By: Will Burchfield
Teryl Austin could read the writing on the wall.
Though he was technically a candidate for the Lions’ head coaching vacancy, he knew he wasn’t going to land the job. Jim Caldwell was out, and the team wanted a fresh voice at the top.
“I interviewed in Detroit, but it probably wasn’t going to happen because of what happened to us as a staff,” Austin said on Tuesday during his introductory press conference as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator.
The move to Cincinnati is a lateral one for Austin, who was the Lions’ defensive coordinator from 2014-2017. Austin likely would have been let go upon the hiring of a new head coach — even if offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter appears safe — so he signed on with the Bengals before that could happen.
Austin has garnered lots of head coaching interest in the recent past, and he was the Lions’ first interview this year. But he knows when he’s being strung along. In 2015 he said two teams interviewed him simply to comply with the NFL’s Rooney Rule.
He addressed those comments on Thursday, admitting he didn’t always “put (his) best foot forward.”
“Sometimes you can tell when things are good, and some of those interviews, it wasn’t because of the Rooney Rule (that I didn’t get the job). It was because I didn’t do very well,” Austin said. “But other times you could tell that it was just, ‘Hey, we’re going to check this box and we’re going to move on.”
The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when searching for a new head coach or general manger. That wasn’t necessarily what led to Austin’s interview with the Lions, as the team also interviewed Packers associate head coach Winston Moss. Detroit has requested to speak with Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as well.
Under Austin’s watch, beginning in 2014, the Lions ranked 3rd, 23rd, 13th and 21st in scoring defense. His shine as a head-coaching candidate may have worn off a bit this season, but he’s still hopeful he’ll get his shot in the NFL.
“If I have another opportunity and if things work out that … I deserve to get one, I’ll get one. If not, I’ll move on,” Ausin said. “I’ll coach the guys the best way I can and go from there.”
The Lions’ search for a head coach is ongoing. At the moment, Matt Patricia, Mike Vrabel and Pat Shurmur look like the top three candidates, in that order. Patricia, however, reportedly prefers the Giants’ vacancy.