After brief audition, Darrell Bevell gets interview for Lions' coaching job
When the Detroit Lions named Darrell Bevell the interim coach down the stretch of 2020 season, he embraced the opportunity with unadulterated excitement.
On Tuesday, he'll get the opportunity to make his case for the full-time job, interviewing with owner Sheila Ford Hamp, team president Rod Wood and adviser Chris Spielman.
The Lions won their first game under Bevell, besting the playoff-bound Chicago Bears, 34-30, on the road. But after that, the Lions limped to the finish line. Handcuffed by the awful defense he inherited, the team lost its final four games, surrendering 161 points during that season-ending losing streak.
Still, Bevell's leadership, particularly through the week where he and four other coaches were sidelined by the league's COVID-19 protocols, was appreciated by the organization.
“I really want to compliment Darrell Bevell and what he did really the last five weeks," Wood said Tuesday morning, ahead of the interview. "It’s a very tough assignment to step into an interim head-coaching assignment during the season. I think the players rallied around him. Darrell did a great job organizing things, then was thrown a curveball in the middle of his five-game stretch with the COVID-19 situation and the close contacts with the coaches that we lost for the Bucs game. But even with that, I think we came through it and (that’s) a testament to Darrell for that."
On Monday, Bevell described the season as a roller coaster, a learning experience and a blessing.
"I’ve learned so much over a short period of time," Bevell said. "I’ve had to deal with a lot in a short period of time. I think I’ve said it before that I learned that, one, there’s a great support system here around me. They’ve really helped me out and build me up, and then I have also learned that I can handle a lot. I’ve been able to learn some of the things that I needed to learn in a quick time. I’ve had to make some very difficult decisions, as well. I think those are some of the things that I’ve been able to do in this short time."
A longtime coordinator, who worked in that role in Minnesota and Seattle prior to coming to Detroit in 2019, Bevell has long desired an opportunity to be a head coach. He's previously interviewed for other vacancies and had been a finalist for the Chicago Bears opening in 2013 before they settled on Marc Trestman.
During Bevell's time in Detroit, the offense was often the bright spot.
In 2019, prior to suffering a season-ending back injury, quarterback Matthew Stafford was arguably playing the best football of his career. And this season, the offensive line showed steady improvement, while the running game looked competent when rookie D'Andre Swift was healthy and available.
Stafford's performance also picked up this year, after Bevell was named interim coach. Despite battling through multiple injuries the final five games, Stafford completed nearly 67% of his passes with a 106.1 quarterback rating during that stretch, compared to a 92.7 rating the previous 11 games.
"Knowing all the situations, and all the things that we were going through, the product on the field and how they played, was really important to me," Bevell said. "One, that they were giving it 100%, that they were still flying around, that they were still playing for the love of the game, so to speak. So everybody saying, ‘I don’t know why you guys are playing, there’s nothing to play for.’ We love this game. We respect this game. That was something that I tried to impress upon them, from the very first game that I took over, and our style of play and how we were going to play.
"Some of the people that mean a lot to me, they texted me, they reached out to me, and they’ve commented on the style of play, and how those guys were playing," Bevell said. "That means as much to me as anything."