Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford talks about the impact Jim Caldwell had on the franchise during his four seasons. Max Ortiz, Detroit News
Allen Park – Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford hasn’t typically advocated for the job of one of his coaches, so when he does, it’s meaningful.
On Monday morning, hours after coach Jim Caldwell was dismissed by the organization, Stafford made a pitch for the next coach to retain offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
“Jim Bob and I have a great relationship and ever since he’s had the opportunity to take the reins, this offense is moving in the right direction, in my opinion,” Stafford said. “I feel like I’m playing some of the best football of my career. So I would love to have the opportunity to keep working with him. He’s been good for us and good for me.”
In 41 games since Cooter replaced Joe Lombardi in the middle of the 2015 season, Stafford has completed 66.2 percent of his passes with a 98.2 passer rating. Before Cooter, Stafford completed 60.0 percent of his passes with an 83.9 passer rating.
But one area the Lions have continued to struggle with since the coordinator switch is running the ball. Stafford acknowledged the need for improvement if the offense hopes to reach the next level.
“I think the ability to be a little more balanced would help us,” Stafford said. “We gotta find ways to be better running the football, even if that’s just efficiency. It doesn’t mean we’re going to hand it 40 times a game and try to rush for 200 yards a game. That may not be the solution. Just got to find a way to be a little bit better. That’s everybody, myself included, getting us in the right runs.”
Stafford expressed disappointment with Caldwell’s firing, acknowledging the onus he and the rest of the locker room feel for the change. Stafford praised his former coach’s tutelage and demeanor for making him a better player, particularly during the late-game situations where he’s orchestrated so many comebacks.
“Situations we practiced over and over and over again, they showed up in games and we executed,” he said. “You look at a lot of teams, a lot of games in the NFL are decided by those situations, and some teams execute well and some teams don’t. For the most part, I think we did a pretty darn good job with those and he had a lot to do with that.”
Stafford doesn’t know if the team’s current front office will ask him to be part of the search for Caldwell’s replacement, but the quarterback said he’d welcome the opportunity. He sat down with candidates during the team’s last hiring process.
“Haven’t been part of a head coaching search with this front office before,” Stafford said. “Obviously got the opportunity to sit down with some of the guys last time. Appreciated that opportunity. Don’t know if it will happen again. If it does, if they’re wanting to make it available to me, I’d absolutely be all for it. It’s going to be their decision and we’ll go from there.”