Who Will Replace Teryl Austin?


A detailed view of a white board on the Detroit Lions sideline during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

With the specter of Teryl Austin’s impending departure looming this year, I wanted to take a look back at Jim Caldwell’s hiring choices to see what can be gleaned. Caldwell has been a head coach twice previously. Everyone is pretty well aware of his stint in Indianapolis at the end of the Peyton Manning era (2009-2011), but Caldwell also led the Demon Deacons at Wake Forest from 1993-2000 and I highly recommend doing a google image search for “Jim Caldwell Wake Forest”.


One thing that surprised me in researching Caldwell’s previous hires is how many familiar names I came across. Teryl Austin himself was on Caldwell’s staff at Wake Forest and Jim Bob Cooter, Ron Prince and Alan Williams, all current Lions staffers, were on board with Caldwell in Indianapolis. That’s 4 members of the Lions’ 21 member coaching staff, 2 of the 8 offensive hires and 2 of 9 defensive hires.


San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. The Chargers defeated the 49ers 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Another thing that stood out to me was how many of Caldwell’s hires became coordinators or head coaches further on in their coaching careers. I found about 29 coaches in total that were hired during Caldwell’s

tenure. Of those 29, five are currently a coordinator or head coach and that’s not counting Teryl Austin or Alan Williams, who was Minnesota’s DC before he came to Detroit.

Frank Reich is the current OC in San Diego for the Chargers, Ron Turner is the current HC at FIU, Larry Coyer is the current DC at New Mexico State, and Alex Wood and Theo Lemon are the HC and DC, respectively, at FAMU.

Three of Caldwell’s hires at Wake Forest are currently coaching in the NFL. Teryl Austin, Pat Flaherty (OL coach for the New York Giants) and Stan Hixon (WR coach for the Houston Texans).


When replacing staff, Caldwell tends to favor experience but he also puts an assistant in place to learn the position. He had Pete Metzelaars assisting Howard Mudd on the offensive line in Indianapolis before Metzelaars took over, he had Clyde Christensen as assistant head coach/WRs before becoming offensive coordinator in Indy, and currently he has Devin Fitzsimmons as our assistant special teams coach behind Joe Marciano.

Final Thoughts

When I decided to write this piece, I didn’t expect to be able to actually come up with a name as a replacement for Teryl Austin if he leaves for a head coaching job next year. I mostly expected to get an idea of the kind of coaches Caldwell likes and look into how his hiring has panned out. As it turns out though, I’m kind of impressed with the guys Caldwell has surrounded himself with and I’m a little surprised he doesn’t get more credit in that regard. I also think Alan Williams, our defensive backs and safeties coach, should be the obvious choice to replace Teryl Austin if he does in fact find a head coaching spot after the 2015 season.

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell may have a decision to make if DC Teryl Austin leaves after this year. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

A Quick Recap of Williams’ DC Tenure

In Williams’ two years as Minnesota’s DC, the defense had mixed results. Ironically, the secondary was their biggest weakness, especially in 2013 when Harrison Smith missed half the season with a foot injury.

In 2012 under Williams, the Vikings had 10 INTs (bad) and 44 sacks (good) and ranked 24th against the run and 11th against the pass for a total defensive ranking of 16th.

In 2013 under Williams, the Vikings had 12 INTs (still bad) and 41 sacks (good) and ranked 16th against the run and 31st against the pass for a total defensive ranking of 31st. Again, that was without any semblance of a secondary.

While those numbers don’t impress, Williams would be inheriting a pretty solid secondary if he were to take over next year.

Next: The Case for Zach Zenner

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