Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The [new] Detroit Lions Coaching Staff 2014

On December 30th my blog summarized my thoughts on the Detroit Lions front office and coaching staff. Now that 3 weeks have gone by some results are in. First, the front office is intact (more or less) for another off season. Second, the top of the coaching staff is being replaced (except for the Special Teams coach). Third, the new coaching staff sees the exact same thing I saw in Stafford's footwork and has stated it will be corrected. And finally, the front office has stated the goal is to win, now, not rebuild for some unspecified year in the future. On paper, that sounds REAL good.

The Lions fired the 2013 head coach Jim Schwartz and replaced him with Jim Caldwell. Jim turned 59 years old 5 days ago (January 16th) and has been a head coach twice, once from 1993-2000 for Wake Forest and then from 2009-2011 for the Indianapolis Colts. He was a quarterback coach and a wide receivers coach for many years, as well as an offensive coordinator. While his quarterbacks (and passing offense) has been rather good many times, his run game and record aren't exactly anything to write home about. You can learn a lot of facts by reading everything at this link about him. There is a lot of good put in print about Jim Caldwell thus far, he's saying all the right things, but let's not kid ourselves, all new coaches look good on paper.

The Lions did not retain Scott Linehan, the 2013 offensive coordinator. Today they replaced him with Joe Lombardi, grandson of the man the Superbowl trophy is named after (how awesome is that?). Joe was an offensive coordinator only once, for Mercyhurst College 2002-2005. He has been a position coach on both sides of the ball, details of which can be found at He was the OC for the Saints when Caldwell's Colts lost to the Saints in the Superbowl in 2010. He's never been an offensive coordinator in the NFL, but every NFL coach has had a first time job at some point in their past. On paper, this coach looks like a great hire by Caldwell for the Lions.

The Lions also replaced the 2013 defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham with Teryl Austin, another first time NFL coordinator. He was the DC for the Florida Gators in 2010. He has 3 years as an NFL coach, all with the Baltimore Ravens and all as the secondary coach. His resume can found here: On paper, his resume seems a little shorter then most, but Caldwell knows him from his time as the Ravens OC, so there is that.

The Special Teams coordinator for the Detroit Lions was retained, along with 7 others. For all the coaching changes please visit

New to the 2014 staff (so far):
Jim Caldwell (head coach)
Joe Lombardi (offensive coordinator)
Ron Prince (tight ends/assistant head coach)
Teryl Austin (defensive coordinator)
Bill Sheridan (linebackers coach)

Back from the 2013 staff:
Curtis Modkins (running backs coach)
Jeremiah Washburn (offensive line coach)
Bobby Johnson (assistant offensive line coach)
Terry Heffernan (offensive assistant)
Kris Kocurek (defensive line coach)
Jim Washburn (assistant defensive line coach)
John Bonamego (special teams coordinator)
Evan Rothstein (quality control/special teams)

Gone from the 2013 staff:
Jim Schwartz (head coach)
Scott Linehan (offensive coordinator)
Todd Downing (quarterbacks coach)
Tim Lappano (wide receivers coach)
Kyle Valero (offensive assistant)
Gunther Cunningham (defensive coordinator)
Matt Burke (linebackers coach)
Bradford Banta (assistant linebackers coach)

What does all this mean? Well, we don't know. No one does. Jim Caldwell has stated the Lions will no longer shoot themselves in the foot, that he would be working on the basics along with situational awareness, and that Matthew Stafford's footwork was going to be a priority. He also said he wanted coordinators that were talented and able to coach, well. On paper, this is fantastic. What we can't discern is if the run game will continue to improve or go backwards, whether the run defense will remain top 5 in the league or get worse, whether the passing game of the O and the D will improve, and what old bad habits will resurface with the new coaching staff. The front office has stated they do not intend to rebuild, that they expect results sooner rather then later, and that all jobs had a set of criteria about them that had to be fulfilled with whichever candidates they picked. Once again, on paper, that sounds great, but will it work?

Just a side note if you will, I had hoped the new Lions head coach would be O'Brien, the Texans new head coach. Most believe the Lions first choice for their HC job was Whisenhunt, the Titans new head coach. It will be interesting to watch these 3 teams (Texans, Titans, and the Lions) as they all move forward from here. I know I will be.