Detroit Lions' Evan Rothstein 'one of those guys that kind of crunches all the numbers'
Evan Rothstein has led a relatively dark life for the past nine years as the assistant to four different Detroit Lions coaches, working in the shadows preparing the team for the Games.
He was a quality control assistant to a special team under Jim Schwartz, carried out special projects and offensive analysis under Jim Caldwell, and took on similar duties on the defensive side of the ball under Matt Patricia.
On Saturday, Rothstein will take an amazing step to the fore as the team's defensive player against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday with interim Lions head coach Darrell Bevell, defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, and three other assistants quarantined due to COVID-19 protocols and the future hall make of fame quarterback Tom Brady.
As impressive as Rothstein's appointment was on many levels - he has never been a full-time position coach in his career and only briefly worked with the offensive line at SUNY Cortland in the spring of 2010 - Bevell said he was the "most natural" fit for work.
Evan Rothstein will play for the Detroit Lions against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday despite having no NFL experience as a position coach.
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In addition to Undlin, the defensive coaches Bo Davis, Ty McKenzie and Steve Gregory are in quarantine.
"He's probably our most knowledgeable - probably not our most knowledgeable about our defenses, which we are really doing across the board," Bevell said. "He's already very committed on match day, so he was in difficult situations on match day and helped with information and communication. We felt that he had the most experience and could do this for us at a high level." ""
Rothstein has not worked directly with a position group in recent years, but has participated in all aspects of defense.
It helps to identify opposing team tendencies, signals and trends and to incorporate this knowledge into the game plan. He holds meetings every week to share this information with the players. And on match days he wears a headset at the coaching stand, where he helps with game management and operational tasks.
[Robert Prince will take over as head coach with Bevell on Saturday]
"He meets every week when we talk about tendencies, signals, cadences and all the little nuances of the game that many people might overlook," said Lions Safety Duron Harmon. "He's the guy who points it out to us so that we have a good tip or tendency that we can stick our hat to."
Defensive end Romeo Okwara called Rothstein "one of those guys who grinds all the numbers for us and gives us all the little tidbits we need for the game."
"He's a really, really smart, smart coach and a coach with a lot of detail," said Okwara.
Rothstein, who has never mentioned a defensive game at any level, worked on the Lions defensive roster this week with Undlin, and Bevell said the two would spend time "almost practicing" before kick-off.
Harmon said he trusted Rothstein "to put us on the right defense and make the right calls so we can go out and play fast," although he acknowledges that it won't be easy against Brady and the Bucs' heavy offense.
At 43, Brady has seen and beaten just about every possible defense concept. He is surrounded by an array of guns in Tampa, including dangerous receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski.
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QB Tom Brady, 12, is about to lead the Buccaneers to their first playoff spot since 2007.
"It's like I say every week, don't make it bigger than what it really is," Harmon said. "Just go out when you are ready, you will feel comfortable and safe. If I know one thing, he is preparing, getting ready, looking over the tape and seeing how he will call in what situation. We leave, trust into him and have to make sure that he can have confidence in us when we go out there and play. "
Bevell, who will cede offensive quarter calling duties to quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan during the quarantine, expects Saturday to be an emotional experience for Rothstein. But it's one he is ready for.
"I can bring you back when I first had the opportunity to call plays," Bevell said. "At first you're super excited, then suddenly you say, 'Oh, wait a minute, I'm calling games in an NFL game. I've never done that before.'
"So the guys who are going to do this, Sean and Evan, they have prepared and they will prepare by the minute of the game. ... I am confident of what these guys know and how they do I will be able to deal with the situation. "
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions Playcaller Evan Rothstein "Crunches All Numbers"
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