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5 potential offensive coordinator candidates for the Detroit Lions

A look at five different coaches that could replace Jim Bob Cooter.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams-Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Detroit Lions have officially decided to part ways with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, it’s time for Matt Patricia to round out his coaching staff entirely in his image. Cooter was one of a few couple carryovers from the Jim Caldwell era, so Patricia will have no more excuses going forward.

This will be an extremely important offseason for Patricia, who entered his Lions career with a 90 percent approval rating. Now it sits at just 24 percent. His first offseason assignment may be his most important: find an offensive coordinator that can get Matthew Stafford back on track and take advantage of the Lions’ talent on offense.

Here’s a look at some of the coordinators Patricia may be looking at.

Adam Gase

Current job: Just fired as Dolphins head coach

Let’s start with the hottest name. Gase has been considered one of the NFL’s best offensive minds ever since getting the absolute most of out Tim Tebow in Denver and Jay Cutler in Chicago.

As a head coach, Gase went just 23-25 for the Dolphins, but his ability to run the offense was hurt by the fact that Ryan Tannehill missed 24 games over the past three seasons. In his three years in Miami, the Dolphins ranked 17th, 28th and 26th in points scored.

Perhaps the best part about Gase’s resume—as it relates to the Lions—is that his offense has some similarities to Jim Bob Cooter’s. The transition wouldn’t be that tough, especially for Matthew Stafford.

However, the biggest challenge in landing Gase is that he is one of the hotter commodities among the head coaching vacancies. He’s considered a top candidate for the Packers job, and he’s reportedly scored an interview with the Cardinals.

Steve Sarkisian

Current job: Just fired as Falcons offensive coordinator

Falcons fans would tell you to stay the hell away from Steve Sarkisian, but his track record isn’t nearly as bad as they may suggest. Sure, he hasn’t been anywhere near as explosive as his predecessor, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, but the Falcons offense has certainly been the least of their worries over the past two years since Sarkisian took over.

The Falcons ranked 15th in scoring in 2017 and 10th this year. In terms of DVOA efficiency, they were ninth last year, and eighth this season.

One of the biggest, more recent criticisms of Sarkisian is his perceived horrible red zone play calling, something that would not be welcome in Detroit—where they’ve had their fair share of similar struggles. However, in 2018 the Falcons actually ranked 14th in points per red zone trip and 11th in touchdowns per red zone appearance. Admittedly, however, the team ranked 23rd in both categories last year.

Shane Waldron

Current job: Rams passing game coordinator

When it started to appear that Jim Bob Cooter’s seat was scorching hot, Shane Waldron was the most popular name Lions fans could think of. He has a Patriots connection—having worked in New England as an offensive assistant and was eventually promoted to tight ends coach. His time in Foxborough overlapped time with both Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn. And the Rams offense has been spectacular to watch this season.

The question is how much of the Los Angeles Rams’ highly-publicized offensive success was a result of Waldron’s coaching. Obviously, Sean McVay gets a lot of the credit as the architect and the play caller, but Waldron has already seen one promotion under McVay, so it’s clear he values him.

George Godsey

Current job: Lions quarterback coach

Godsey wouldn’t be the most exciting of hires, but it’s one that would make a lot of sense. He has a Patriots background, having worked as an offensive assistant (2011) and tight ends coach (2012-13) with New England. And while it’s technically an internal hire, it’s not like Godsey is a leftover from the Cooter regime. He was only brought into Detroit last year as a defensive assistant and special projects guy.

Where Cooter may have failed building chemistry and establishing an offense to Patricia’s liking, Godsey likely would see more eye-to-eye with the Lions head coach.

But if Godsey is their guy, one has to wonder why they didn’t give him a tryout in the final few weeks of the season to test his chops as a playcaller. However, Godsey was the offensive coordinator for the Texans for two years, so it’s not like playcalling is a completely foreign concept to him.

Freddie Kitchens

Current job: Browns offensive coordinator

Many in Cleveland are hoping Kitchens stays around either as the offensive coordinator or even as the franchise’s next head coach (he has an interview for the position already). It’s easy to see why. Once Hue Jackson was out of the door and took offensive play caller Todd Haley with him, Kitchens helped turned the Cleveland Browns into one of the most exciting offenses. Just look at the split for the Browns.

Pre Freddie Kitchens: 21.1 PPG, 74.7 passer rating, 4.6 Y/A
Post Freddie Kitchens: 23.8 PPG, 104.9 passer rating, 4.6 Y/A

Considering the Lions’ struggles in the passing game in 2018, that incredible improvement in passer rating is bound to turn some heads in Detroit.

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