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Detroit Lions coaching profile: Get to know OL coach Hank Fraley

An in-depth look at the Lions’ new offensive line coach.

Detroit Lions v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

With the Detroit Lions making significant changes to their coaching staff this offseason, it’s time to get to know these people a little better. These are the people tasked with turning around this franchise on a dime.

Today, we’ll start with a coach that isn’t new to the team, but received a pretty hefty promotion this offseason. Hank Fraley was brought in the same year as head coach Matt Patricia, but served as an assistant offensive line coach for his first two years in Detroit. After Jeff Davidson stepped down earlier this offseason, Fraley is now the team’s offensive line coach.

Coaching Resume:

2012: University of San Diego - Offensive line coach
2013: San Jose State - Offensive line coach
2014-16: Minnesota Vikings - Assistant offensive line coach
2017: UCLA - Offensive line coach
2018-19: Detroit Lions - Assistant offensive line coach

Lions link:

Fraley was the assistant offensive line coach behind Jeff Davidson for two years with the Minnesota Vikings. Safe to say that Davidson—who has been the Lions’ offensive line coach for the past two years—had a big say in bringing Fraley along to Detroit.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Davidson said at the Senior Bowl this year. “It’s the reason I’ve had him around me quite a bit and I know he’ll do a great job.”

Playing career

Much of Fraley’s expertise comes from his extensive playing career. An undrafted prospect out of Robert Morris, Fraley ended up playing in the NFL for 11 seasons, including eight years as a full-time starter. As a starting center, he learned a lot about the offensive line and how it works together as a unit, collaborating often with his quarterback at the time, Donovan McNabb.

“After everybody went home, it was mainly just the two of us every Wednesday and Thursday,” Fraley told PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “We would just go sit down and watch. I had a lot of control with helping call the protections and calling blitzes. We just had a great understanding.”

Fraley also had a pretty prominent teammate in Browns left tackle Joe Thomas. After his retirement 11 years into the league, Thomas mentioned Fraley specifically as a huge force in his life.

“Those are guys that grinded with me on a daily basis,” Thomas said back in 2019. “They were in the trenches with me. They went through the tough times in training camp and August, when it was 95 degrees. They were by my side in the middle of December in snow storms.”

Coaching career

Noteworthy of Fraley’s coaching career is that he has never been fired. He has steadily moved upward throughout his entire career. After being an assistant for three years with the Vikings, he accepted a promotion at UCLA via legendary coach Jim Mora. When UCLA fired Mora the following year, Chip Kelly was planning on retaining Fraley. That’s when Davidson came calling from the Lions, and he continued his upward trajectory back to the NFL with a clear route to become the offensive line coach again.

As for his performance throughout the years, he oversaw one of the most successful running games in NFL history with Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. However, the team struggled in pass protection, leading to his mentor, Davidson, being fired before the 2016 season (Fraley kept his job).

At UCLA, Fraley helped turn around one of the worst offensive lines in the PAC 12.

2016 (Pre-Fraley): 84.3 rushing yards per game, 2.9 YPC
2017: 114.0 rushing yards per game, 3.8 YPC

Halfway through the season, some Bruins fans argued Fraley was their most valuable assistant coach.

“He’s taken a unit that mightily underwhelmed in 2016, lost their best player during the offseason and turned them into a functional group that outside of a handful of plays have done well to protect Rosen.”

In his own words:

Here’s a look at Fraley’s philosophy, based on his own quotes:

Via the Detroit Free Press:

“I was a grinder as a player and I want to grind as a coach and try to become great at this. And I got a long ways from that to become great, but I’m going to work towards it.”

Via the Daily News:

“I’m a believer in technique. If you can be technically sound, you don’t have to be the best all the time. You don’t have to be the best at all. But if you’re technically sound, you give yourself a chance.”

Via UCLA interview:

“The one thing I think you can control, I tell my kids all the time, you can control your effort. You may not get it right all the time, you may not even be the best, but your effort can always be high and that’s something you can always control.”

Extra: The Atlantic’s amazing 2004 profile of Hank Fraley as a player: “A Beautiful Mind

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