The Lions have fired special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs, per a team announcement. Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes that special teams assistant Marquice Williams will take over the coordinator position for the final two games of the season.
Coombs, 34, began his coaching career as an intern with the Bengals in 2009. He served as Cincinnati’s assistant special teams coach from 2012-19, and his units were generally quite successful. The 2019 Bengals special teams unit was ranked first by Football Outsiders and fifth by Pro Football Focus, which prompted Detroit to hire Coombs as its ST coordinator back in January.
But a source told Rothstein that Coombs did not mesh with the culture that the organization is trying to create. In the Lions’ loss to the Titans yesterday, Coombs called for an unsuccessful fake punt without the knowledge of anyone else, including coaches and some players on the field. While Coombs’ abilities as a coordinator are clearly strong, the team apparently felt that his unilateral decision was emblematic of his overall approach. As Rothstein says, the team had been considering making a move for some time, and the fake punt was simply the last straw.
In related news, the Lions recently hired Chris Spielman to serve as a special assistant to chairman and president & CEO. Spielman, a franchise icon who played linebacker for the Lions from 1988-95, will be a key voice in the general manager and head coach hires that Detroit will soon be making, and he spoke at length about the vision that principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp has in terms of the club’s direction and culture.
As Justin Rogers of the Detroit News observes, Spielman — the brother of Vikings GM Rick Spielman — and team president Rod Wood used the word “culture” 22 times in 36 minutes at Spielman’s introductory press conference last week. Organizational sources tell Rogers that Coombs’ departure is a reflection of his “me-first” attitude that undermines that culture (Twitter links).
The Lions’ GM search is well underway, with the club having interviewed or planning to interview several internal options and a host of high-profile candidates like Louis Riddick, Thomas Dimitroff, and Scott Pioli. The team’s head coaching interviews will obviously start in earnest at season’s end, and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is rumored to be Detroit’s top choice.
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