Lions DC Hire: Just Say "NO" To Gun(ther)S

Scott RiegerAnalyst IJanuary 19, 2009


Numerous reports indicate that the Lions have requested permission to speak with Kansas City Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham about the same position with the Lions.

Gunther Cunningham.

Aside from the obvious connections with Jim Schwartz—Cunningham served as Linebackers coach under Schwartz in Tennessee for three seasons (2001-2003) before returning to Kansas City—this hire doesn't make much sense to me.

Cunningham had a great run as Chiefs Defensive Coordinator from 1995-1998, but he was riding the coattails of some pretty special players in Derrick Thomas, Dale Carter, James Hasty, Mark McMillan, Neil Smith, and others. In 1995, they were first in the league in points allowed at 15.1 per game and turnover differential (+12) to go along with 47 sacks.

Their numbers for 1996-1997 were similarly impressive, but in 1998, they fell off considerably. For the two years following 1998, Cunningham was Head Coach of the Chiefs and they went 9-7 and 7-9 respectively with one very good defensive year and one that was middle of the road.

More recently, with Cunningham as DC (2004-2008), the Chiefs have ranked at or near the bottom of the league in two of those seasons, and middle of the pack in the other two. Not very impressive.

Furthermore, this past season, the Chiefs were 29th in points allowed, 31st in total defense, 28th against the pass, and 30th against the run.

Who do you think was one of the few teams worse? You guessed it, the Lions. Detroit finished 32nd in points allowed, 32nd in total defense, 32nd against the run, and actually one-up'd Gunther's Chiefs by finishing 27th against the pass.

So, basically, I am wondering what the positives would be here. Why hire this guy when his production hasn't been impressive and in some cases, has been just as bad as the clowns we just fired.

In my opinion, this would be a poor hire by Schwartz, and it is not the kind of hire that the fans can get excited about. In case he missed it, the fans are in need of some excitement...some hope!

Why not consider Jerry Gray and Todd Bowles, two individuals that you interviewed for the Head Coaching position, who have recently been part of good defenses.

Why not interview Dave McGinnis, a 35-year coaching veteran, who was the Linebackers coach and Asst. Head Coach for the last several years with Schwartz in Tennessee?

What about John Mitchell, the great D-Line coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who has been in the same position with Pittsburgh for 15 years? Also, an added benefit to Mitchell would be experience with Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense. The Lions and Schwartz have talked about the possibility of playing a 3-4, or a hybrid between 4-3 and 3-4.

Any of these choices would be better than Gunther Cunningham in my opinion. Not just from the standpoint of recent success, but also from the standpoint of being deserving.

Based on Cunningham's recent performance, he probably deserves to be fired or demoted, not hired by a first-time head coach to lead and develop last year's worst squad.

Hopefully, the Lions are just interviewed him as a candidate and not seriously considering the hire, but it surely begs the question: What are they thinking?