Cooter pledges to keep Lions offense simple

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Chandler's Cross, England — Jim Bob Cooter joked Friday that he and the other offensive assistants quickly learned where all the coffee machines are at The Grove, the team's London area resort as it prepares from Sunday's game against the Chiefs (9:30 a.m., FOX).

Now an NFL offensive coordinator for the first time, Cooter and his staff had to quickly alter the game plan this week after he took over for Joe Lombardi Monday.

Players and coaches indicated this week the offense won't look drastically different, but Cooter seems to have at least one simple and necessary philosophy.

"Ideally, our offense is going to score a lot of points," he said.

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That's easier said than done, of course, as the Lions (1-6) rank 29th in points per game with just 19.9 this season, but Cooter indicated a key aspect of his scheme will be ensuring quarterback Matthew Stafford is comfortable.

Cooter, 31, and Stafford worked together closely for much of the past two years with Cooter joining the Lions as quarterbacks coach in 2014.

"I think he's done a good job of telling me plays he likes or plays he doesn't like, or maybe we should run this route at this depth instead of that depth," Cooter said. "So, it's his offense as much as it is mine — maybe even more.

"I've learned early in my career that if a quarterback really likes a play, he tends to make it work. So if he likes it, we'll get it in. If he doesn't like it, we'll try not to call it and we'll go from there."

Cooter also said he wants to find a way to keep the improvement in the run game continuing after the Lions had their best rushing outputs of the season the past two games. With little time to make changes, he said of the offensive plan will be simpler Sunday, which could help the team after a complex scheme that featured constant substitution under Lombardi.

"I don't really want to get into the specifics of (my philosophies) just so the Chiefs don't know exactly what we're thinking out here," he said. "But I think we just try to score points as well as we can with the players we have against the players we have to play against."

With playmakers like Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, it would seem an aggressive attack could help the offense get out of the funk in which it's been for most of the season. Asked specifically if Johnson would be more involved, Cooter simply took the team-first approach.

"One of our thoughts is to try to get everybody more involved," he said. "So, hopefully we're completing the ball to a bunch of good players and handing the ball to a bunch of good players, and everybody gets a lot of touches."

Cooter will call plays from the field, which he did the past two games after Lombardi moved upstairs to the booth. Cooter said he likes communicating with the players during the game and thinks he can see everything he needs to from field level.

Lions players said earlier this week that Cooter is relatable as a coach. He's the second youngest offensive coordinator in the NFL behind Washington's Sean McVay, 29, and on Sunday, everyone will see whether or not Cooter has energized the struggling group.

"Obviously, we know he's a young guy," Stafford said. "He is new at this, calling plays, but he looks like he belongs (and) he sounds like he belongs, which is good."