In 2003, Anthony Lynn joined the Jacksonville Jaguars for his second coaching stint in the NFL. After three seasons in Denver coaching special teams, Lynn headed east to Duval where he took a job coaching the position he once played: running back.
It was there he met Fred Taylor, the Jags' former ninth-overall draft pick, who struggled with playing inconsistencies and injuries over his first four seasons in the league. After playing in all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2002, Taylor knew his game could be taken to new heights in 2003, and he credits Lynn for helping him get there.
"For me, Coach Lynn as a running backs coach was a guy who you could talk to, you could come to with anything," the former Pro Bowl running back who was attending the Combine as part of the NFL's Legends program said. "The communication was very transparent. I loved that and it made you feel at home and feel comfortable. But from a coach-to-player standpoint, he let me go out there and do my thing. He wasn't hovering above me (saying,) 'Oh, you've got to make that cut.' He didn't put me in a box. He let me play."
In 2003, Lynn guided Taylor to his best season as a pro. He finished the season starting all 16 games with career-highs in rushing yards (1,572) and carries (345) along with six touchdowns. Additionally, Taylor caught 48 passes for 370 yards and another score.
So, what did Lynn do that helped Taylor achieve those career-highs?
"I think with his coaching style, and again, not bottling me up and going out there and taking the chances that I took in the run game and those things, I think that allowed me to excel and show people what I have. Also, the little nuggets that he shared with me; helping me study, and see things I didn't always see (with him having been) a former running back."
Although they were only together for two seasons, the pair has kept in touch over the years. To this day, Lynn tells young running backs to watch and study Taylor. It's an honor Taylor remains humbly appreciative of, but says his success really goes both ways.
"I'm a guy who's really disciplined in my footwork," he said. "I listen to the coaches. I'm very coachable. It just means a lot that he would use me as an example considering the guys he has coached. But again, we trusted each other. We had a friendship and a good coaching relationship. It might just be easy for him to point me out as a guy who did it right."
Taylor admits while he knew Lynn would be a head coach in the NFL, he didn't know it would happen this soon. But when the Chargers hired him in 2017, he wasn't surprised Lynn's coaching philosophy guided the Bolts to their best record in three seasons. After all, he saw it in Jacksonville, and then watched it repeat in L.A. from afar.
"He trusted the guys who were going to be pros. For example, Philip Rivers. He's a guy who's been around forever. He's a leader. He's a guy who's going to do the necessary things that show up on Sundays. He probably doesn't say much of anything to Philip. He's that type of guy that when things are bad, he's not going to panic. The challenges that they were up against this year; the transition, hiring a staff, moving to a new city, the facility stuff not being together. That was a challenge for him, but they didn't flinch."