Jim Bob Cooter mum on future as Lions' season finale looms

By Matt Schoch
Special to The Detroit News
Jim Bob Cooter

Allen Park – As offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter wrapped up his final scheduled media session of the season Friday, he asked reporters if there were any more questions.

"Guys, last chance, come on," Cooter beckoned, continuing the thread of light-hearted banter with media members who ask each week about his job performance and status amidst a disappointing season.

"The time to deal with the future really is in the future," Cooter said earlier, repeating the boilerplate line. "When next week comes, and all that stuff happens, we’ll get into that then.

"I’m excited for our game this week."

Sunday at Green Bay could be Cooter's final game calling plays for the Lions, as his first season directing Matt Patricia's offense is likely to be his last.

More: Lions' Matt Patricia responds to concerns about tardiness

When asked to size up the job that Cooter has done this season, Patricia on Friday acknowledged how tough it has been, without offering much glowing praise.

“Yeah, I mean, obviously not an easy job, right?” Patricia said. “So he’s, you know, every single week, doing everything he can to just put us in a situation to help the collective team try to be in the end where we can win.”

It mostly has not worked, as the Lions stumble into Sunday with a 5-10 record and near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories.

Patricia referenced the injuries, which prematurely ended the seasons of wide receiver Marvin Jones and running back Kerryon Johnson, slowing the production of quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions also traded away top receiver Golden Tate after the team fell to 3-4.

Stafford likely will fall short of 4,000 passing yards for the first time since 2010, the offense is 24th out of 32 NFL teams with 322.3 yards per game, and the Lions are tied for 26th in points per game at 19.5.

On Thursday, Stafford fell short of fully endorsing Cooter’s return as coordinator next season when asked what he would say if Patricia sough his opinion.

"He doesn’t ask me," he said Thursday, adding, “I’ve always enjoyed working with Jim Bob. I think he’s a smart coach and I’ve had a lot of success under him. We’ve scored a bunch of points and done a lot of really good things under him.”

Cooter, 34, was retained by Patricia after he spent two full seasons as offensive coordinator under former coach Jim Caldwell, and parts of a third after Joe Lombardi was fired seven games into the 2015 season.

There was success under Cooter as the Lions are 29-27 in his tenure in addition to one playoff loss. The offense crumbled this season, however.

"I understand the outside perception and all that," Cooter said. "I've tried some different things, some that have worked, some that have not."

More: Lions mailbag: Matt Patricia's tardiness seems to go against NFL coaching grain

Cooter said the point of emphasis coming into the season was running the ball. In Week 3, Johnson was the first Lions player to reach 100 yards rushing after 70 games of falling short. He gained 158 yards three games later and led the league's 23rd-ranked rushing offense at 102.0 yards per game, after finishing 32nd last season.

“So, I think, again, Jim Bob works extremely hard, he’s very smart, he obviously knows the system in and out, and obviously, works really close with Stafford as far as trying to get all them on the same page,” Patricia said. "It’s not easy. It’s not an easy game. It’s hard. There’s a lot of good players in this league, a lot of great players in this division.

“We’ve got another difficult game this week, a division game up against Green Bay, up in Green Bay. So, none of these are easy, and again, we just try do the best we can as a staff, and as players collectively each week to give ourselves the best chance to win as a team. That’s really what it’s about, all three phases.”

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.