Lions looking for next coach to get the most out of QB Matthew Stafford

Posted Jan 2, 2014

General manager Martin Mayhew said Monday the next coach has to be part of the equations that helps Stafford get back to his 2011 level "and beyond"

In the press conference announcing the firing of head coach Jim Schwartz on Monday, president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew called the Lions job "a very attractive opportunity."

One of the biggest reasons is the team boasts a roster of ready-to-win talent. That includes a 25-year old quarterback with all the tools to help Detroit become a consistent winner.

The new head coach, new offensive coordinator and whoever is tabbed to work closely with Stafford as a quarterbacks coach needs to get the most out of him.

"I don't know that it's going to be the head coach's responsibility," Mayhew said. "It might be, it may not be. We'll have coaches here that can get him to where he needs to be.

"He's already been a great quarterback in 2011. He had 41 touchdowns and 5,000 yards passing. We have to get him to that point and beyond. That hasn't happened the last two seasons, and part of that is personnel-related I think, but he certainly has the ability to be that guy."

Matthew StaffordPhoto: G. Smith/Detroit Lions

When Mayhew says "personnel-related" he is referring to a lack of consistent receiving weapons the last couple seasons. The Lions need to find All Pro receiver Calvin Johnson some help on the outside. That's most likely to come this spring in the draft and free agency.

Stafford set franchise records with 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011, but he hasn't been anywhere near those touchdown numbers the last two years.

This season, he completed 58.5 percent of his passes and had 19 interceptions.

"The quarterback, as you know, gets a lot of blame when things don't go well and gets a lot of credit when things do go well but there are a lot of things around him that take place as well," Mayhew said.

"I think we can do a better job from a personnel standpoint by setting him up for success. Obviously, there are some things that can be done from a coaching standpoint as well, but it's not all on him I don't think."

That's what makes an offensive-minded coach, who has experience working with quarterbacks, such an attractive candidate for the Lions.

San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt certainly fits the criteria, as do some others like Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

As Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator from 2004-06, Whisenhunt worked with Ben Roethlisberger during his first three seasons in the league and they won a Super Bowl. He went on to Arizona and helped Kurt Warner rejuvenate his career and took Arizona to the Super Bowl.

San Diego's Philip Rivers finished this season with the highest completion percentage of his career (69.5) and the second-most touchdowns (32) and second-fewest interceptions (11).

Roman has had successful offenses at both Stanford and San Francisco as offensive coordinator. He has a creative offensive mind and has worked with Andrew Luck, Alex Smith and Colin Keapernick.

Gruden has helped Andy Dalton throw 80 touchdowns his first three seasons in the league.

Both Roman or Gruden don't have any major college or NFL head coaching experience, however, which is an attractive attribute for the Lions in their next head coach.

"I think all 32 teams want to have a detailed quarterback coach," Mayhew said. "Someone who is good at coaching quarterbacks and that is certainly part of the equations, whether that is the head coach who has that experience or somebody on the staff.”