INDIANAPOLIS -- Along with the rest of the Detroit Lions coaches, Jim Bob Cooter was waiting last month to find out whether or not he’d still be employed.
As the Lions made decisions on a new general manager, Bob Quinn and retain head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff, other opportunities were out there. Lions coaches never had to pursue those, but at least one new NFL head coach was watching to see what would happen with Cooter in Detroit.
“It was an interesting situation because all those guys in Detroit were in a holding pattern,” Miami coach Adam Gase said. “You look at every option you possibly can but you kind of have an idea of what’s going on. I know everything in Detroit at that time, they were staying put. They hadn’t made a decision, but for us, we kind of had to move on.
“It was one of those tough situations where if something would have happened there, just knowing those guys would have been out there, that would have been tough for me to look at and know that they are out of work. But at the same time, you have to go through your process and you can’t wait forever for everybody to make decisions. You got to kind of move at your speed.”
Cooter, of course, stayed in Detroit as the Lions’ offensive coordinator. And Gase hired another disciple of the Tony Dungy/Jim Caldwell coaching tree, Clyde Christensen. Christensen worked with Dungy, Caldwell and Cooter in Indianapolis throughout their tenures there.
Chicago coach John Fox also wanted to interview Cooter for the Bears’ offensive coordinator position before the 2015 season -- a position that eventually went to Gase.
Gase has been impressed with Cooter since the two worked together in Denver. The relationship between the two goes back a long way through a mutual friend, Rick Clausen, the older brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Gase would often seek advice during games from Cooter when the two were with the Broncos.
“He was very involved in our game-planning,” Gase said. “One of the things he was responsible for was red area. He was a guy that was side-by-side with Peyton [Manning] a lot of times as far as discussion about blitz pickup, protections. You could see it. It was so easy to see that this guy was off the charts as far as his knowledge of the game.
“How to adjust within a game, he was a guy that I was always talking to. He always gave me great feedback. Great eye during a game of seeing what a defense was doing and what we needed to adjust to.”
Cooter is entering his first full season as Detroit’s offensive coordinator after being promoted midway through the 2015 season. How he is able to diagnose in-game adjustments and attack defenses should be critical to how the Lions fare in 2016.