In a move not unexpected following the hiring of Jim Caldwell as their new head coach, the Detroit Lions have come to an agreement with Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin to become their new defensive coordinator.
The team officially announced the hiring on Friday.
Austin’s departure is a blow to the defensive coaching staff after he did an impressive job with the development of several young defensive backs including Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, and former Raven Cary Williams. The 48-year-old Austin took over as the Baltimore secondary coach in 2011 when Chuck Pagano was promoted to defensive coordinator.
His roots with Caldwell extend beyond their two years with the Ravens as the pair coached together at Penn State and Wake Forest in the early 1990s.
Head coach John Harbaugh could have an in-house candidate to take Austin’s place in senior defensive assistant Steve Spagnuolo, who spent three years as the defensive backs coach in Philadelphia from 2001 through 2003. Formerly the head coach of the St. Louis Rams who also spent time as a defensive coordinator for both the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints, Spagnuolo would have to decide whether the secondary coach role would be the right fit for his career path.
The last two secondary coaches under Harbaugh eventually became defensive coordinators with Pagano even advancing a step further to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Such a track record under Harbaugh might entice Spagnuolo to take the position if offered, even if he desires to once again be a coordinator and head coach in the future.
Harbaugh credited the 54-year-old Spagnuolo as a helpful sounding board on game days as well as an asset to defensive coordinator Dean Pees during the 2013 season.
“I think Dean would tell you something along the lines that he was a big help to Dean as far as — not so much building the package — but studying the opponents and creating a few ideas and some insights that were a little bit different than what we’ve had here in the past and contributed in that way,” Harbaugh said. “I think Dean really came to appreciate Steve’s role in the defensive room there a little bit. The thing about Steve is he’s never really threatening to anybody. He respects all the other coaches. He just tried to help out where he could.”
In addition to continuing the search for their next offensive coordinator, the Ravens must now fill their secondary coach, running backs coach, and — if they choose — quarterbacks coach positions.