Which Coach from the Lions’ 2017 staff had the best season?
The Detroit Lions officially ushered in a new era of coaches on Wednesday when Matt Patricia was introduced as the new head coach. The Lions also announced a slew of new hires hours prior to the press conference, signaling a big shift in leadership for the franchise.
But before we officially turn the page on 2017, let’s examine the coaching staff that was. Just because many were fired or took their talents elsewhere doesn’t mean they’re bad at their jobs.
Here’s a look at the 2017 nominees for Detroit Lions Coach of the Year.
Joe Marciano - Special teams coach
The Detroit Lions undoubtedly had one of the best special teams units in the entire league. Rick Gosselin’s complicated rankings placed them sixth in the league. Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranked them fifth.
Marciano certainly had a lot of talent at his disposal, with All-Pro punt returner Jamal Agnew, reliable placekicker Matt Prater, and a slew of players who make their living on special teams (Don Carey, Steve Longa). But a good coach makes the best use of that talent, and Marciano certainly did that.
Robert Prince - Wide receivers coach
For the first time since 2014, the Detroit Lions had two receivers go over 1,000 yards in a season. But it wasn’t just Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. who impressed in 2017. TJ Jones had a breakout year, hauling in a career high 30 catches for 399 yards. His 13.3 yards per catch was third-highest on the team among players with more than 10 catches. Additionally, Kenny Golladay, when healthy, was a huge weapon for this offense, catching five passes of 40+ yards.
Again, Prince had a lot of talent at his disposal, but a sign of a good coach is steady improvement from your players. We saw exactly that for both Marvin Jones and TJ Jones this year.
Brian Callahan - Quarterbacks coach
Callahan may have skipped town for Oakland this offseason, but his impact was felt before he left. Matthew Stafford enjoyed arguably the best season of his career in 2017. It didn’t come with all of the flashy comebacks, but Stafford set career highs in both passer rating (99.3) and yards per attempt (7.9). Additionally, his completion percentage (65.7) was the second highest of his career, and his interception rate (1.8 percent) was the second lowest of his career.
Callahan’s success was a big reason why the Lions had blocked interview requests from other teams in the past, but for whatever reason they allowed the quarterback guru to make a lateral move to join the Raiders this offseason.
Tony Oden - Defensive backs coach (cornerbacks)
When you’re responsible for coaching a cornerback with the most interceptions and passes defended in the entire league, you probably did something right. Oden was one of the most well-regarded coaches on the team, and he has the resume to match it.
He helped develop the careers of Darius Slay, Quandre Diggs and Teez Tabor in 2017 alone. Diggs had a breakout year, granted much of his year was spent playing at safety. Tabor’s development, though slow, could be huge for his potential going forward.
Oden, too, was let go by the current staff, but there’s a reason he quickly was snatched up by the Dolphins.