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This edition of "Lions Game-Changing Offseason Moves" actually looks at a lack of change. What I mean by that is a game-changer for the Lions this offseason is having some continuity with the coaching staff, namely with the offensive and defensive coordinators. I know that the Lions have a different defensive line coach and a new special teams coordinator now, but the focus here is on how there is finally continuity at offensive and defensive coordinator.
If you're ever wondering why the Lions have been so bad for the last decade, consider this: Detroit hasn't had the same offensive and defensive coordinators for back-to-back seasons since 2000. Every year at least one coordinator has been different from the year before. That lack of continuity is just a killer for players trying to adjust to a certain system or get used to a particular coach. With new faces coming in every year, it's tough to succeed when your main coach for each side of the ball is always changing.
The good news is that this lack of continuity streak is finally set to come to an end. If there are no late-offseason surprises and both Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham return to the Lions, then the team will have had the same offensive and defensive coordinators for two straight years, something that hasn't been accomplished since the days of Sylvester Croom and Larry Peccatiello. Take a look:
|Offensive Coordinator||Defensive Coordinator|
|2010||Scott Linehan||Gunther Cunningham|
|2009||Scott Linehan||Gunther Cunningham|
|2008||Jim Colletto||Joe Barry|
|2007||Mike Martz||Joe Barry|
|2006||Mike Martz||Donnie Henderson|
|2005||Ted Tollner/Greg Olson*||Dick Jauron|
|2004||Sherman Lewis||Dick Jauron|
|2003||Sherman Lewis||Kurt Schottenheimer|
|2002||Maurice Carthon||Kurt Schottenheimer|
|2001||Marty Mornhinweg**||Vince Tobin|
|2000||Sylvester Croom||Larry Peccatiello|
|1999||Sylvester Croom||Larry Peccatiello|
|1998||Sylvester Croom||Larry Peccatiello|
|1997||Sylvester Croom||Larry Peccatiello|
*Olson took over for Tollner during the season after Steve Mariucci was fired.
**Mornhinweg served as the team's head coach and offensive coordinator in 2001.
As you can see, every year from 2001-09 there was at least one different coordinator compared to the year before, and four times there were two new coordinators. None of this is all that surprising considering how many head coaching changes there have been over the years, but it's really interesting to see just how many different people have been with this team as an offensive or defensive coordinator since the time when Matt Millen was first hired. Every year at least one person had to be replaced during the Millen era.
The good news going forward is that the Lions have continuity at both offensive and defensive coordinator. That means that Matthew Stafford and company are going to be able to grow in the same offense as last year, and the defense will be able to continue to take in Gunther's system and gain more experience under his tutelage.
Continuity is important on a general level for the team as a whole. On a specific level, however, it is something vital for individual players as well. Take Drew Stanton, for example. He has had three different offensive coordinators in his three years in the NFL. Injuries have hurt his development as well, but having to be coached by three different offensive coordinators will really stunt development. Perhaps that's one reason why he has yet to reach his potential. If he can stay in the same system, then who knows, maybe Stanton will have that light bulb moment in year four of his career.
While continuity is far from the only thing that shows the Lions are moving in the right direction, it is very encouraging at the very least. It has been a decade since the coordinator jobs have had the same faces for back-to-back years, but finally that is going to change. There's no telling if that continuity will continue in 2011, but for now, at least, both the offensive and defensive players will be coached by a familiar face, which is a nice change from what has usually been the case for the Lions.