Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez react to GM Bob Quinn’s news conference and provide takeaways, Jan. 4, 2019.
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press

Two recently-fired NFL play callers are among the top candidates to be the next Detroit Lions offensive coordinator.

According to a tweet from long-time NFL reporter and SiriusXM NFL radio host Alex Marvez, Nathaniel Hackett and Steve Sarkisian are among those in the mix to replace Jim Bob Cooter.

Hackett’s name has been bandied about as a potential replacement for Cooter since he was fired as Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator in late November.

Lions coach Matt Patricia is close with Jaguars coach Doug Marrone, and Hackett and Marrone have worked together in Jacksonville, at Syracuse and with the Buffalo Bills.

Hackett did not want to talk about his future or the Lions opening when reached by cell phone before the SiriusXM report.

The Jaguars finished 27th in the NFL in total offense this season, when they were saddled with Blake Bortles at quarterback and were without running back Leonard Fournette for eight games.


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Last year, in Hackett’s first full season calling plays in Jacksonville, the Jaguars led the NFL in rushing.

Sarkisian, who spent the past two seasons as Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, was fired after a season in which the Falcons ranked sixth in total offense and Matt Ryan finished third in the league in passing.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn said that head coach Matt Patricia will hire the coordinator, but that Patricia might involve quarterback Matthew Stafford in the process.

Stafford, who turns 31 next month, had one of the least productive seasons of his career in 2018, and Quinn said the Lions want an “adaptable,” balanced offense going forward.

“We’re looking for someone that improves the offense,” Quinn said. “I think we want a balanced attack, like we talked about before. We want to be able to run the ball, we want to be able to use our quarterback because he has a ton of talent. So, we want to be diverse. We’re not going to sit there and be in four wide receivers, shotgun every play and throw it 45 times. That’s not good for anybody. On the other hand, we’re not going to be three tight ends and run the ball 40 times.

“We need to do a better job of going into each week looking at the opponent and say, ‘How are we going to beat this team?’ If they have a great run defense and a poor pass defense, maybe we throw it 45 times and vice versa. So we want someone that thinks that way.”

Contact Dave Birkett: Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Download our Lions Xtra app for free on Apple and Android!

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