Free Press writers Jeff Seidel, Dave Birkett break down Lions meltdown against Vikings in Minneapolis, and wonder why team has regressed Nov. 4, 2018.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
Well, someone paid.
But instead of firing offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who has been a primary target of recent criticism because of his inconsistent and lately anemic offense, Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia canned special-teams coordinator Joe Marciano.
Which is a little like painting your walls while the roof is on fire.
Yes, someone paid. Though Marciano’s units struggled mightily this year, the move surely won’t appease angry fans. And it won’t do much to cure the offense, which has been the main culprit behind the Lions’ two straight losses that have dropped them to 3-5 and have them teetering on the brink of falling out of the playoff race.
Maybe Marciano was a scapegoat. Maybe his firing was Patricia’s warning shot to Cooter and other coaches that no one is safe.
I asked Patricia during his Tuesday conference call with reporters what he thought of the job Cooter has done so far and how much confidence he has in Cooter being his offensive coordinator the rest of the season.
“He’s done a really good job for us here this year,” Patricia said. “And we’re certainly always looking to try to get better, which obviously when you come out of week where we don’t perform well enough on Sunday it’s easy to kind of look at all of that. We do a good job of kind of self-assessing and moving forward getting ready for Chicago.
“I think Jim Bob has done a great job here with the offense for a long time and he continues to do that. We’ll just get better every week. I think offensively, defensively, special teams, it’s just a situation right now where we have to try to do obviously better than what we did last week and get going and start the second half of season off here the right way.”
Patricia’s praise of Cooter could be seen as a vote of confidence. But he also did not guarantee or even address Cooter’s job status for the remainder of the season.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the offense have made strides each year since Cooter took over for Joe Lombardi midway through the 2015 season. But this season, the offense has regressed. Last year, the offense ranked 13th overall and seventh in scoring with a 25.6-point average. This year, the offense is 21st overall and 20th in scoring with a 22.5-point average.
I asked Cooter on Tuesday to assess the job he has done with the offense this year.
“About 3-5,” he said. “Kind of like a wise, old coach once said, ‘You are what your record says you are.’ So need to improve, need to keep getting better. That’s part of our weekly process. I expect to help our team win at a higher level offensively.”
Toward the end of Jim Caldwell’s tenure, reporters would ask him about his job security at the end of the season. He often gave the same answer: The NFL is a year-to-year business. I reminded Cooter about that and asked him how much Marciano’s firing could be seen as a warning or wake-up call for himself and other coaches.
“In this business, in the NFL, I think it’s kind of a results-oriented business,” Cooter said. “I have to do my job and work as hard as I can to get our offense to be the best it can.
“So it’s in my best interest and the Detroit Lions’ best interest not to think about hypotheticals and play any of those games. Those are better for you media guys to write your stories than they are for me to think about. My job is to focus on the Chicago Bears and see what I can do to help our offense score points on these guys and help our team win this game.”
Cooter is right. He needs to stop answering my pesky questions and get to work, because the task is daunting.
The Lions’ fate — and possibly Cooter’s — could be sealed over the next couple weeks, when they play two games in 12 days against a Chicago Bears defense that ranks fifth overall and fourth in scoring by surrendering 19.1 points per game.
The most perilous game could come on Thanksgiving Day against the Bears. It’s the pride and joy of the Ford family. If the Lions are embarrassed that day, at home and on national television, there’s no telling what could happen with the big bosses stewing over a long weekend.
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Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.