Detroit Lions mailbag: What should be done at offensive coordinator?

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
There's been very little movement publicly in the Lions' search to replace offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.

Allen Park — It's all quiet on the offensive coordinator front, so it felt like a good time to do a Detroit Lions mailbag. 

What is a going on with the OC search? With no news or rumors about it, I am afraid they are just going to hire from within.

— @kered316

Understandably, there are a lot of questions about the offensive coordinator opening, and I'm here to tell you I know almost nothing. That's a more difficult thing for me to write than you to read, trust me. The organization is in lockdown in regards to the process, and based on the reporting of others, including those at top national outlets, they're running into the same brick walls with their sources. 

And coaching is almost always a trickier topic to unearth information. The circles are tighter, the agent information isn't easily accessible, so unless there's a leak from the organization or those being interviewed, we are left to the mercy of patience. 

That doesn't mean I'll stop digging, reaching out to sources and asking questions, but right now I'm getting a lot of radio silence from those close to the organization and a lot of "I don't knows" from second-hand sourcing that could steer me in a more meaningful direction with my own search for information. 

If Kyler Murray does indeed declare for the NFL Draft do you think the Lions would seriously consider taking him in the first round as a player to develop behind Stafford à la Rogers behind Favre and Mahomes behind Alex Smith? 

— @CourtSmoots

Matthew Stafford appears to be the Lions' quarterback of the near future.

I do not. The Lions' brass has made it clear they still believe in Matthew Stafford, and this front office and coaching staff doesn't have the equity built up to take such a bold swing with so many other roster holes to fill. 

The Lions could use a backup quarterback, and it wouldn't hurt to draft one with some real potential to be developed into a trade chip or someone who could push Stafford in a couple of years, but the earliest I see the Lions going that route would be the third round, and even that feels high with the aforementioned lengthy list of needs. 

Do I think GQ will be cut if he doesn’t retire? Or would he be asked to take a pay cut? Also any other cap casualties?

— @PaulMJackson9 

I don't know what you think Paul, but I have a difficult time imagining Glover Quin will be on the roster in 2019. Based on the signing bonus the veteran safety received with his last contract, he'd be wise to let the organization make the first move. Retiring before fulfilling a contract hasn't worked out well for other former Lions. You don't want to leave the door open for the team to try to reclaim some of that bonus. 

As for other cap-clearing moves, there are a half-dozen the team could consider: T.J. Lang, Nevin Lawson, Sam Martin, Theo Riddick, Christian Jones, Tavon Wilson and Kenny Wiggins. Those decisions will hinge on the Lions' ability to get a better player at their spots. 

I'll stick with laying out the possibilities, based strictly on the numbers, but will respectfully refrain from suggesting any player should lose their job. 

More: Lions' Glover Quin not ready to talk future after 'down year'

Why not take a run at Bell?

— @isjim99 

Pursuing former Michigan State star Le'Veon Bell doesn't make much sense for the Lions.

We'll safely assume you're talking about Le'Veon Bell, and we answered this in a previous mailbag, but it doesn't hurt making a point a second time. 

Bell is going to command a big salary. He wants $15 million per year, but even with the rising cap, it's tough to imagine Bell getting his full asking price after taking a year off. And his value wasn't helped by James Conner stepping into the Steelers lineup and nearly replicating Bell's production. 

Let's say Bell's value comes in between $10-12 million per year, giving him a top-three annual salary for the position. How do you justify that for a part-time player? That's what you pay the Todd Gurleys and Ezekiel Elliotts of the world, the guys who shoulder the load for their team.

The Lions have Kerryon Johnson, who proved capable of producing at a high level in this league. You can't pay Bell full price to come in for 50-60 percent of snaps/carries. That's a poor use of resources. 

It would be better to add a middle-tier veteran in free agency, such as Mark Ingram, Tevin Coleman or Bilal Powell, or simply draft someone in the middle rounds. 

Lots of talk of the lions going D with their first pick in the draft. If Jonah Williams is still on the board don’t you think the lions should take him?

— ConDaddy

At this stage in the offseason, I wouldn't rule out anything. Williams looks like he's the draft's best offensive lineman, and as I alluded to with my initial big board a while back, there's reason to believe he could slide inside to guard, similar to what Washington successfully did with Brandon Scherff. 

It probably wouldn't be the greatest optics for Bob Quinn to draft another offensive lineman that high, but you can't make decisions based on optics. You have to take the best player that can help you immediately, and Williams would help the Lions replace Lang long-term, with the potential to move back outside if the team parts ways with Rick Wagner in 2020. 

The sacks were certainly an issue, but subtract Blount's crappy ypc and the Lions average almost 5.0 ypc this season (would be top 3 in the league). That's great improvement for the offensive line isn't it? Convince me that Blount isn't the reason the offense tanked this season?

— @DanielCarlson_1 

It's an interesting way to look at things, and to a degree, you're on to something. It certainly highlighted the line's ability to block more effectively and consistently for a specific type of running style. Blount, despite his size, spent more time going east-west than his backfield mates, and that didn't mesh well with the blocking scheme. Kerryon Johnson and Zach Zenner, on the other other hand, thrived as north-south rushers. 

I can't pin the entire offense's failures on Blount. That's outlandish given he was only on the field for 26 percent of the snaps. Sure, his inefficiency put the team behind the sticks more often than you'd like to see, but the passing game was unquestionably problematic. The team didn't have a reliable intermediate or deep threat, leading to Stafford throwing an unreasonably high percentage of short passes. 

Receiver Brandon Powell had 11 catches for 129 yards this season for the Lions, most of which came in the regular-season finale.

Why did it take so long to get Powell into the Tate role in the offense? He seems like a great option to replace some of that production next year if he gets the opportunity.

— @michaeltrumbell 

He was given opportunities before that game, he just didn't produce. He racked up 103 yards on nine targets against the Packers, but just 26 yards on eight targets in the previous three games. 

It was great for him to have that breakout outing heading into the offseason, and it keeps his name afloat for a role going forward, but let's not over-hype a big performance against an opponent that was playing poor defense down the stretch and missing some key pieces for that game. 

How’s Glasgow doing in PFF rankings? Any chance Ragnow could shift over and pick up another guard?

— @DetLionsFan24

According to Pro Football Focus' grading, Glasgow ranked 11th out of 27 centers who played at least 50 percent of their teams' offensive snaps. He was above-average as both a run blocker and pass protector, although he would probably agree he allowed too much pass-rush pressure last season. 

I don't see any reason for the Lions to move Glasgow from his current spot. 

Do you trade the #8 pick to AZ for Peterson and their 2nd rd pick?

— @MegaLionsGreg

Would I make the trade? Probably not. Would the Lions make the trade? Probably not. Patrick Peterson is a really, really good player and would give the team an impressive secondary, filling the CB2 spot with a true playmaker.

And the contract isn't even that bad, averaging under $12 million the next two years. But that's still a steep price to pay, given the long-term control you get with a top-10 draft pick. 

If I'm a general manager, the only player who might be available I'd consider giving up the No. 8 pick would be Denver's Von Miller. Even there, I'd hesitate. He'll turn 30 this offseason. Still, few things can elevate a defense like an elite edge rusher, and Miller is still that.

Do you see a possible A’Shawn extension in the works this offseason?

— JustJake981

Of the team's pending free agents in 2020, Robinson and Glasgow would be the most logical to try to lock up long-term. 

What’s the skinny on “Milk Carton Miles” Killebrew? In game 1 of the ‘17 season he had a game clinching pick six. He seemed to have a nose for the ball and had a reputation as a big hitter. Now - nothing. He’s in witness protection.

— @derekwilc

Miles Killebrew should once again be a vital cog in the Lions' special teams next season, though he didn't have a role in their defense this past season.

It's easy to talk about evaluations we had correct in hindsight, but we aren't as eager to bring up times where we whiffed. Well, I thought Killebrew was going to be a matchup piece that Patricia would find a way to maximize within his scheme. 

Instead, Killebrew struggled throughout the early portion of the offseason program and by August the team was converting him to a linebacker. It's tough to say how that transition has gone since Killebrew didn't play a single defensive snap during the regular season. 

He remained a key part of special teams, playing more snaps on those units than any Lions player, by a wide margin. That's still a valuable role, and one he's likely to continue in next season, while trying to crack the defensive rotation with a better offseason program. 

Why do my friends keep asking if the Lions are going to be trying to get Antonio Brown?

— @actionjackson84

Maybe it's the 84 in your username, which is Brown's number in Pittsburgh. 

Listen, I don't know your friends, but whenever a big name hits the trade block, the natural reaction for many fans is trying to figure out if they're a fit and how much would it cost to acquire them. 

With Brown, it's probably amplified a bit because of his big personality and his local connection, having played at Central Michigan. 

The Lions definitely need playmakers, and Brown unquestionably fits that bill. The biggest obstacle, even more than his lofty salary, is a personality conflict. Every coach wants passionate players, but you lose Patricia when that attitude transforms into me-first or any kind of distraction. 

Some will highlight that Patricia's mentor took on Randy Moss, which is true, but that was after Bill Belichick won some Super Bowls. You get more leeway once you add championships on the resume. 

Do you think the change in cap manager Harriss to Mike Disner was due in large part to not landing really any key targeted free agents last offseason?

— @JohnnyJStrawser 

I don't have any specific insight into the switch at this time, but the contract negotiator and cap manager doesn't typically have that kind of sway in the free-agent process. A value range is assigned to players by the front office and the general manager is pitching those basic parameters directly to agents. The negotiator handles the finer details of making the numbers work and managing the team's long-term cap health and budget. 

Hopefully Bob Quinn will provide a little insight into what Disner brings to the table that Harriss didn't when we talk to the GM again in March. 

More: Lions hire Mike Disner as new vice president of football administration

If you are Matt Patricia and deciding on the new OC, how much does the lack of playcalling experience matter/concern you? What are the top 3 things you’d value most in a new OC?

— @Vretz2121 

It's tough to get a read on what Patricia is thinking, so I'll stick to the second part of the question. 

►1. A deep understanding of modern NFL defenses, as well as college trends that could potentially be making their way to the league, and an understanding of how to successfully attack those with your scheme. 

►2. Flexibility within a scheme to take new information, regardless of the source, and reshape your thinking. Also, the ability to craft the scheme to personnel. Hopefully the candidate can provide examples from previous experiences as opposed to speaking hypothetically. 

►3. Experience working in various schemes and demonstrating how each of those experiences helped shape their own understanding of offense, both big picture and situationally. Play-calling experience would be a bonus, but not a deal-breaker. 

Assuming a reasonable price, is there someone Detroit should consider moving up for in the draft?

— @kfletch300

Generally moves within the top-10 are cost prohibitive, but if the Lions could move up 1-3 spots and land a potential elite pass-rusher such as Nick Bosa or Josh Allen, and the cost isn't beyond an additional third-round pick, it's worth considering. 

Will we ever see Stafford throw deep again as part of the game plan or will it just be a gimmick we see once every other game?

— @NotSauer

Even though the rate was down in 2018, for various reasons, Stafford still took his share of deep shots last season. He didn't connect on as many, which is the real problem. Some of that was because of protection and personnel, but his own accuracy issues were also a significant factor.

Stafford's deep-ball accuracy was something I noted repeatedly throughout the offseason, preseason and early season. Simply put, something was off.

Who knows what the next coordinator's pass-game philosophy will be, but with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones in the fold, it's difficult to imagine reestablishing the vertical element won't be a priority. 

With deep threats like Marvin Jones Jr. (left) and Kenny Golladay, the Lions should make solving their deep-pass woes a priority next season.

As difficult as this season was for Lions fans , what signs do you see that the team is headed in the right direction?

— @trumanfrancis

To start, that was a hell of a crop of rookies. Frank Ragnow had some ups and downs, but looks like he'll be a solid piece, Kerryon Johnson was electric, Da'Shawn Hand was outstanding and Tracy Walker played well in a limited role, proving ready for more snaps in 2019. 

Led by Johnson, the team appears to finally have some footing with its ground game. Finding an upgrade to Blount should be a key part of the offseason. 

Finally, the defense really turned a corner following the addition of Damon Harrison. The run defense was downright dominant the second half of the year. Adding a couple of key pieces this offseason, particularly some that can help increase turnover production, could move the unit into the upper echelon of the league in 2019.  

Teez Tabor was kept ahead of Cre'von Leblanc who, according to Schwartz, 'saved' the Eagles season. Is there a realistic chance Tabor finds a role on the team in 2019? Is he even on the roster? Should we be concerned that our GM and defensively minded HC kept Tabor over Leblanc?

— @JohnHowell77

Tabor still has a cheap deal and the Lions have invested a lot into his development, so they'll give him every opportunity to make the roster in 2019. But that's not a guarantee, and if he continues to flounder through the next preseason, no one should be surprised if the team cuts bait. 

More: Lions GM Quinn still sees upside in CB Teez Tabor

As for keeping Tabor over LeBlanc, he too struggled when he was in Detroit, including a brutal debut against Green Bay in Week 5. And it took him a few weeks to hit his stride in Philadelphia, although the Eagles patience has clearly paid off in a big way. 

This wasn't a case of just the Lions missing on LeBlanc. The Bears cut him before the season and 31 teams had a shot to sign him off Detroit's practice squad and didn't. He's ended up being a great fit in Philadelphia, and Jim Schwartz should be commended for the work he's done not just with LeBlanc, but that entire defense. 

Who would be a home run FA signing?

— @Chef_Chadley

Any of the top pass rushers — DeMarcus Lawrence, Dee Ford, Trey Flowers or Jadeveon Clowney —would justify fan frenzy. Each would come at a huge cost, but it would fill the team's biggest need and give the Lions more flexibility entering the draft. 

There isn't a guard, tight end or cornerback in the same class as those four players. 

Do we feel like the Lions will try to find an established, veteran TE or will they go back to the well yet again and use a high pick in the draft?

— @hellspawn138

Maybe both. The Lions need more than one tight end. In fact, they might have an entirely new room next season, depending on whether they keep Michael Roberts. 

The free-agent group isn't particularly sexy, so you might see another stopgap like Luke Willson or Levine Toilolo. Personally, I'd try to keep Toilolo, but I get the sense he'd rather play somewhere else next season. 

Again, it always depends how the board falls, but a tight end in the first three rounds seems like a good possibility. 

More: Wojo: Lions GM Quinn desperately needs a rebound, not a rebuild

More important offseason need. To hit a home run with the OC hire or to hit a home run with the #8 pick?

— @ch0z3n1 

It's a difficult question, because nailing an OC hire means you might not have that coach for long. Good coordinators, especially offensive, typically get head-coaching jobs. With the draft pick, maximum value is at least five productive years, the length of their rookie contract.

All things considered, I'll lean coordinator because, not to be dramatic, the long-term futures for Quinn, Patricia and Stafford all hinge on the move. If this is a bad hire, and the offense doesn't recover over the next two seasons, all three could get the broom, leading to a full rebuild. 

How much do you think injuries played in JBC’s non renewal?

— @rokubi28 

I believe Patricia always preferred bringing in his own guy this offseason, but had the offense thrived in 2018, there was always the realistic possibility the marriage would be prolonged, similar to Quinn keeping Jim Caldwell for two years to start the GM's tenure. 

Injuries definitely made it more challenging for Cooter to effectively do his job, while making what might have been a difficult decision for Patricia and easy one.

I would love to see Lions trade the pick to acquire more capital, what is likelihood Bob Quinn does? I see him as being more conservative.

— @MarkKribs

It's impossible to answer. Although we've seen some pre-draft pick swaps in recent years, the most likely scenario is we won't know until the Lions are on the clock. If there's a compelling QB option there and a couple of QB-needy teams down the board, that's going to significantly ramp up the possibilities. 

On the other hand, if a perfect fit is there at No. 8, say Allen, maybe you pass on potential offers because you know you're getting a guy who can immediately help you more than any combination of players later in the draft.

Twitter: @justin_rogers