DETROIT — Jim Caldwell is out and that means general manager Bob Quinn will be searching for the next Detroit Lions head coach.
Caldwell was officially fired by the Lions on Monday morning, with the team announcing the move via Twitter. Caldwell was 36-28 in four years with three winning seasons and two playoff postseason appearances. With yesterday’s win against the Packers, the Lions finished with a winning record in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995.
So who will be the next head coach for the Detroit Lions? Right now a number of names are being thrown out there — most with ties to the New England Patriots. We don’t truly know who Quinn will go with, but we can at least speculate from some of the reports and other guys that make sense for the position. Let’s take a look at five possible candidates to become the next Lions head coach.
Matt Patricia — Defensive Coordinator with Patriots
Patricia is your current leader in the clubhouse to become the next Lions head coach. That’s according to Michael Silver of NFL.com, who has reported him as the “leading candidate” to take over the Lions’ helm.
Patricia makes sense for this job when you think about the connection between him and Quinn from their days in New England. He’s also considered future Hall of Famer Bill Belichick’s “right-hand man” and will be one of the hot names for multiple head coaching jobs this year. So on paper this would be a match made in heaven if the Lions decide to go with a defensive-minded coach. But what are the odds Patricia comes to Detroit?
If you go by the reports and what the Lions are looking for then it seems like a very likely choice. Patricia will be a prime candidate for other teams too — the New York Giants have also submitted an interview request — so it could come down to which job he’d prefer to take.
Josh McDaniels — Offensive Coordinator with Patriots
Here’s another Patriots guy that the Lions could be taking a look at, if Quinn decides to go with an offensive-minded head coach instead. Like Patricia, McDaniels also spent time with Quinn in New England so the whole Patriots connection is alive and well with this candidate.
McDaniels is considered one of the top offensive-minded head coach candidates and would be someone that Detroit would take a look at if they decide to go with that approach. The one big drawback with McDaniels was his terrible head coaching stint in Denver, where he was fired during just his second season with the Broncos. He held an 11-17 record as the Broncos’ head coach and is remembered for making the blunder move of drafting Tim Tebow in the first round.
There’s been no reports at this time of the Lions submitting an interview request for McDaniels, but that could change quickly. Based on the reports from Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter, the Lions are focusing mostly on defensive coaches so it would appear as of right now that McDaniels isn’t a top candidate for this job. However, that isn’t a known fact, and therefore McDaniels should be on this list.
Mike Vrabel — Defensive Coordinator with Texans
This is an interesting choice and would be somewhat of a gamble if Quinn ended up choosing Vrabel as the Lions next head coach. Vrabel is another guy with ties to New England — what a surprise — but this time as a player for seven years while Quinn was with the Patriots.
Vrabel is only 42 years old and has only seven years of coaching experience between Ohio State and the Houston Texans. This past season was his first in a prominent role as the Texans’ defensive coordinator, and his unit gave up the most points in the NFL. However, they did battle a number of crucial injuries that played a role in those numbers.
Vrabel is considered an emerging star in the coaching ranks and is expected to be a head coach at some point. The Lions have already reportedly submitted an interview request so the interest in Vrabel is there from Quinn. If a deal with Patricia were to fall through, then this could possibly be Quinn’s choice if he’s willing to take the risk.
Pat Shurmur — Offensive Coordinator with Vikings
A familiar face in the NFC North cracks this list with the Lions showing interest in Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. The Lions have reportedly “requested permission to interview” Shurmur for their head coaching job.
Shurmur has plenty of experience across the NFL with seven seasons as an offensive coordinator and two as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. His stint with the Browns was short, but comparatively speaking to other Browns coaches he wasn’t terrible. He finished with a 9-23 record from 2011-2012, which is eight more wins then current Browns head coach Hue Jackson has in his first two years in Cleveland.
He wasn’t great with the Browns, but his success as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator this year will make him a hot name for a second go around as a head coach. Helping take the Vikings to the playoffs with a third-string quarterback says a lot about what he can do.
Steve Wilks — Defensive Coordinator with Panthers
This is probably the least known guy on the list but is certainly in the mix for the Lions vacant head coach position. Rapoport reported that the Lions have also requested to interview Wilks, making him the fourth known candidate Detroit has submitted an interview request to.
Wilks has worked in the NFL for 13 years with multiple positions on the defensive side of the ball. He has spent the last six years with the Panthers and this year was promoted to defensive coordinator. Carolina ranked seventh in the NFL this year in yards allowed.
Wilks might not be the flashiest hire compared to some other guys on this list, but he has the experience that has at least earned him an interview for this job.