Gunther Cunningham was the Lions' defensive coordinator under former coach Jim Schwartz last season. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — Gunther Cunningham was asked back in December, on the last week of the regular season, what he planned to do next season if the inevitable coaching change was made.
“Coach,” he said. “Unless I write a book first.”
Cunningham, the Lions defensive coordinator under former coach Jim Schwartz the last five seasons, has one year remaining on his contract with the Lions and he has been retained by new head coach Jim Caldwell.
His role, though, has yet to be defined.
The Lions’ website lists Cunningham among the defensive coaches as “senior coaching assistant.” It is unclear whether Cunningham will work more on the field with defensive coordinator Teryl Austin or in personnel with general manager Martin Mayhew.
Most likely, Cunningham will work more on the personnel side.
Austin’s staff has been in place for a couple of weeks, with Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek returning to coach the defensive line, Tony Oden (cornerbacks) and Alan Williams (safeties) coaching the defensive backs along with quality control coach Matt Raich, and Bill Sheridan to coach the linebackers.
The veteran Sheridan is expected to be Austin’s top advisor.
There was some speculation Cunningham might be hired by Schwartz, who is the defensive coordinator in Buffalo. That did not happen.
Cunningham has been coaching for 45 years, the last 33 in the NFL. His detailed player evaluations of potential draft picks and free agents are well-respected throughout the league, and he would be an asset for Mayhew and Brian Xanders, senior personnel executive.
The Lions have confirmed the new position but did not specify Cunningham’s duties.