ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Last month, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin essentially said he would not be interested in the coaching job at the University of Michigan.
He didn’t, though, say he would be opposed to any head coaching job at all.
The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that Austin is one of nine potential head coaching candidates the Fritz Pollard Alliance would present to NFL teams searching for new head coaches once the offseason hits in a few weeks.
“It’s flattering,” Austin said. “But that’s all it is right now.
Austin is an attractive candidate. In his first year as an NFL defensive coordinator, he has led the NFL’s No. 1 run defense and No. 2 overall defense. He’s also done a good job adjusting to injuries, as his defenses have remained high-caliber despite losing middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch for the whole season and defensive tackle Nick Fairley for the second half of it.
The 49-year-old Austin said he hasn’t thought about how he would handle interviews, but that he would go on them if a team expressed interest in talking to him. He wouldn’t be concerned with how seriously a team might be considering him from the get-go because of what happened with Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh when he was hired.
Austin said he hasn’t spoken with Tomlin or his current boss, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, about potential interviews or for any advice they might impart if he were asked to chat about a vacancy.
But Caldwell has offered advice to others before.
University of Nevada head coach Brian Polian is close with Caldwell. The two spoke often when Caldwell was in Indianapolis about what it would be like to interview for jobs. Polian picked Caldwell’s brain because his goal has been to be a college head coach.
One piece of advice stood out and to this day, he’ll speak of how much Caldwell influenced him. Polian and Caldwell had a similar influential person to look to in Tony Dungy. Caldwell had also worked with Joe Paterno at Penn State when Caldwell was a younger coach.
Polian’s group of influencers includes Jim Harbaugh, Kevin Sumlin, Charlie Weis, Tony Dungy, Marv Levy, Dom Capers and Caldwell.
“When I began to interview for head coaching positions, [Caldwell] said it’s good to take a lesson from everybody that you’ve worked for and with saying hey I would do it this way or I would do it this way,” Polian told ESPN.com. “But ultimately, you’ve got to be yourself. If you try to be somebody else, it’s not going to work. So be Brian, don’t be afraid to be yourself.
“Because this is a fickle business we’re in, and you don’t want to fail because you tried to be something that you’re not. Just be who you are. I had a couple people tell me that, but Jim was one of the first guys to tell me that, and I always appreciated it.”
If Austin asks, it’s likely similar advice he would give him as well.