Detroit Lions: Teryl Austin

INDIANAPOLIS -- Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was close to landing a head coaching gig last month, having interviewed with multiple teams, including twice with the Atlanta Falcons.

Though he’s back with the Lions for 2015, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell didn’t really think that would be the case.

[+] EnlargeTeryl Austin
AP PhotoTeryl Austin was a candidate for several head coaching positions this offseason, including Atlanta's.
"I was surprised he didn’t get (a head coaching job) this time," Caldwell said. "I would anticipate that he’s going to get an opportunity here within the next couple of years."

Caldwell, though, is glad to have Austin back running his defense after a season when he took an average unit in 2013 and turned Detroit’s defense into a Top 5 group in 2014. That jump in production vaulted Austin’s name into head coaching discussions, and he became one of the hottest candidates during the hiring period.

But the Falcons -- the job where he appeared to receive the most serious consideration -- hired Dan Quinn, sending Austin back to Detroit. This is big for the Lions, because it also ensures continuity on the defensive staff.

"He has a very, very resourceful mind," Caldwell said. "He does a great job in terms of communicating and he’s a very, very special breed. He is just an unusual guy. He was able to come in and take a defense, usually in the first year, you’re going to run into a bunch of issues and problems with communication and learning and development and all those kind of things.

"Our staff was able to overcome a lot of that, and I think that’s because of his leadership and the other guys on his staff."

For the most part, Detroit will have its coaching staff from 2014 return next season. Though the Lions are still discussing the future role for senior coaching assistant Gunther Cunningham, almost everything else appears to be sorted out.

Detroit had one real change. The Lions also moved Terry Heffernan back into an assistant offensive line coach role after he spent last season as an offensive quality control coach. The team could do this because Bobby Johnson left for the Oakland Raiders. Detroit is also hiring an offensive quality control coach to replace Heffernan, but declined to name the hire.
The Detroit Lions finished up one of the most successful seasons -- record-wise -- in franchise history. Now, the offseason begins with the combine, free agency and the NFL draft.

To start that process moving, we looked at the position groups over the past two weeks. Now, we’ll spend the last day of the review taking a look at the coaching this season.

[+] EnlargeJim Caldwell
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioJim Caldwell's calm demeanor was a hit with the Detroit Lions' veteran players.
The good: Jim Caldwell had a good first season with the Detroit Lions, taking the team to the playoffs and tying the second-best record in franchise history. His demeanor seemed to contribute to comeback wins against New Orleans, Atlanta, and Miami. His approach -- calm after the fiery ways of Jim Schwartz -- was an appreciated asset by many of the veterans in the locker room. His hiring of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was an extremely good one. Austin’s ability to adapt his defense despite injuries to linebacker Stephen Tulloch, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, and multiple defensive backs showed his versatility and intelligence. He took a defense that had a good front seven and questionable secondary, and helped turn the group into one of the best units in the NFL along with Buffalo and Seattle.

A lot of that had to do with Detroit’s defensive line, and Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek did a masterful job there, especially with the development of Ezekiel Ansah. Linebackers coach Bill Sheridan developed Tahir Whitehead well, especially when he had to move into the middle to replace Tulloch. The secondary coaches -- Alan Williams and Tony Oden -- did a good job working with second-year cornerback Darius Slay and also developing safety Isa Abdul-Quddus into a potential third safety option. There were certain plays offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi drew up that were pretty strong, especially screens and quick passes to Golden Tate in space.

Special teams coach John Bonamego's aggressiveness in calling two fake punts against Miami was gutsy, and some of Caldwell’s best decisions.

The bad: The offense stagnated too much under Lombardi, and too often seemed devoid of rhythm. Some of Lombardi’s playcalling was predictable, particularly on first downs. Some of the run vs. pass when certain personnel groupings were on the field was also somewhat easy to decipher. The biggest personnel-grouping issues were packages taking both Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate off the field for the same play, almost guaranteeing a run or screen pass. The Lions had 93 snaps without Johnson or Tate on the field and gained 319 yards. Here’s the tell, though: In those snaps, Detroit ran the ball 80 times, passed it 12 times, and gave up one sack. The Lions got 27 first downs on those snaps and scored seven touchdowns according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Some of Caldwell’s decisions were interesting, too. His challenge against Green Bay -- when he insisted a reporter learn the rulebook when asked why he challenged a fumble when a Packers player was already rolling on the ground -- made little sense. Pro Football Reference has Caldwell winning two of four challenges in 2014.

Caldwell took the blame on a delay of game penalty at the end of the Atlanta game that could have cost Detroit a win -- but ended up giving the Lions a victory after Matt Prater's second field goal attempt went through the uprights. His decision to punt after the pass interference reversal in Dallas was questionable as well, considering the Lions threw the ball on third-and-short. Caldwell insisted the Lions didn’t have the personnel to run a fast-tempo hurry-up offense a lot, however the offense appeared to be more effective throughout the season in two-minute situations.

The offensive line play -- due to injury and scheme -- was questionable throughout the season, although Jeremiah Washburn might receive a pass here because of the continual rotation of players there.

Bonamego’s coverage teams were not as good as last season, and both Caldwell and Bonamego’s decision to keep Nate Freese as their kicker in the preseason backfired through the first three weeks of the season until his release.

What needs to change: Detroit was able to hold on to Austin as its defensive coordinator after he interviewed for head coaching jobs, so the defensive staff should remain intact. Despite the offense’s struggles, the Lions are making the right call keeping Lombardi for multiple reasons. He will be able to grow into the role in the second year of the offense, and it would be bad for quarterback Matthew Stafford to have to learn three offenses in three seasons.

The Lions will have one staff hole to fill with assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson heading to Oakland, but keeping this staff intact makes sense considering the team made the playoffs in 2014. Most of what needs to change would be in play-calling and decisions -- something that can’t be remedied until offseason workouts begin anyway.
For Teryl Austin, it now all comes down to two jobs: Remain in his role as the Detroit Lions' defensive coordinator or land the head coaching job in Atlanta.

This either/or scenario came about after ESPN's Josina Anderson reported on Friday morning that Austin pulled his name from consideration for the Denver Broncos head coaching position that opened when John Fox was fired Monday.

The 49-year-old Austin has been a popular interviewee for open head coaching positions over the past few weeks. He had interviews with Chicago, Buffalo, San Francisco, two with Atlanta and the scheduled one with Denver from which he removed himself.

His second interview with Atlanta was Thursday, and he remains in consideration for that job.
When the interview requests started popping up, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said he would try to "probably get as many as I could."

That's turned into quite a travel schedule for the 49-year-old Pennsylvanian.

The latest inquiry into Austin's potential services as a head coach came from the Denver Broncos, according to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter. The Broncos and head coach John Fox parted ways on Monday.

[+] EnlargeTeryl Austin
Paul Sancya/Associated PressLions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a hot name for several of the NFL's head-coaching vacancies.
Austin, who completed his first year as an NFL defensive coordinator last week after the Lions' 24-20 loss to Dallas, has been in extreme demand for interviews since the end of that game. According to multiple reports, Detroit has fielded permission to interview requests from Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco. Only one of those teams -- the Bills -- has made a hire.

Meanwhile, NFL Nation Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure tweeted that Austin's second interview with Atlanta will take place Thursday.

Austin became a strong head coach candidate during the season, when he turned Detroit's defense into one of the best in the NFL. He put together the league's best run defense, knocked down the Lions' points per game allowed by more than six points -- aiding a Detroit offense that sometimes struggled to score on its own.

(For an understanding of Detroit's defensive improvements by the numbers this season, look at this post.)

Austin also managed the defense well in both scheme and with injuries. Detroit lost its starting middle linebacker and the man who handled all the play calls, Stephen Tulloch, in Week 3. The Lions sifted through several slot cornerbacks after losing Bill Bentley for the season in Week 1 and Nevin Lawson for the season in Week 2. Austin found ways to use strengths of players with limited skills, including multiple nickel packages depending on down-and-distance to fit the personnel he had of Don Carey, Cassius Vaughn, Isa Abdul-Quddus and, for part of the season, Danny Gorrer.

His players also heavily bought into his scheme and his style. He had no issues incorporating in-game suggestions from some of his veterans into his own in-game adjustments.

“He did a phenomenal job with the group and I think he has a lot of ability,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said last week. “I think he’s certainly capable of being a head coach in the NFL. I think I said that when he got here that at some point he’d have an opportunity to do that.

“He’s certainly worthy of the opportunity.”

Austin has never been a head coach at any level, starting his coaching career in 1991 as a graduate assistant at Penn State. He has mostly worked as a defensive backs coach or as a defensive assistant except for two seasons -- 2010, when he was the defensive coordinator at Florida under Urban Meyer -- and this season, when he ran the Lions defense.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Before the 2013 season, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew admitted he didn’t want to bring in cornerback Rashean Mathis for a workout. He also said before signing George Johnson, he had never seen him even on tape.

[+] EnlargeTeryl Austin
Paul Sancya/Associated PressLions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a hot name for several of the NFL's head-coaching vacancies.
Those are only two players, but Mayhew was convinced to give both of them chances by Sheldon White, the team’s vice president of pro personnel. Both of those decisions worked out for the Lions.

Mathis had two strong seasons at cornerback and also became a mentor to second-year pro Darius Slay. Johnson came out of almost nowhere to make the roster and then became a valuable contributor, finishing third on the team with six sacks.

Neither would be with the Lions without White, who is being mentioned as a candidate for the general manager job in Philadelphia.

“He’s been phenomenal. He’s exceptional at what he does. Outstanding evaluator,” Mayhew said. “There are a lot of guys on this roster that he brought to the table. Rashean Mathis, for example, is a guy that he saw on tape and he brought up his desire to work Rashean out. I was against it. I was saying this is an older guy -- how is this guy going to help us.

“He talked me into working him out and he had a phenomenal workout. He was exceptional in every way, shape and form, so we ended up signing him. Obviously he’s worked out great for us the last two years, having Rashean here.

“George Johnson is a guy who he brought to me who I had never seen, we signed him. I had never seen him on tape at the time that we signed him and, as you know, George made our team this year and was a big-time contributor for us. He’s always looking; he’s always in his office evaluating tape and trying to find players that can help us win. I think he’d be a great general manager.”

This is a second straight offseason a member of Detroit’s front office has interviewed for a general manager’s gig. Brian Xanders interviewed with Miami last season.

White isn’t the only member of the Detroit staff being sought after this offseason. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is on head coach interviews with San Francisco, Atlanta and Buffalo this week.

Head coach Jim Caldwell praised Austin during the past few weeks as a potential head-coaching candidate and Thursday, Mayhew did the same.

“He did a phenomenal job with the group and I think he has a lot of ability,” Mayhew said. “I think he’s certainly capable of being a head coach in the NFL. I think I said that when he got here that at some point he’d have an opportunity to do that.

“He’s certainly worthy of the opportunity.”

Mayhew said if Austin does get a head coaching job, Caldwell will be the one to decide how the Lions would fill the defensive coordinator spot. Senior coaching assistant and former Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is still on staff – although Mayhew said he will be talking with Cunningham about his future next week.

Linebackers coach Bill Sheridan was the defensive coordinator with the Giants in 2009 and with Tampa Bay in 2012 and 2013. Safeties coach Alan Williams was the defensive coordinator with Minnesota in 2012 and 2013 and defensive line coach Jim Washburn was the defensive coordinator with the London Monarchs in 1992.
Teryl Austin was hoping his job search might have come during a busier week. Instead of doing exit interviews and breaking down the 2014 Detroit Lions season, the first-year defensive coordinator was planning on having to prepare for Seattle and another playoff game.

His schedule opened after the Lions lost to Dallas 24-20 on Sunday, giving him plenty of time for Atlanta, San Francisco and, reportedly, Buffalo to interview him for head-coaching jobs. After the season Detroit’s defense put together under the 49-year-old coordinator, it makes sense why.

The Lions’ defense doesn’t turn into one of the stingiest in the league without Austin as the coordinator and having one of the league’s dominant defensive players, Ndamukong Suh, in the middle of the defensive line.

Now there’s a chance the Lions could lose both of them. While losing Suh would be more devastating and much of the offseason attention will be focused on his contract negotiations, losing Austin to a head-coaching gig would also be a brutally difficult blow for the Lions.

Austin was a defensive magician this season. He deftly managed injury issues to key players in each defensive level. He mixed and matched personnel to ensure he used players with singular strengths to the best of their abilities.

Considering the way Austin handled replacing multiple starters this season, one might think he could devise a Suh-less plan for 2015 if necessary -- not that he or the Lions would want to do that.

In 2014, Austin’s scheme was more aggressive. And while he could lean on the security blanket of Suh, a lot of the Lions’ top-ranked run defense and No. 2 overall defense started with Austin.

He continually mixed up looks and schemes. In the Lions’ loss to Dallas, he came up with a scheme that punished an offensive line with three Pro Bowlers, leading to 10 hits and six sacks of Tony Romo.

This is nothing new. The Lions sacked quarterbacks on 7.1 percent of passing attempts while blitzing on only 25.7 percent of the dropbacks. They were able to get pressure more often than that, hurrying quarterbacks 28.1 percent of the time this season, fourth best in the NFL.

Suh and the scheme provided this pressure. Austin consistently moved Suh and Ezekiel Ansah close together on obvious passing downs and often moved them to different spots on the field to gain leverage. That’s just one of the wrinkles Austin came up with, leading to the Lions’ defensive success.

Remember, too, that at the beginning of the season it was Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi who was the hot head-coaching candidate. While he may be in that conversation eventually, it is Austin who has become the more immediate candidate.

Increasingly, Austin has handled himself well in every head-coaching facet. The X’s and O’s, he proved, are not in question. He’s also been extremely good with the media throughout the season. Before you scoff, this is important, especially for a first-time head coach trying to prove himself.

He needs to be comfortable speaking because he is one of the faces of the franchise. His words in press conferences and public settings matter to fans, marketers and inside the locker room, where he’ll be expected to have a strong presence.

Austin has already shown the ability to win over a locker room like he did in Detroit this season. He never shied away from soliciting input from players during the week and during in-game adjustments on Sundays.

“I do think he has all of the qualities that you’re looking for,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said.

Caldwell said he hopes Austin lands a head-coaching gig, even as Caldwell has to realize it will potentially hurt his own team. And Caldwell should know. He’s the one who took a chance hiring Austin as a first-time NFL defensive coordinator a year ago.

Now, it’s just a matter of whether another franchise is impressed enough by Austin during an interview to take a chance on him to run a team on his own.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Turnover is common in the NFL, from the constant churn of the bottom of a team's roster to the shuffling of all or part of any coaching staff in an offseason.

And after the Detroit Lions made the playoffs under first-year head coach Jim Caldwell, he said Monday he has not made any decisions to let go any members of his current staff.

That doesn't mean Detroit's staff will remain fully intact, though. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will have interviews for head-coaching jobs this week. If he were to get one, it is not inconceivable he brings some members of the current Lions' staff with him -- much like Caldwell did with Austin a season ago.

"You never know in our business," Caldwell said. "I think, particularly when you have a staff like we have, of young guys that are very talented, very creative, I think opportunities will present themselves sometimes so you may have a little adjustment here or there. We'll see how that works."

Any potential changes could go beyond the coaching staff, too. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Monday night that Detroit's Vice President of Pro Personnel Sheldon White is expected to interview for the vacant general manager job in Philadelphia. White, a former Lions defensive back, has been in his current role since 2009 and is responsible for the evaluation of NFL players and running free-agent meetings. He has been one of the most important pieces in Detroit's front office.

The Lions have made particularly strong impressions there the past two seasons, bringing in Reggie Bush, Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo and Golden Tate.

And now, a look across the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- DeMarco Murray is the NFL's leading rusher. He'll face the best run defense in the NFL in the Detroit Lions.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsThe Lions are wary of DeMarco Murray's effectiveness as a downhill runner.
Something will have to give when Dallas Cowboys and Detroit play in Sunday's wild-card round -- and history would favor Detroit, which as the top run defense has won three of four playoff games in NFL history when facing the league's leading rusher.

The Lions understand how difficult a matchup with Murray is, though, as they explain in this week's Know The Enemy.

Head coach Jim Caldwell (on Murray and Eddie Lacy): They both are powerful backs with speed, downhill runners and highly productive, you know what I mean? Murray's been having a great year as well, so he'll be a tough guy to handle.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin: What I see is a quality running back. He's really decisive when he decides to make his cut. He runs downhill, he runs with great pad level, he's a physical runner. You'll see times that he's going to finish his runs, he's not going to step out of bounds or do anything like that. He's going to make some extra yards, he's going to make a guy miss. That's what I see. For us to be successful we have to make sure we clog up those lanes and we don't let him get that one cut and head downhill fast because if he does, he's going to be a handful.

Defensive tackle C.J. Mosley: It's an easy question, man. Fast, elusive, patient, a dynamic running back and he hits the boosters when he needs to. He's a guy we're going to have our eyes on.

Defensive end George Johnson: He's a determined runner. He's determined to either run around you or run you over. That's the one tough thing about him, you know. You see it time and time, over and over again. It's hard to stop him. Not one guy brings him down. It's a gang of guys that actually bring him down.

Defensive end Darryl Tapp: Bigger back than most. Like 6-foot-1, 6-2 maybe. He's very explosive. He can hit the gap and he has great vision. With the scheme they run, he knows how to read his blocks when it blocks up and explode through any given gap when it opens, so it's going to be a huge challenge for us.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin got the call that the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers were interested in talking to him about their head-coaching vacancies and the first thing he did was call his wife.

Then he let her celebrate, hung up the phone and went back to work preparing for Detroit's playoff game against Dallas on Sunday (4:40 p.m. ET, Fox).

Austin, who has turned the Lions' defense into one of the best in the NFL this season, said he is "flattered" by the possibility of interviewing for head-coaching jobs next week. Austin said he will talk with Lions coach Jim Caldwell about whether he would interview for either position and "cross that when it comes."

It won't come until after Detroit's wild-card game with Dallas on Sunday. Of course, he is hoping he and Detroit's top-rated run defense will also be preparing for Seattle in the divisional round of the playoffs. Austin said how prepared he felt Detroit's team was would help make his decision of whether he would interview for head-coaching jobs.

It is that top-rated run defense and crafting one of the NFL's top overall defenses that has attracted the Falcons and 49ers to Austin in the first place.

Austin said the conversations he has had with Caldwell have centered about when would be the best time to interview if Detroit is still playing and pointers about going through the process to hit on things he might not think of as an assistant coach.

"One of the things, I hope it happens for him because he's deserving of it. He's a quality coach," Caldwell said. "He's outstanding and I've talked to him about it all along, give him every single thing that I know in terms of preparation and those kinds of things, and I've been through it the same time of year that he's going to go through and that kind of thing. We talk about those things and we'll talk about everything that's going to be asked and he'll be well prepared for it when it does happen. But for all of us, for him and I think for his family I think he's deserving of it. I think he's going to get one.

"Once they get an opportunity to see him and listen to him and watch what he's been able to do, I think it'll happen for him and I think that'll be absolutely outstanding. I do think, I love ambitious people that are trying to improve their lot in life and their career but we also have a job to do right now so we're focused on that more so than anything else and when that time comes we'll talk a little bit more in detail about it."

Caldwell has been a mentor to other potential coaching candidates in the past. As Nevada head coach Brian Polian told earlier this year, Caldwell's advice when he was going on interviews was invaluable and something he still brings up today.
After the 2014 season, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew insisted his team’s offense and defense weren’t as far away as the numbers suggested as he explained some of the team’s offense-based draft picks and free-agent signings.

Turns out, he was right. Other than points allowed, sack percentage and run defense, the Lions have actually been remarkably similar to the defense from last season run by Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham. This season’s coordinator, Teryl Austin, deserves credit for managing through injuries to starters, but the foundation was there already with Ndamukong Suh, Darius Slay and the rest.

And if you look at the league leaders, Schwartz has remained a strong coordinator. But here’s a look at the impressive Lions defense this year by the numbers and a link to the prior look at the offense.


Number/Rank: 44.0/4th

Last season: 48.8/12th

NFL leader: Buffalo -- 36.3

Quick thoughts: While yards per game is nice, this shows how well the Lions have been able to limit quarterbacks this season. Only four quarterbacks -- Drew Brees (73.0), Drew Stanton (70.5), Tom Brady (86.2) and Aaron Rodgers (95.3) -- had a QBR over 70 in a game against the Lions this season. Stanton is the anomaly, but the Lions have been consistently good here. Surprisingly, the number isn’t that much better than 2013.

Yards per game

Number/Rank: 300.9/2nd

Last season: 346.6/16th

NFL Leader: Seattle -- 267.1

Quick thoughts: This has been huge for field position and also for just limiting Lions opponents this season. A lot of this is bolstered by the Detroit run defense. Half-a-field a game less is massive when it comes to allowing points.

Rushing yards per game

Number/Rank: 69.31/1st

Last season: 99.75/6th


Quick thoughts: The Lions were pretty good here last season. They were elite this season -- one of the best run defense units of the past decade. When you look at the yards-per-game difference, it all starts here. Also, the Lions have made multiple teams one-dimensional and were able to keep up the rate even without Nick Fairley. That’s on both players and scheme.

Passing yards per game

Number/Rank: 231.63/13th

Last season: 246.88/23rd

NFL Leader: Seattle -- 185.63

Quick thoughts: There actually isn’t that much difference here -- an average of one chunk play per game. The bigger difference has been the lack of big plays allowed by Detroit’s secondary, something that isn’t necessarily displayed in a yards-per-game metric. Still better than a season ago, though.

Interception percentage

Number/Rank: 3.4/4th

Last season: 2.6/19th

NFL Leader: San Francisco -- 4.2

Quick thoughts: This number climbed steadily throughout the season as Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo both went on lengthy streaks of games with an interception. Most of the team’s picks have come from those two. These often ended up being big plays as well, either clinching or turning games, especially from Quin in December.

Sack percentage

Number/Rank: 7.1/18th

Last season: 5.8/28th

NFL Leader: Buffalo -- 9.7

Quick thoughts: This has been a big difference -- and would be even greater if it were pressure percentage. One of the bigger criticisms of last season’s Detroit defense was the inability to finish sacks. This year’s group has and a lot of that has to do with the attention Ndamukong Suh takes up in the middle, freeing up the ends to make plays on single blocks. Interesting to me, too, is Buffalo’s defense being the best at this considering who the Bills' defensive coordinator is: Jim Schwartz.

Third-down conversions

Number/Rank: 37.2/9th

Last season: 30.3/1st

NFL Leader: Buffalo -- 33.2

Quick thoughts: This surprised me, mostly because I had forgotten how good Detroit was on third down last season. Considering that, it isn’t surprising the Bills are the NFL leader here. The Lions have been good in this area, though, and have gotten off the field in almost every big spot this season.

Red zone efficiency

Number/Rank: 53.1/17th

Last season: 38.1/2nd

NFL Leader: Kansas City -- 38.9

Quick thoughts: Again, forgot how good Detroit was here last season. Was somewhat surprised how high this number is, especially considering how good the Lions have been at keeping opponents from scoring. That it is a 15 percent jump from last season speaks to how good Detroit’s defense has been in other areas.

Points Per Game

Number/Rank: 17.6/3rd

Last season: 23.5/15th

NFL Leader: Seattle -- 15.9

Quick thoughts: The most important stat in the NFL. If you don’t give up points, you don’t lose. The Lions’ jump from 7-9 to 11-5 starts with giving up a touchdown less per game than last season. The Lions gave up more than 20 points 10 times last season. This season? The Lions have done that five times (Carolina, New Orleans, Atlanta, New England and Green Bay) and managed to go 2-3 in those games. Last season, they went 3-7.

Time of possession

Number/Rank: 28:18/5th

Last season: 28:06/4th

NFL Leader: Pittsburgh -- 27:35

Quick thoughts: Doesn’t matter the year, the Lions were good at getting teams off the field the past two seasons. The difference has been those points. Detroit is forcing teams off the field with turnovers or punts this season. Last season, it was more with touchdowns.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- In his first season as a NFL defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin has put together one of the top units in the NFL -- one that has overcome injuries to key players and has been dominant as a run defense.

Earlier this month, Austin acknowledged that if teams wanted to interview him for head coaching positions, he'd be interested in talking with them, too. Now, according to ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure, it appears a team has expressed interest in the 49-year-old Detroit Lions defensive coordinator.

The Atlanta job opened Monday when the team fired Mike Smith.

"It's flattering," Austin said earlier this month when asked about possible head coaching interviews. "But that's all it is right now."

Atlanta -- and other teams -- cannot talk to Austin until after Sunday's wild-card game between the Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

Austin has never been a head coach before, but the former University of Pittsburgh defensive back has coached in Seattle (2003-06), Arizona (2007-09) and Baltimore (2011-13) as a defensive backs coach in the NFL. He's also been a college assistant coach at Penn State, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Michigan and was the defensive coordinator at Florida for one season.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -– Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception at Lambeau Field in two seasons. He's a consistent MVP candidate and is one of the top quarterbacks in the league.

He's also a guy who the Detroit Lions are extremely familiar with. So he became the obvious choice for this week's Know The Enemy, as the Lions need to at least slow Rodgers down if they are going to win their first division title since 1993.

Here's what Detroit's coaches and players think about Rodgers.

Head coach Jim Caldwell: He's certainly an exceptional talent but he's also extremely familiar with the system that they run. He knows where everyone is and he delivers the ball quickly and on time and then when he doesn't, he's certainly capable of getting outside the pocket and gaining on the ground with his legs and finding open receivers down the field.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin: He obviously has tremendous arm strength, he gets rid of the ball as quickly as anybody that we'll see. He's able to buy time in the pocket and guys do a great job of uncovering and he has uncanny accuracy. He's tough and that's what makes him so good. He's got all the things you want in a quarterback. He's tough as nails.

Cornerback Rashean Mathis: I guess what separates all the other great quarterbacks, they limit their mistakes. They stand up and stand out in big games and he's been proven to do so. Physically, he's probably more mobile than most quarterbacks, I would say. He's definitely a pocket passer but he can beat you with his feet as well. Physically, he possesses tools that not many pocket-passing quarterbacks possess.

Safety Don Carey: He has an understanding of the game and flat-out has an ability to throw the ball that most quarterbacks don't have. If you're not on top of your P's and Q's, he's going to light you up. He's got accuracy and power. He can get the ball further down the field than a lot of guys faster. You don't see a super high trajectory on the ball. He's getting it there, almost like pinpoint darting it. For real, now. If you're not on your P's and Q's, if your eyes aren't on your man, he's going to complete the pass.

Defensive lineman Darryl Tapp: He's a beast. Let's get things straight. He's for real. MVP candidate each year. He knows the offense in and out. Him and his head coach have a great chemistry about what to call in different situations. Can't take anything from that guy, man. Their home-field advantage is bananas so we've got to focus this week in practice.

Defensive tackle Andre Fluellen: One, he's a great athlete. Two, he can read on the fly very, very well, as good as anybody in the NFL. That's what makes him dangerous. It's hard to do your whole entire game plan against him because he can read things so well.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Last month, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin essentially said he would not be interested in the coaching job at the University of Michigan.

He didn’t, though, say he would be opposed to any head coaching job at all.

The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that Austin is one of nine potential head coaching candidates the Fritz Pollard Alliance would present to NFL teams searching for new head coaches once the offseason hits in a few weeks.

“It’s flattering,” Austin said. “But that’s all it is right now.

Austin is an attractive candidate. In his first year as an NFL defensive coordinator, he has led the NFL’s No. 1 run defense and No. 2 overall defense. He’s also done a good job adjusting to injuries, as his defenses have remained high-caliber despite losing middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch for the whole season and defensive tackle Nick Fairley for the second half of it.

The 49-year-old Austin said he hasn’t thought about how he would handle interviews, but that he would go on them if a team expressed interest in talking to him. He wouldn’t be concerned with how seriously a team might be considering him from the get-go because of what happened with Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh when he was hired.

Austin said he hasn’t spoken with Tomlin or his current boss, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, about potential interviews or for any advice they might impart if he were asked to chat about a vacancy.

But Caldwell has offered advice to others before.

University of Nevada head coach Brian Polian is close with Caldwell. The two spoke often when Caldwell was in Indianapolis about what it would be like to interview for jobs. Polian picked Caldwell’s brain because his goal has been to be a college head coach.

One piece of advice stood out and to this day, he’ll speak of how much Caldwell influenced him. Polian and Caldwell had a similar influential person to look to in Tony Dungy. Caldwell had also worked with Joe Paterno at Penn State when Caldwell was a younger coach.

Polian’s group of influencers includes Jim Harbaugh, Kevin Sumlin, Charlie Weis, Tony Dungy, Marv Levy, Dom Capers and Caldwell.

“When I began to interview for head coaching positions, [Caldwell] said it’s good to take a lesson from everybody that you’ve worked for and with saying hey I would do it this way or I would do it this way,” Polian told “But ultimately, you’ve got to be yourself. If you try to be somebody else, it’s not going to work. So be Brian, don’t be afraid to be yourself.

“Because this is a fickle business we’re in, and you don’t want to fail because you tried to be something that you’re not. Just be who you are. I had a couple people tell me that, but Jim was one of the first guys to tell me that, and I always appreciated it.”

If Austin asks, it’s likely similar advice he would give him as well.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He showed off the bracelet on his left wrist, the one that instantly changed C.J. Mosley's life earlier this week.

The Detroit Lions defensive tackle was at practice when the team's director of security, Elton Moore, called him over. Mosley wondered what was up. Moore told him, 'It's time." Just like that, Mosley left practice, got changed and went to the hospital.

He was about to become a father for the first time and at 12:32 a.m., he delivered 7-pound, 2-ounce, 19 3/4-inch Kali Renee Mosley into the world. And he taped it on a GoPro.

"It was everything," Mosley said Friday, his first day back at practice. "It was scary but I was happy and just filled with love and joy, protective parent mode just kicked in. Everything rolled up in one.

"It was other-worldly, a whole other person I'm responsible for."

Immediately, everything he thought he knew changed. His entire perspective on everything flipped as well.

"It instantly changed my perspective, man, and me," Mosley said. "I went in one man and came out a different man.

"It was a great experience, man."

Mosley said he hasn't slept much since his daughter was born -- healthy, by the way -- but every little thing she has done, he wants to see. It was even tough for him to go to practice and leave her. It might be even tougher Saturday, when he has to depart for a couple of days to help the Lions face the Chicago Bears with a potential playoff berth on the line with a win.

Mosley said he didn't think about what would have happened if the mother of his child had gone into labor Saturday before the Lions left for Chicago, but he doesn't have to worry about it now, either. His child is here, having showed up in the middle of the week.

Defensive tackle Andre Fluellen already visited Mosley in the hospital and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was beaming with pride when he said why Mosley wasn't at practice earlier this week.

Mother and daughter are supposed to be discharged from the hospital Saturday as Mosley is now a father. Shortly after, though, he'll have to go for a couple of days.

"Gotta go, gotta leave. That's not a good feeling," Mosley said. "But gotta work. Gotta work."

Then he can come home and start being a father for the rest of his life.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Teryl Austin smiled wide when he was asked if his defensive tackle, C.J. Mosley, would be available Sunday when the Detroit Lions face the Chicago Bears.

Mosley skipped out of part of Wednesday's practice with the Lions and missed Thursday's practice with good reason. He is now the father of a healthy baby girl.

"Yeah, it's good," Austin said. "I'm happy for C.J. We anticipate having him."

Defensive lineman Andre Fluellen said he went to visit Mosley and his new child at the hospital Wednesday night. Lions director of security Elton Moore told Mosley during practice and told him what was going on. He then picked up and left practice immediately to head to the hospital.

"Everything doing great," Fluellen said. "Had a little baby, I think last night. Everything went smooth."

Austin said he wasn't sure if Mosley would be at practice Friday.