Lombardi hire shows focus is on Stafford

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
10:20
AM ET

The Detroit Lions are going with a familiar surname in an unfamiliar position as their offensive coordinator.

The team is hiring Joe Lombardi, the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi and the current New Orleans quarterbacks coach, as its offensive coordinator. The message here appears to be clear as well.

The Lions are going to get as much help as possible for Matthew Stafford.

[+] EnlargeJoe Lombardi
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJoe Lombardi, right, has spent the past five seasons working with Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Lombardi, who has not been an offensive coordinator since a stint at Mercyhurst College from 2002 to 2005, has spent the past five seasons working with Drew Brees, one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Add to that the experience of his new boss, Detroit coach Jim Caldwell, as Peyton Manning's quarterbacks coach and the attention paid to Stafford's progress will be massive.

Brees has thrown for more than 5,000 yards in each of the past three seasons with Lombardi as his position coach, and has completed 63 percent of his passes or better in each of the five seasons Lombardi has worked with him -- including two seasons over 70 percent.

Stafford has completed more than 60 percent of his throws for a season only once in his five-year career.

Detroit made an investment in Stafford last offseason, signing him to a long-term extension and ensuring he would be the quarterback of the future. Then Stafford took a step back during this season, throwing for his lowest completion percentage and highest amount of interceptions since his rookie year.

So, Detroit seems fixated on fixing Stafford, bringing in the men who have worked with Manning and Brees to work with him.

What is in question is who will be calling plays for Detroit next season. Lombardi hasn’t been an offensive coordinator on the NFL level. Since his hiring a week ago, Caldwell has left open the possibility that he would be the team’s playcaller.

Considering how little experience Lombardi has calling plays and that his defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, is a first-time NFL coordinator, this might be a sign that Caldwell might be the man making the play decisions this fall. Or at least that it would be a collaborative effort. Here's a look at Caldwell's offenses, statistically.

In Lombardi's final two seasons as an offensive coordinator at Mercyhurst, his teams averaged 22.6 and 22 points a game, respectively, and averaged under 350 yards of total offense in both those seasons.

But his hire was met with praise from at least one of his former quarterbacks, Chase Daniel.
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This hire also completes the bigger hires Detroit needed to make on its staff. Its top leadership will be Caldwell as head coach, Austin and Lombardi as coordinators, and Ron Prince as assistant head coach and tight ends coach. Prince, actually, has the most experience calling plays from his three seasons as Virginia’s offensive coordinator (2003 to 2005) and one season as the offensive coordinator at Rutgers.

Coaching staff:

Head coach -- Jim Caldwell
Assistant head coach -- Ron Prince
Offensive coordinator -- Joe Lombardi
Defensive coordinator -- Teryl Austin
Quarterbacks -- TBD
Running backs -- Curtis Modkins
Wide receivers -- TBD
Tight ends -- Ron Prince
Offensive line -- Jeremiah Washburn (asst. Bobby Johnson)
TBD -- Terry Heffernan
Defensive line -- Kris Kocurek (asst. Jim Washburn)
Linebackers -- Bill Sheridan
Secondary -- TBD
Special teams -- John Bonamego (asst. Evan Rothstein)

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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