ORLANDO – One of the people Matt Patricia talked to as he researched the Detroit Lions organization before interviewing for the head coaching job was Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
Patricia liked what he heard from Cooter – and what he heard about him from others – that he decided he would retain him as offensive coordinator if he was hired by the Lions.
"I talked to him about the organization before I got into any sort of, 'Do I want to be here?" Patricia told detroitlions.com back in February. "At that point, you're like, 'If this works out, of course I want this guy.'"
The two have now been on the grind for nearly two months, and Cooter has continued to impress Patricia.
"He's been great," Patricia said earlier this week. "The thing about Jim Bob, which was awesome, was I have a lot of very close people that I've worked with in the past that worked with him directly.
"So, once you kind of understand hey, 'this guy's worked for such and such a person and worked with another guy I know really well,' you kind of get that reassurance that it's exactly what you want it to be. It's been that."
Cooter enters his third full season as Detroit's offensive coordinator after taking over midseason in 2015.
The last two years under Cooter, the Lions have ranked sixth and 11th, respectively, in passing. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown the fewest interceptions over the last two years of any other two-year stretch in which he played all 16 games, and is coming off a season in 2017 where he had a career-high passer rating of 99.3.
While things have been good in the passing department under Cooter, the run game has gotten worse each of the last two seasons. The Lions were last running the ball in 2017.
The hiring of a new offensive line coach, Jeff Davidson, and the signing of free-agent running back LeGarrette Blount, are expected to help in that department, but it's still one of the question marks hanging over Cooter's offense.
"He works extremely hard, very knowledgeable about the offense," Patricia said of his time so far with Cooter. "Really understands our players. Understands how to tweak some things from a scheme standpoint. We've been having some of those discussions. Just a guy that kind of grinds it out."
Even though Patricia's background in coaching is mostly defensive, he began his career in New England as an offensive assistant and assistant offensive line coach. He'll have an influence on every aspect of this football team – offense, defense and special teams.
So, what are Patricia's thoughts on the offense he's inheriting?
"It's a very difficult group to defend," he said. "I think there's a lot of dangerous skill players. I think that the quarterback, like I've mentioned before, you're always going to start with him, I think he is extremely tough and a very competitive guy.
"Very smart, so you have to do some things coverage-wise when you play against him to disguise some of the looks and not just give him those easy matchups. It's definitely a situation where he's going to try to find and get the ball to the right guy."
Patricia was particularly excited about the talented and deep group of receivers the Lions are returning. Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay are all expected back this season. Jones and Tate were the first Lions teammates to record 1,000 yards receiving together since 2014.
"The wide receivers are a major problem to defend," he said. "Golden Tate is one of the best. Once the ball is in his hands, forget about it, it's a big problem."
Patricia was also optimistic about the running back group and the talent he has upfront along the offensive line under Davidson.
All and all, Patricia seems to have a very positive viewpoint of where this offense currently stands under Cooter and where it's headed under his leadership.