The Detroit Lions relieved special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs of his duties on Monday, a day after he called an unauthorized fake punt against the Tennessee Titans, interim head coach Darrell Bevell told reporters Monday. Bevell said the decision to move on from Coombs was an organizational decision that was best for the team.
"The decision yesterday that was made in the game was not a correct decision," Bevell said. "There's 12 minutes and 43 seconds to go in the game. We're down two scores. Matthew (Stafford) had just been hit on second down on the little fumbled snap. He'd just been hit on third down on the next play. So, just assessing the whole situation ... I have to assess everything. I'm assessing the quarterback is not in a good way, and also with the score and where we were. We had three timeouts left plus the two-minute warning and Jack (Fox) is punting really well.
"I thought it would be best to flip the field and keep us in the game there down two scores. You saw how the offense was going with a really good chance. If I'm going to go for it there, I'm going to leave the offense out and I'm going to trust Matthew with the ball and that didn't happen in this situation."
Coombs, 34, was in his first season with the Lions after spending 10 years as an assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the Lions trailing 32-18 early in the fourth quarter, Coombs ran a fake punt on 4th and 4 at Detroit's 31-yard line. C.J. Moore took a direct snap and ran to the short side of the field, where he was stopped a half yard short of a first down. The Titans took possession at the Lions' 34-yard-line and scored six plays later to break the game wide open.
Bevell said he told Coombs to punt, and Coombs called the fake on his own.
Coombs, the third special teams coordinator the Lions have had in the last three seasons, is the first assistant to be let go since the Lions relieved head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn of their duties last month.
"It was an agonizing decision," Bevell said of relieving Coombs of his duties. "It's something that was really hard for me. I thought it would be really important to think on it a lot. I really thought about it all night long. I ended up getting ahold of (team president) Rod (Wood) and talking it through with Rod.
"There are some things you can do and I feel like you can come back from and then I think there's some decisions that you don't make those decisions and there's got to be repercussions because there are a lot of people that are making similar decisions in different ways. Again, I'm just trying to do what's best for this team and put this team in the best situation to win."
Outside of some uncharacteristic struggles from kicker Matt Prater this season, including another missed extra point attempt Sunday, the Lions special teams units have been good this year. The coverage teams are some of the best in the league, and Fox is among the league leaders in both gross and net punting in his first season as a starter. Return man Jamal Agnew ranks in the top 10 in both kickoff and punt return averages, and the Lions have blocked multiple kicks this season.
It's expected that assistant special teams coach Marquice Williams will take over direction of special teams the last two games of the season.