The Detroit Lions confirmed Friday the worst-kept secret of the Jim Caldwell era.
Caldwell’s defensive coordinator will be Teryl Austin, who spent the last three seasons as the secondary coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Austin was rumored many days ago as a likely candidate to follow Caldwell wherever he got a job.
This will be the first time that Austin has been a coordinator in the NFL. He spent one year (2010) as defensive coordinator in college at Florida. Otherwise, he’s worked the rest of the last decade as a defensive backs coach in the NFL.
He has made three Super Bowl appearances, first with Seattle in 2005 and then with Arizona in 2008 and Baltimore last year.
Austin, 48, is a former Michigan assistant, having worked under Lloyd Carr from 1999-2000.
"Teryl, first of all, loves the game of football and has a real good understanding of both the back end of it, talking about in the secondary where he’s coached for a number of years, but then also the front of it as well — linebackers, their positioning, their fits and also obviously up front," said Caldwell, who was named earlier this week as the 26th coach in Lions’ history. "He’s a very good teacher, an instructor, has a great passion for it. He’s demanding and that’s the reason why, obviously, I think he’ll be a great fit.
"And then you look at his background. He had an opportunity to work within the scheme of a defense that was tremendous. He did a great job in both stopping the run and can really give you some difficulties in terms of defending the pass. He’s worked at some different systems.
"He’s also been a coordinator himself. He was at Florida and then also, you know, he worked, obviously, with the Cardinals for a number of years and certainly a number of years in college football. So, a talented guy that I think the guys are going to absolutely love. They’re going to love him not only because of the fact that he’s a great communicator and a great person to be around, but he brings a lot of energy and he’s very demanding."
The Lions also announced the hiring of Bill Sheridan as their linebackers coach. Sheridan most recently was the defensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before getting relieved of his duties when coach Greg Schiano got fired.
Sheridan, 54, was born in Detroit, played linebacker at Grand Valley State and was an assistant coach at both Michigan State and Michigan.
"Bill Sheridan is a guy of immense talent and experience," Caldwell said. "He’s been a coordinator in this league. He’s worked in multiple systems and has a real clear understanding of defensive football.
"He’s a Michigan guy, you know, but a guy who I think can really give us some balance. We have some experience and we have some guys that maybe can give us an opportunity to kind of work in concert with some of our youthful exuberance."
As for Sheridan’s experience as a coordinator, Caldwell said, "I think what it does is anytime you have extensive amount of experience in this league, it’s worth its weight in gold. It’s not absolute because, you know, I came from the college ranks and had no experience in this league and coached the quarterbacks at Tampa and it didn’t bother Tony (Dungy) at all during that time.
"I just think it depends on the person. But, yeah, it does lend you to believe he’s seen every team probably in the league, understands most concepts that he’s going to see, how to defend them and things of that nature. So yeah, I certainly do feel good about his experience."
Caldwell won’t be making widespread changes on the staff. The Lions confirmed that he is keeping seven assistants. They include: John Bonamego (special teams coordinator), Jeremiah Washburn (offensive line), Jim Washburn (assistant defensive line), Kris Kocurek (defensive line), Curtis Modkins (running backs) Bobby Johnson (tight ends), Terry Heffernan (assistant offensive line) and Evan Rothstein (quality control/special teams).
Among those who won’t be retained are Gunther Cunningham (defensive coordinator), Matt Burke (linebackers) Todd Downing (quarterbacks) and Marcus Robertson (secondary).
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan previously was let go the same day that coach Jim Schwartz got fired.
The big question now is who will be the offensive coordinator?
There were reports a few days ago that Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor would be headed to Detroit, but he ended up taking the Miami Dolphins’ offensive coordinator job.
Other rumored candidates have included Kansas City Chiefs receiver coach David Culley and Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen.