Lions make changes in assistant coaches
Just as the Detroit Lions were settling on their new offensive assistants, another opening was created on Coach Jim Schwartz's staff.
The club announced Monday that Curtis Modkins had been hired as the running backs coach/run-game coordinator, Bobby Johnson will be the tight ends coach, Tim Lappano is moving from tight ends to receivers coach and Jeremiah Washburn will be taking over the offensive line.
Meanwhile, special-teams coordinator Danny Crossman won't be back, the Lions confirmed. Crossman, who was under fire publicly early in the season for the team's poor coverage units before eventually fixing the problems, is likely to end up in Buffalo on new coach Doug Marrone's staff. Crossman and Marrone are close friends and former teammates.
While the coaching change in Buffalo led to Crossman's departure, it also created the opportunity to add Modkins, who was the Bills' offensive coordinator/running backs coach the last three seasons. Buffalo ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing this season.
Modkins, a running back at TCU in the early 1990s, was also the running backs coach at Arizona in 2009 and Kansas City in 2008.
The addition of Modkins is an attempt to bolster the run game, which has been a weak link for the Lions for many years. He will work closely with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to try to improve the NFL's 23rd-ranked rushing attack.
As for the other changes:
• Johnson, an offensive tackle at Miami (Ohio) in the early '90s, was most recently the tight ends coach for Jacksonville. He also has considerable experience coaching on the offensive line.
• Lappano, entering his 31st season as a coach, makes the move to receivers after working with the Lions' tight ends the last four seasons. He was an offensive coordinator in college at Washington before coming to Detroit.
• Washburn gets a promotion from assistant offensive line coach. He is entering his fifth year with the club.
Shortly after the season, it was revealed that three assistant coaches - Shawn Jefferson (receivers), Sam Gash (running backs) and George Yarno (O-line) - weren't going to return in 2013.
Crossman was supposedly going to be back, but that evidently started to change as soon as his buddy got the Bills' job.
Speculation on a possible new special-teams coordinator to replace Crossman has immediately centered on Alan Lowry, who worked with Schwartz for a decade when both were assistants in Tennessee.