Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a regular candidate for NFL head coaching jobs, but now he’s reportedly in the running for a college coaching gig.(
Teryl Austin’s name floats around coaching vacancies every year any more. This time, it’s happening a little earlier than normal.
That’s because the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator has been linked to a college coaching possibility. He’s a candidate for the head coaching job that just opened after Arizona State University fired Todd Graham on Sunday, USA Today reported.
The school has done extensive research on Austin as well as other candidates such as Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, Michigan passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton and former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, USA Today reported.
Austin, 52, does not have direct connections to Arizona State. He did spend 2007-2009 as a defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals and maintains an offseason home in Phoenix.
Austin does have extensive experience coaching at the college level as well as in the pros. He spent 11 years as an assistant at Penn State, Wake Forest, Syracuse and Michigan before making the jump to the NFL. He also went back for one year in 2010 to serve as Florida’s defensive coordinator.
He’s been a regular candidate for NFL coaching gigs over the past three seasons, all of which he’s spent as the Lions defensive coordinator. He’s had nine pro interviews in those three years but has yet to come away with an offer.
He could see more pro interviews this offseason, in part because a number of vacancies are expected to come open and also because he’s enjoying one of his more successful seasons. The Lions entered this week ranked 17th out of 32 teams in Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average metric that tracks efficiency against the league average.
Detroit has scored five touchdowns on turnover returns through 11 games, in which it is 6-5 and in second place in the NFC North. Austin’s unit has done this despite major injuries to starters along the defensive line, perhaps the most important unit to his style of a 4-3 defense.
Austin has consistently shut down any questions during the season about his interest in becoming a head coach elsewhere, as he’s focused on continuing to coordinate the Lions defense. The NFL schedule makes it difficult for employed coaches to make the jump to college, especially when the team in question makes the playoffs, as the Lions have in two of the past three seasons. Colleges tend to prefer getting their new head coaches in place ahead of the Dec. 20 early signing date, though the NFL regular season hasn’t even ended by that point.
Many expect Sumlin to be the front-runner for the Arizona State job. He was fired as Texas A&M’s coach Sunday but holds an 86-43 record as a college head coach.
Dwight Freeney wasn’t able to play for the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, but he’ll be available starting next Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.