After eight seasons with Shawn Jefferson as the wide receivers coach, the Detroit Lions find themselves in unfamiliar territory. The team promoted tight ends coach Tim Lappano to this key position. On any other team, the coach wouldn’t face as much pressure. However, with Calvin Johnson under his wing, Lappano has big shoes to fill for the Lions.
In 2012, Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s NFL record for single season receiving yards. Johnson’s total of 1964 was huge for Johnson’s career, but might also be the highest he reaches. The Lions had several injuries at receiver and relied heavily on Johnson as part of their offense.
While Johnson will remain the key part of the Lions offense, the team is likely to spread the ball out more in 2013. The question is what Lappano can do with some of the other receivers on the Lions team. Lappano served as the tight ends coach for the Lions for the past four seasons.
Lappano has not been responsible for coaching receivers since the 1997 season at Purdue University. The year before that, Lappano also coached receivers, while at Wyoming University. In between the Lions and Purdue, Lappano has primarily coached running backs and quarterbacks.
Fans and analysts will argue that the wide receiver coach is not a key position for NFL teams. However, Johnson will find himself coached by someone different for the first time in his NFL career. There was a familiarity between Jefferson and Johnson that produced strong results over the last six seasons. Johnson has posted over 980 yards every season, other than his 2007 rookie season.
Jefferson has moved on to coach the Tennessee Titans in the 2013 season. Lappano finds himself with big shoes to fill and the best player at his respective position playing under his command. Expect Johnson’s statistics to trend downward, although his touchdown numbers could increase if Lappano can find some better production in the red zone.