The first hiring by new Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz—Gunther Cunningham as defensive coordinator—has created some significant controversy.
Coming off of a year in which the Lions were one of the worst defensive teams in the history of the NFL, Schwartz went out and hired a man who, just this last season, ran a defensive that was statistically only slightly better. That's a glaring negative mark on his resume.
In the current "What have you done for me lately?" NFL coaching world, this has created discontent. And it makes sense.
But what about the positives? Here is the list:
1. Gunther has been in the league since 1982. Experience is always a plus.
2. He has coached every defensive position in his 20-plus years in the NFL. Again, good experience.
3. He has said he is thrilled to be working with Schwartz. No Mike Martz vs. Rod Marinelli issues.
4. He has worked for Schwartz in the past. This tells me he respects Jim and must work well with him.
5. He has head coaching experience and the respect of Jim. I think this will be of great value to Schwartz in his rookie head coaching job.
6. Both he and Schwartz have said they are on the same page. This provides stability and continuity for the team, which is also a vital piece in building a team.
7. He has coached up some of the best defenses at times in his career, specifically at Kansas City.
8. Kansas City wanted to keep him around as a defensive coordinator even when they had a new head coach. This is a divide; perhaps he is not great head coaching material, but it tells me they think he's a great coordinator. If you haven't heard, that is what he's doing here.
10. Last year he coached seven different rookies that saw playing time. They didn't do well but he said he learned a lot from the experience about himself and coaching. If that is true, that experience will be vital with the new challenge ahead of him. Many of the players on the roster are developmentally not far past rookies and they have a lot of draft picks coming in.
So, when I look at Gunther Cunningham, I see a guy that has more experience and better qualifications than any coach at any position the Lions have had since I've been watching them. I see a man that respects the head coach, wants to be here, has a fire to him, and is on the same page as the coach and front office.
I know people have their reservations, but I find it hard to argue with Schwartz's pick.