Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is on the hot seat

Jim Bob Cooter was one of the few Detroit Lions coaches to survive regime change. If the Lions running game doesn’t improve, that could be temporary.

The Detroit Lions offensive coordinator has a problem. All of his excuses have been removed. In 2017 there were a plethora of them. When Taylor Decker went down with a shoulder injury, it started a cascade of afflictions along the offensive line. The Running backs couldn’t find some incredibly obvious holes, partially because they were not used to holes developing where they should. The play design itself, implemented by offensive line coach Ron Prince, was awful. The handoffs did not set up the blocking scheme. Linemen were asked to do the impossible as often as not.

The line is healthy, and the addition of Frank Ragnow has solidified all five positions. LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson have been brought in to sit atop the running back depth chart. Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson has been brought in to overhaul the running game. The list of reasons for the poor performance that are not Jim Bob Cooter has been checked off. The only factor left in the poor performance of the running game is the in-game personnel decision making as it relates to the play being called.

If we are seeing Blount on toss sweeps outside the tackles, or we are seeing Theo Riddick hitting the A gap in short yardage situations, that will be on Cooter. If the team’s best player at the position, as it develops, is a healthy scratch late in the year, that will be on Cooter. The Lions had a top-five passing game in the NFL last year, but the worst running game in the NFL. Jim Bob Cooter cannot be exonerated of guilt in that.

The Lions have a replacement for Cooter on the roster. Quarterbacks coach George Godsey was the Houston Texans offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016. The Texans offense was not great at that time. They could, however, run the ball at a league average rate despite having no quarterback worth mentioning.

Passing scores points, but running wins games. Specifically, running the ball wins playoff games. It is no coincidence that every team in the conference championship games was in the NFL’s top ten running the ball. Offensive football is about more than moving the scoreboard. When a team has the ball, they are in control. The Lions have not been able to put games away. That is because they couldn’t run the ball to kill the clock. Often it was because they were not even willing to try. Denying your opponent opportunities to mount a comeback is one of the most important aspects of offensive football. That is even truer when the defensive side of the ball is less than dominant. Bend but don’t break teams eventually break.

Jim Bob Cooter will not make it past the bye week if his part of the Lions running woes isn’t gone. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia have both said that the Lions need to fix their running game. If Jim Bob Cooter is not part of the solution, there will be a lot less immature giggling in Lions fans near future.