Hack­ett, Sark­isian linked to Lions’ OC hunt

Both can­di­dates used ver­ti­cal pass­ing game with pre­vi­ous teams

The Detroit News - - SPORTS - BY JUSTIN ROGERS The Detroit News

Allen Park — After 10 days of si­lence, we fi­nally have a pair of names at­tached to the Lions’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor search.

Ac­cord­ing to Sir­iusXM’s Alex Marvez, Nathaniel Hack­ett and Steve Sark­isian are in the mix for Detroit’s coach­ing va­cancy. Marvez’s track record with coach­ing in11 for­ma­tion is strong. He’s bro­ken sev­eral Lions-re­lated sto­ries in that realm over the year, in­clud­ing a trio of ad­di­tions to Matt Pa­tri­cia’s staff last off­sea­son.

So it’s worth ex­plor­ing what Hack­ett and Sark­isian bring to the ta­ble, even if they don’t ul­ti­mately land the po­si­tion.

We’ll start with Hack­ett, the son of for­mer Pitt and USC coach Paul Hack­ett. Nathaniel Hack­ett has been coach­ing 16 years, in­clud­ing 10 in the NFL. He’s pre­vi­ously held two co­or­di­na­tor po­si­tions, in Buf­falo from 2013-14, and most re­cently in Jack­sonville (2016-18). He was fired games into last sea­son, when the Jaguars started 3-8.

In 2017, Hack­ett led one of the league’s best of­fenses. The Jaguars fin­ished sixth in yardage and fifth in points, led by the NFL’s most pro­duc­tive rush­ing at­tack.

There are plenty of built-in ex­cuses for the Jaguars’ col­lapse in 2018. Star run­ning back Leonard Four­nette, the team’s first-round draft pick the pre­vi­ous year, suf­fered a ham­string in­jury in Week 1, missed two games, ag­gra­vated the in­jury in his re­turn to the lineup

and was side­lined an­other four games. The team went 1-5 in his ab­sence.

In the pass­ing game, Hack­ett was sad­dled with the peren­ni­ally sub­par Blake Bor­tles at quar­ter­back, and a re­ceiver corps that lost Allen Robin­son and Allen Hurns in free agency.

That com­bi­na­tion re­sulted in a bot­tom-five pass­ing of­fense last sea­son, low-lighted by

15 touch­down passes, 13 in­ter- cep­tions and a

79.1 passer rat­ing.

Hack­ett has never led an above-av­er­age pass­ing game, but he’s also never had an aboveav­er­age quar­ter­back. Be­fore work­ing with Bor­tles in Jack­sonville, Hack­ett’s lead­ing passers his two years in Buf­falo were E.J. Manuel and Kyle Orton.

The 39-year-old co­or­di­na­tor runs a vari­a­tion of the Air Co­ryell of­fense, a ver­ti­cal pass­ing at­tack which could help Detroit bet­ter uti­lize quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford’s strong arm, as well as the deep-threat skill sets of wide re­ceivers Kenny Gol­la­day and Marvin Jones. And Hack­ett’s clear com­mit­ment to the run is sure to meet Pa­tri­cia’s ex­pec­ta­tions in that de­part­ment.

Like Hack­ett, Sark­isian also served as an NFL of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor last sea­son. He was also fired, let go by the At­lanta Fal­cons at sea­son’s end.

A for­mer col­lege quar­ter­back with seven years of head-coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at the Uni­ver­sity of Washington and USC, Sark­isian spent the past two sea­sons or­ches­trat­ing the At­lanta of­fense.

After an ini­tially rocky tran­si­tion, the Fal­cons pro­duced with Sark­isian at the helm. After a dip in his performance in 2017, quar­ter­back Matt Ryan had his second-best year of his ca­reer last sea­son, com­plet­ing 69.4 per­cent of his passes with a hearty 35 touch­downs to just seven in­ter­cep­tions.

On the ground, the Fal­cons were near the bot­tom of the league in rush­ing yards — in part a re­sult of need­ing to throw more to com­pen­sate for one of the league’s worst scor­ing de­fenses. Still, At­lanta man­aged to av­er­age 4.5 yards per carry, tied for 12th in the NFL, de­spite starter Devonta Free­man miss­ing 14 games.

That fed into At­lanta’s high usage of play-ac­tion pass­ing. Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus notes Ryan ran play-ac­tion on 26 per­cent of his drop­backs, post­ing a 110.3 passer rat­ing in those sit­u­a­tion. Stafford also thrived run­ning play-ac­tion last sea­son, but only ran it 16.8 per­cent of the time, among the low­est rates in the NFL.

Ac­cord­ing to DVOA met­rics from Foot­ball Out­siders, which mea­sures a unit’s suc­cess based on the down-and-dis­tance of each play through­out the sea­son, the Fal­cons were a top-10 of­fense each of Sark­isian’s two sea­sons.

Sark­isian has a rep­u­ta­tion for tak­ing player in­put and in­cor­po­rat­ing what they like and feel most com­fort­able with into his scheme. He showed sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in his per­son­nel usage and play-calling his second sea­son, but that leaves lin­ger­ing con­cerns he could strug­gle through a sim­i­lar ad­just­ment pe­riod with his next job, some­thing Pa­tri­cia can’t af­ford after go­ing 6-10 in his in­au­gu­ral sea­son with the Lions.

There re­mains no timetable on adding a new co­or­di­na­tor. Gen­eral man­ager Bob Quinn, who is act­ing in a sup­port­ing role in what will ul­ti­mately be Pa­tri­cia’s hire, would only note the team was work­ing with a wide can­di­date pool when speak­ing with me­dia last week.

John Baze­more/As­so­ci­ated Press

Steve Sark­isian was the Fal­cons’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor from 2017-18.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A for­mer col­lege quar­ter­back, Steve Sark­isian, cen­ter, spent the past two sea­sons or­ches­trat­ing the At­lanta of­fense.


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