Matt Patricia was the leading candidate to take the Detroit Lions’ head coaching job from the moment the vacancy became available. After Jim Caldwell was fired following a disappointing 2017 season, Patricia’s name was at the top of the list.
While the Lions waited for Patricia to become available, as the Patriots went deeper and deeper into the playoffs, they interviewed several other candidates. One of those candidates was their defensive coordinator at the time, Teryl Austin.
Austin and his agent Eric Metz recently talked with The Athletic about Austin’s frustrating road to becoming a head coach. After some success in Detroit, Austin was a hot name to be the next up-and-coming head coach. He interviewed with 10 different teams, including the Lions, but he never landed the job. His interview with Detroit was specifically frustrating for Austin.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get that job,” Austin told the Athletic.
Metz accused the Lions of something more, however.
“It was just a token interview,” Metz said. “They knew he interviewed very well in other places.”
What Metz is hinting at is that Detroit was simply satisfying the Rooney Rule, an NFL rule that requires every team to include at least one minority candidate during every head coaching search.
While Metz’s accusations could be true, evidence seems to point to the contrary. Detroit would later interview Packers assistant head coach Winston Moss, and they attempted to set up an interview with Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, but he turned down the offer. Both of those coaches would have met the Rooney Rule requirement.
What seems more likely is that the Lions were simply discussing all of their options. Maybe Austin was a long shot to actually win the job, but the Lions felt it was important to hear him out. Hell, they interviewed Jim Bob Cooter on the same day. It made sense to interview them both at the time since they were right there and available. Austin may be right in that he was never going to get that job, but the suggestion that this was a Rooney Rule interview ignores some evidence to the contrary.
Since missing out on NFL head coaching opportunities, Austin landed a job as the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals. After Marvin Lewis was fired last season, Austin has landed on his feet as a senior defensive assistant for the Pittsburgh Steelers.