As many people do, the first thing Peyton Manning mentions about Jim Bob Cooter is the oddity of his name.
“I’m a big fan of Jim Bob Cooter, still one of the greatest names in the history of the Southeastern Conference,” Manning told reporters Tuesday at the Marriott in Santa Clara, Calif.
Manning, the Broncos quarterback, has known Cooter, the Lions offensive coordinator for years. Cooter was a backup quarterback at Tennessee, Manning’s alma mater, from 2002-06.
“I went back to Knoxville every summer and worked out with the team and so I knew Jim Bob then as a player who was there,” Manning said. “Coach (Phillip) Fulmer always told me, ‘This guy’s going to be a coach.’ Some guys you can just peg that way.”
Cooter’s coaching career began immediately after his playing career ended as he spent 2007-08 as a graduate assistant. Then, Manning helped Cooter get a job in the NFL.
When Jim Caldwell took over as head coach in 2009, Manning said Fulmer called Caldwell to recommend Cooter for a job. Manning said he remembered “seconding the motion,” and Cooter became a staff assistant to the Colts offense.
“Since then, he’s been on a fast climb, but he’s earned it,” Manning said. “He’s a hard-working guy; he’s very smart. He sees football and knows football.”
After three years in Indianapolis, Cooter went to Kansas City in 2012 before reconnecting with Manning in 2013. When Caldwell took over as Lions coach in 2014, he hired Cooter to be quarterbacks coach, a position he held until October 2015 when he replaced Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator.
In talking about Cooter, Manning also mentioned current Broncos offensive assistant Brian Callahan, saying the two of them did a lot of “grunt, grind work” to help provide the quarterback with insight about opposing defenses.
“Those details make a big difference,” Manning said.