ALLEN PARK, Mich. – One of the reasons the Detroit Lions had offensive success in the second half of last season had to do with the mutual understanding between quarterback Matthew Stafford and his new offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter.
Stafford and others around the Lions said the two had similar opinions and philosophies about the game and how offenses could be run. Stafford had the highest completion percentage of his career last season and made smarter decisions throughout the second half of the year.
A lot of that had to do with Cooter, and Cooter gave a hint about what might come from Stafford in the future. He was asked Thursday if the “gunslinger” mentality was gone from Stafford forever – something he was known for during the beginning of his career, when his completion percentage was often less than 60 percent and he had the capability of making jaw-dropping plays and head-shaking mistakes in the same game.
“We’re not going to bury that guy yet,” Cooter said. “We had to do what we had to do last year with certain instances kind of where we were in the season and some of that showed up in the game tape. I don’t think we’ll put any restraints on our quarterback, you know, so there may be some short passes; there may be some long ones.
“So, we’re not going to restrain him at all.”
Stafford sometimes appeared restrained playing under former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, when he would not look downfield and often settled for the short completion. Cooter said he wants his offense to be “efficient and successful. I mean, whatever that means.”
Cooter said some of the verbiage has changed for his players from last season to this one – something his players have continuously said throughout the offseason. Cooter said they are “rolling along pretty good” in installing the offense, but he is saving some of the installation for next week’s mandatory minicamp, which will conclude the offseason activities.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he wants Cooter’s offense to be “extremely aggressive” while keeping efficiency, and that he expects to see improvement daily.
“We’re adding more and more things,” Caldwell said. “It’s not a real easy operation to run, and it takes some thought and it puts a lot of pressure on your ability to study, learn and grasp, but also puts the same kind of pressure on the defenses that you face.
“It has a lot of potential and a lot of variables to it.”
The players have taken to it well, though. Stafford has already said he feels comfortable with a lot of what they are doing, and Cooter seems open to input from the players. Tight end Eric Ebron said the Lions are “starting fresh” in Cooter’s offense – and that it is something that will be more aggressive and take more risks.
“That’s the best part about it,” Ebron said. “We have talent on offense and he’ll utilize it. He’s gong to take risks and we’re going to go out and make plays for him so he keeps on doing it.”