The Detroit Lions already rewarded one of their coordinators this offseason, and another might be on the way.
After giving offensive coordinator Ben Johnson a raise to stay in Detroit, the Lions have turned their attention to the defensive side of the ball. Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is reportedly getting a multi-year contract extension. The exact specifics are still unknown—the deal itself is still in progress as of now—but it paints a picture that the Lions value Glenn highly as a coordinator and voice in the locker room. The question is, do you feel the same way?
Glenn has been coach Dan Campbell’s right-hand man, acting as both a play caller and a fundamental leader on the team. As we saw during Hard Knocks this past season, Glenn is well-regarded by the coaches and players, a father figure to some and a mentor to others. Culture has been a key aspect of the Campbell era, and Glenn is one of the key cogs that has made Detroit a destination beloved by its players. For all the talent a team can have, a toxic environment can set a franchise back years—you need look no further than the Lions under Matt Patricia, a team that drove away players like Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs.
A defense’s performance is highly reflective of its play caller. In Detroit’s case, Glenn has been calling the shots on defense, and the on-paper results are mixed at best, awful at worst. Statistically, the Lions have boasted among the worst defenses in the league since Glenn took over as defensive coordinator. In 2021, they were second-worst in points against and 29th in defensive DVOA. In 2022, those numbers improved slightly, albeit still a poor fourth-worst in points against and 28th in defensive DVOA. The fact of the matter is that the Lions are supposedly extending the coordinator of a bottom-tier defense.
Yet is that the full story?
Given a roster lacking experience and, at times, talent, it was a difficult position for the Lions to succeed. On one hand, you could blame Glenn for his scheme—the Lions were rarely dominant on defense, some would argue a good scheme can overcome talent deficiencies. On the other hand, even the best scheme can go awry if the players aren’t executing it properly. A good example of this is from Hard Knocks when running backs coach Duce Staley called out D’Andre Swift for failing to execute despite his talent. You can criticize the teacher for not teaching well, but at some point, the players deserve blame for misreads or miscommunications.
Progress and growth are just as important for evaluating a team, and the Detroit Lions have been no exception. With the Lions hitting a hard reboot back in 2021, it meant building from the ashes of another’s failure. The Lions have been among the youngest teams in the NFL since Campbell took over as head coach, and Glenn’s defense is a prime example. In 2022, Tracy Walker and Amani Oruwariye were the seasoned veterans of the secondary at just 27 and 26 years of age, respectively. From Aidan Hutchinson up front to Jeff Okudah at corner, the Lions were heavily reliant on youth on defense.
Down the stretch of the 2022 season, the Lions defense showed plenty of improvement. It’s clear that the pieces were finally coming together on defense, but losses like the Week 16 Carolina Panthers game highlighted that the weaknesses were not entirely gone. The Lions are seemingly trending in the right direction, but with a big offseason ahead, will that remain true? And what part, good or bad, will Aaron Glenn play in the season to come?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Do you approve of an Aaron Glenn contract extension?
My answer: I approve of the extension.
The Lions’ defensive statistics will be the key argument against this extension, and I understand it. That being said, there is too much information we are not privy to in order to make a definitive statement about Glenn’s play-calling capabilities. We don’t have inside knowledge about the playbook, we can only other gather what we see on the field. You can pin some of the failures on Glenn, but to blame him entirely for the Lions’ defensive woes is unfair—there’s only so much Glenn can do from the sidelines. Looking back on the Lions’ season, talent and miscommunications were more glaring issues than scheme. Their roster is still very much in flux.
Signing Glenn to a contract extension sends the message that Detroit is committed to keeping an important locker room figure. You can argue all you want about culture not winning football games, but I believe it’s an important part of what has been and what will make Detroit successful. If you have coaches that players buy into, it creates an environment, not unlike a family. Players not only want to play under Glenn but play their best for him as well.
Extending Glenn shouldn’t factor into coaching decisions down the road. Should Glenn land a head coaching gig next offseason, the extension would mean very little to Detroit. Should the Lions decide to move on from Glenn after a poor defensive season, it would merely mean losing money. Coaches don’t impact the salary cap, so only the front office would feel the sting of firing Glenn, money that would be relatively meaningless to the on-field product. The biggest loss of firing Glenn would be the aforementioned locker room presence, but who knows what the upcoming year has in store.
In the present, extending Glenn does little harm. You can have qualms about whether Glenn is the right defensive coordinator for the job, but the contract extension itself has minimal bearing on that argument—if the Lions continue to struggle yet keep Glenn, that’s an organizational issue, not a contract extension issue. A contract extension would not keep the front office from firing a coach they no longer believed in.
The success or failure of Aaron Glenn and his defense will not be determined by this contract extension. It merely highlights their belief in Glenn going forward, and I am more than satisfied with that.
Do you approve of an Aaron Glenn contract extension?
This poll is closed