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Allen Park — The Lions' success on defense has led them to a 10-4 record in 2014, but it could mean the mastermind behind the scheme might have a short stay in Detroit.

First-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin likely will be a head-coaching candidate after this season as he's led the a unit that ranks No. 1 in points allowed, No. 1 against the run and No. 2 overall.

"It's flattering," Austin said Thursday of the possibility, "but that's all it is right now."

Austin, 49, might not be thinking about becoming a head coach right now, but if the Lions win the NFC North and earn a first-round bye in the postseason, his phone could ring with interview opportunities at the conclusion of Week 17. If that's the case, he said he would "absolutely" take interviews with the right teams next January.

"Like I told you guys before, I just kind of try to do the best I can where I'm at, and then whatever happens after that happens," Austin said. "So it's not something that, hey, I laid out a plan saying this is what I want to do because I know how hard it is to have one of those jobs, so I just try to do the best I can where I am and whatever happens after that happens."

Other teams could wait to see if Austin's defense succeeds again in 2015, but he's already had plenty of success in the NFL as an assistant, coaching in three Super Bowls including a win with as the Ravens' secondary coach in 2012.

If Austin does jump to the head-coaching ranks, his rise will be comparable to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who took over in 2007 after just one year as defensive coordinator for the Vikings. Both coaches worked primarily with defensive backs, too.

Austin could have opportunities as the Rooney Rule requires teams to interview a minority candidate before making a hire, but he said he won't interview for a job unless he's interested.

"I don't think there's any interview that would be, just to do it, do it, or just for the experience," Austin said. "If I do it, if that opportunity ever came up, I would hope that I would go in there and present myself in the best light that I might have a real shot at it."

Lions coach Jim Caldwell has said this season that his assistants can ask him for advice on pursuing other jobs, and even though he hasn't yet, Austin said he'll talk to Caldwell if any opportunities arise.

Lions players, meanwhile, would be sad to see Austin leave. Strong safety James Ihedigbo, who spent two years with Austin in Baltimore, said the coach's approach hasn't changed even with his promotion with the Lions. Ihedigbo also said Austin treats his players professionally and expects excellence.

"He's a winner, he's a leader (and) he's everything that you would want in a head coach," Ihedigbo said. "I could see why other teams would want him because he understands what it takes to win and be successful in this league, and he's done that with our defense. He's done that when we were in Baltimore. His track record speaks for itself."

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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