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Get to Know the Candidate: Aaron Glenn, Lions Defensive Coordinator

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions

Lions Defensive Coordinator is the 1st of 10 Head Coaching Candidates Broncos GM George Paton is interviewing. (Photo: Nic Antaya/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

As the Broncos Coaching search begins in earnest Thursday, the first candidate to sit down with General Manager George Paton and his "search party" is Detroit Lions Defensive Coordinator Aaron Glenn. Prior to coaching, Glenn spent 2 seasons as a scout for the Jets. Prior to that, he roamed the back end of the defense as a 3-time Pro Bowl Cornerback for the Jets, Texans, Cowboys, Jaguars and Saints. He was a consensus All-American at Texas A&M in 1993, which led New York to selecting him 12th overall in the 1994 Draft.

While Glenn may not seem like the most obvious candidate to be an NFL head coach at this point in his career, those who know him best understand why he's on the "fast track, after just one year as a coordinator, and 8 only seasons in coaching.

Saints Coach Sean Payton's final year as the Offensive Coordinator in Dallas was 2005, when Glenn would routinely make things difficult on the Cowboys offense. Payton liked Glenn so much, that in 2008, New Orleans signed Glenn for his 15th and final season. After working his way into coaching as an assistant defensive backs coach for 2 seasons in Cleveland, Payton tabbed Glenn to run his secondary in the Big Easy in 2016. He remained in that role until his college teammate Dan Campbell brought him to Detroit to run the Lions Defense.

"Aaron is High Energy," Payton said via text Thursday. He's very competitive, and extremely smart."

Marcus Coleman, who's currently an assistant coach at Trinity University in San Antonio played 8 seasons with Glenn in New York, Houston and Dallas, and said he knew early on that Glenn had the makings of a future coach, "he played with his mind, more so than his body, even early in his career," Coleman said. He was always trying to outthink who ever he was lining up against, he was always trying to figure out what offenses were doing, for the most part, he knew what everybody on the field was doing."

Aaron Glenn #31

Aaron Glenn, a 3-time Pro Bowl Cornerback, twice with the Jets and once in Houston returns an interception for a TD in 1999 against Washington (Photo: Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport)Photo: Getty Images

Glenn's players appear to love playing for him simply based on how hard they played in his first season in the Motor City. Lions Linebacker Josh Woods had plenty of praise for him, "I love his passion and his knowledge of the game," Woods said Thursday, "I love how he isn’t afraid to give anyone a chance. In Detroit, we had a lot of starters go down in the season, whether it was IR, COVID or season-ending injuries, we had to play a lot of young guys, and he made no excuses or wavered on letting us play. He is also brutally honest, which I love. No one would question his passion; he truly loves football. I appreciate the opportunity to work with him because he gave me a shot and potentially changed the trajectory of my career, so I’m very grateful for him.

The effort showed more than the result, although after being the worst defense in football in 2020 in, basically, every category, Glenn had the pass defense improved 9 spots, and in the 2nd half of the season, their points against was noticeably better as well.

Cincinnati Bengals v Detroit Lions

People close to Glenn aren't surprised he went into coaching, and excelled at teaching the game. (Photo: Nic Antaya/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

When you play 15 NFL seasons you have options, and despite solid investments, after 3 years away from the game, Glenn found himself in the scouting department. Coleman admitted he didn't know what Glenn would do, but knew he'd be a good coach if that's the path he chose. As for what type of head coach Glenn would make, Coleman said he certainly benefitted from all of his time playing for Bill Parcells and Payton, "I think he'll be a good head Coach," he said. "I think he'll be able to relate to players directly. He's seen a lot. Understanding how to run a program, how to structure it, get the guys to buy into what he's trying to implement, I think he'll have an easy time doing that. If he gets it, I think he'll do fine.

Prior to the Lions final game of the season against the Packer, Glenn was asked about the potential coaching opportunities coming his way. "If it happens, those things happen,” he said. “This is a huge job that I have right now, and I want to be the best I can be at it. I want to be the best that ever came through Detroit, I want you guys to say that at some point, ‘that he was the best coordinator ever,’ and that’s what my goal is."


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