Report: Detroit Lions expected to hire Antwaan Randle El as WR coach

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Erik Schlitt
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Per NFL Network’s Tom Peliserro, the Detroit Lions are expected to hire Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive assistant and former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El as their next wide receivers coach.

Randle El will replace Robert Prince who joined the Houston Texans staff after seven years with the Lions.

A duel-threat quarterback at Indiana, Randle El’s elite athleticism led to him being drafted in the second round (62nd overall) of the 2002 draft by the Steelers, despite needing to transition to wide receiver.

Randle El was a swiss army knife for the Steelers, lining up at multiple spots on offense, was their starting kick and punt returner, and was the key catalyst on several trick plays, including throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL (2005). Randle El was also a first-team All-Pro selection in 2005 as a punt returner.

In 2006, he joined the Washington Football Team but after four years returned to Pittsburgh for his final NFL season. After sitting out the 2011 season, Randle El officially retired in 2012.

After retirement, Randle El worked as an analyst for Big Ten Network as well as covering preseason games in Washington. Additionally, he spent time working with his foundation — including time at the Virginia private school he helped co-found — as well as spending time with his seven (!) children.

In 2019, Randle El began his NFL coaching career, joining Bruce Arians (his WR coach and offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh) and the Buccaneers as an offensive assistant, focusing closely on the wide receivers group. In 2019, the Bucs’ led the NFL in passing offense (302.8 receiving yards a game), and this past season they finished second (289.1 receiving ypg).

While Arians was a big draw in getting Randle El to Tampa Bay, he has larger aspirations.

“I do at one point want to be a head coach. It’s a lot that goes into that,” Randle El said via The Athletic’s Greg Auman (paid). “Do I feel like I’ll be great at it? Yep. It’s just a matter of time, of getting the years, the time under my belt, and really understanding. It’s a totally different ballgame, playing and coaching. You have a better view of it from a coach’s perspective. Being able to teach and put it all together … it’s not just football, it’s life: building relationships and networks you’re going to have when you’re done coaching.”

Currently, the Lions only have four wide receivers under contract: Quintez Cephus (who was a rookie last season), Geronimo Allison (who opted out in 2020), as well as Tom Kennedy and Victor Bolen — who were practice squad players for the Lions in 2020 and earned futures contracts this offseason.