MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: Former Lions QB Jon Kitna enjoying a coaching career

Posted Feb 25, 2018

Former Lions quarterback Jon Kitna is following the plan that he plotted long ago to coach high school football after his NFL career ended.

Jon Kitna is following the plan that he plotted long ago to coach high school football after his NFL career ended.

It was a natural transition for Kitna to drop down to the roots of the game when he retired after playing quarterback for 16 NFL seasons, including three with the Lions (2006-08) in mid-career.

He recently was hired as head coach of Brophy Prep, an all-boys Catholic school and a multi-sport powerhouse in Phoenix.

“I enjoy teaching football,” Kitna, 45, said in a telephone interview. “I love preparing. I’m good at it, and I love it.”

Kitna’s enthusiasm and self-assuredness is not surprising to those who followed his career.

His desire for the game was evident in his background and the longevity of his career. He made the Seahawks’ practice squad in 1996 as an undrafted free agent out of Central Washington. He wound up playing 141 games, with 124 starts, and earning admiration for his dedication and resilience.

In addition to the Lions and Seahawks, Kitna also played for the Bengals and Cowboys. In Detroit, he became the first Lions quarterback to pass for 4,000 or more yards in two seasons, and he led the 2007 team that ignited a spark of optimism in the darkest decade in franchise history.

The 2008 Lions went 0-17, with Kitna starting the first four games before going out with a season-ending back injury.

Before he was hired by Brophy Tech., Kitna spent three seasons each as head coach at his alma mater, Lincoln High in Tacoma, Wash., and Waxahachie (Texas) High.

Regardless of location and circumstances, Kitna felt that coaching was part of his Christian mission. He expressed often during his tenure with the Lions how important he feels coaches can be as mentors and leaders.

“My math teacher and my high school basketball coach were the most important people in my life,” Kitna said in the telephone interview. “The most influential person in America is the coach. I want us to be as good as we can be.

“Obviously, some of that is the talent that walks through the doors year in and year out. A lot of that is about the coaches and us giving these young men the tools to be successful on the field, off the field and in their homes.”

Kitna has mixed memories about his time with the Lions – but optimism about the immediate future.

The 2007 team was 6-2 at the halfway point in 2007, with a playoff berth in sight. The Lions collapsed in the second half to finish with a 7-9 record.

“Looking back on it, not everybody was on the same page – from the top down,” he said.

His view of the current team is just the opposite.

“They have a franchise quarterback (Matthew Stafford) and a good defense,” he said. “Now they have a chance to work on other pieces that may be behind in the development. I think the run game is going to be excellent this year.

“They’re going to be in every game. I just feel like they’re right on the cusp, from the ownership on down. It feels like people are in alignment.”