While the Detroit Lions were able to avoid losing either of their coordinators to a head coaching job this offseason, they did see a significant amount of overturn in their coaching ranks this offseason. In 2023, they’ll have a new running backs, tight ends, defensive line, and cornerbacks coach, not to mention a new senior assistant on each side of the ball.
On Wednesday, the Lions made most of these coaches available to the media for the first time, and we got a unique look into the perception of Detroit as an organization right now.
Take, for example, new senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler. He has been among the NFL coaching ranks since 2000, and after moving on from the Washington Commanders late in the offseason, he was thrown into the mix for the Detroit job and was thrilled with the potential of joining a hot, young team with an up-and-coming offensive coordinator in Ben Johnson.
He didn’t have a direct connection with anyone on the Lions’ staff, but the opportunity to work with one of the youngest and best offensive minds in football was a huge draw.
“For me, (my connections) needed to get a lot younger,” Hostler explained. “I was with a younger coach in Washington, Scottie (Turner). I knew his dad, so there was a connection there, but here I didn’t know (anyone). I was really fortunate to get in on this job. You can imagine the reputation that (Johnson has), the reputation that the head coach has. There were a lot of people who were interested in this job. I’m really blessed, fortunate that I got it. I’m really excited to learn and be a part of it.”
Defensive line coach John Scott had a similar experience. It wasn’t easy for him to leave Happy Valley after a successful three-year run at Penn State, but the opportunity to join a rising NFL team proved to be too tempting.
“I’ve been at some great college places and have helped guys develop to get to this league, but ultimately, I always knew I wanted to come back and work in the NFL,” Scott said. “What a tremendous opportunity to come and work here at this organization with a group that’s young, the way they finished off, where they’re going, so, I jumped all over this opportunity
For new tight ends coach Steve Heiden, it was all about fit. After spending his entire 10-year coaching career with the Arizona Cardinals, he wasn’t going to just jump at his first external opportunity. But in Detroit, he’s joining a team that has a fellow former NFL tight end as a head coach, and a former tight ends coach at both offensive coordinator and passing game coordinator. Unsurprisingly, Heiden thinks this team’s vision is right in-line with his.
“The opportunity for Dan (Campbell) to call me after the season, I jumped at the opportunity,” Heiden said. “I thought this place was a fit for me. To be honest, in my mind, a destination for me. I wanted to be here this is a place I want to be. I felt like I knew what Dan was all about and that was really kind of the direction I wanted to go with my career. This is the place I wanted to be.”
Cornerbacks coach Dre Bly had several reasons to sprinting to this job. For one, he wanted to experience something he never got to as a Lions cornerback way back in the day: legitimate buzz around this franchise.
“I‘m actually, I’m a little jealous, right?” Bly said. “Because just looking at how they finished last year. Looking at all the excitement they had on the field. Looking at how much fun they was having with Dan and the rest of the coaching staff. They were on ‘Hard Knocks.’ It was on TV. It’s a lot of excitement, man.
“When I heard people talking about the Lions here in this community, just all across the football, the football world, there is a lot of excitement. And me, as a former player, that’s something that you wish to be part of. I didn’t get the chance to experience some of that as a player, so it’s pretty cool to be back on that other side and to see the drive that the guys have.”
Bly also sprung at the opportunity to join the staff under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. In Bly’s first foray into coaching—as a minority coaching internship for the 2017 Saints in the preseason—his job was essentially shadowing Glenn, with Campbell also wandering those same halls.
“I was a Dan Campbell fan. I was an Aaron Glenn fan,” Bly said. “So we just stayed in touch. And that’s the thing... Coaching in college was great, I did a lot of things in Chapel Hill, had a chance to mentor some players and learn a lot. Mack Brown is one of my mentors. But to have a chance to teach ball 24/7 is something I love to do, and so I’m excited to be here. I’m thankful to Aaron and Dan for the opportunity they gave me.”
Senior defensive assistant John Fox has a different history with this coaching staff: he was the Giants’ defensive coordinator back when Dan Campbell was a tight end there and while he never coached Aaron Glenn, he was certainly aware of the Pro Bowl cornerback in his hayday.
“I elected not to go back to Indy, and I was kind of looking around, and it was a perfect situation to be with Dan and Aaron Glenn, both who I have great respect for,” Fox said. “I knew them as a players and knew them as people, and really excited about the things they’ve started here in Detroit.”
Looking at the hires the Lions have made and the reasons they gave for joining Detroit, it certainly looks like the Detroit Lions have become a coaching destination.