Lions Insider

10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: The next Lions coach, offseason needs and roster questions

Posted Jan 9, 2014

Tim Twentyman answers questions from his Twitter account (@ttwentyman) as the Lions search for their next head coach and get ready to make key roster decisions

From time to time this offseason I plan to answer 10 good questions I receive through my Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman," which is sponsored by Huntington Bank.

Ken WhisenhuntKen Whisenhunt (Photo: AP Images)

Who do you feel is the best head coach for 2014? Both those that have shown interest & those that haven’t. Who will get the job? Jordan (@JordanTG)

20man: I truly believe current San Diego offensive coordinator and former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt is the leading candidate, Jordan.

He really seems to fit the profile the Lions are looking for:

  • He has head coaching experience
  • He’s offensive minded
  • Has a track record of making quarterbacks he’s worked with better
  • He’s detail-oriented and a disciplinarian

He took an Arizona team, a team much like the Lions in that it didn’t have a lot of playoff success, and took them to a Super Bowl a few years ago.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that he was a former teammate in Washington of Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, too.

I was very impressed with Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell when he came in and interviewed for the job last week. He also fits the above profile. He’s probably the next guy up after Whisenhunt.

How much does Matt (Stafford) sitting in on interviews help with team buying into new coach? Denis Kelly (@DenisKelly_Real)

20man: This story has been overblown both locally and nationally, in my opinion. Stafford and Caldwell didn’t go over every pass Stafford threw this year. What I know of the meeting is it was more of a meet and greet and a talk about coaching philosophy and the team.

The Ford Family will make the final decision on who becomes the next head coach with consultation from Tom Lewand and Mayhew.

CB 1st round & a compliment wideout in the 2nd round to @Bigplaycj? Brock (@BrocktimusPrim3)

20man: Not so fast, Brock.

First off, it’s pretty early in the process. Let’s not put the cart before the horse. We haven’t seen any of those guys work out, go through the combine process or come in for visits.

I’d be very careful about taking a cornerback in the top 10, however. Look no further than the last two seasons with Morris Claiborne (Dallas) and Dee Milliner (New York Jets), two players who have been underwhelming to start their careers. Cornerbacks are sometimes tough to predict unless it’s an ultra-talent like Arizona’s Patrick Peterson a few years ago.

The Lions need a playmaker in the secondary and I wouldn’t exclude the free safety position from the conversation. I think young players like Mark Barron (Tampa Bay), Harrison Smith (Minnesota), Kenny Vaccaro (New Orleans) and Eric Reid (San Francisco) have had more impact from the safety position early in their careers.

If there’s a receiver available at No. 10 the Lions feel can make plays on the outside opposite Calvin Johnson, honestly, that might have the most immediate impact for the Lions. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins certainly looked like that kind of player all year.

The best playmaker available at receiver or in the secondary would be a good way to go at No. 10.

Which 2013 starters do you think will get cut to save cap space? Ali Hojeij (@Ali_Hojeij1)

20man: I talked about the safety position in the previous question because there’s a chance free safety Louis Delmas isn’t back next season. He’ll count $6.5 million toward salary cap and the Lions could be thinking it’s time to move on from Delmas because of that bad knee.

Give Delmas credit though, he managed the knee injury all season and was able to play all 16 games. He just didn’t seem to be the same player because of the knee injury or lack of practice time.

Veteran receiver Nate Burleson is another name. He’ll count more than $7.5 million towards the salary cap in his last year under contract. He is willing to take a salary cut to stick around, however.

Do you expect major changes in the secondary?  Like, will the Lions draft a safety for once? Jack LaBelle (@Ja_LaBelle)

20man: I talked about the safety position above, Jack, and I think that’s a real possibility in the first couple rounds.

As far as the current Lions secondary, Chris Houston, Darius Slay, Bill Bentley and Jonte Green are all under contract. They have exclusive rights to Chris Greenwood.

Slay and Greenwood are young prospects who have shown promise, and I expect them to be in the hunt for playing time come training camp.

Houston had a down year, but he’s signed for four more years and $20 million. The Lions would take a nice cap hit if they decide to part ways.

I’m not sold on the fact the Lions should be looking to add another young cornerback via the draft. They have enough of those young developmental guys already on the roster.

Maybe going out in free agency and getting a young veteran to come in and who can immediately improve the unit and help some of these young guys along might be the best option.

There’s also the possibility of Rashean Mathis signing back. In the end, he was the most consistent cornerback the Lions had last year.

I think we will see some new faces at both safety and cornerback this offseason, Jack.

Do the majority of the players on the team honestly believe they can ever win a championship with Stafford as their QB? Dear (@DearRyJa)

20man: I’ve never heard any player say they couldn’t win with Stafford. And I’m talking in media scrums in the locker room with the camera on. I'm talking just conversations with guys.

Players know how talented Stafford can be. He showed it in 2011 with 5,000-plus yards and 41 touchdowns. Stafford didn’t lose that playoff game in New Orleans. The second-half performance by the defense did.

I think there’s a prevailing feeling in the locker room that Stafford can lead them to a Super Bowl if he limits the turnovers and gets in a scheme that allows him to manage games better.

Do you think Suh and some of the other Lions won't resign next year because Jim is now gone?? Christopher Miller (@millertime2081)

20man: Not at all. Players want to win, Christopher. Ndamukong Suh wants to win. If he feels the next coach gives him a chance to win, there’s no nostalgia in the NFL. Suh likes defensive line coaches Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek and he likes playing in Detroit.

I get the impression he wants to re-sign with Detroit, but wants to make sure this is a team that can win with the next coach in place.

Another reason why the Lions have to get this coaching search right.

Mayhew said his biggest mistake in 2012 was counting on Jahvid Best returning. What was his big one for 2013? Michael Boctor (@Doctor_Boctor)

20man: That’s a good question, Michael, and I’m sure Mayhew will answer that for himself when he sits down with beat writers after this coaching search is over.

Maybe his answer might be not getting Calvin Johnson enough help on the outside part of the field. Johnson was the only real deep threat in the passing game. Kris Durham, Nate Burleson and Kevin Ogletree combined for 90 catches for 1,150 yards and four touchdowns.

There are No. 2 receivers (Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery) around the league who had more production than that.

Who are your top free agents on the lions roster that are a must re-sign? Andy Downs (@shizillbibble31)

20man: Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is No. 1 for me, though I know that won’t be popular to some.

After a rough start, I though Pettigrew was very consistent the rest of the way and the Lions missed him at the end of the year when he wasn’t playing because of that ankle injury.

Dominic RaiolaC Dominic Raiola (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

There’s no other tight end on the roster that can do what he does as both a blocker and receiver. They have a couple guys who can do one of those things well – Joseph Fauria as a receiver and Michael Williams as a blocker – but Pettigrew is the full package.

No. 2 for me would be running back Joique Bell.  He’s restricted, however, so the Lions will have the final say in that one. They’re likely to put a second-round tender on him.

No. 3 would be Dominic Raiola, 35, because the Lions don’t have his replacement on the roster. I thought Dom played well in 2013 and earned himself at least another year.

Will Bell over take Bush's starting spot? If you see Bell staying around? Andrew (@Andrew_Lanser)

20man: I do see Bell staying around, Andrew. I view Bell and Bush as 1A and 1B and I think the Lions do too.

The question is how will the new head coach and the new offensive coordinator view them?

My guess is both players will have a significant role. They both bring very different skill sets to the table and are a good compliment to each other. They will continue to be so. Who plays more could depend on game plan and the hot hand.