Caldwell: Jim Bob Cooter, Ron Prince Have What It Takes
By Ashley Scoby
Jim Caldwell said he never considered making himself the Lions' play-caller, when a coaching shakeup made headlines out of the team's facility this week. Although he won a Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator (and play-caller) for the Ravens in 2013, Caldwell didn't want to return to that role with Detroit.
Jim Bob Cooter was promoted to offensive coordinator in the wake of Joe Lombardi's firing – the first time the 31-year-old will call plays in the NFL.
But Cooter's relationship with quarterback Matthew Stafford was a crucial factor in the coach's promotion.
"I think he has a great synergy with Matthew," Caldwell said. "That's the guy that has to be really comfortable with what we do, any changes and things of that nature that we make. It's very easy for Jim Bob to translate those things by saying, 'Hey, you know what Matthew, this is just like that.'"
Caldwell compared the relationship between Cooter and Stafford to the one that he himself had with quarterback Joe Flacco in Baltimore. When Caldwell was promoted from within the organization, it was a smoother transition than if someone new had been called in.
Cooter has worked with Detroit's quarterbacks, specifically Stafford, since last year. And for a team that has struggled with inconsistency this season, especially on the offensive side, any burst of familiarity would probably be a benefit for the Lions.
"It was no longer someone outside the meeting room necessarily making the bulk of the decisions," Caldwell said. "It was someone that was there, had a good feel for it, knew what he liked, all those kinds of things, so that made it a lot easier. That really weighed heavily in terms of our decision and I think, without question, it was the best thing for us."
The others promoted – Ron Prince to offensive line coach, Curtis Modkins to run game coordinator – also came from within.
Perhaps the crux of what could turn this offense around is offensive line play. The coaching shakeup came the day after the Lions' line allowed the Vikings to sack Stafford seven times. Stafford has been beaten up all season, receiving X-rays twice already. "Communication" issues have often been pointed to as reason for why the offensive line has struggled.
So, Caldwell describing Prince as a "good communicator" is probably the biggest compliment he could give to someone this season.
"When you talk about a guy that's been around and coached offensive lines, had D'Brickashaw Ferguson and a number of other great ones that he coached at Virginia, and then also he's been a head coach," Caldwell said. "He's accustomed to handling some heavy loads, very good communicator. And he's been a coordinator before, and certainly I think he's prepared to do the job. He'll do things probably his own way, and that's key. But I do think he's a guy that can get results as well."
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