Stephen White: We have actually had more firings this week in the NFL. This time, however, it wasn't the head coach, but much of the offensive staff in Detroit. It is interesting that they let go of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi even though, as we have discussed before, it was Jim Caldwell's offensive bonafides, specifically his prospective "fixing" of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, that helped land him in the job in the first place.
So first of all, do you think the firings of Lombardi as well as the two offensive line coaches, Jeremiah Washington and Terry Heffernan, were warranted considering how the season has gone for Detroit on offense? And also is there a chance that a Jim Bob Cooter-led Lions offense can catch fire the last 10 weeks of the season?
Danny Kelly: On one hand, it feels like firing your offensive coordinator and offensive line coaches is simply dispatching some scapegoats, but on the other hand, you could kind of see this coming. It's not like Detroit is lacking in offensive weapons. When Golden Tate came out and (inadvertently) threw Joe Lombardi under the bus in saying that other teams knew which plays were coming, I cringed, because I knew that in the Court of Public Opinion, Lombardi was toast, even if it wasn't really his fault.
The firing of the offensive line coaches reminds me of an annual tradition we see here in Seattle for the always shitty hitting Mariners: the firing of the hitting coach. It probably doesn't achieve much of anything, but it's a sacrifice that the head coach or GM is willing to make to show some form of action and acknowledgement that things are not working the way they're going about it. Now, will Jim Bob Cooter be the spark for the Lions that Dan Campbell's been for the Dolphins? I got no clue, honestly (hashtag analysis). I tend to think that with all those weapons on offense that we will see improvement because really is there anywhere to go but up? The Lions are the worst rushing team in the NFL right now per DVOA (hence the firing of the offensive line coaches, I guess), so I'm guessing that Cooter (man, we really are going to have to write that name a lot now) will focus on getting that jumpstarted. With Matthew Stafford passing to Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson on the outside and Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew, and Tim Wright at tight end, this is a team that should be, at worst, average on offense.
At the end of the day though, I am not optimistic that this will be a big turnaround for the Lions. They did not take the major step of firing their head coach -- so I don't think this will have the same galvanizing effect that we saw in Miami. And, as you say, we're not even really sure Miami is that much better than they were before.
What's your take on the situation in Detroit? Can we expect a bounce-back? Do you know anything about what Jim Bob Cooter will bring to the table? Jim Bob Cooter. Jim Bob Cooter. Ok, this dude's name is really Jim Bob Cooter, how is this real life?
Stephen: Well, if Dolphins fans didn't hate me before they probably will now because I actually do think the Lions will get things going now on offense with Jim Bob Cooter at the wheel. First off, his name is Jim Bob Cooter, Ok? Enough said. Secondly, he is a Tennessee guy so you know you have to support my fellow Vol For Life.
Before I even get to the offense, however, it's worth pointing out that the Lions were up at one point in the second quarter 17-6 over the Vikings and almost, sorta, kinda looked to be in control of the game. And then, slowly but surely, the wheels started to come off on both sides of the ball. Next thing you know the Vikings roll off 22 unanswered points. I think it's fair to say that the defense should not be held blameless for that collapse. In fact, I'm not so sure they weren't the real problem on Sunday.
And if that were true it would make sense, right? After all they lost their top three defensive tackles in the offseason, one of which who had been pretty fantastic for that franchise. Then this preseason they lost one of their best players on the team period, linebacker DeAndre Levy, which was a blow they couldn't have possibly foreseen. So it's not all that surprising to me that their defense hasn't played well this season nor that they laid down on Sunday against the Vikings. They are ranked 29th in scoring defense this year. Only the Jaguars, Bears and Bucs have been worse.
Not the company anybody really wants to be keeping these days.
I guess what I'm saying is that I believe I could make a case that if someone was going to be fired this week it could have just as easily been the Lions' defensive coordinator.
Having said all that, the reason why I think the firings/promotions will have a positive effect is because I think this is really Caldwell taking over the offense even though Coach Cooter (did I really just type that?) will have the OC title. Caldwell knows nobody will be giving him a pass if the offense continues to be in the shitter so I have a hard time believing he will just turn the reigns over to old Coot (yeah, I'm going with it) and let the chips fall where they may. So maybe now with Caldwell being more hands on he can get an offense that boasts the likes of Megatron, Matt Stafford, Golden Tate, Ameer Abdullah, Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick, Lance Moore et al to score more than the 19.9 points a game they are currently hitting for, which also ranks them at 29th in the league. I don't give a damn what your offensive line looks like, that collection of talent should get you close to 30 points a game period.
I will say this, I have not watched the Lions offense this season and thought in any game that their game plan was very complimentary between run and pass. What I mean is not just the sheer ratio of running the ball to throwing the ball, but also what runs and what passes were called. How much was play action? How much was boot off of a run action that the Lions actually use? So much of what they did with Lombardi felt like just pulling plays randomly out of a hat so to speak. So maybe, just maybe, with someone new doing the game planning and the play calling during the game the Lions may be able to get the offense in general and Stafford in particular in a groove that last for 60 minutes for once.
Also, can't go wrong just chunking it up there to Calvin Johnson in my opinion. So if they said screw it and just decided to do that a couple more times a game I think that in and of itself would help that offense be more productive?
Will it be enough to win some games and ultimately save Caldwell's job? I'm not willing to go that far without actually seeing them play a game under Coach Cooter, but I will say I've seen crazier things happen (Hell, I saw Tim Tebow beat the Steelers on a perfectly thrown post route in the playoffs. Nothing is ever topping that).