The Stats: Sean McDermott vs. Anthony Lynn

After writing about Anthony Lynn yesterday, I wanted to take some time to compare Sean McDermott and Anthony Lynn: the current Bills coach and the previous Bills coach, whose candidacy was spoiled by McDermott back in January of 2017. Both coaches have had success in their roles, but the stats alone don’t tell the complete story.

Inheritance

Sean McDermott inherited a 7-9 football team that had not been to the playoffs in 17 years. The quarterback was a question mark, as his first decision was a huge one: either cut Tyrod Taylor, or bring him back on his new nearly $30 million deal. The offense that McDermott inherited from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn was average, ranking 10th in points and 16th in total yards. It was the 30th ranked passing offense but the 1st ranked rushing offense. The defense that he inherited from Rex Ryan was ranked 17th in points against and 19th in yards against.

A few days after McDermott was announced as the 20th head coach of the Bills, Anthony Lynn was hired as the coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Anthony Lynn inherited a 5-11 football team with a 3 year playoff drought. His starting quarterback was Phillip Rivers, a future hall-of-famer. The Chargers offense was previously ranked 9th in points and 14th in total yards. The defense that Lynn inherited was 16th in yards against and 29th in points against.

Year 1

Sean McDermottAnthony Lynn
Record9-79-7
PlayoffsYes , 0-1No
Offense Rankings
(Points and Yards)
22nd – Points
29th – Yards
13th – Points
4th – Yards
Defense Rankings
(Points and Yards)
18th – Points
26th – Yards
3rd – Points
15th – Yards

These stats are mind-boggling. Add in that the Anthony Lynn had a future hall-of-famer as quarterback and McDermott had Tyrod Taylor, it is even more stunning to think that the Bills made the playoffs in 2017 and the Chargers did not. An 0-4 start doomed Lynn and the Chargers, as they missed out on the playoffs thanks to a 3-way tiebreaker that had the Chargers below the Bills in the end despite beating them earlier in the year.

So who had the better year? Lynn drastically improved the Chargers on both sides of the ball and saw the team increase their win total by 4 games. McDermott ended the worst playoff drought in North American sports with a patched together offense, while increasing the win total by 2 games. The stats points to Lynn doing a better job in year 1, but only people who live around Buffalo and follow the Bills understand just how much of a task it was to turn the franchise around. For McDermott to do it in one year was a major task. Lynn wasn’t without his challenges also. He inherited a team that was moving from San Diego to Los Angeles. Having success and turning a team around while dealing with the difficulty of moving, new team facilities, new city, new dynamic, all while providing stability poses its own set of difficulties, and Lynn should admired for the job he did as well. Year 1 winner: Tie

Year 2

Sean McDermottAnthony Lynn
Record6-1012-4
PlayoffsNoYes, 1-1
Offense Rankings
(Points and Yards)
30th – Points
30th – Yards
7th – Points
11th – Yards
Defense Rankings
(Points and Yards)
18th – Points
2nd – Yards
8th – Points
9th – Yards

The Bills used 2018 as a rebuilding year, moving on from Tyrod Taylor in the offseason, firing offensive coordinator Rick Dennison after just one season, and drafting Josh Allen with the 7th overall pick. While the results didn’t show on the offensive side of the ball, Sean McDermott’s defense really began taking shape in Year 2. Anthony Lynn continued the upward trend of the organization in Year 2, finishing 12-4 and winning a playoff game on the road before losing in the Divisional round. Both his offensive and defensive rankings remained strong and in the top 3rd of the league. Year 2 winner: Anthony Lynn

Year 3

Sean McDermottAnthony Lynn
Record10-65-11
PlayoffsYes , 0-1No
Offense Rankings
(Points and Yards)
23rd – Points
24th – Yards
21st – Points
10th – Yards
Defense Rankings
(Points and Yards)
2nd – Points
3rd – Yards
14th – Points
6th – Yards

Much like they did in 2017, the Bills’ offensive stats here look suspect for a playoff team. It was the Bills defense that carried them to the playoffs last year. A one-year rebuild and a return to the playoffs in Josh Allen’s first year as a starter spoke volumes for Sean McDermott and his ability to build and lead a football team with standard of “sustained success.” 2019 was not kind to the Chargers, as poor quarterback play from Rivers, frequent turnovers, and undisciplined football lead to 9 fewer wins from the previous season. As a result, talks of Lynn’s job security were beginning around Los Angeles. Year 3 winner: Sean McDermott

Year 4 (Through 10 games)

Sean McDermottAnthony Lynn
Record7-33-7
PlayoffsTBDTBD
Offense Rankings
(Points and Yards)
11th – Points
13th – Yards
15th – Points
3rd – Yards
Defense Rankings
(Points and Yards)
18th – Points
26th – Yards
24th – Points
11th – Yards

The Bills are well on their way their first division title in 25 years as McDermott is looking to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and the third time in four years. The offense has taken a huge leap forward this year, while the defense has taken a step back. Anthony Lynn started his rebuild for the Chargers this year, moving on from Rivers and drafting Justin Herbert 6th overall. Due to an injury, Herbert has been thrust into the starting lineup and while the results haven’t come in the win column, Herbert is tearing up defenses and looking mighty impressive for the Chargers so far in 2020. Year 4 winner: TBD, but trending McDermott

Verdict

Sean McDermottAnthony Lynn
Record32-2629-29
Playoff Appearances21
Playoff Wins01

Both coaches had one season that was much more successful than the other, and one season where they did an equally good job. This year acts a tie-breaker, and McDermott is in the lead through 10 games. While McDermott struggles with in-game game management, Anthony Lynn has caught the ire of the fanbase for the same. Similar to the Bills pre-McDermott, the Chargers have a way of creating new ways to lose games, blowing leads and last-second losses appear to be second nature for them. And that is the biggest difference for these two coaches: McDermott has changed the entire trajectory of this franchise while Anthony Lynn and the Chargers are still waiting to permanently turn the corner. While there is only a 3-game difference between the two coaches and most of the stats are even, if you could give a point to the overall “feel” and direction of the franchises, the job that Sean McDermott has done in Buffalo would definitely tip the scale.

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