The Detroit Lions may have lost one former NFL legend to the coaching carousel, but they added another in quick fashion to account for the loss.
While running backs coach and assistant head coach Duce Staley may be moving on to Carolina, the team added another former NFL player with ties to the Tar Heel state. The team is hiring former cornerback Dre Bly to coach that position in Detroit.
The team revealed the news with a tweet on Thursday, February 2, 2023. They also confirmed the report that former NFL tight end Steve Heiden would be joining the coaching staff to coach tight ends.
Bly, for his part, seemed very fired up about the news. Quickly, he shared a tweet that confirmed his return back home to continue his coaching career.
“I’m excited to announce that I have joined the Detroit Lions as the Cornerbacks Coach! Thank you to Mrs. Sheila Ford Hamp and the rest of the Ford Family, DC Aaron Glen, GM Brad Holmes and HC Dan Campbell for an opportunity to come back home!,” Bly wrote on Twitter.
Last year, the Lions made a midseason firing, relieving defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant of his duties after a 31-27 loss to Miami on October 30 which featured 369 passing yards. Brian Duker was left in charge of safeties, and did well to oversee the development of Kerby Joseph at that position.
In the second half of the year, Detroit played better on the back end, but cornerback remained a true struggle spot for the team. Detroit corners only combined for three interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries this past season.
For a former ballhawk like Bly, that won’t be close to enough given how he changed the game for years at the position with regards to takeaways.
Now, he will be coming back to Detroit to be able to impart some of that wisdom to a group that needs it.
Bly Was Standout Player for Lions
In terms of juice generated by the addition of fomrer players, the Bly move will be a big one for the Lions. He was arguably one of Detroit’s best free agency signings of all-time a few decades ago.
As the team’s PR account pointed out, Bly made a dramatic impact for the team as soon as he was signed, and was a big play waiting to happen almost all three years he wore Detroit’s jersey.
“The Lions have hired Dre Bly as the team’s cornerbacks coach. Bly played for Detroit from 2003-06 and totaled 19 INTs for the team, the fifth-most INTs among all NFL CBs in that span. Since 1980, he is the only Lions CB to post multiple seasons with six INTs,” the site tweeted.
Perhaps Bly’s most notable game with the Lions came on Thanksgiving Day 2003, when he intercepted Brett Favre twice and forced a fumble in a 22-14 win over Green Bay:
In addition to his work in Detroit, Bly was a star with the St. Louis Rams from 1999-2002 prior to his time in the Motor City. He posted 14 interceptions, three fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles with the Rams, and helped the team claim Super Bowl 34 in 2000.
After playing for the Lions, Bly played three more years in the league with Denver and San Francisco, finally retiring in 2010. After departing, he got into coaching and worked with North Carolina from 2019 to 2022. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
In total, Bly would finish with 484 tackles, 43 interceptions and eight total defensive touchdowns to go with two Pro Bowl nods in his career. It only serves to prove that he has the on-field goods to be a solid teacher for the team.
Lions’ Secondary Struggled Badly Last Year
The addition of Bly to help teach this group could prove to be massive for the Lions, considering the team was dreadful last year on the back end, and needed a new voice for the group.
Detroit finished 30th in pass defense, allowing 26 touchdowns and over 245 yards per-game on average. Worse, they allowed a total of 4,179 yards through the air. That points to a group that simply didn’t get much going all season long, and could need some help.
Jeff Okudah, who posted 73 tackles and one interception was the most consistent player of the group, and by the end of the season, he was struggling to find consistency as well. The Lions have solid pieces like Jerry Jacobs, but not nearly enough depth at the position, which proved itself to be the case most of the year.
Free agent Amani Oruwariye figures to be on the outs after a very tough season in 2022, and Mike Hughes may not have done enough to stick around as a must re-sign player. That could lead the Lions to prioritize the spot heavily in the draft and free agency for additions.
Along with that, Bly could be counted on to add his expertise to the group. So far, Detroit’s player-driven coaching staff seems to have worked out, with the team’s last two rookie classes developing well.
Should the Lions bring in some new blood at the position, it will be up to a former franchise legend in Bly to help coach them up for the future.