The Detroit Lions are hunting for an offensive coordinator, but that’s merely one of the spots on their staff they will have to fill this offseason. Not getting as much publicity is the post of special teams coordinator, but with problems on that group numerous in 2018, Matt Patricia will be hunting for a new man to head the spot up, and Darren Rizzi could be in the mix for the gig.
In addition to the Lions, the Green Bay Packers are looking at Rizzi, who will get an interview in Green Bay. If he doesn’t take the Packers job, Rizzi could be in the mix to land in Detroit, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press pointed out.
“Packers getting the first interview with Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi. Lions should be in the mix if Rizzi leaves without a deal,” Birkett tweeted on Tuesday morning.
Rizzi, who is also the assistant head coach has been with the Dolphins since 2010. The past season, the Dolphins special teams did not live up to expectations as they finished as the 21st best unit in the NFL according to Football Outsiders.
Before Rizzi joined the Dolphins, he worked his way up the college ranks as he was named head coach of New Haven in 1999. Rizzi was the head coach of the Chargers for three seasons and he compiled a 15-14 record. He then was named the special teams coordinator for Rutgers where he held that position from 2002-2007. In 2008, Rizzi was named the head coach for Rhode Island and the team finished with a 3-9 record. He was replaced after the 2008 season.
In spite of his struggles as a boss, Rizzi is classically thought of as one of the better special teams coaches in the league, and the Lions did not live up to expectations on that side of the ball this season. Joe Marciano started as the coordinator of the group out of camp, but was replaced around midseason after return game troubles and penalty problems doomed the entire group.
When it comes to returns, the Lions had a number called back by untimely penalties. Additionally, the Lions struggled with punt returns this season, and gave up too much yardage there from the start of the season on. Interim coordinator Devin Fitzsimmons did a nice job, but it’s unclear if he will be in the running to stay on staff, or if Patricia will want to hire his own coordinator to run the group.
Before being replaced, Marciano came to the NFL coaching ranks in the mid-1980’s, joining the New Orleans Saints as a tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. He spent nine seasons with the Saints in both positions before working only with special teams in 1995. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996, serving as the special teams coordinator from 96-2001. During his tenure, 10 different Tampa Bay players recorded NFC Special Teams Players of the Week honors.
After six seasons with the Buccaneers, Marciano moved on and became the special teams coordinator of the Houston Texans. This tenure spanning 2002-2013 was his most successful as the Texans became the fourth team in NFL history to record four different kickoff return touchdowns in a single season. Additionally, placekicker Kris Brown became the third kicker ever to nail three 50-yard field goals in one game.
After a brief stint with the Vikings in 2014, Marciano joined the Lions as the special teams coordinator under Jim Caldwell, where he remained until his firing. Under his tutelage, both punter Sam Martin and kicker Matt Prater have excelled. The return units, however, have struggled.
Rizzi might merely be the first name the team looks at in the process, and could fit if he makes it to Detroit for an interview.