Lions Hire Cunningham; More Senior Bowl Notes

Gunther Cunningham has been named Detroit's new defensive coordinator. And the irony isn't lost with the fact that Detroit has its collective scouting eye on this defensive prospect in Mobile, Alabama. Find out who inside.

Jim Schwartz made his first official hire as Detroit's head coach on Wednesday, tabbing Kansas City defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to orchestrate the team's defense. Schwartz has been spending his time in Mobile, Alabama, which plays host to the college Senior Bowl, where many draft-worthy athletes are auditioning for potential suitors..

It has also allowed the first-year head coach to mingle with potential assistants to fill his coaching staff vacancies.

Although the two worked together in Tennessee between 2001 and 2003, Cunningham's resume is considerably more expansive. He has spent 27 years in the National Football League, including 10 as a defensive coordinator and two as a head coach. He was a defensive coordinator in K.C. between between 1995 and 1998, and took over as head coach in 1999 before his firing in 2000.

In Tennessee, he was the assistant head coach to Jeff Fisher and also coached the team's linebackers.

Cunningham returned to the Chiefs in 2004.

Like Detroit, Kansas City struggled considerably in 2008, leading to a front office change that will have repercussions on the coaching staff. Cunningham's fate was likely decided if not forthcoming.

In 2007, the Chiefs fared considerably better behind Cunningham's defensive teachings, ranking in the top five in nine different categories, including third-down defense, negative plays forced, and fewest 10-plus play drives.

Cunningham replaces the departed Joe Barry, whose defense the past two seasons in Detroit ranked among the league's worst.

Who the Lions Are Watching:

If they're intent on following their plan to build via the draft, the Senior Bowl weighs heavily with the Lions. The expert staff has been in Mobile taking notes, and one player that has tickled Detroit's fancy is Oklahoma S/LB Nic Harris ...

  • S/LB Nic Harris (Oklahoma): Harris met with the Vikings, Seahawks and Bears on Tuesday after previous interest from the Patriots, Jaguars, Panthers, Saints, Lions, and Bengals.

    Oklahoma's Nic Harris will likely play LB in the NFL, and is projected as high as a second-round pick in most mock drafts.
    File Photo
    Harris is listed as a linebacker on the North Team roster for this weekend's game, which isn't surprising when you consider that he's a hard-hitting 6-foot-2, 233-pound dynamo who brings a lot of confidence and attitude to his game. After putting on the pads Monday afternoon for the team's first practice, Harris said that he's hoping that his performance will send a clear message to NFL teams.

    "I'm hoping that they will see that at the end of the day that I can play with anybody, and you can put me anywhere on the field. I'm one of those selfless guys who will play wherever the coach wants me to play. If he wants me to play down-lineman, I'll do that," he said with a smile.

  • Oregon State offensive tackle Andy Levitre (6-3, 326 pounds) also met with the Lions.

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