By: Eric Thomas
If reports are to be believed, the Lions’ head coaching search is going well. Pundits and insiders seem to agree that the intended target is former Arizona Cardinals head coach and current offensive coordinator for the Sand Diego Chargers Ken Whisenhunt. The Lions also interviewed Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator and former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell–and have apparently made plans to interview, according to reports, Bengals Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden.
Wisenhunt would be a great hire. He took the Cardinals, the only organization in the NFL who can match Detroit in historical ineptitude, to a Super Bowl in 2009. He’s been an inspired OC for the Chargers. The Lions appear ready to pull the trigger; they’ve been reportedly interviewing his references. Who knew that they checked references?
It’s encouraging—the part about checking references. The Lions have screwed this decision up many times before. Matt Millen made his coaching decisions on reputation and often had his mind made up before the person walked through the door. It wasn’t much better when he executed interviews, which is how a person named Rod Marinelli wound up standing at the podium. The Lions have a favorite but they still appear to be doing their due diligence. This is good.
Hopefully the Gruden interview is just to kill time. There was some questionable play calling at the end of the Chargers / Bengals game. Gruden did a decent job with the Bengals but the defense was the star of the show. The Cincinnati play-caller gets moved to the front of the line more because his brother won’t leave the broadcast booth. He doesn’t boast significant accomplishments of his own—his only head coaching experience was with the Florida Tuskers in the UFL before he signed with the Bengals in 2011.
Whisenhunt or Caldwell will likely be the hire, and Lions fans should be happy if that happens. There are some on Twitter who’ve bemoaned these possible hires, dismissing those suggestions as re-treads. One commenter posted, “They’ve [Whisenhunt, Caldwell] already ‘blown it’ [somewhere else], why would go with them again?” apparently ignoring most recorded history of Super Bowl-winning teams. Many coaches are on their second jobs when they win the Lombardi Trophy. Coughlin, Belichick, Dungy, and even your beloved John Gruden all flamed out with other teams and went on to win a championship. Whisenhunt and Caldwell have both been near the mountaintop and they’re likely hungry to win it all the next time they get there.
There’s reason for optimism. Several teams made the playoffs with first year head coaches. The Eagles, Chargers and Chiefs had readymade teams for their new head coaches, just like the Lions do. CBS Sports reported over the weekend that Wisenhunt himself is very interested in taking the Lions job because he sees great potential in the team. Imagine that! A coach who doesn’t sit down because it’s the last seat left! Who’d a thunk it?
If you’re among the people unconvinced, it has nothing to do with the Lions management anymore. If you’re convinced the Lions will get it wrong—that says a lot more about you than anything else. The Lions have found themselves in a position they haven’t been in since Bobby Ross joined the team. They’re a desirable position for a coach that wants to win now.
That and things are going well. Whisenhunt seems interested, the Lions are zeroing in on him as head coach; Caldwell is available if the Whisenhunt hire falls through. There’s reason for optimism.
Cautious optimism, that is—that’s all you’re allowed if you’re a Lions fan.