ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was a popular interview candidate for head-coaching jobs last offseason.
He didn’t land one, but his current boss, Jim Caldwell, believes he should absolutely be a candidate again this offseason despite his team’s losing record.
“Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Caldwell said. “Talented guy and I think you’ll see there will be a lot of interest in him.”
And Austin, obviously, said “if it ever comes, absolutely, I’d love to be a head coach” but that for the next few days at least he’s focused on trying to win one more game with the Lions.
Interest in Austin skyrocketed last season after he turned a struggling defense into one of the best in the NFL in 2014 -- second overall and first against the run. Detroit’s defense had issues this season due to the departures of four defensive tackles including Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley along with a hip injury that essentially took linebacker DeAndre Levy out for the season.
The Lions could not stop the run or the pass early in the season, but Austin found a way to mix and match myriad players to become an average unit -- which shouldn’t hurt his candidacy considering he had little to no control over personnel losses or poor drafting and signings to replace those players.
Austin’s name should pop up during the head-coaching interview cycle over the next few weeks and it’s possible this time he lands a job.
Austin said the interviewing process was good because it forced him to think about how he would run a team and handle situations if he were to land a job. It also gave him some insight into himself, he said, although he wouldn’t elaborate it. He said he hasn’t thought about who he'd want on his staff if he were to land a gig this time around, but last season he had possible assistants in mind if he had been hired.
Caldwell thinks this season -- when the Lions started 1-7 and have rebounded during the second half in part due to Austin’s improved defense -- shows how Austin would handle adversity if he were a head coach.
“I don’t know if he’s changed much but I think what you have an opportunity to do, you can see what happens in tough times. Is he able to dig back out of a hole that we’re in. Can he get a team turned around, the unit playing strong when things aren’t going very well,” Caldwell said. “That’s the kind of things you’re going to figure out and there’s some value in that. You can see how guys react under a little bit of stress and adversity. You can see who wilts and doesn’t wilt. You can see who can bring a unit back.
“So I do think that before he was probably seen in a little bit different light because he’s been successful. And the fact of the matter is that he’s multifaceted. He can do it a number of different ways.”
Austin also said he thinks he has grown as a coach this season because this is his first season in the NFL that he’s been with a team that has a losing record.
“What you find out about yourself is all those things that you talk about and preach to your players, can you do it as a coach,” Austin said. “I think we did because we stayed the course and we didn’t panic. We kept our composure, our guys did, and that’s why we’ve been playing much better football.”