For the past couple of seasons, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been a hot name to finally take the reins as a head coach. He’s been linked to almost half of the league in the past three offseasons, including two more teams already this year:
The San Diego Chargers, fresh off of a disappointing 5-11 season, including a loss to the otherwise winless Cleveland Browns, have requested to interview Teryl Austin after firing an offensive-minded coach in Mike McCoy. McCoy went 28-38 for the Chargers despite a reasonably talented roster and a good quarterback. It’s fairly common for a team to go from an offensive coach to a defensive one, and with Austin being as well respected as he is around the league, it isn’t a surprise he’s one of their first choices. Austin would have an established quarterback and run game, with the option to pick his own QB to learn behind Philip Rivers, along with a talented but porous defense that includes cornerback Jason Verrett.
The Los Angeles Rams have had a dumpster fire of a transition from St. Louis to the City of Angels, extending head coach Jeff Fisher after a sad 35-41-1 record of mediocrity only to fire him shortly thereafter. It’s hard to say this is an ideal situation given the team’s lack of front office direction, lack of draft assets—the team is without their first round draft choice this year—and just how far underwater quarterback Jared Goff is. Still, Austin would be coming to a defense that has talent, including the likes of Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and others. It’s a defense to build on, and if his choice of offensive staff is strong, a run game that you might be able to revitalize with Todd Gurley.
Teryl Austin has never lived up to the promise of his historic 2014 “Free Hurt Defense” season. The team has finished the 2016 season ranked 18th in total yards, but a healthy 13th in points allowed per game. They’ve also hit historically bad passing marks, allowing a 106.5 passer rating per game and an abysmal 72.7 percent completion percentage—the next worst team was Dallas with a 67.1 percent. His defense also ranked near the bottom of the league in takeaways at 23rd, sacks at 30th, and touchdowns allowed at 31st. Only Cleveland allowed more touchdowns than the 2016 Detroit Lions under Teryl Austin.
Many will immediately point to the Rooney rule as to why Teryl Austin is being interviewed, and it’s an argument that sounds fair considering how often Teryl Austin has been interviewed without landing a head coaching position. Those familiar with the Detroit Lions know that the team has dealt with injuries and a painful lack of talent on their defense, forcing Austin to make constant adjustments to his scheme just to keep the team’s head above water. His bend but don’t break style has, at times, done very well for Detroit. It was a big part of the team’s resurgence at the end of 2015 and has been a large reason the team has been able to stage it’s many comebacks in 2016. He is well liked by his players and position coaches, and respected by his peers. With as many coaching vacancies as we’re seeing around the league, it’s more possible than it has been in previous years that Austin will find a head coaching position. You can do a lot worse than southern California.