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Detroit Lions 2018 coaching staff profile: Who is David Corrao and what does he do?

A look at David Corrao’s career and what lies ahead for the Lions’ Director of Football Research:

Miami Dolphins 2009 Headshots

As the Detroit Lions continue to polish off their new coaching staff, there are a lot of new faces in the building. In our ongoing coaching profile series, we look to familiarize ourselves with some of these fresh minds to see what the Lions are in for.

Last week, we profiled one of the Lions’ biggest additions: offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. Today, let’s take a closer look at the lesser-known David Corrao, who was hired as the team’s Director of Football Research.

David Corrao - Director of Football Research


  • 2000-01: Syracuse defensive quality control assistant
  • 2002: Syracuse defensive back assistant
  • 2003: Syracuse linebackers assistant
  • 2004: Northeastern tight ends coach
  • 2005-06: Mississippi graduate assistant
  • 2007: Mississippi linebacker coach
  • 2008-09: Miami Dolphins defensive quality control coach
  • 2010-11: Dolphins defensive quality control/Assistant linebackers coach
  • 2012-15: Dolphins Assistant linebackers coach
  • 2016: Northern Michigan defensive coordinator
  • 2017: Ole Miss senior player personnel assistant

Obviously, Corrao has had his fingers in several pies throughout his football coaching career. While mostly focused on the defensive side of the ball, he has done just about everything for a football team. He’s dabbled in recruiting, coached tight ends and linebackers, had a brief stint as a defensive coordinator, and most recently spent time in the personnel department.

He knows Lions head coach Matt Patricia from his four years at Syracuse, three of which overlapped with his now-boss when Patricia was the team’s offensive graduate assistant.

The most prolific job on Corrao’s resume is his eight years with the Miami Dolphins. There he managed to stay on staff throughout a head coaching change—Tony Sparano to Joe Philbin—and a complete change in defensive schemes. Under Sparano, Corrao helped build up a 3-4 defense. Under Philbin, he had to adjust to a 4-3 scheme.

During his time with the Dolphins, he helped coach up such Pro Bowl talent as Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby.

After the Dolphins job, he earned his highest position to date: Northern Michigan defensive coordinator. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disaster for the first-time DC. Northern Michigan went from allowing 437.3 yards and 28.6 points per game in 2015 to 505.7 yards and 40.2 points per game under Corrao. Safe to say, Corrao was partially responsible for the Wildcats’ poor 3-8 season.

From there, he moved to a much bigger program into a much more hidden role. Corrao became Ole Miss’ personnel department for a year, before being reunited with Patricia last week.

What is he going to do?

So Corrao joins the Lions with another title he has yet to ever claim: Director of Football Research. It’s a very vague title, and likely purposely so. The position was previously filled by Randy Edsall in 2016, but Edsall left to become the head coach at UConn last year.

Not every team has this position on staff, but a quick search of the job yields one name, and one name alone: Ernie Adams. Adams has been the Football Research Director for the New England Patriots since... the year 2000. Adams is a mysterious man in the halls of Foxborough, but according to this in-depth profile of the Patriots’ employee, his work has been absolutely critical to New England’s success.

Adams, who is officially listed as “football research director,” is the man behind the Patriots’ iron curtain. He is the man who has Belichick’s ear. He is a football genius, a statistical savant, the Rain Man of the NFL. In the words of late author David Halberstam, Adams is “Belichick’s Belichick.’’

So what does Adams do? According to Bill Belichick himself, he’s one of the key voices in coaching decisions. “Ernie’s really a great sounding board for me personally and other members of our staff,” Belichick told the Boston Globe. “Particularly coaching staff. Strategy, rules, decisions.”

Patricia was obviously part of the Patriots’ coaching staff that would use Adams when needed, and now it appears he’s looking for an Ernie Adams of his own. There’s little chance we hear much of anything from Corrao—Adams consistently remained secretive and declined interview requests—but we have some idea of what he may bring to the Lions.

Here’s just some of the work Adams did in New England:

Adams works up to 100 hours per week during the season. He studies film, devours statistics, reports on trends, and develops strategies on 2-point conversions, fourth-down attempts, and timeout preservations. He runs the vaunted Patriot “value chart,’’ helping Belichick on personnel decisions regarding free agents, trades, and the draft.

Corrao’s extensive resume at multiple positions makes him uniquely qualified for these sort of tasks. We don’t know if he’s a “football genius” or “statistical savant,” but we do know that he knows what it’s like to call plays on defense. He knows how to scout. He knows how to coach certain positions, and he’s had experience on both the college and professional level. Having coached for nearly two decades now, he knows the game inside and out, and perhaps more importantly, he’s familiar with Matt Patricia.

Will he succeed in his new role or will he fizzle out like his brief time at Northern Michigan? It’s impossible to know now, and to be honest, we’ll likely never know what exactly he did and how well he did it.

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