Chandler's Cross, England — Matthew Stafford and Jim Bob Cooter both stood on the field at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium in 2006.
Stafford, a freshman backup quarterback for the Bulldogs, and Cooter, a senior backup quarterback for visiting Tennessee, didn’t meet that day, and last year, the two former SEC signal callers finally met.
And when they met last year when the Lions hired Cooter as quarterbacks coach, Stafford said he — like many people — found the name funny.
“I thought it was awesome,” Stafford said. “It’s quality stuff. You can’t make it up. It was good. I had a laugh. But … I respect his name now for sure.”
With the Lions promoting Cooter to offensive coordinator Monday after firing Joe Lombardi, the 31-year-old will have to earn the respect of the other players he’ll lead. A couple of players said he was off to a good start with wide receiver Calvin Johnson saying that Cooter “took charge from the beginning” after the promotion.
“He laid down a set of rules, told us what we had to abide by and basically go out there and execute at the end of the day,” tight end Eric Ebron said.
Cooter’s approach as a coordinator remains to be seen as this will be his first such experience at any level. Ebron hopes the Lions will be more aggressive in the vertical passing game, but none of the players were giving away what Cooter has said in his first couple of meetings as the offensive play caller.
“We’re going to see,” Johnson said.
The Lions have no problem with Cooter’s relative inexperience. At 31, he’s the second youngest offensive coordinator in the NFL behind Washington’s Sean McVay, but coach Jim Caldwell said competence is more important than age.
And with Cooter being a former quarterback and spending four years working with Peyton Manning, three in Indianapolis and one in Denver, the Lions hope he can help Stafford come closer to reaching his potential and lead the offense better.
“I think it helps him,” Stafford said of Cooter’s past playing experience. “You see the game from a unique perspective when you play the quarterback position, and he’s seen it playing himself, he’s coached and been around some really good ones. He’s got a great base of knowledge.
Ebron thinks Cooter working with Stafford the last two years could help the team’s transition, too.
“He should because he spends a lot more time with Matt, he knows what Matt likes, what Matt likes to do, what Matt wants,” Ebron said. “That’s really how the offense works is you get the quarterback what he wants. He’s going to feed off Matt, and Matt’s really like the head of the whole process. And we’re just going to go off our QB and make plays for him.”