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What does recent history say about an in-season change of offensive coordinators?

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You’ll probably be surprised with the results.

New Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will call plays from the booth, which is something Greg Roman did not do during his tenure with the team.

There’s a good chance you already knew all that, seeing as though it was confirmed by Rex and Lynn himself yesterday.

(While I don’t have coaching experience, calling plays from the booth seems 10x more logical, just based on the drastic viewpoint difference. Heck, from the sideline, it’d be impossible to see what happened on a throw toward the opposite side of the field. Also, tracking the opposition’s personnel substitutions — which can be instrumental in selecting a play-call -- must be considerably easier from the coaches’ box.)

From a philosophical standpoint, Lynn wants to go faster on offense. On Wednesday, he mentioned this, via Chris Brown of the team’s official website: “I just know that when you’re playing at a faster pace you put more pressure on a defense over four quarters and that’s what we’re going to do.”

While Lynn didn’t come out and say he totally opposed Roman’s unhurried tempo on offense, his quote makes it pretty clear he didn’t agree with it.

(Note: Through two games, the Bills have run 98 offensive plays, the lowest figure in the league. Much of that has to do with an abysmal 6 of 23 conversion rate on third down thus far, which is the fourth-worst in NFL.

Brown went on to write this about the play-call timing under Roman:

Through the first two weeks and for part of last season plays were coming in late at times to Tyrod Taylor. In Week 1 the Bills weren’t breaking the huddle until about 10 seconds were left on the play clock. The Bills quarterback didn't have much time to get the snap off, and had little to no opportunity to diagnose the defensive call in case an audible was required. Lynn has a plan in place to make those issues disappear.

This comment from Lynn followed: “We’re going to use the numbers on the wristband. We’re going to get the plays in a little faster so we can go to the line of scrimmage and make a few more things happen at the line of scrimmage with the flexibility of the offense.”

The Bills named a new offensive coordinator during the season. How has this turned out for other teams, you ask?

Well Albert Breer and Emily Kaplan of MMQB have the answer. Their breakdown is long but super enlightening, so I’ll split it up for reading convenience.

From Breer:

Can this actually work? While firing a coordinator during the season always looks like panic, the truth is it isn’t always just a precursor to bigger changes. My podcast buddy Emily Kaplan did the legwork on a study of all these situations—when a coordinator was fired in midseason, and not as part of a head-coaching change— over the last decade. So there were 11 such cases (not counting this one), seven of them happened between 2012 and last year, and three came last year alone. In all three of those (Lions, Rams, Colts), the head coach survived, but things were tenuous in Indy and Detroit until the end and none of those teams made the playoffs.

Ok, so it’s happened more often recently, but all three examples from last year did not lead to a berth in the postseason. History is not exactly on Buffalo’s side here.

Breer continued:

Three of the 11 aforementioned teams did wind up firing their head coaches later that year (2006 Cardinals, 2006 Raiders, 2012 Eagles), while two (2008 Chargers, 2012 Ravens) made the playoffs, with one of those two (Baltimore) winning it all. So sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

The last two sentences really say it all. The same number of head coaches kept their job in 2015 after firing a coordinator in-season as head coaches who were let go after the season in which they made the coordinator switch, but two of those latter instances occurred a decade ago.

The 2008 Chargers and especially the 2012 Ravens — a club that fired Cam Cameron and promoted current Lions HC Jim Caldwell to OC three games before the playoffs — are obviously what the Bills hope to emulate.

This last paragraph is the most fascinating, mainly due to what you read above about Lynn’s goals running the offense. I’ve bolded the most crucial portion.

Of last year’s changes, the most effective switch clearly came in Detroit, where Jim Bob Cooter took the reins from Joe Lombardi and was a big reason for the late season bounce back that saved Jim Caldwell’s job. Cooter’s strategy was to simplify verbiage, do more work on his end to create favorable matchups, encourage the group to push the pace, and give Matthew Stafford ownership of the offense. All of the benefits of those changes are still being felt. Stafford’s passer rating (104.4) since Cooter became OC is fifth-best in the NFL, and he’s thrown 24 touchdown passes against five picks in that time. If Anthony Lynn can manage the kind of results Cooter has gotten, the bad look that Rex and Bills have carried over the last week will only be memory down the line.

Sounds pretty similar to what Lynn wants to do as offensive coordinator, right? Of course Cooter’s immense success revitalizing Stafford the Lions’ offense doesn’t automatically mean Lynn will fare similarly with the Bills. However, it does indicate that simplifying everything, going faster, and just trusting your players’ natural abilities can go a long way in fielding an efficient and consistently productive offense in today’s NFL.