How the Detroit Lions cobbled together a staff without head coach, coordinator

Detroit Lions substitute head coach Robert Prince tried to sound upbeat when he thanked his coaches and staff for their efforts in a Saturday’s 47-7 slaughter at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field.

“First of all,” Prince said as he adjusted his visor, “I would like to thank the entire staff.”

Yes, it was a game full of adjustments — and gratitude for a hearty-if-futile effort by anyone wearing Honolulu Blue and Silver.

COVID-19 protocols forced the Lions to take the field without five of their coaches, including interim head coach Darrell Bevell. They were also without defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, defensive line coach Bo Davis, linebackers coach Ty McKenzie and secondary coach Steve Gregory.

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They all took part in game-planning for the week but were not allowed to have contact with the team or their fill-in coaches once the game started.

So Prince served as head coach. Quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan called offensive plays from the booth, and Evan Rothstein, a coaching assistant who has worked primarily on special projects and analytics during his nine seasons in Detroit, called defensive plays. Defensive Assistant Tony Carter coached the defensive backs. Director of football research David Corrao coached the linebackers, and coaching assistant Ty Warren coached the defensive line.

Detroit Lions receivers coach Robert Prince was the interim head coach vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.
Detroit Lions receivers coach Robert Prince was the interim head coach vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 at Ford Field.

“Preparing this week (was) a little bit difficult,” Prince said, “but I thought Evan did a great job helping with the defense, and with Sean taking over, tremendous opportunity for those guys. And also with Marquice (Williams coaching) special teams, it was a great effort by those guys and the rest of the guys.”

Almost forgotten in all the COVID-19-related coaching turmoil was that Williams had been appointed to take over for special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs, who was fired Monday following a fake-punt call at Tennessee.

Prince credited Bevell with preparing him as much as possible during the week.

“Well really, Bev was still very involved with everything,” he said. “And really it was during practice when I really ran the team and then also during the game basically.

“So a different challenge than what coach Bev had, where coach Bev had to take everything over. Bev was still heavily involved during the week, and like I said, I ran the practice and then I ran the game.”

After Matthew Stafford left the game early in the first quarter with ankle injury things only got worse. But backup Chase Daniel said the veteran experience of the coaches helped assure players.

“It took all of us, but those dudes have been around for a long time,” Daniel said. “Sean has won a couple rings, or one ring at least with the (New York) Giants. I mean, he’s been around. R.P. is a legend in his own right. I think both those guys handled their jobs seriously but also had a little fun with it.

“Unfortunately, we just got down so much today. We got our butts kicked today, and it’s no fun, and I feel for them a little bit. I wish we could’ve, offensively at least, come out and helped them out a little bit, but we weren’t able to.”

The Lions didn’t cross midfield on offense until 14:16 remained in the game. Their only points came courtesy of a 74-yard Jamal Agnew punt return touchdown in the third quarter that cut the deficit to 40-7.

Agnew said after the game the touchdown was a testament to how the entire team kept competing.

“Oh, no doubt, the effort is definitely there,” he said. “I just don’t think the execution was there, to be honest. We didn’t make the plays in the certain situations that we needed to.

"Obviously, that first drive, we had that big offsides kill a little bit of momentum. It’s just those type of plays that we have to lock in and execute. We can’t blame it on scheme or anything.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' Chase Daniel on shorthanded coaches: 'I feel for them'