The Detroit Lions have a new defensive coordinator in Cory Undlin, and in the aftermath, there are plenty of takes on the appointment circulating.
Many believe the Lions missed an opportunity to shake up their coaching staff in a more dramatic way, while others have maintained that Undlin could be a rising star in coaching circles and a potential hidden gem the team has unearthed at a key spot on the staff.
Here’s a look at breaking down Detroit’s decision to hire Undlin as their next defensive coordinator.
Pro: Cory Undlin Knows Matt Patricia
Those on the outside who are skeptical of the Lions will spin this hire as pure nepotism considering the duo’s history stems back to New England, but the fact that the pair has a good working relationship and have experience working together is only a positive. This is unlike Patricia’s relationship with Paul Pasqualoni in that Undlin is less of a mentor and more of an equal. In this aspect, it could be a solid relationship for the Lions.
Con: The Lions Didn’t Hire a Bigger Name
In order for Patricia and Bob Quinn to save themselves from certain disaster in 2020 if things go off the rails, the team might have needed to make a big swing at the coordinator spot. Names like Marvin Lewis, Steve Wilks and Wade Phillips were available. Theoretically, the Lions could have lured one into the mix to work with the defense and give the team some extra help.
If things fall apart and Detroit’s defense isn’t markedly improved, Undlin will undoutably get massive amounts of heat. A bigger name defensive coordinator could have bought Patricia more time and perhaps given the team less pressure.
Pro: Cory Undlin Has Worked With Bigger Name Players
For as unknown as Undlin might be to the average fan, he’s coached up some serious defensive names during his time working as a position coach in the league. Starting with coaching the Cleveland Browns’ defensive backs in 2008, Undlin worked with some talented players at a key position for the defense. Coaching up Eric Wright (Browns, 2008) started off his career. He would then go on to work with Rashean Mathis (Jaguars, 2010), Champ Bailey (Broncos, 2013-2014), Quentin Jammer (Broncos 2013), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Broncos, 2013), Chris Harris (Broncos, 2014), Aqib Talib (Broncos, 2014) T.J. Ward (Broncos, 2014), Malcolm Jenkins (Eagles, 2015-2019), Rodney McLeod (Eagles, 2016-2019) and Ronald Darby (Eagles, 2017-2019).
In Detroit, in addition to formulating the game plan, Undlin will be counted on to help the Lions develop young defensive backs like Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Jamal Agnew and Amani Oruwariye while continuing upon the success that Darius Slay has enjoyed in his career.
Con: The Lions Needed Someone With More Coordinator Experience
Undlin has never been a defensive coordinator in an NFL game. In fact, his only experience as a defensive coordinator at all came at little-known California Lutheran in 2000. Giving a guy who hasn’t so much as coordinated a defense at a major college is a significant risk. Even if Patricia is in charge of Detroit’s defense and calling the shots, having someone like Undlin as a figurehead is a risk considering what he hasn’t done in the NFL and in college as well.
Pro: Cory Undlin’s Age
At 48, Undlin is young enough to not be rigid in his implementation of Detroit’s new defense, and should be able to bring a fresh perspective to the team. He should also be able to bring fresh ideas given his work in a much different scheme. It will be on Patricia to be accepting of those ideas and implement some. Paul Pasqualoni’s downfall might have been the fact that he was in his 70s, and clearly looked as if his best days as a coach had passed him by. Arguably, he couldn’t offer this perspective. Undlin is energetic and will bring some youth to the staff at a very important spot on the team. That can only be seen as a plus for a vital 2020 season.