Washburn's firing 'on our hands,' says Lions' Ramirez
LONDON -- Jeremiah Washburn was considered a hot young assistant coach two years ago, when Jim Caldwell retained him as one of a handful of holdovers from Jim Schwartz's Detroit Lions staff.
But with the Lions' offensive line in disarray during this year's 1-6 start, Caldwell made Washburn and assistant line coach Terry Heffernan scapegoats as part of the organization's coaching shakeup Monday.
"It just sucks because, especially, you build certain relationships with the coaches and all that, and you let them down," veteran offensive lineman Manny Ramirez said. "Especially as an offensive line. You lose your O-line coach and his assistant, and we're supposed to be a family -- supposed to be one, take care of each other, work for each other -- and we let them down. We let them down, and this is the way they provide for their family, and that was on our hands."
The Lions rank last in the NFL in rushing offense and have given up 16 sacks in seven games, tied for 12th-most in the NFL.
In Sunday's 28-19 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, they allowed seven sacks to six different players and watched their quarterback get hit 13 times.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell, in his news conference before announcing the firings of Washburn, Heffernan and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, said the line was not the only unit to blame for the team's protection issues Sunday.
Stafford makes many of the protection calls -- at least one of Minnesota's sacks was a due to faulty scheme design -- and Caldwell said running backs and tight ends erred several times in their blocking assignments, too.
"I understand you guys have looked at Pro Football Focus, which gave you some stat about who's to blame, and until they work here and know what's called and know how it works, I think you probably should take that information with a grain of salt," Caldwell said, referring to a tweet by PFF's Sam Monson, who wrote that none of the Lions' sacks were charged to linemen in the site's film review. "So there are some responsibilities that Matthew has, there are some responsibilities that our line has, there are responsibilities that tight ends (have), there are responsibilities that we have, as coaches, also, of making adjustments and calls accordingly."
Washburn, who was in his seventh season with the Lions, declined comment about the firing when reached by the Free Press on Monday.
Caldwell said assistant head coach and tight ends coach Ron Prince will take over as offensive line coach, though it's unclear how much the unit can evolve midway through the season.
If nothing else, the Lions want to see development in the four players on whom they've spent high draft picks in recent years. Left tackle Riley Reiff (first-round pick, 2012), left guard Laken Tomlinson (first, 2015), center Travis Swanson (third, 2014) and right guard Larry Warford (third, 2013) are starting, to varying degrees of success.
"(A new voice can help), but at the same time, we have to go back and look ourselves in the mirror and say, 'Have we done our part?'" Ramirez said. "Because again, it's going to be the same players that are going to be on the field and it's up to us make sure we produce the way we should."
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
Steve Schrader's recap of the Lombardi situation
Even a guy named Lombardi couldn’t take the Lions to the Super Bowl.
So they fired first-time offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, 42, the grandson of NFL legend Vince Lombardi, and replaced him with ... a guy named Jim Bob Cooter.
“For a guy who couldn’t figure out which one he wanted for a first name — no, he’s incredibly smart,” Dan Orlovsky once said of Cooter, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach.
What went wrong?
• Lombardi said he liked “his trajectory,” but Matthew Stafford was in a downward spiral after posting big numbers with OC Scott Linehan. And he was benched for the first time in his career.
• The offense has ranked near the bottom of the NFL in scoring. Some opposing players told Golden Tate that they “knew what was coming” when the Lions ran plays.
The new guy
• Cooter, 31, also is a first-time coordinator.
• Before coming here last season, he was an assistant at Denver and Indianapolis, with offenses that featured Peyton Manning. Cooter worked for Caldwell with the Colts. The Chicago Bears asked to interview him for their OC job before the season, but the Lions refused.
• “He coaches me relentlessly, which is good,” Stafford once said. “He’s good. He’s good for me. He’s smart, not only with fundamentals and technique at the quarterback position, but also scheme.”
• Gregg Rosenthal, nfl.com: “Lombardi felt like an awkward fit. He struggled to adapt a Saints-like offense. Stafford ... regressed in an offense built around short passing.”
• Kansas City had been favored by two points over the Lions for Sunday’s game in London. After the changes, it went up to six.
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