By Ashley Scoby
Jim Bob Cooter may have a personality that takes some getting used to. But the entire Lions' offense is going to have to make the adjustment to their new offensive coordinator after Joe Lombardi was fired this week.
"It's a unique one for sure," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "You've got to kind of get used to him. You've got to be around him a lot and I think a lot of the guys in there probably didn't know how to react to him. They maybe didn't understand some of his subtle humor that he uses, but all the QBs get it because we've been around him. So he's an interesting guy. He's tough to nail down as far as the personality goes, but I enjoy being around him."
Stafford, and the rest of his teammates on his side of the ball, will be around Cooter a lot more now, thanks to his promotion. The 31-year-old is a first-time play-caller now and will take over a flailing Lions offense that's averaging 19.9 points a game (29th in the NFL).
Part of the criticism of Lombardi was that he didn't air out the ball enough. Going deep to Calvin Johnson or any of the other receivers has been more of an exception this season rather than the rule - at least partially fueled by the anemic offensive line play that's plagued this team.
But a vertical passing game better suits Stafford's style of play. He's been known as a gunslinger since his college days, and his arm strength is largely considered his best quality.
"He (Cooter) knows what Matt likes, what Matt likes to do and what Matt wants," tight end Eric Ebron said. "So that's really how the offense works – you give the quarterback what he wants. So he's going to feed off of Matt and Matt is like the head of the whole process and we're just going to go off of our quarterback and make plays for him."
More often than not, how Stafford goes, so go the Lions. How Cooter utilizes Stafford and the rest of the offensive tools will be a huge part of how this season ends for Detroit.
This week in London against the Chiefs, the Lions say their offensive game plan won't differ that much from weeks past. Part of that is the short turnaround (three offensive coaches were fired Monday, six days before the game).
"There's going to be some tweaks," Stafford said. "What that looks like on Sunday, you'll see, I'm not going to get into it. It won't be earth-shattering stuff I wouldn't think, given the one week of preparation we've had."
One of the most popular things said about Cooter is that he's smart: His football IQ is reportedly unique, and that has helped his rapid-fire ascension in the NFL coaching ranks.
"I think he's been great," Stafford said. "We see him every day, we hear him talk. A lot of those guys may have never heard him talk much, but the more he starts talking football, you understand his intelligence and his understanding of the game and I think that garners respect from guys when they hear him talk about football and about offense, so I think he's doing just fine."
for more features.