By now, plenty of time has passed since the Detroit Lions filled out their coaching staff. With free agency and the draft over, and OTAs wrapped up for the most part, it is time to examine the Lions coaching staff. I am only going to highlight a few of the coaches that I think will make (or have made) a major impact on the play of the Detroit Lions. The first one is about new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
First of all, who is Joe Lombardi? Lombardi, who is the grandson of legendary packers head coach Vince Lombardi, was previously the quarterbacks coach for the New Orleans Saints. He is credited for much of the success that Drew Brees has sustained since leaving San Diego in free agency. He has become a top 5 quarterback under Lombardi’s leadership. Joe Lombardi also won a Super Bowl while in New Orleans.
Since graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1994, Lombardi has served in various coaching positions in both the college and professional ranks. His more notable coaching ventures were with the New Jersey Hitmen (XFL) and the Atlanta Falcons. He was with the Saints from 2007-2013 in various offensive coaching positions.
Statistically, Joe Lombardi coached offenses were very productive. In 4 of his 7 seasons in New Orleans, Drew Brees threw for more than 5,000 yards. By comparison, that has only been done 8 times in NFL history, and four of those eight belong to Drew Brees. While that is a fantastic stat, it gets better. Only 5 players in NFL history have thrown for 5,000 yards. One of those 5 who is not named Drew Brees is Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions quarterback that Lombardi will now be coaching. So, for a coach who has a history with productive quarterbacks to inherit one who has been productive but erratic, it is to be expected that Joe Lombardi will continue his ways of coaching productive quarterbacks here in Detroit.
What should the Detroit Lions offense look like under Joe Lombardi? While we will never fully know until the season starts, we have gotten bits out of the players that can help us foreshadow what we may see. I suspect that the offense will be very similar to what the Saints offense looked like based on Reggie Bush’s revelation that the terminology is very similar to what he remembers from New Orleans. Considering the Lions signing Pettigrew this offseason and drafting Eric Ebron, I expect the offense will be tight end heavy. I would expect to see Ebron used in a similar fashion to the way Jimmy Graham was used. I expect Pettigrew to be used as a traditional tight end who focuses on blocking but is also used as a receiving tight end as an outlet for Stafford. The Detroit Lions signed Jed Collins and Chad Abrams this offseason to compete for the fullback position as Lombardi stated that he would like the offense to have a fullback like it did in New Orleans. While the Saints did utilize their run game, they did not have a feature back, so I expect that Joique Bell, Bush, and Theo Riddick will all split time with Riddick getting less time than the rest. We also may see the return of Mikel Leshoure in the new offense. The Lions have two starters at receiver in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Beyond that, I suspect that they will roll out a rotating third receiver in either Ryan Broyles, Jeremy Ross, or Kris Durham. All three are still on the roster and while none of them stand out as a third receiver, they should be able to get open in the new offense that appears to be setting up to focus on the two receiver sets more than the three and four wide that we are used to seeing.
For the Lions, they hired an up and coming offensive mind who has a Super Bowl win on his resume who also had extremely productive offenses, specifically at the quarterback position, in his recent history. They got a man who has paid his dues as an assistant and is ready for the jump to being a coordinator.