After yet another down season in the Motor City, the Detroit Lions assistant coaching vacancies could create optimism for fans in 2020.
All has been quiet regarding the Detroit Lions assistant coaching vacancies since it was announced at the end of last year that special teams coordinator John Bonamego, defensive backs coach Brian Stewart, linebackers coach Al Golden, tight ends coach Chris White, strength coach Harold Nash, and assistant strength coach Rodney Hill had all been let go.
A subsequent announcement two days later indicated that defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni and Jeff Davidson had both resigned. I was ecstatic two years ago when reports surfaced that the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, Matt Patricia was the Lions head coach to be.
Patrica’s hiring was reported a day after New England advanced in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. Then, Lions fans everywhere had to wait for the Patriots to lose in order to make it official.
A week later, the Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship game, launching the highly touted Patricia to his third Super Bowl appearance as defensive coordinator.
Finally, New England lost Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles. And Patricia was officially named the Lions head coach afterward.
Why is this important? And what difference does it make now? There were seven head coaching vacancies at the conclusion of the 2017 NFL season.
By the time the Lions were able to make their hire official, all but one other vacancy had been filled (Indianapolis Colts). With free agency and the draft quickly approaching, Patricia had to assemble his staff quickly.
In February of 2018, the Lions hired David Corrao as their director of football research and George Godsey as quarterbacks coach. Also added were the aforementioned Bonamego, Golden, Pasqualoni, Davidson, Stewart, and White. Later the Lions hired Bo Davis as the defensive line coach. At the time, and especially in retrospect, these hires were vastly underwhelming.
There’s a huge disadvantage for a team waiting for the Super Bowl to end to hire their head coach, as the staffs for all the other vacancies around the league have already been filled. This leaves the late hire in a lurch for their staff, forcing them to pick their assistants from a limited pool of candidates.
Where is the silver lining? After a disappointing 6-10 campaign in 2018, featuring a predictable offense where Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s output was his worst statistical season as a pro, Patricia let go of then offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. He hired Darrell Bevell as his replacement and Bevell’s offense in 2019 was promising to say the least.
Through nine games Matthew Stafford achieved the highest QBR of his career at 73.1. Even after Stafford was injured Week Nine against the Oakland Raiders, and second string QB Jeff Driskel was unable to play Weeks 13-17, Bevell’s passing offense still ranked 10th in the league.
If Matt Patricia and can hit on the hires for the Detroit Lions assistant coaching vacancies like he did with Darrell Bevell, it could set Motown up for consistent success for years to come. Perhaps the recent hiring of Brayden Coombs as the Lions new special team coordinator will be the first of many new hires that will make that difference.