The Detroit Lions’ coaching staff made plenty of strides in 2021, but the offensive coordinator position remains a point of focus. The Lions and Anthony Lynn parted ways following a lackluster season in which head coach Dan Campbell took over play calling duties following the bye week. While questionable at times, that change did result in three wins for the Lions, and a conflicting philosophy ended Lynn’s time in Detroit.
That leaves the question: who takes his place? There are multiple candidates both in-house and out, giving the Lions a tough decision to make regarding the future of the offense. The Lions lacked an identity on offense last season, and they may look for a coach to complement the available talent. The Lions have begun interviewing candidates, although that list remains shrouded in mystery.
The easiest answer is Ben Johnson. The current tight ends coach, Johnson had a significant role in the offense following Lynn’s removal of play calling duties. Johnson worked as the offensive coordinator in the recent Senior Bowl, giving the young coach some much-needed experience. The Lions had no shortage of trickery and creative plays last season, and Johnson had his fingerprint on many of them.
It would not be the first time the Lions hired a new offensive coordinator from within. Following the firing of Joe Lombardi in 2015, quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter became the offensive coordinator. After a honeymoon period of success, it quickly soured as the Lions offense devolved into mediocrity. Of the remaining offensive coaches, Duce Staley has the likeliest shot of getting promoted, having served as assistant head coach and head coach at the Senior Bowl.
Scouting for good offensive coordinators can be a broad topic, but looking at the quarterbacks coach for a successful team is a good place to start. Ken Dorsey, Mike Kafka, and Luke Getsy are all off the market following their promotions to offensive coordinator for the Bills, Giants, and Bears, respectively. Pep Hamilton was the quarterbacks coach for the Chargers in 2020 and the Texans in 2021, and both teams saw positive growth from their quarterbacks under him. If the Lions want to explore the Saints connection yet again, current quarterbacks coach and former wide receivers coach Ronald Curry is an option. As for a Los Angeles Rams connection, Zac Robinson has been successful as an assistant coach and could be on the Lions’ radar.
There are a few other names getting kicked around the league. The Browns offensive line has had a lot of success under Bill Callahan. Much like Anthony Lynn, a failed head coach could be an option. Despite the false rumors of Detroit hiring him, former Bears head coach and Chiefs coordinator Matt Nagy will likely return to a coordinator position and could provide valuable experience. Adam Gase and Bill O’Brien are options as well, although reports are popping up that the Patriots are interested.
With plenty of names, some new and some old, who is your pick for offensive coordinator?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Who do you want to be the next Lions offensive coordinator?
My answer: Pep Hamilton is my top pick.
While there is a benefit to hiring someone already with the team, I have been impressed with Hamilton’s track record with quarterbacks. This would be good news for Jared Goff or his eventual replacement, whether drafted this year or further down the road. In 2020, Justin Herbert exploded onto the scene following a promising-but-inconsistent time at Oregon. Herbert obviously deserves praise, but I think Hamilton was a key reason for that success—that team also had Anthony Lynn as head coach.
Hiring a coach from the lowly Houston Texans doesn’t sound promising on paper, but they were able to get productive performances from rookie quarterback Davis Mills. The Texans, as a whole, were awful in 2021, but much like the Lions, it felt like Hamilton was able to overachieve given the available talent.
Hamilton’s most recent stint as offensive coordinator lasted from 2013 to 2015 with the Indianapolis Colts. He was paired with Andrew Luck, whom he also coached at Stanford. He was fired mid-way through the 2015 season, but it’s hard to blame him for their struggles. The 2013 and 2014 Colts had an impressive passing attack, but 2015 saw injuries to Luck hamper their offense. A 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck is a major step down from then-star quarterback Andrew Luck. Making matters worse was their run game, featuring the likes of Frank Gore, Trent Richardson, Donald Brown, and Ahmad Bradshaw.
If the Lions truly want to test Jared Goff’s potential to be their long-term starter, they need to get someone to work with him. I think Pep Hamilton would be a great fit.