Earlier this week, I graded out the Lions offseason, and one of the highest marks I handed out was for Detroit’s coaching staff—more importantly, the Lions’ ability to keep their coaching staff together despite other teams having interest in a few members of the staff. Today I want to take a look at the Lions coaching staff, try to predict what the future may be for them and if the Lions should be prepared to lose them.
Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn
It feels like Glenn has one step out of the door already. This offseason Glenn had head coaching interviews with the Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints. Glenn then attended the NFL’s accelerator program this offseason, a program designed to help broaden the diversity of the NFL’s coaching staffs and front offices.
He’s going to get another shot at interviews this offseason, and the buzz will be red-hot should Detroit win some ballgames this year and the defense shows significant progress. There were nine head coaching openings this offseason, and there were seven openings in 2021. It’s going to be really difficult to see Aaron Glenn on this team beyond 2022 if things go well this season.
Defensive backs coach/pass game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant
Pleasant got some interviews of his own this offseason. Both the Vikings and Saints had him in to interview for their defensive coordinator positions. Pleasant is a rising star in the coaching world. He’s worked his way up from being a defensive backs coach for Grand Blanc High School to coaching intern with the Browns to becoming the Lions defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator. He had stops with the Commanders and Rams along the way.
The way the Lions secondary—filled with undrafted rookies and former practices squad players—grew and performed in 2021 really shows that Pleasant can be a leader and a good teacher. If that sort of growth continues in 2022, Pleasant should see some more interviews come his way. Imagine a world where Aaron Glenn gets a head coaching gig and takes Pleasant with him to be his DC. That world could be very real some day. Of course, it’s also very possible that if the Lions lose Glenn first, Pleasant could be a candidate to take his job in Detroit.
Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson
The Lions shouldn’t have to worry too much here unless the offense absolutely explodes in 2022, and the Lions start lighting up defenses every week. Still, Johnson is a name that people are starting to pay attention to around the league. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor recently said that he’s tried to hire Johnson on multiple occasions. If things go well, Taylor won’t be the only coach to try to hire Johnson.
The good news for the Lions is that while Johnson has made a name for himself in other areas, this is his first shot at running an offense, and he’s more than likely going to have to prove himself for a little while before a team decides to give him the head coaching reigns.
Linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard
Sheppard is still pretty new to the coaching world. He only has one year of coaching under his belt. It’s super early in the game. It may even be too early to even mention him in this piece. However, players have already responded to Sheppard ‘s leadership, and he’s already earned a promotion since last season, moving from outside linebackers coach to just linebackers coach.
Maybe he resonates with the players because he was playing pro football just a few years ago. The Lions shouldn’t worry about losing Sheppard any time too soon, but don’t be shocked when it happens.
Running backs/assistant head coach Duce Staley
Staley is another guy whose star is growing in the coaching world. The Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach drew rave reviews as the head coach of the American team at the Senior Bowl this year. He showed that he can be a head coach, and he showed that players respond very well to him. When he talks, they listen. It doesn’t hurt that he helped coach the Eagles to a Super Bowl either. Don’t be shocked to see Staley get some head coaching interviews in the next cycle.