Anthony Lynn wasn’t backing down. Neither was Mike Shanahan.
It didn’t matter that the former was a special teams assistant, near the bottom of the Broncos’ staff hierarchy. It also didn’t matter that the latter was at the top of his profession — a Super Bowl-winning head coach who, at the time, who looked bound for a spot in Canton. Lynn thought he was right, and he didn’t mind letting Shanahan know.
“He didn’t take too kindly to that,” Lynn said.
That was how, nearly two decades ago, Frank Bush found himself rushing down to Shanahan’s office at the behest of a worried secretary. There, he was greeted by “a full-blown, heated discussion” about punt protections. On one side, his understudy on special teams. On the other, his boss. Bush managed to cool the room, but even now, the memory sticks with him.
The lesson? Lynn can be a stubborn man.
“He was passionate about his beliefs,” said Bush, who now coaches linebackers in Miami. “They didn’t come empty. … When we walked out, I had to remind him, ‘You know, the head coach is always right.’”
“Frank saved me career, yeah,” Lynn says with a laugh.
What an interesting career it’s been. On Monday, Lynn will make his regular-season debut as the 16th head coach in Chargers’ history — the first African-American to hold the position. He will do so in Denver, where he helped Shanahan win two Super Bowls as a reserve running back and special teams maven.
When he does, he will pass another milestone in his dizzying 12-month rise.
This time last year, Lynn held a resume that was impressive in length but not variety: three seasons as a special teams assistant, followed by 13 as a running backs coach. Potential head coach material? Sure, he had smarts, ambition and a commanding presence. But he had never been an offensive coordinator.
Of the league’s 32 current head coaches, all but two had experience as an NFL offensive, defensive or special teams coordinator. Seven had done so for at least seven years. And three — Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer, Chicago’s John Fox, and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh — had commanded their own phase of football for at least a decade before earning top billing.
“There is a certain protocol,” Bush says. “There’s a path that most guys take to go get in the big chair, as we call it in the league. It’s just an example of opportunity. Sometimes, people don’t understand how good some of these coaches are, because they never get…