Gunther Cunningham is excited for his new role with Lions

Posted Feb 13, 2014

Former defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham will help in game planning and will be an adviser to the personnel department in his new role with the team

Gunther CunninghamCunningham. (AP Images)

Gunther Cunningham said back in December he had no plans to retire after completing his 32nd season in the NFL unless it was "to write a book."

The book thing is still very much in play, but it'll have to wait until at least his 33rd NFL season is through.

The Detroit Lions are keeping their former defensive coordinator on staff as a senior coaching assistant for the 2014 season.

Cunningham, who has an analytical mind that comes in handy when dealing with statistics and player evaluations, will help with game planning on both sides of the ball and will also be a resource for general manager Martin Mayhew and the personnel department.

"What I'm basically doing is game planning teams," Cunningham told Thursday. "Jim (Caldwell) asked me to do it on both sides of the ball. That doesn't mean that's necessarily what they're going to do, but it gives me something to really sink my teeth into.

"The biggest thing for me is that the assistants and Jim and Martin and all of them trust what I'm going to give them. They are doing the hard fact game planning. All I'm trying to do is lend my experience and my background and what I've seen and what I think when I look on tape."

It's the same for the personnel side of his job description.

"Believe it or not, a lot of my background goes through Oakland," he said. "I learned a lot from Al Davis about players and the patience you have to have to have to develop good players.

"I think my long talks with Martin (Mayhew) over the last four or five years obviously paid off on my behalf. I'm going to be involved in that and that's exciting."

Sitting in a newly remolded office in Allen Park with five computers on his desk, Cunningham has already gotten to work and says the change in roles comes at a good time in his career.

"Later in my coaching career I'd always wanted to be in this kind of position," he said. "The fortunate thing for me in Martin Mayhew, who was really the guy who set all this up.

"When things ended (with the old coaching staff) I wanted to stay here. I came here to do the job and it was going to be my last job one way or another. I want to go out as a winner. It's really important to me."

Cunningham has always enjoyed the prep work that goes into the draft and free agency. He said he did 270 pre-combine reports on players last year when other coaches were doing 30.

He likes looking at football from a statistical standpoint. He's a frequent visitor to statistical sites like STATS, LLC and Pro Football Focus and tries to understand how those correlate to on-field performance and getting better.

"I talked with T.A. (new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin) about what he wanted and then when I talked to Jim (Caldwell) the second or third time he asked me about the offense. He could see the smile on my face.

"One thing a defensive coach knows about is offense. That's what offensive coaches try to dissect and hopefully I can be of help to (new offensive coordinator) Joe (Lombardi) in that area and Jim himself."

Cunningham said more than anything he wants this new role to work and he wants Jim Caldwell and all the assistant coaches to do well.