By: Will Burchfield
At the time of Jim Caldwell’s firing, Lions general manager Bob Quinn made it clear the team’s next head coach would have full jurisdiction in naming his staff.
So Jim Bob Cooter and Paul Pasqualoni are here at Matt Patricia’s behest.
At his introductory press conference on Wednesday, for which Cooter and Pasqualoni were both present, Patricia explained why kept one as offensive coordinator and hired the other as defensive coordinator.
In regard to Cooter, Patricia said the recent success of Matthew Stafford and Detroit’s offense as a whole was an important factor. It bears mention that Stafford vouched for Cooter at the end of this season.
“Obviously, he’s done a great job here in what he’s been able to accomplish with both him and Stafford and the offense,” said Patricia. “He’s someone that has worked with a lot of guys that I’ve worked with in the past and someone that everyone speaks very highly of.”
Patricia at first said Cooter was simply “on staff,” but later specified he will remain the offensive coordinator, a position he’s held since midway through the 2015 season. Under Cooter, Stafford has turned into a much more efficient quarterback, punctuated by a career-high 99.3 passer rating in 2017.
A creative play-caller in the passing game, Cooter’s challenge next season will be unlocking the Lions’ long-dormant rushing attack.
“I have a lot of respect for him because I’ve been on the other side of the ball going against him,” said Patricia. “Looking forward to working together and continuing that success and building on the things that have been done on that side of the ball.”
As a former defensive coordinator, it was no surprise that Patricia wanted to start fresh at that position. In Pasqualoni, he brought in a coach with whom he shares a defensive vision — and a whole lot of history. Pasqualoni gave Patricia his first big break in the business when he hired him as an offensive assistant at Syracuse in 2001.
Patricia’s career took off from there.
Pasqualoni remained the head coach at Syracuse through 2004, before making various stops in the NFL. He was defensive coordinator of the Dolphins for two years, the Cowboys for anther and most recently the defensive line coach at Boston College.
“He was kind of enough to kind of give me my start in the Division-1 level,” Patricia said. “He really mentored me a lot and taught me a lot as far as how the game should be looked at, how to game plan, how to strategize and how to really get the most out of young players. Kind of a natural fit.”
Patricia said he and Pasqualoni have kept in touch over the years and share similar defensive philosophies.
“There’s a lot of common ground in what we believe in, how a defense should be played, how it should be run, the fundamentals behind it. The core teaching of what should be accomplished first and foremost. There’s a huge comfort level for me to have him on board and to be able to entrust him to handle that,” Patricia said.
As far as defensive scheme is concerned, Patricia said that’s a discussion for down the road. The roster will change too much through free agency and the draft to start drawing anything up now.
“As you go through the process of spring, training camp and the season, for me, that changes. The scheme is not something that’s necessarily locked in. You want to kind of make sure you tailor what you do to the players that you have, so that they can perform at a high level out on the field,” he said.
Former defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who departed for the Bengals, was in charge of play-calling under Jim Caldwell. Asked who will call defensive plays next season, Patricia smiled and said, “You know what the good thing about being the head coach is? Anytime I want to call a play, offense, defense or special teams, I get to call it. That’ll be pretty exciting for me.”