Lions and Former Head Coach Parting Ways from Coaching Staff

The Lions are making some changes on their defensive staff. One of the moves will be bringing former defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil back to the NFL.

Out of the league since the 2020 season, O’Neil will return as a Detroit defensive assistant. The 45-year-old staffer spent two seasons as Northwestern’s DC, but was last in the pros as the Raiders’ DBs coach under Jon Gruden.

O’Neil is best remembered in the NFL for rising to the coordinator level with the Browns and 49ers during the 2010s. The former Rex Ryan Jets assistant climbed to the DC tier at 36, working under Mike Pettine.

His second crack at running a defense ended quickly, after the 2016 49ers went 2-14 and bailed on a Chip Kelly experiment. Northwestern fired O’Neil after the 2022 season, a 1-11 campaign for the Wildcats. Lions DC Aaron Glenn worked under O’Neil in Cleveland, opening a door to a rebound opportunity.

Additionally, the team appears to be moving on from John Fox. The three-time NFL HC is no longer with the NFC North champions, per the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. Fox was only with the Lions for one season, being hired as a senior defensive consultant last year.

It appears O’Neil will be moving into that type of role. Fox, 69, had worked on the Colts’ staff in 2022, returning to the league after a five-year hiatus.

The team has also let senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler‘s contract expire, Birkett adds. A former 49ers offensive coordinator, Hostler has been in the NFL since 2000. After three years on Ron Rivera‘s Washington staff, the 57-year-old assistant moved to Detroit.

Former Lions cornerback Dre’ Bly also appears to be out of the picture, per the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers. The Lions hired Bly, who had not previously coached in the NFL, as cornerbacks coach last year.

Seeing DBs coach Brian Duker leave for a Dolphins job, the Lions have a new voice overseeing their secondary. Ex-Steelers mainstay Deshea Townsend was hired after his Jaguars ouster last month. The Lions confirmed Wednesday that Townsend is their DBs coach.

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