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Has Jim Bob Cooter passed Teryl Austin as a head coaching candidate?

Has the Lions’ offensive coordinator done enough in 2.5 seasons to warrant some head coaching consideration?

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

It has been an up-and-down year for both of the Detroit Lions’ coordinators. The offense has shown flashes of being the dominant unit that the talent warrants, but the running game struggles have been pervasive and long-lasting. On defense, Detroit started off as one of the most feared units in the league, but has slowly declined over the season.

Despite the recent struggles, Teryl Austin has long been considered a future head coach in the league. He has interviewed for several jobs over the years and is widely regarded as a brilliant defensive mind.

But now that the Lions defense has struggled in back-to-back season , it appears it may be a different Lions coordinator drawing head coaching interest in the near future.

The NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel submits its annual recommendations for head coaching jobs to the league, and according to Pro Football Talk, Jim Bob Cooter—not Teryl Austin—is a candidate to make the jump. Here is their list of head coaching candidates:

  • Chief offensive coordinator Matt Nagy
  • Patriots OC Josh McDaniels
  • Texans defensive coordinator MIke Vrabel
  • Vikings DC GEorge Edwards
  • Saints assistant head coach/tigh tends coach Dan Campbell
  • Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub
  • Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo
  • Eagles DC Jim Schwartz
  • Panthers DC Steve Wilks
  • Lions OC Jim Bob Cooter
  • Vikings OC Pat Shurmer

Last year, the roles were reversed, as Teryl Austin made the list but Cooter did not.

But has Cooter really earned his spot on the list yet? He has only been an offensive coordinator for just over two years, and he is only 33 years old. Could the allure of the success from Rams head coach Sean McVay encourage another team to take a shot on Cooter? McVay had been an offensive coordinator for just three seasons and is the youngest coach in the league at 31.

But McVay’s success as offensive coordinator was a bit more pronounced than Cooter’s. Here’s a look at Washington’s offensive DVOA ranks under McVay:

Overall: 28
Pass: 25
Run: 19

Overall: 12
Pass: 6
Run: 32

Overall: 5
Pass: 5
Run: 4

As you can see, McVay took a bad offense and turned it into a top-five unit over three years. Cooter has had less time to turn around the Lions offense, but he hasn’t seen nearly the improvement McVay had:

2015 (took over half way through)
Overall: 13
Pass: 15
Run: 27

Overall: 15
Pass: 13
Run: 25

Overall: 15
Pass: 12
Run: 30

The offense has remained relatively average since Cooter took over, and the run game has remained at the bottom of the league in efficiency.

But to Cooter’s credit, Matthew Stafford has been absolutely phenomenal under his tutelage. Here are Stafford’s career averages:

62.0 completion percentage, 7.15 Y/A, 88.1 passer rating—212 TDs and 117 INTs

Now here he is under Jim Bob Cooter alone:

66.5 completion percentage, 7.47 Y/A, 98.1 passer rating—69 TDs and 23 INTs

For a team looking to start over with a young franchise quarterback, it’s easy to see how Cooter could be an attractive candidate. The combination of Stafford and Cooter has undoubtedly paid dividends for the Lions offense.

However, Cooter would be a seriously risky choice for any team looking to rebuild. He doesn’t have the experience of most head coaching candidates and he’s still has serious issues with developing a running game plan that works, along with some play-calling problems along the way.


Who is the better head coaching candidate right now?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Teryl Austin
    (649 votes)
  • 25%
    Jim Bob Cooter
    (224 votes)
873 votes total Vote Now