The Detroit Lions offense is humming, their quarterback is playing his best football of the season, the offensive line looks like a different group. All this improvement with one major change, a new person running the show.
The Lions replaced the embattled Joe Lombardi at offensive coordinator with Jim Bob Cooter and the results are undeniable.
Since the team’s bye week – when Cooter was given a reasonable opportunity to make the adjustments he saw fitting – the Lions have averaged 27 points per game vs. 18.6 before the bye. First downs are up, yards are up and – most importantly – the Lions are 3-0 since the bye.
Players will be quick to point out that the ‘Joes’ have more of an impact than the Xs and Os but there is no denying Cooter’s influence and the budding chemistry he has with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
“Jim Bob and I have a good relationship, he’s a smart guy, he communicates well with the guys on our offense,” said Stafford. “He’s young in this job, but he’s not afraid, he’s aggressive and that’s fun. That rubs off on guys when a guy’s aggressive and trusts us as players to go out and make those decisions.”
Cooter is playing to his player’s strength and putting them in a position to succeed. Not only catering to their physical attributes but to their mental ones as well.
For example, he knows Stafford is physically capable of making a big play in a time of need but he also knows that Stafford wants to put vertical pressure on a defense when possible.
At the end of the first half with the Lions only up by 10, Cooter played to those strengths and it paid off when Stafford found Calvin Johnson for a 25-yard strike.
“It’s just a four vertical play, we’re being aggressive,” said Stafford. “I’ll give Jim Bob credit, he called a short slant route – kind of all slant kind of thing. He said ‘ah, screw that, let’s be aggressive’. He gave me four verticals and I was fired up for it, I loved it.”
There were a lot of plays – some big and some small – that demonstrated Cooter’s ability to put his players in a spot to succeed.
“With the way things were going today, I knew it was going to be a long one for the (Eagles’) defense,” said Stafford.
Stafford ended up with 337 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and 137.8 passer rating – with the touchdown passes and rating being best single-game numbers Stafford has had in the Caldwell era.
“Jim Bob called a great game and put us in position to win, position to make plays,” said Stafford.