TWENTYMAN: 9 head coaching candidates that could interest Lions

Posted Jan 1, 2018

Tim Twentyman takes a look at nine head coaching candidates that could interest the Lions.

The Detroit Lions’ head coaching search has begun after general manager Bob Quinn relieved Jim Caldwell of his duties Monday morning.

Quinn, who is making his first coaching hire since taking over the Lions’ GM job after the 2015 season, is going to conduct a comprehensive search.

"The search for the new head coach will be thorough and we will interview multiple candidates," Quinn said Monday. "I will not put a time table on the search, but we will update the media and the public as we finish up each individual interview over the next coming days and weeks."

What is Quinn looking for in the next head coach of the Lions?

“My preference is to hire the best coach to help us win a championship," he said. "And I think when you look at the head coaches that are hired in this league, they come in all shapes and sizes. And I’m going out to find the best coach.”

Who are some candidates that could make sense in Detroit? Here are nine that catch my eye, in no particular order:

Matt Patricia – The 43-year-old Patricia studied aeronautical engineering before going into coaching. The Patriots defensive coordinator has worked his entire NFL coaching career in New England, which mean Lions GM Bob Quinn is very familiar with his work. He’s been Bill Belichick’s right-hand man over the last six years he’s run the defense. Patriots opponents have averaged under 20 points the past four seasons.

Mike Vrabel – The former Patriots linebacker is quickly climbing the coaching ladder. He spent three years as a position coach at his alma mater, Ohio State, before moving to the NFL. He became the Texans LB coach in 2014, and was promoted to defensive coordinator prior to this season. Quinn knows Vrabel from their time together in New England.

Steve Wilks – Wilks was promoted to defensive coordinator when Sean McDermott left to become Buffalo’s head coach last year. The first-year defensive coordinator in Carolina has been a long-time assistant for Ron Rivera. His Panthers' defense finished the regular season seventh in overall defense and third against the run.

Teryl Austin – The Lions defensive coordinator the last four years has been a head coaching candidate in each of the last three offseasons. Austin is well respected around the league for his defensive mind and his use of multiple sub packages. Detroit’s defense ranked 27th overall and 18th against the run this season, but would things have been different had that unit not been hit so hard with injuries? The Lions had the No. 2 defense in the NFL under Austin in 2014. Bob Quinn has to have a pretty good idea what kind of head coach Austin would make after working alongside him the last two seasons.

Pat Shurmur – Shurmur has handled the quarterback shuffle and injuries at running back beautifully in Minnesota, and has kept that offense humming along as its coordinator. He’s done wonders to quarterback Case Keenum’s game, he’s helped mold Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs into one of the NFL’s best receiving tandems and also helped Minnesota’s run game stay top 10 in the NFL (122.3 yards per game), despite losing starting running back Dalvin Cook Week 4.

Winston Moss: Moss has been in the NFL for 30 years, 19 as an NFL assistant coach and 12 with the Green Bay Packers. A former NFL linebacker, Moss spent his third season as Green Bay's associate head coach. In addition, he coached the linebackers for the fourth straight season. Moss has been on the Packers staff since 2006, and previously spent time with the Saints and Seahawks.

Josh McDaniels – Quinn is also familiar with McDaniels from his two stints with the Patriots. McDaniels has previous head coaching experience, posting a 11-17 record in two seasons with the Denver Broncos. McDaniels has an innovative offensive mind that could fit in well with some of Detroit’s personnel on that side of the football.

George Edwards – Like Shurmur, Quinn and the Lions are rather familiar with Edwards’ work, as he’s spent the last four years as Minnesota’s defensive coordinator. Head coach Mike Zimmer calls the defensive plays for the Vikings, but Edwards has played a key role in getting that group prepared for gameday. The Vikings are currently first in points allowed, first in overall defense, second in passing defense and second against the run.  

Matt Nagy – Nagy has been seasoned under the Andy Reid coaching tree in Kansas City. He’s been the Chiefs offensive coordinator the past two seasons, and has thrived in that role since taking over play-calling duties. The Chiefs have one of the league’s most creative offensive schemes, and the former All-American quarterback at Delaware seems to get the most out of his personnel.