Five Candidates to Replace DeFilippo for Oakland Raiders QB Coach

5 of 6

Dec 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Kyle Orton (18) talks to quarterbacks coach Todd Downing in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Bills 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

4. Todd Downing

Todd Downing was recently replaced as the Quarterbacks Coach in Buffalo, having spent a year working for Doug Marrone there. Downing is another relatively young coach, having started his coaching career in 1999 at Eden Prairie High School in suburban Minnesota.

Downing started working in the NFL in 2003 as a “Football Systems Analyst” for Mike Tice and the Minnesota Vikings, meaning he has a connection to a member of the current Raiders staff. He spent three years on Tice’s staff in Minnesota, spending 2005 as the Quality Control coach. When Tice was let go after the 2005 season, Downing was hired by Scott Linehan as a defensive and special teams assistant working with Jim Haslett on the Rams staff. He stayed with the Rams through the 2008 season, when another head coaching change cut him loose, and he followed Scott Linehan to Detroit.

Downing rose up the assistant coaching ranks on the offense rapidly in Detroit. A former semi-pro quarterback, he was named the Lions’ assistant QB’s coach in 2010 under Linehan. Downing faced an uphill battle in his first year as a QB’s coach, as starter Matthew Stafford only played three games due to injury, and the Lions had to go with Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton.

Hill, in his fifth NFL season, had the best statistical year of his career in 2010, despite going 3-7 as a starter. Hill set career marks in completions and attempts, had a 61.8% completion percentage, threw for a career-high 2,686 yards and 16 TD’s. All told, three different starting quarterbacks combined to throw for over 4,000 yards and 26 TD’s for the Lions that year.

Stafford returned healthy in 2011 and put up the best numbers of his career with Downing as his QB’s coach. He attempted a league-high 663 passes, of which he completed 63.5%, and threw for over 5,000 yards and 41 TDs – both still his career high marks. In the Lions playoff loss to the Saints, Stafford put up typically huge numbers, but a pair of interceptions in the 4th quarter killed his team’s chances.

After a mediocre rookie season and missing 13 games in his second year, it was this monster third season that solidified Matthew Stafford as the Lions’ franchise passer. Stafford took a step back in 2012, however. While still throwing the ball a league-high 727 times for an impressive 4,967 yards, he only threw 20 TD’s to 17 INT’s and the team went a disappointing 4-12. Stafford put up big numbers again in 2013, despite completing only 58.5% of his passes. He threw for 4,650 yards and 29 TD’s, but was also picked off 19 times and the Lions finished a disappointing 7-9. Head Coach Jim Schwartz was fired, along with his staff, including Downing.

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  • Following his former head coach, Downing spent 2014 in Buffalo on Doug Marrone’s staff, working with OC Nathaniel Hackett. Downing was brought in to work with second-year quarterback EJ Manuel, who had shown flashes of promise in 2013, in an effort to develop him into the team’s franchise passer, or at least evaluate him and see if he should be groomed as such.

    Manuel started the first four games, and strung together three solid performances before a horrible outing against a tough Houston Texans defense in week 4. Marrone subsequently benched Manuel, and veteran quarterback – and neck-beard aficionado – Kyle Orton took over.

    Orton put together one of the best seasons of his long career, enjoying an 87.8 passer rating (his career best as a starter) and throwing for over 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 64.2% of his passes – his career best aside from a season in Dallas where he only attempted 52 passes. The Bills finished 9-7, but Doug Marrone opted out of his contract at the end of the season, putting the Bills coaching staff in flux. Four days ago, new Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan hired David Lee to be his QB’s coach.

    It’s unclear what Downing will do from here. Marrone, his head coach last year, is now on the Jaguars’ staff, where Greg Olson was just hired as the OC. There is probably not room for Downing there. His former Detroit OC Scott Linehan is now the OC in Dallas, where the QB’s coach job has been occupied by former Raider QB Wade Wilson since since 2007. His former head coach in Detroit, Jim Schwartz, was the defensive coordinator in Buffalo last season but is now himself apparently out of a job.

    However his first NFL head coach – Mike Tice – is currently the OL coach of the Oakland Raiders, and that may be the connection he needs. Downing may be young, but he has a strong track record from his time in Detroit working with Matt Stafford, who doesn’t have the wide range of mental and physical tools that Derek Carr has.

    There’s no way of telling what he could have done with EJ Manuel, but he did help veteran journeymen Kyle Orton and Shaun Hill enjoy some of the best success of their careers coming off the bench. Coming from an aggressive offensive system in Detroit, he could also help to balance out the more conservative, ground and pound nature of Raider OC Bill Musgrave, and the young Downing could even be groomed to eventually take over for the older Musgrave.

    Next: Candidate #5: Matt Cavanaugh