The Detroit Lions officially announced on Thursday that nearly their entire defensive coaching staff will miss Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to close contact with a member of the staff who has tested positive for COVID-19, in addition to interim head coach Darrell Bevell.
Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, defensive line coach Bo Davis, linebacker coach Ty McKenzie, and defensive backs coach Steve Gregory will all not be available on Saturday, leaving the Lions scrambling for coaches to help the defense on game day. The Lions also announced the coaches who will be replacing them on Saturday.
Here’s a full breakdown:
Head coach: Robert Prince — current WR coach
Offense play-caller: Sean Ryan — current QB coach
Defense play-caller: Evan Rothstein — current head coach assistant/research and analysis
Defensive backs coach: Tony Carter — current defensive assistant
Linebackers coach: David Corrao — current head coach assistant/research and analysis)
Defensive line coach: Ty Warren — current WCF minority coaching assistant
The big news out of here is that Evan Rothstein will be calling plays on defense. At first, it may seem like an odd choice for the job. Rothstein has spent much of his time (see 2015-17) as an assistant on the offensive side of the ball. He’s also only been in the NFL since 2012, first starting as a quality control/special teams coach for the Lions.
However on Thursday, Bevell said that there isn’t a person on staff that knows this defense better than Rothstein:
“With the last couple years under (Matt) Patricia, he’s worked, basically, on the defensive side of the ball,” Bevell said. “So he’s probably our most knowledgeable—not probably, he is our most knowledgeable in terms of our defense.”
That being said, the Lions will have two people acting as play-callers who have never done it before in their career. Sean Ryan has never been a coordinator, mostly spending his career as a quarterbacks or wide receivers coach. And Rothstein has never even been a position coach on defense.
With the Lions set to face a 9-5 Buccaneers team on Saturday, the Lions are certainly going to have to overcome a ton of adversity to even stay close on game day.