At the moment, the Detroit Lions aren’t in immediate need of a new offensive coordinator. There are only five games left in the season, and no new hire will bring the Lions out of a 4-7 pit and into the playoff picture.
However, to call current offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter on the hot seat would be an understatement. After “turning around” Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ struggling offense in the middle of the 2015 season, Cooter has been responsible for an offense that has, in many ways, remained stagnant or declined over the past few years. Detroit currently ranks 21st in points scored, Stafford’s yards per attempt are the lowest since 2012, and while the Lions’ run game appears to have had a resurgence, it hasn’t helped the unit’s overall success much.
Seeing as Cooter is not a Matt Patricia hire, it seems quite possible that the first-time head coach will be looking to install his own offensive coordinator next season. A few outlets have already compiled a list of potential replacements for Cooter, and easily one of the hotter names among Lions fans is current Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron.
It’s easy to see why he’s the catchiest name out there. The Rams’ passing game has been explosive since Waldron came in with head coach Sean McVay last year, and the man has already received a promotion in his 1.5-year stint with Los Angeles. Waldron joined the Rams as the tight ends coach, but was promoted to passing game coordinator after offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur jumped to join the Titans after the 2017 season. Los Angeles now runs without an offensive coordinator, with McVay calling the plays and the rest of the OC duties split between Waldron and run-game coordinator Aaron Kromer.
“I think Shane has given us a whole lot more than a passing game coordinator,” McVay told the Lions media on Wednesday. “I think the leadership that he provides, the steady force as far as just a great demeanor, a great presence, (he’s) somebody that I can certainly learn from.”
Waldron’s name has been linked to the Lions not only because of the Rams’ success, but because he shares a Patriots background that could appeal to both general manager Bob Quinn and Patricia. Waldron had two stints in New England, the first from 2002 to 2004 as an operations intern and operations assistant. After joining Charlie Weiss in Notre Dame as a special teams quality control coach, he returned to the Patriots in 2008 as an offensive quality control coach and eventually a tight ends coach. There he overlapped with both Quinn (scout) and Patricia (then linebackers coach), before eventually meeting up with McVay in Washington back in 2016.
While it’s a different background than McVay, the Rams head coach sees that as a positive.
“I think the thing that I’m so appreciative of—selfishly, in my role—is that his background is different than mine, and he’s been able to give me a lot of things that we’ve learned, that I’ve learned, from him that then we’ve been then been able to implement with how we want to operate with the Rams.”
So is he ready to make the jump to offensive coordinator just a few years into his professional coaching career? McVay thinks so.
“Absolutely. I would be extremely disappointed, selfishly, if we lost him but so happy if that’s something that he felt like was the next step for he and his family,” McVay said. “But there’s no doubt about it, he’s a great coach and he’s certainly ready if that’s the next step that he decides he wants to take.”