The Detroit Lions are in the market for a new head coach. They’ll have a bunch of candidates for the job -- one that could be attractive because of some of the pieces in place. That includes quarterback Matthew Stafford, cornerback Darius Slay and safety Glover Quin.
But what about the job-seekers themselves? Here’s a chance to learn about them as we profile candidates in a coaching dossier. We continue with the second of the Lions coordinators to receive an interview Tuesday -- offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
Name: Jim Bob Cooter
Alma mater: Tennessee
Previous experience: Offensive coordinator, Lions (2015-17); Quarterbacks coach, Lions (2014-15); Offensive assistant, Denver Broncos (2013); Quality control coach coach, Kansas City Chiefs (2012); Assistant to offensive coordinator, Indianapolis Colts (2011); Offensive assistant, Colts (2010); Staff assistant to offense, Colts (2009); Graduate assistant, University of Tennessee (2007-08).
Connection to GM Bob Quinn, the Lions or Michigan: Cooter has been Detroit’s offensive coordinator the last two-plus seasons, including the entirety of Quinn’s tenure with Detroit. He knows what he has in Cooter at this point and potentially in the future.
Status: Interviewed with Lions on Tuesday.
Strengths: Cooter has shown flashes of innovation during his time as Detroit’s offensive coordinator, the playcall here or there that displayed his potential as both a coordinator and future head coach. His familiarity with Detroit’s offense, and with Stafford in particular, is key; if the Lions are looking for true continuity there, they could promote Cooter and then make an assistant like, say, Brian Callahan the new offensive coordinator. Cooter is exceptionally smart and able to decipher a lot of information quickly and then explain it in an easy manner to his players. Marvin Jones and Stafford both stumped for Cooter to stay Monday -- but they didn’t say whether they thought that should be as a head coach or coordinator. He's still evolving as a coach, so the potential for a big-time splash is there -- but it also comes with a big-time risk if it doesn't work out.
Concerns: There are a lot. First is Detroit’s offense last season, which had many layers of predictability and stagnated far too often. His scripts at the beginning of games often led to slow starts. The run game was nonexistent with Cooter in charge of the offense; the team didn’t have a 100-yard rusher in any game he coordinated. The Lions also have struggled to protect Stafford throughout Cooter's tenure. Some of these concerns might be more issues with what Jim Caldwell wanted than with Cooter's ability to adjust to scheme and players, but it's been a noticeable problem. He is far from polished in front of the media, and that could be a concern for a face of the franchise. He has potential as a head coach, but this seems too soon for him make the leap. As with Teryl Austin, promoting Cooter would feel an awful lot like a continuation of Caldwell instead of a true new voice and change in leadership. Frankly, there were times he didn’t seem to handle scrutiny well as an offensive coordinator, and that should be a concern, too.