TWENTYMAN: Lions watching playoffs closely in search of next coach

Posted Jan 5, 2014

The Detroit Lions can interview coaching candidates from playoff teams starting this week

The Detroit Lions aren't in the playoffs, but they still have a close eye on the weekend's action.

NFL rules prohibit assistant coaches whose teams play on wild-card weekend from interviewing with teams searching for head coaches during the opening week of the playoffs.

They can only interview, if they're granted permission by their current team, this upcoming week between the wild card and divisional rounds of the playoff.

Playoff teams can deny those requests for interviews during the postseasons, and even if they're granted permission, teams can't hire an assistant from a playoff team until they're eliminated from the playoffs and their season is over.

Among those candidates the Lions are hoping to talk to this week is San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The Chargers play in Cincinnati at 1:05 today.

Jay GrudenThe Bengals are expected to receive a number of calls regarding Jay Gruden. (Photo: AP Images)

The Bengals are also expected to get a number of calls this week about defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, possibly from the Lions as well.

Whisenhunt is an attractive candidate to the Lions because he has previous head coaching experience and has worked extensively with quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and Philip Rivers, helping each one become a better quarterback during his time with them.

The Lions are hoping their next head coach can get the most out of quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Whisenhunt lead Arizona to a Super Bowl in 2009 as its head coach.

"Obviously, experience as a head coach is important," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said last week. "It doesn't matter what side of the ball it is. I also think we can to take into account a coach's ability to change our culture a little bit. It has to be something bigger than just scheme that somebody's bringing to our table."

The Lions interviewed Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell on Friday, who like Whisenhunt, has head coaching experience (Indianapolis, 2009-11) and has worked extensively on the offensive side of the ball with quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco.

Zimmer is one of the most respected defensive minds in the game, but he doesn't have head-coaching experience and it seems the Lions are most interested in getting an offensive mind in the building.

Gruden has done a terrific job developing Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, but like Zimmer, he doesn't have any head-coaching experience either.

Expect the Lions to move quickly to talk to some of these candidates and potentially have a coach in place by the end of the week, if not sooner.

"We're not going to put any artificial timelines on it," Lions president Tom Lewand said of the search last week.

"I think going through a thorough process is extremely important. That doesn't necessarily mean that has to be a long process, but it has to be a thorough process. We will go through a process of interviews and research to make sure that we find the best fit for the Detroit Lions.”