Remember that time the Lions finished the season with one of the worst defenses in the league? It was something that spawned a bunch of terminations and “retirements.” You should remember it. It was only a few weeks ago.
After Paul Pasqualoni “walked away from football,” the hope in Detroit was that the Lions would replace him with someone that would generate a huge sense of excitement towards the Lions and their supposed make-or-break season in 2020. Would it be Wade Phillips? Kris Richard? Some guy with the word defense in his name? Fans couldn’t wait to know.
Well on Monday they got their answer when the Lions went out and hired Eagles defensive backs coach Cory Undlin. The city erupted with joy of the news that Matt Patricia had hired his friend that he worked with in New England 16 years ago.
Many aren’t happy. Some are left wondering why? Just about everyone has talked to their friend that’s an Eagles fan who is happy the Lions took Undlin off their hands. Things have been going really well.
I’ll be honest. I have no idea who this guy is. I’m sure I’m not the only one. So I decided to chat with our friend Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation and get some answers and info. Here’s what he had to say.
Let’s start here. Who the heck is this guy?
“The Eagles hired Undlin in 2015 to replace much-maligned defensive backs coach John Lovett. There was excitement about the Undlin addition given he had worked with some impressive Denver Broncos defenses.
The Eagles thought highly enough of Undlin to retain him when Chip Kelly got fired and Doug Pederson replaced him in 2016. Undlin never oversaw an Eagles secondary that was considered to be great but Philadelphia’s defensive backs were obviously good enough to help the Eagles win Super Bowl LII.
There was thought the Eagles might part ways with Undlin this offseason due to continued secondary struggles. It comes as a surprise that the Lions coveted him.”
There’s been a lot of concerns about the Eagles defensive backs recently, is Undlin to blame?
“I think it’s tough to say.
People will point to the Eagles not getting enough out of 2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones and 2017 third-round pick Rasul Douglas. But it seems pretty possible to me that they’re just not ideal starters in the NFL, and they’re not going to be much better under a new defensive backs coach.
The Eagles did get more than expected out of 2016 seventh-round pick Jalen Mills and 2018 mid-season waiver claim Cre’Von LeBlanc. The Eagles were working with a pretty banged up secondary during the 2019 NFL playoffs and yet they beat the Bears before holding the Saints to a season-low home points total in the divisional round.
I don’t think Undlin was as terrible of a defensive backs coach as some Eagles fans might lead you to believe.”
Do you think this guy is capable of being a DC in the NFL?
“There was thought the Eagles might promote Undlin to defensive coordinator if they ever lost Jim Schwartz to a head coaching job. So, it doesn’t seem so crazy to me.
I don’t really know about his scheming chops but Undlin has a track record of experience and he seemed to be well-liked by his players. His fiery, authoritative presence was impossible to miss while watching Eagles practices considering how he was often yelling at his defensive backs. Sometimes it was praise. Other times he was chewing them out. This isn’t to suggest that being loud equates to being a good leader but he’s definitely not timid.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Undlin turned out to be a decent defensive coordinator.”
What should Lions fans worry about the most here?
“The worry is that there isn’t much known about Undlin’s scheming ability. His player development track record could also be better. That the Eagles had a lot of miscommunications in the secondary might stem back to him.
I’ll also note that the Eagles could’ve retained Undlin if they really wanted to. Going from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator is viewed as a lateral move in terms of being able to block a hiring … and the Eagles did not prevent Undlin from leaving.
And with Matt Patricia being a defensive-minded head coach, it’s not like Undlin is leaving Philly for a dream opportunity where he’d have full control over a defense.
I think the way this situation worked out for the Eagles was convenient. They probably didn’t want to outright fire him but they also didn’t mind that he moved on.”
What should Lions fans be pumped about?
“I think Undlin is pretty hungry to prove himself with additional responsibility. This is his first defensive coordinator job in nearly 20 years. I think he’s a dude with head coach aspirations as opposed to being some lifer content with being an assistant for his entire career. Undlin could light a fire under the Lions’ defense if he brings his same energy to Detroit.
I’m not counting on him becoming some elite defensive coordinator but I think he deserves a fair shake before people rush to write him off.”