From head coach to offensive coordinator and now at quarterbacks coach, Stafford has been delivered a trio of coaches with history augmenting the game's most important position. His new support group further cements the Lions' decision to go all-in on fixing the 25-year-old quarterback this offseason.
Tim Twentyman of the Lions' official site confirmed Monday that the team officially hired Jim Bob Cooter to be Stafford's new quarterbacks coach.
Cooter, a 29-year-old coach who spent last season as an offensive assistant for the Denver Broncos, joins new head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi in Detroit.
The Lions' previous two hires were also dripping in previous quarterback experience.
After initially striking out on San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who helped Philip Rivers deliver a comeback season in 2013, the Lions quickly seized the opportunity to hire Caldwell, a veteran of teaching offense who spent 10 years working with Peyton Manning.
While young in age, Cooter brings another offensive mind to the Lions' quarterback room.
A former backup quarterback at the University of Tennessee, Cooter spent three years on Caldwell's offensive staff in Indianapolis. He worked alongside Manning, most prominently as the assistant to the offensive coordinator in 2011, before moving on to Kansas City following Caldwell's departure in 2012. With the Chiefs, he was an offensive quality control coach.
Cooter's role increased in 2013, when he jumped to Denver to be one of John Fox's offensive assistants. He once again worked with Manning, who went on to deliver one of the greatest quarterbacking seasons of all time for the highest-scoring offense in the history of the sport.
The 2013 Broncos scored 606 points—37.9 per game—and Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. All were new NFL records.
According to Jeff Legwold of ESPN, Cooter was believed to be on a path toward a positional coaching job in Denver. And his day-to-day responsibilities—mostly preparing with Manning and the quarterbacks—might not be easy to replace for the Broncos.
"...he was a key part of the offense’s game-planning infrastructure given his work in preparing scouting reports on opposing defenses, his ability to spot trends and potential matchups on gameday and his day-to-day work with Manning," Legwold wrote.
The Broncos also considered Cooter an innovator of play design and a potential offensive coordinator down the line.
In Detroit, Cooter will be tasked with the turnaround of Stafford. He'll work alongside Caldwell and Lombardi to facilitate the change so clearly needed, which we discussed when the Lions hired Lombardi to be offensive coordinator back in late January.
After a 2011 season in which he threw 41 touchdowns and led the Lions to a playoff berth, Stafford has mostly fallen from grace over the last two years. During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Stafford ranked 25th among qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage (59.2), 36th in interceptions (36), 22nd in passer rating (81.9) and 23rd in wins (11).
Once scratching the surface of the elite group of quarterbacks, Stafford has since regressed to the middle of the pack at the position. Getting him back to his 2011 levels will likely be the defining factor of the lasting legacy for Detroit's new crop of coaches.
Lombardi, a first-time coordinator, doesn't believe that having three different voices in Stafford's ear will be a problem. He used his situation in New Orleans as evidence.
"We had something similar in New Orleans," Lombardi said, via Twentyman. "You know, Sean (Payton) certainly knew a lot about coaching quarterbacks. Pete Carmichael had been the quarterback coach before I became the quarterback coach, and he moved on to coordinator. So, there were three voices there, but I learned from Sean and Pete and Pete had learned from Sean, so we all spoke the same language. There wasn't any pull."
Stafford certainly won't be short on tutelage. After five years of playing for the same offensive coordinator (Scott Linehan) and a defensive-minded head coach (Jim Schwartz), Stafford is now flooded with offensive coaching experience.
Without much doubt, the Lions have given their franchise quarterback the teaching tools necessary to get a middling career back on an elite path. Caldwell, Lombardi and Cooter all bring a different flavor to the mix, and the Lions will hope that the totality of their experience working with the likes of Manning and Brees can work similar magic on Stafford.
During an offseason in which the Lions have pushed all their chips to the center on Stafford, Cooter—an upcoming assistant with a quarterbacking history—represents the final piece of an all-in campaign designed to fix their backsliding star.
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