TWENTYMAN: Five coaching candidates that could make sense for Lions

Posted Dec 30, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look at five coaches who could fit the right criteria for the Detroit Lions next coach

The search is on for a new head coach in Detroit, one who can change the culture and get the Lions over the hump.

Team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew said they have a specific set of criteria listed of what they're looking for in their next coach and they've have already begun that search.

"It's bigger than X's and O's," Mayhew said. "It's bigger than scheme. It's bigger than that. This guy has to be a leader and lead our team."

That sounds to me like someone with head coaching experience goes to the front of the line. Someone who can stand in front of a room and command the respect of 53 players. A coach who has a winning resume. One with an offensive mind wouldn't hurt, either.

Here’s a look at five candidates that might fit that bill:

Ken WhisenhuntKen Whisenhunt (Photo: AP Images)

Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers

Whisenhunt, 51, spent time under Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, first as a tight ends coach, then as the team's offensive coordinator. He knows what it takes to be a consistent winner from his time in that organization.

Following the Steelers Super Bowl win in 2006, Whisenhunt took over as head coach at Arizona and lead them to the Super Bowl in 2008.

Whisenhunt currently serves as the offensive coordinator in San Diego, where he’s had a hand is resurging quarterback Philip River’s career and helping make the Chargers one of the more explosive offenses in the league.

Bill O’Brien, head coach, Penn State

O’Brien is reportedly the top candidate for the Houston Texans job, but the Detroit job could be particularly attractive to an offensive mind like his.

He was hired by Bill Belichick and the Patriots in 2007 and was an offensive assistant, receivers coach, quarterback coach, offensive play caller and then offensive coordinator. He has experience working with a great quarterback in Tom Brady and a great offense.

He’s led a Penn State team ravaged by NCAA sanctions to a 15-9 record in two seasons.

Lovie Smith, former head coach, Chicago Bears

No one would come into an organization and command more respect than Smith. He had a career 81-63 mark at the Chicago Bears head coach and led them to the Super Bowl in 2006. He also knows the NFC North.

His defenses were some of the best in the NFL during his time in Chicago, but he did run the Tampa-2 and that doesn’t seem to fit the Lions current personnel on defense.

David Shaw, head coach, Stanford

Shaw has NFL experience coaching quarterbacks under both Jon Gruden (Oakland) and Brian Billick (Baltimore) and helped develop Andrew Luck during his time as Stanford's signal caller. He’s said publically, however, he has no plans on leaving Stanford. Maybe that changes after Wednesday's Rose Bowl.

Shaw does have some Lions ties, his father, Willie, was a defensive backs coach in the mid-1980’s.

Jon Gruden, former head coach, Tampa Bay and Oakland

Gruden has been in the broadcast booth since 2009, but told Detroit reporters before the "Monday Night Football" broadcast between the Lions and Raves a few weeks back that he thinks about getting back into coaching every day.

Look, Gruden is speculated every time there’s a coaching search. He has won a Super Bowl, however, and is an offensive minded coach. He’s spent the last few years schooling would-be NFL quarterbacks on what it takes to make it in the NFL. Maybe a chance to work with Matthew Stafford could finally get him back into coaching.