Nate Burleson says the Lions' next coach needs to be "someone that can demand respect.” (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Nate Burleson made several appearances on NFL Network shows this week, and on Friday he finally discussed the Lions.
Appearing in studio on “NFL Total Access,” the veteran wide receiver talked about what went wrong in the 2013 season as the Lions lost six of their last seven games and the qualifications he desires in a new head coach.
“Someone with some experience, some wisdom. Someone that can demand respect,” Burleson said. “It’s not necessarily important if you were a head coach before, but just that you have years, that you have a clear understanding about the game of football.
“And the reason I say that is because you have, one, a lot of veterans. But, two, more importantly you’ve got very talented young guys. You have a Matt Stafford, you have (Ndamukong) Suh, you have Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and these guys are elite in their talent level, but they still want to learn, they still have that yearning for it. So Calvin wants to come in every day and know that I can get better, and that’s a challenge in itself to be able to come in and have to teach the best receiver in the world.”
While Burleson said having head coaching experience isn’t a prerequisite, it appears the Lions’ brass thinks it is a necessity. Since firing coach Jim Schwartz two weeks ago, the front office has interviewed four candidates who all have head coaching experience.
The Lions interviewed Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt on Thursday night in San Diego; he was Arizona’s head coach from 2007-12. They’ve also interviewed Jim Caldwell, Ravens offensive coordinator and former Colts head coach, and Gary Kubiak and Mike Munchak, who were fired by the Texans and Titans, respectively, this season.
Burleson also explained there wasn’t one particular reason the Lions fell apart after a 6-3 start this season.
“The best way I could describe it is we didn’t make the plays that postseason, championship teams make during the game,” he said. “It seemed routinely every week we had a chance to not stay in games but extend leads and put games away, and we just didn’t do that. And that was on offense, defense and special teams.
“And before you knew it, one piled on another, and now we’ve got two to three losses and now we’re six out of seven losses. And nobody wants to see a talented team such as the Detroit Lions end the season that way, and that’s when everything kind of blew up from the inside — coaches getting fired. And now all of a sudden everybody’s questioning what’s going on with the organization.”
One key reason for the collapse was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw 12 interceptions during the closing 1-6 stretch, but Burleson said if Stafford can improve, the Lions offense, which ranked sixth in yards in 2013, could be even more powerful.
“Teams joke about having a talent level that’s video game-like — we have that on offense,” Burleson said. “So when you start improving every position — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line who played tremendously this past year — it just makes us that much more explosive.”