Watch out, Philadelphia.
John Lynch Jr., whose football team hits harder than Apollo Creed, is headed your way to contest a Super Bowl berth.
Two decades ago, Lynch and teammates upset the Eagles as a four-point underdog in the NFC Championship Game. Lynch’s current team gets similar odds for Sunday’s NFC title bout in the same Philly neighborhood.
Lynch, 51, will sit out this game, but the San Francisco 49ers team he and coach Kyle Shanahan assembled resembles the rugged Tampa Buccaneers squad Lynch led as a Hall of Fame-bound safety.
The Niners hammer on opponents, whether protecting the ball or trying to take it away. The pounding takes a toll: 49ers opponents went 0-15 in their game the very next week.
Lynch embraced slam-bam football while growing up in Solana Beach. When Bill Walsh sized up the Torrey Pines High School alum at Stanford, he saw a resemblance to Ronnie Lott and recommended a move from quarterback to safety.
Lynch learned fast to anticipate passes or handoffs and take the best route to the football. In the NFL he clobbered so many opponents that Antonio Gates, the Chargers tight end, told his quarterbacks not to throw him into Lynch’s crosshairs.
Another San Diego footballer who seems as tough as a diamond-tipped drill head, Fred Warner is a Seau-trained linebacker from North County.
He’s evolved into an All-Pro since Lynch drafted him to lead San Francisco’s defenses.
If a footballer can withstand NFL collisions, week after, years after year, he’ll become more attuned at the sport’s warp-seed geometry and better able to decode opponents’ plays.
Most players — even standouts — can’t hold up.
Despite hundreds of collisons, Lynch said he was concussed only once in his career.
Warner has played all but one of San Francisco’s 90 games, including a Super Bowl and seven playoff games.
Is their durability explained mostly by good genes? And by having maintained high fitness as a boy and teenager?
As a youngster, Lynch worked on biomechanics and diligently trained at a local gym.
Warner performed exhaustive workouts under the guidance of Seau’s son, Tyler, a friend and teammate at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos.
If any team is to beat the Eagles in a high-stakes game, it’ll take a blend of rare physicality and savvy from the Lynch-and-Warner mold. Philadelphia (15-3) led the NFL in point differential this year and overpowered the New York Giants in its playoff opener Saturday. The Eagles boast the NFL’s best offensive line and a powerful, explosive defensive front. Quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is able to squat more than 600 pounds in the weight room, combines a dangerous north-south threat as a rusher with accurate passing.
The “Philly Special” that Lynch enjoyed two decades ago against Andy Reid’s Eagles sent him to San Diego for the Super Bowl. The Bucs rolled over the Raiders in the same Mission Valley stadium where Lynch’s dad took him to watch Chargers games as a boy. Three years ago, Lynch returned to the Super Bowl, only for the Niners to lose against Reid’s Chiefs.
- Shame on the NFL if moves its conference championship games to neutral venues, as some observers predict will happen. Folks who say it won’t happen should notice how the league — an $18-billion empire — operates. The massive stadium subsidies the NFL extracts from municipalities do not buy loyalty. Nor does the NFL care about further pricing poor folks out of its events. (Not that MLB is any different.) It wasn’t long ago that skeptics insisted the NFL wouldn’t add a 17th game to its season because it cared too much about player safety.
- Andy Reid is the best choice for Coach of the Year. Most opponents — including the Chargers — devote extra time to trying to figure out Reid, an acknowledged sensei of game planning and playcalling. Several of those teams employ coaches who apprenticed under Reid. In addition, Reid adapted well to losing WR Tyreek Hill, who went on to revive Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa’s career. Breaking in several rookie defenders as well, the Chiefs earned a seventh straight AFC West title and top seed.
- Unfortunately for the Bills, it became obvious why they guaranteed Von Miller more than $51 million in March. Their defense fell well short following the season-ending knee injury to Miller, 33, in Week 12. The exhale you hear comes from the Rams, who gambled two premium draft picks last year that Miller could juice their Super Bowl run … which he did after arriving in a November trade
- Can we stop insisting that every NFL coordinator who is flying high deserves a head-coaching job? See, Peter principle.
- With the first pick of the 2022 draft, the Bears should take a quarterback if they believe he can evolve into a good passer. It’s too much to project Justin Fields will ever pass well enough to lead them to a Super Bowl.
- Angelenos who are surprised that Dean Spanos and John Spanos retained coach Brandon Staley (and GM Tom Telesco) either put little stock in how the Spanoses have operated or believed that Los Angeles magically would change the family’s approach. The same folks who hired Staley gave four years to both Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn. Staley was likely telling the truth that he never feared for his job in the past year. His defense grew up in the season;s second half, giving the Spanoses further reason to stick to their approach.