Lions not shocked by moves: 'We're held to a standard'

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford speaks during a news conference in England on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015.

HERTFORDSHIRE, England -- Rashean Mathis has been around the NFL long enough to know when change is near.

He was with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011, when they fired head coach Jack Del Rio midway through a disappointing 5-11 season, and with the Detroit Lions two years ago, when ownership decided to part ways with head coach Jim Schwartz.

So the veteran cornerback wasn't the least bit surprised when Lions coach Jim Caldwell fired three offensive coaches, including coordinator Joe Lombardi, earlier this week.

"For a veteran guy, it was expected," Mathis said. "Like, something has to be shaken. You don't know where, so it's not to talk about that, the ins and outs of the front office. But when you win in the NFL, NBA, Major League (Baseball) and hockey, people make jobs. When you don't win, things like that can happen."

The Lions held their first practice of the post-Lombardi era today at the Grove hotel, about 45 minutes outside of London, as they prepare for Sunday's International Series game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Wembley Stadium (9:30 a.m., Fox).

And less than 48 hours after the moves were made, it was mostly business as usual.

"Obviously, when you're 1-6, something's going to happen," safety Glover Quin said. "Either coaches (get fired), players get benched. Sometimes you've got to bench a player, sometimes you've got to move some guys around. Sometimes you've got to do something different because, obviously, what you're doing is not working. You're 1-6. Coach Caldwell's our head coach, and that's the move that he felt like needed to be made at that time."

Like Mathis, safety James Ihedigbo said he wasn't surprised to hear Lombardi and offensive line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan were fired before the team left for London on Monday.

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"I wouldn't say (the moves were) shocking," Ihedigbo said. "You have to look at the performance aspect. I use the example again, as a player, if you're not performing at the level that's expected of you, organizations make that change. We're held to a standard all across the board, the coaches the players. So the organization thought that we needed to make a change, they went and did that. We know, as players, that it was done in the best interest of the team."

The Lions, owners of the worst record in the NFC, have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL this year.

They rank 20th in total offense, lead the league in turnovers, rank last in rushing and have the second-worst scoring margin in the league (minus-61 points).

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said he doesn't know what the offense will look like under new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, but "it won't be earth-shattering stuff, I don't think, given the one week of preparation we've had."

"He's only had a few days to kind of put his thumbprint on the offense," Stafford said. "We'll see where it goes from there. Obviously, he's an intelligent guy. He's been around the Peyton Mannings, been around some of the offensive guys that are really well respected in this league, the Tom Moores. I'm sure, as the year goes on, it'll show through more and more."

Tight end Eric Ebron said Cooter has not made any dramatic changes to the way the Lions go about business on offense, but he said the 31-year-old coordinator’s youth has helped him connect with players.

Lombardi was 44.

“Jim Bob’s younger, so he has more of a personality on how to talk to us in ways that we understand it,” Ebron said. “And I’m not saying that Coach Lombardi didn’t, it’s just they come off differently. And they’re two different people, they’re supposed to. It’s just that Jim Bob knows how to bring a little bit of excitement. I’m not going to say Coach Lombardi didn’t because he got us riled up a few times, it’s just that he’s younger, he knows how to approach a younger crowd, even though we are kind of old.”

When Cooter held his first offensive meeting on Monday, players said he was direct and concise, and Ebron said “he laid down a set of rules” with one simple message in mind: “Go out there and execute.”

“A lot of those guys may have never really heard him talk much, but the more he starts talking football you understand his intelligence and his understanding of the game,” Stafford said. “I think that garners respect from guys when they hear him talk about football and about offense, so I think he’s doing just fine.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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