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Monday open thread: Was Teryl Austin’s time in Detroit a success?

With his time likely coming to an end soon, let’s look back on Teryl Austin’s four years in Detroit.

NFL: DEC 31 Packers at Lions Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Late on Sunday night, news broke that current Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had begun negotiations with the Cincinnati Bengals to become their new defensive coordinator. While nothing is official yet and Ian Rapoport is reporting that Austin is still in the mix for the Lions’ head coaching job, it seem more than likely that Austin has coached his final game for the Lions.

So let’s take a look back on his career in Detroit. Austin coached four years with the Lions to varying degrees of success. Obviously, his first year was his best. In 2014, Detroit’s defense carried them to an 11-5 record, a near division title and a playoff berth.

It was all downhill from there, but was that a product of poor personnel or uninventive coaching?

So today’s Question of the Day is:

Was Teryl Austin’s four years with the Detroit Lions a success?

My answer: Let’s break it down with some statistics. First, here are the Lions’ defensive rankings by Football Outsiders’ DVOA:

2014: 3rd
2015: 16th
2016: 32nd
2017: 19th

Now let’s look at their ranking by scoring defense:

2014: 3rd
2015: 23rd
2016: 13th
2017: 21st

These stats pretty much show what we all already knew: Teryl Austin can take a stacked defensive roster and build a pretty impressive defense around it. However, when that talent is gone, he struggles.

That obviously doesn’t say much about Austin as a coordinator. But let’s take a closer look at some of those stats, specifically the year 2016.

The Lions defensive roster was completely bereft of talent that year. Ezekiel Ansah was completely ineffective with a high ankle sprain, DeAndre Levy’s injury-riddled career was coming to an end, Detroit had little-to-no depth at cornerback, and their overall pass rush was as impotent as it was in 2017.

As a result, the Lions had the worst play-by-play efficiency according to DVOA. Yet, they actually ranked 13th in points allowed. I think Austin deserves a ton of credit that year for recognizing just how poor his talent level was and developing a defense that was basically bend-and-break, but bleed so much time from the clock that it limits possessions and keeps the offense in the game.

In those situations, you’d love to have a defensive coordinator that can get more out of their players than expected, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, I don’t know if there’s a defensive coordinator out there that could have made that defense look competent. Austin at least allowed the Lions to stay in games they likely had no business competing in, and Matthew Stafford took full advantage of those opportunities.

So overall, I think Austin did have a successful four years in Detroit. It wasn’t enough, and while some defensive players saw good improvement under Austin’s tutelage (Darius Slay, Kerry Hyder), many didn’t (Miles Killebrew, Kyle Van Noy). The Lions are probably right to move on at this time—especially if they’re hiring a defensive-minded coach—but the Bengals are also likely getting a pretty good coach themselves.

Your turn.


Was Teryl Austin’s four years in Detroit a success?

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