History says that once you’ve been the head coach of the Detroit Lions, you will never coach in the NFL in that capacity again. It’s been known to be the graveyard of coaches for decades now. Lets take that thought a step further. Has an offensive or defensive coordinator become a head coach after leaving the Lions? I like to think that I’m a walking encyclopedia of all things Lions but for the life of me I can’t think of a Lions coordinator who was thought of as the next hot head coaching candidate. I think that’s all about to change.
The Lions introduced their latest set of coordinators to the public last Friday. I have to say, Joe Lombardi and Teryl Austin look like a couple of future head coaching candidates and that bodes extremely well for the Leos. I’m not used to seeing young bright minds being thrust into those positions around here. Just look at the last two we had in town. Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham had lapped the block a couple of times before arriving here with their staid old ideas. The Lions looked like one of the least imaginative football teams in the league last year on both sides of the ball.
That’s what makes these new guys so exciting. While neither has been a coordinator in the NFL, they both have paid their dues and are ready for the big time. If there was one team that always impressed me with it’s creativity, it was the New Orleans Saints. They were constantly on the cutting edge and the tools are all there for Lombardi to work his magic.
Defensively, the Ravens have been one of the NFL’s gold standards and Teryl Austin brings some of that attitude with him. He’s already stated that he’s bringing with him an accountability factor that the Lions defense isn’t used to. Did you hear that Nick Fairley? That means you won’t be able to take plays or games off anymore.
I think the most encouraging thing about the pair is that they might be able to break another Lions longtime tradition; the one of not being able to develop players. I’ve always felt like the players the Lions drafted aren’t that bad when they get here, they just never had the coaching to make them into good players like other teams do. Since this is a Seahawks world these days, and everybody copies the winners, the thing Seattle does best is develop players. 19 of the 53 players on the Super Bowl Champions’ roster weren’t even drafted. That’s incredible. Thats what the Lions need to start doing.
What the Lions need are teachers. That’s why I get excited when I see a comment like this from Head Coach Jim Caldwell talking about Austin, “He’s a guy that I think is a very strong instructor, has enthusiasm, good command of his room, does a great job in terms of teaching.” Or this from Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan about Lombardi “We’re not allowed to talk to the press, but he’s a (bleeping) great one. You can use that.”
I get the feeling that these two guys will have more to do about the Lions winning than Jim Caldwell. They both know that winning a Super Bowl is the recipe for becoming the first Lions coordinator to be a Head Coach. I really can’t wait to see what they cook up this year.