Chandler’s Cross, England — However juvenile it may seem, Jim Bob Cooter’s name has been the butt of many jokes this week.
Now the Lions offensive coordinator, the 31-year-old coach is now in the highest-profile position of his career, and in addition to explaining some of his goals for the team — “ideally, our offense is going to score a lot of points” — he made some jokes about the origin of his name.
“I didn’t make a conscious decision,” he said with a smile. “I think maybe my parents were really into marketing, so we were trying to sell some T-shirts from an early age. It is what it is.”
The T-shirts joke could’ve been the oft-used reference to “The Dukes of Hazzard,” the TV show that featured a character named Cooter. The coach’s full name is James Robert Cooter.
“I’m from Tennessee, and I’m from pretty southern Tennessee — it’s on down there pretty good,” said Cooter, who hometown of Fayetteville, Tenn., is just north of the Alabama border. “There’s a lot of people with two names, a lot of spaces out there in my classroom growing up.”
Cooter has climbed the coaching ranks quickly and said he didn’t put much thought into going to one first name as he became more of a public figure. After his playing career as a backup quarterback at Tennessee concluded, he worked as a graduate assistant for the Volunteers under longtime coach Phillip Fulmer from 2007-08.
Then, Lions coach Jim Caldwell gave him his first coaching job in the NFL, hiring Cooter as a staff assistant to the offense in 2009. He then became an offensive assistant in 2010 and assistant to the offensive coordinator in 2011.
From there, Cooter became an offensive quality control coach for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 before joining the Denver Broncos as an offensive assistant in 2013, reconnecting with former Colts and Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.
Caldwell hired Cooter again last year to coach Lions quarterbacks. The team blocked the Chicago Bears from interviewing him for their offensive coordinator job last offseason, and after the Lions fired Joe Lombardi Monday, Cooter received the promotion.
Lions players, including quarterback Matthew Stafford, admitted this week Cooter’s name has led to some laughter. Tight end Eric Ebron said he thought he was supposed to laugh when he first heard the unique moniker.
“That’s his name. We’re going to rock with it,” Ebron said.
And, as a top assistant coach in one of the world’s most popular sports league, Cooter can’t really change his name now.
“I haven’t really thought about branding, any of that stuff just yet,” he said. “It seemed to be OK, but as I move around, I’ve been in a couple different cities at this point.
“It’s certainly, the farther north or west — or whatever — you get away from the southeast, it tends to get a little extra scare. So, maybe I give a different name when I’m waiting on my sandwich or whatever that whole thing is just to save that one.”