Year Two With Teryl Austin Vital For Sustainability of Detroit Lions’ Defense


The Detroit Lions had to sit out the divisional and championship rounds of the NFC playoffs after losing, but may end up the biggest winners during that time period thanks to both what did and didn’t happen.

Specifically, the Buffalo Bills hired Rex Ryan. The San Francisco 49ers promoted Jim Tomsula. The Denver Broncos fired John Fox, hiring familiar face Gary Kubiak and giving no outsiders a shot. The Chicago Bears then abruptly hired Fox, and the Atlanta Falcons hired Kyle Shanahan to be their offensive coordinator, expecting Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to be their next head coach.

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Nowhere listed is Teryl Austin, despite the fact that he reportedly impressed enough in interviews for several of the same jobs to be viewed as a top consideration. Now, Austin is likely headed back to Detroit for his second season as leader for one of the top-five defenses in the league after being passed over in a handful of national searches.

That’s great news for the Lions, who badly needed continuity just a year after Austin was hired away from the Baltimore Ravens and brought a new system t0 town with him. The Lions then flourished like they never had under Austin’s steady leadership, which is likely why he was viewed as such a hot coaching commodity this offseason.

Detroit caught their first big break of the offseason with the news that Austin didn’t get a job and would likely return. For years, Detroit’s scheme was constantly imbalanced considering the parade of head coaches that were hired, fired and replaced in Allen Park. Finally with Austin, they appear to have a star in the making capable of leading the Lions to bigger things.

Without Austin in tow for a vital second year, Detroit’s defense could have taken several significant steps backward. The team might already be forced to lose Ndamukong Suh. Not having Austin there to help guide the replacement period after Suh could have left the defensive line reeling, considering it was the heartbeat of most of Detroit’s success in the 2014 season.

Without Austin in tow for a vital second year, Detroit’s defense could have taken several significant steps backward.

Also, there’s no guarantee the team would have been able to find someone suitable to lead, scheme and inspire the same way Austin has in his young coordinating career. Likely, Quinn’s star has risen in Seattle because he has stuck around, implemented his system successfully and won as a result. It’s not a stretch to imagine Austin doing the same given more time with the Lions. The defense needs more time to adapt and grow under a new system that has proven very successful at first blush.

All this makes Austin’s likely return the biggest early move of Detroit’s offseason. It’s possible the Lions haven’t scratched the surface of how good they can become under his scheme and leadership. If Austin had departed after one season, it’s possible the team might never have been able to find that out.

Now, with his return apparently all but imminent, the Lions are likely taking steps to set themselves up for a dominant present and future.