Despite a strong closing finish to the 2020 campaign, the flaws with in-game management proved to be too costly for Anthony Lynn to overcome and he was fired on Monday after a 33-31 record over four seasons. Liked and respected by all, the former tailback dealt with a ton of injuries during his time in charge but may have gifted his successor a talented roster stocked with top skill position talent and a star quarterback in Justin Herbert.
As a result, the Chargers may have one of the most attractive openings in the league this year. Who wants to take on this turnaround project in the sun and surf of SoCal? Here are 10 candidates to watch that could be the next Chargers head coach:
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
Bieniemy will have his pick of gigs this year but would certainly know what is on the roster in the Chargers. That includes a bright young signal-caller, who very well could be the lone guy who can unseat the behemoth in Kansas City. Not only would this give Los Angeles a terrific pairing of a young offensive mind with their face of the franchise, but it also would double in likely hampering a division rival at the same time.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator
If Bieniemy is option 1 among offensive coordinators to get the big chair this offseason, Daboll is 1b given the work he's done in transforming Buffalo from a fringe playoff contender to perhaps the second-best team in the league in 2020. His ability to transform Josh Allen's accuracy in short order plus a college background that includes working for Nick Saban makes Daboll an attractive option to come cross country.
Arthur Smith, Titans offensive coordinator
Like the others on here, Smith has done great work in bringing along Ryan Tannehill from backup QB to a bona fide division winner in Nashville. His run-first approach would also fit in nicely with what the Chargers have been doing and would play to Justin Herbert's strengths off play-action. Not the biggest name by any stretch but you can see all the boxes being checked off in Smith.
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
McDaniels leaving Foxborough is still TBD but there's little denying that the chance to run his own team again is still a possibility with Bill Belichick looking like he's sticking around for years to come and the Pats going through a rebuild. He has familiarity with the AFC West of course and is still plenty young enough to where you could see a productive decade-long partnership with Herbert moving forward.
Joe Brady, Panthers offensive coordinator
Across town, the Rams hired a 30-year-old offensive wunderkind to work with a young QB and it seemed to work out, so why not attempt the same thing? Brady has deep NFL roots and transformed the LSU offense a year ago into one of the best in CFB history. He's done good work in Carolina despite not having much to work with and could be just the kind of forward-thinking move that the Chargers could use to get ahead.
Former Head Coaches
Urban Meyer, former Ohio State head coach
Meyer would be the big fish for any NFL team but especially so for a franchise that has to fight for attention in their own market and in the league as a whole. The championship pedigree and offensive mind are well established but what would make his hire doubly interesting is how he's known to transform an entire building's culture. Having a strong general manager like Tom Telesco would be huge too as he makes the transition to the pros.
Bill O'Brien, former Texans head coach
O'Brien's tenure blew up at the end but he did put together five seasons of at least nine wins in Houston to go along with four division titles. That's a stronger resume than just about anybody not currently in a head coaching role and his hire would come with the added benefit of him not having to be GM, which is what really led to his downfall. He worked well with Deshaun Watson as a young QB and could line up with what the Chargers have under center too.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
The NFL is infatuated with the way Campbell has built his programs, first at Toledo and now at Iowa State. He's led both to nearly unprecedented success and has a history of winning dating back to his days at historic Mount Union. While there's not the NFL experience some would like, his ability to lead and manage games makes him a more intriguing choice for the Chargers.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
Harbaugh has done his best work up and down the Left Coast and despite being at his alma mater, could another venture out West be enough to entice him out of Ann Arbor? He is known for developing QBs and his work flipping the 49ers from good to great in short order continues to keep him in the mix for NFL openings. Who knows if the Spanos family wants to pony up for such a move but it would be a much-needed jolt of energy for the Bolts.
Dan Mullen, Florida head coach
Mullen has long been regarded as one of the best college play-callers and has won pretty much everywhere he's been. A noted quarterback whisperer, he could be a perfect fit for Justin Herbert's skill set after developing Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, and current Heisman finalist Kyle Trask. He's not the buttoned-up kind of personality that is typical of the NFL though but would be a fascinating outside-the-box move that could pay off in both the short- and long-term.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.