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.
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.