ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Jim Bob Cooter's successor as offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions won't inherit a unit devoid of talent.
There's a proven veteran starting quarterback in Matthew Stafford, half of a really good offensive line, a potential No. 1 receiver (Kenny Golladay), a veteran No. 2 receiver (Marvin Jones Jr.) and a potential star at running back (Kerryon Johnson).
For any offensive coordinator to succeed, he’ll have to let go a little bit to mesh with head coach Matt Patricia, who showed a mostly conservative bent in his first season at the helm.
This hire will be critical to the success or failure of his tenure with the organization. Here are some coaches he might look at to fill the role at OC:
Shane Waldron, passing game coordinator, Los Angeles Rams: Waldron, 39, has familiarity with the Patriot way of doing things from his time with New England (2002-04 and 2008-09). There, he worked with most of the current Lions’ front office as well as Patricia. Waldron also overlapped for a year at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts with current Lions director of player personnel Kyle O’Brien. If the Rams would be willing to let him go and he wanted a coordinator gig, this would be a really strong fit.
“He’s a phenomenal coach. He’s a great communicator. He’s got a rare ability to authentically and genuinely connect with not only coaches, but the players and be able to correct in a manner that doesn’t make guys’ guards come up,” Rams coach Sean McVay said last month. “But it’s all about problem solving and doing it together.”
Nathaniel Hackett, former offensive coordinator, Jacksonville Jaguars: Hackett, 39, has prior experience as an offensive coordinator and working with a system needing some weapons during his time with the Jaguars and Bills. While he ended up fired with the Jaguars, it wasn’t all his fault as Jacksonville’s quarterback situation was a mess with Blake Bortles. That wouldn’t be the case here. He has familiarity with some of the members of Detroit’s current staff as well, something that seems to be important based on Patricia’s hires during his time in Detroit. Hackett is good at coordinating a run game (he did well with Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville and the Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller combo in Buffalo). He also likes using play-action, which has been a strength with Stafford. It could be a strong fit.
George Godsey, quarterbacks coach, Lions: If the Lions wanted to promote from within, Godsey, 40, would be the obvious choice. He already has a working relationship with Stafford from their time together this year, and he’s a known quantity to both general manager Bob Quinn and Patricia from both Detroit and New England. He was the offensive coordinator in Houston in 2015 and 2016 – and like Hackett did most of his work with underwhelming quarterback options. The longer the search goes, the less likely this would seem to happen unless Detroit missed on all its other candidates. If it’s a short search, he could be the guy.
Kevin O’Connell, passing game coordinator, Washington Redskins: The 33-year-old former quarterback was drafted by the Patriots in 2008. He was only with New England for a season, but that’s enough time for Patricia and Quinn to know about him. In the coaching world, he has worked in Cleveland (as quarterbacks coach in 2015), in San Francisco (on offense in 2016) and Washington the past two seasons.
Chad O’Shea, receivers coach, New England Patriots: No list of favorites will ever be complete under this regime without at least one Patriots option. O’Shea, 46, is the logical choice here off the Patriots’ current staff. He has been the receivers coach with the Patriots since 2009, so he knows what the expectations would be in Detroit.
Dirk Koetter, former head coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It didn't work out in Tampa Bay for Koetter, but offense was not the problem. He doesn’t have much of a connection with this staff, but the Bucs ran a top-five offense this season and his style could fit Stafford well.
Adam Gase, former head coach, Miami Dolphins: He grew up in the state, went to Michigan State and worked for the Lions from 2003-07. Until recently, he had a home close to the Lions' facility. He has the necessary coordinator experience and it could be a smoother transition for Stafford because one of the people Cooter learned under was Gase during their time in Denver. It would appear he’ll get another head coaching gig, but if he doesn’t, he’d be perhaps the most attractive candidate out there.
Some less likely names that could end up in consideration: Charlie Weis, veteran offensive coordinator/head coach, multiple stops; Mike Kafka, quarterbacks coach, Kansas City Chiefs; Kellen Moore, quarterbacks coach, Dallas Cowboys; Todd Monken, former offensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Zac Taylor, quarterbacks coach, Los Angeles Rams; Freddie Kitchens, offensive coordinator, Cleveland Browns.