Detroit Lions' Jim Bob Cooter: We’ll deal with future when it gets here

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Jim Bob Cooter knew the questions were coming in his final teleconference of the year Friday, and perhaps he was so at ease because he knows what comes next as well.

"I’m sure you guys are excited like I am for this particular media session. Let’s get into it," he said at the start of the call.

And, "Guys, last chance, come on," when there was a long pause at the end of his 8.5-minute session with reporters.

With his return as Detroit Lions offensive coordinator seeming less and less likely, Cooter said Friday he believes he was given a fair chance to succeed as play caller this year and he's not worried about whatever the future holds after Sunday's season finale against the Green Bay Packers.

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"The time to deal with the future, really, is in the future," Cooter said. "So when next week comes and all that stuff happens, we’ll get into that then. But I’m excited for our game this week. We’ve been working really hard, the guys have been working really hard and it’s an opponent that’s a division rival, somebody we enjoy competing against and I’m sure they’re getting ready for us. Kind of same old story. We’ll deal with the future when the future gets here."

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter on the sideline during the 48-17 loss to the New York Jets on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, at Ford Field in Detroit.

The Lions (5-10) are expected to undergo major changes this offseason after a last-place finish in the NFC North, and Cooter would make for a natural scapegoat given the offense's struggles this year.

The Lions rank 24th in total offense, tied for 26th in scoring offense and have not topped 17 points in their past five games.

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Matthew Stafford has struggled with turnovers and injuries, and is on pace for his worst statistical season since 2010. And the Lions are down to a skeleton crew of skill players after trading away Golden Tate and losing Marvin Jones, Kerryon Johnson and Bruce Ellington to injured reserve.

Cooter accepted responsibility for the offense's struggles Friday – "I take ownership for everything we do," he said – while Lions coach Matt Patricia complimented the job he did dealing with adversity. 

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter walk off the field after training camp on Monday, July 30, 2018, in Allen Park.

“I mean, obviously, it’s not an easy job, right?" Patricia said. "I think he’s, every single week doing everything he can to just put us in a situation to help the collective team try to be in the end where we can win. It’s a complementary game, all three phases working together, and the game is different each week depending on the opponent that we play and strengths and weaknesses that they have. And sometimes that’s been easily kind of seen and then sometimes it’s not from the standpoint of there might be other underlining factors from whether it’s the opponents players, our players, injuries, whatever the case may be."

Neither Cooter nor Patricia offered any insight Friday into Cooter's immediate future.

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Just 34 years old, Cooter remains the youngest coordinator in the NFL, and he said Friday he has "learned a bunch" of lessons this year.

"Done some different things, tried some different things," he said. "Some that have worked, some that have not. I’m sort of priding myself on constantly learning, continuously improving. I do believe personally I’ve improved as a coach this year. I understand the outside perception and all that, but I’m working to get better at all sorts of different things."

Asked what perception he was referring to, Cooter, who has been under intense public scrutiny as the Lions' offense has wilted, said, "Oh, I don’t know, I’m sure you guys can compile all that and write it up."

"I’m not getting too deep into all that," he said. "I just know I’m sort of on the continuous improvement plan and that’s what I’m on."

Lions coach Matt Patricia works with defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson during warmups before the game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Chicago.

Injury update

The Lions placed defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson on injured reserve Friday and were assigned defensive end Mitchell Loewen off waivers from the New Orleans Saints. Robinson suffered a knee injury in last week's loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Lions also ruled out tight end Luke Willson (concussion) and cornerback DeShawn Shead (knee) for Sunday's game with the Packers. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay is questionable with a chest injury. Golladay was limited in practice Friday but did not participate in individual drills during the portion of practice that was open to the media.

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