."
The Chargers fired coach Mike McCoy after a 5-11 season in 2016. Telesco then led the search that ultimately ended with Lynn.
"Really what we were looking for, it didn't matter if it was offensive coordinator, defense or special teams," he said. "We were just looking for the best football coach to lead our football team, and Anthony brings a lot of those qualities to us. He just had a real connection with us in the interview. I think he'll connect really well with the players. He'll be tough and firm, but fair.
"I know when we talked to him – and there's a lot of things you go through as far as his plan, his vision, you know, his Xs and Os, that was all great – but you just had that feeling that he can inspire people. I mean, that's what I felt as we were talking to him. He's a guy that, if I was playing, thank God I'm not, but if I was playing, I'd want to play for a guy like him. You go through the interview process and there's a lot to cover. A head coach wears a lot of hats in this league. It's not just all Xs and Os. The more we talked to him, we just felt like at this time, he was the best fit for the Chargers."
Lynn took over on the day the Chargers announced they would move from San Diego to Los Angeles. The team will temporarily call the 30,000-seat StubHub Center home until the Los Angeles Rams' new facility in Inglewood opens in 2019.
"Our organization has done a heck of a job with our relocation package, making this transition as smooth as possible with our coaches and our players," Lynn said. "That's all you can ask for in this situation. It might be a little bit of a distraction in the beginning when we're moving, but once we get there and get settled, we'll be fine. I think the most important thing is that we know where we're going and where we're playing."
One of the Chargers' opponents in 2017 will be the Bills, who will make the trip to Los Angeles for the second straight year after playing the Rams in 2016.