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Get To Know The Defensive Coordinator Candidates: Teryl Austin

The Detroit Lions are probably cleaning house this offseason. That could open up a reunion between Steve Addazio and the defensive coordinator of the 2010 Florida Gators.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


1984-1987: Player, University of Pittsburgh
1991: Player, Montreal Machine (WLAF)

1991-1992: Penn State University (Graduate Assistant)
1993-1995: Wake Forest University (Defensive Backs)
1996-1998: Syracuse University (Defensive Assistant)
1999-2002: University of Michigan (Defensive Assistant)
2003-2006: Seattle Seahawks (Defensive Backs)
2007-2009: Arizona Cardinals (Defensive Backs)
2010: University of Florida (Defensive Coordinator)
2011-2013: Baltimore Ravens (Secondary)
2014-present: Detroit Lions (Defensive Coordinator)

Why Austin:

When he arrived in Detroit with head coach Jim Caldwell, Teryl Austin was a hot coaching commodity who was rumored to take NFL head coaching positions. A finalist for the Atlantia Falcons job, he was linked to five different vacancies before he was hired by Caldwell as the defensive coordinator of the Lions.

Although a specialist coach for the bulk of his coaching career (having spent 13 years as a coach of the secondary), he has the knowledge to know what everyone else on the field should be doing. He helped build a defensive backfield that brought the Seattle Seahawks to a 13-3 record and an NFC Championship in 2005 despite absorbing injuries up the wazoo. In 2008, he helped build another conference champion, this time in the desert, when the Arizona Cardinals went to Super Bowl XLIII. Both times, the Pittsburgh Steelers spoiled Super Bowl dreams.

Prior to that, he was a part of the Syracuse staff that won three Big East championships and went to a Fiesta Bowl. At Michigan, he helped win a Big Ten title and went to an Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.

After spending a year at Florida with Urban Meyer, Steve Addazio, and the Florida Gators as the defensive coordinator, they all departed in '11, with Austin returning to the NFL as the secondary coach for the Baltimore Ravens. In 2012, he went to the Super Bowl a third time, this time winning it, when the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers. In 2014, Jim Caldwell hired him as the defensive coordinator, and the Lions rose to the #2 overall defense in the NFL, best against the run (again despite a plethora of injuries, including this infamous injury to Stephen Tulloch).

That type of experience is invaluable. The Lions are going to miss the playoffs this year and could be in contention for a high draft pick, and the hot rumor is that they're likely to clean house of the coaching staff. If that happens, Austin becomes a free agent, one who could either return to a position coach or come back to the college game as a defensive coordinator.

Austin is young at 50, and he coaches a multiple formation front that could transition the 4-3 Don Brown defense to pretty much anywhere. Since he's so good with the secondary, he could continue to build what was an elite pass defense while blending in schemes with the front seven. Knowing coverages as well as he does would be a solid addition to this defense, and it might actually give them a different look blended into something still continual and familiar - the perfect transition out of the Don Brown identity and into a new era of multiple formations.

He's been a part of incredibly coaching staffs, having been to three Super Bowls. In a world where success can breed success, that's a guy who can walk in with the attitude necessary to be a winner, and it affords a type of swagger few other coaches have.

Plus he's worked with Addazio, even if it's just for one year, under Urban Meyer.

Why Not Austin:

Austin is known as a career NFL guy, which doesn't always translate to anything at the collegiate level. NFL coaches also have a way of recycling through the league, which essentially means he could wind up as a position coach or coordinator at the game's highest level before he returns to the NCAA. There's also the chance the coaching staff in Detroit isn't fired, which means he's not going anywhere to begin with.

He also spent only one year with Addazio at Florida, as opposed to a guy like Chuck Heater, who spent years on that Florida staff before going to Temple with him. So there's a possibility there isn't a ton of chemistry there. After all, in the one year they spent together, the Gators went 8-5, 4-4 in the SEC. The next year, Meyer, Addazio, and Austin were all gone, and the Will Muschamp era was picking up in Gainesville.

Therefore, there's one major question mark surrounding Teryl Austin - recruiting. He's never really needed to be a recruiter at the college level. Contrast that with Don Brown, who was an elite recruiter to go along with his status as an elite coordinator. That's why NFL coaches seldom succeed at the college level.

The Bottom Line:

Teryl Austin is probably one of the more intriguing names, provided the Detroit Lions fire their coaching staff. If he's not fired, then all bets are off.

I personally love Teryl Austin as a fit at BC. Since Austin installed the 4-3 defense at Florida and in Detroit, he can provide that continuity from the Don Brown era. But he has enough of his own take on it where he could blend the hair on fire, blitz-heavy package from Brown into whatever type of defense he wants to install (which is also, by most accounts, extremely aggressive). In terms of X's and O's, you're unlikely to find a guy who would probably be a better option in terms of sheer football knowledge.

The recruiting aspect worries me, but as long as BC is able to keep its core recruiters intact, the learning curve or adjustment wouldn't be as steep.

I think Austin could be the kind of guy who provides a bridge from Don Brown to an internal candidate. He's enough of a smart football guy to scheme around what he has in front of him, and he's enough of a good coach to bring the talent up to speed. If Austin were to stick around for a couple of years, it could serve as the right guy before promoting an internal candidate like Ben Albert or Kevin Lempa (if they're determined to be too green).

Is Austin realistic? I have no idea. He's an NFL coach, which means his career trajectory either brings him to a college head coaching position; I feel like a college defensive coordinator position is way outside of his wheelhouse or arc. So I have no idea how he could translate to the position, which is what makes me a little leery.

Teryl Austin was a standout at Pittsburgh whose been on successful coaching staffs at virtually every stop. He has a Super Bowl ring, three appearances, a bunch of big time bowls. He's a solid football mind. Whether or not that remains to be a good fit for BC, though, is another story.