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Lions fire three offensive assistants

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The Sports Xchange

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – After yet another disappointing offensive performance, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell has seen enough. He fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn and offensive line assistant Terry Heffernan on Monday.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Caldwell said. “We’re running out of time.”

The Lions allowed seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits Sunday in a 28-19 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and in addition to quarterback Matthew Stafford frequently having little time to pass, the team ranks last in rushing in the NFL.

Washburn, the son of longtime NFL defensive line coach Jim Washburn, had been on the Lions staff since 2009. Heffernan was with the team since 2013 after working at Wayne State from 2007-12.

Caldwell said the decision to fire the three assistant coaches was his, and he pointed to the lack of productivity on offense as the reason he made it. He said he did not consult with ownership before reaching his decision and told the players in a team meeting Monday afternoon.

“Because we just were not productive,” Caldwell said of why he made the decision. “That’s the key.”

With Lombardi out after less than two seasons, the Lions promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter to offensive coordinator. Running backs coach Curtis Modkins, who previously worked as offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, received a promotion to run game coordinator, too.

The Lions also will move assistant head coach Ron Prince to offensive line coach after he spent the previous two seasons working with tight ends. Special teams assistant Devin Fitzsimmons will move to tight ends coach.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said he thinks Lombardi is a talented coach and is upset he didn’t have a chance to help Lombardi thrive.

“Any time guys are let go it’s a tough situation,” Stafford said. “You feel a certain amount of responsibility as a player because you’re the guy, especially at the quarterback position, ultimately out there pulling the trigger getting us wins and losses and helping us move the ball. And I just didn’t do a good enough job of that.”

REPORT CARD VS. VIKINGS

–PASSING OFFENSE: D. The blocking scheme deserves an F after allowing seven sacks and 13 quarterback hits. The only reason the grade is higher is because quarterback Matthew Stafford finished with a surprisingly good line, though it was boosted by two stellar touchdown drives to start the game. He was 18 of 26 for 256 yards and two touchdowns, but the offense went for too long of stretches without producing.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C. The Lions were running the ball well when they could conceivably hand it off. But after the game got out of hand, running opportunities were limited as they had just 17 runs for 77 yards.

–PASS DEFENSE: D. The pass rush did well, sacking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater four times. But once again, the Lions allowed too many big plays as Bridgewater was an efficient 25 of 35 for 316 yards and two touchdowns.

–RUN DEFENSE: C. Considering there was a 75-yard run by back Adrian Peterson mixed in, the Lions did well to limit the Vikings to 4 yards per carry. Unfortunately, with 35 attempts, the Lions still gave up 140 rushing yards for the game, including 98 by Peterson and 36 by Jerick McKinnon.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: C. The most notable play was a holding call on safety Don Carey on a punt, which seems difficult to do on a punt coverage unit. Otherwise, there wasn’t anything that stood out as punter Sam Martin played fine, and the Lions didn’t allow or create any big returns.

COACHING: F. After two impressive touchdown drives, the offensive coaching staff did nothing right. The Lions simply had no idea how to block the Vikings pass rush in the game. Minnesota also made the right in-game adjustments while the Lions seemed lost at times.


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