The Detroit Lions surprised a lot of people on Tuesday when they made a small, but important change at quarterbacks coach. Out goes George Godsey, in goes Sean Ryan. As Justin Rogers of The Detroit News pointed out, this will be Stafford’s fourth quarterbacks coach in five years, leaving Ryan with a big responsibility to get Stafford’s career turned around after an extremely disappointing 2018 season.
To many, Ryan is an unknown commodity—seeing as quarterbacks coaches don’t get much media play. So here are three thoughts I have on the Lions newest coach:
Perhaps the most positive thing about this hire was the perception that Sean Ryan is an up-and-comer. Last year, Ryan’s success in Houston with Deshaun Watson led to offensive coordinator interviews with the Vikings and Browns. Though he failed to land those jobs, the fact that he is getting looks speaks to the respect he’s earned around the league.
Ryan has steadily worked his way up from quality control coach to quarterbacks coach and had plenty of stops along the way. As a result, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien believes Ryan is fully capable of calling plays in the future.
“I think Sean is destined to be a coordinator in this league,” O’Brien said back in 2017. “He’s a very bright guy, is quick on his feet and works his butt off. Players respect him. So, yeah, I can see him doing that (calling plays) down the road.”
No Patriots ties... well, not really
Matt Patricia has earned some criticism for only hiring coaches he has had a previous relationship with. While that’s certainly common in the NFL—especially for a first-time head coaches—Patricia appeared to take that strategy to its limits his first year.
Patricia has never worked alongside Ryan, but they do share some history and some philosophy. Having worked under Bill O’Brien for the past three years, Ryan is very, very familiar with the Patriots’ offensive scheme. Here’s an interesting passage I found from Brett Kollmann, a contributor over at Battle Red Blog, the SB Nation Texans blog:
He’s very, very familiar with the scheme that O’Brien (and the Patriots) run, which is a modified version of the Erhardt-Perkins system. Ironically, Bill Belichick first started learning and adopting that system when he was with the Giants back in the day.
Obviously, Ryan’s predecessor—George Godsey—was similarly well-versed in the Patriots’ scheme, but the (lack of) results from 2018 speak for themselves. What will be interesting to see is how Ryan’s philosophy melds with new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who doesn’t really have experience using the Erhardt-Perkins approach (explained nicely here).
Perhaps the most curious part of this hire is the fact that Ryan took a completely lateral move to Detroit. By all accounts, Ryan wasn’t fired from Houston, yet he took the exact same job with the Lions.
Did Ryan have some philosophical differences with O’Brien? Does he prefer working with a veteran quarterback (Matthew Stafford) to a young one (Deshaun Watson)? Was Ryan frustrated that there wasn’t likely any chance at a promotion in Houston with O’Brien running the show on offense?
It’s impossible to know exactly why Ryan made the move, and we likely won’t have any clear idea until he talks with the media—and that could be several months from now. Regardless the reason, it’s a good look for the Lions that they could pull a well-respected coach away from another team.