TIM & MIKE

TIM AND MIKE: Where the Lions' coaching search stands

Posted Jan 9, 2018

Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara take a look at where the Lions' head coaching search stands.

With two head coach jobs filled and four openings remaining, there is still work to be done at the Detroit Lions’ Allen Park headquarters and the other places where the interview process is continuing.

That means speculation continues regarding which way teams will go for a new head coach – offense or defense – and who the hot candidates are for the four openings.

Where does that leave the Lions in Week 2 of their coach search to replace Jim Caldwell, based on the confirmed candidates they have interviewed?

Mike: It leaves them working on candidates they still might want to interview, and at the same time waiting because of NFL rules regarding candidates whose teams are still alive in the playoffs.

Two candidates in that category are Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. General manager Bob Quinn and team president Rod Wood interviewed both of them last week.

While speculation has centered on Patricia as a leading candidate from Day One because of his connection with Quinn with the Patriots, nothing is guaranteed, and nothing is out of the question when it comes to hiring a head coach.

We saw that four years ago with the Lions. Ken Whisenhunt was projected as the leading candidate, but the Lions hired Caldwell.

Based on the available candidates, logic dictates that Patricia is the front runner, and not just because he and Quinn were together for 12 seasons in New England. Patricia has the credentials to take the next step and become a head coach – no matter who he knows or doesn’t know.

Tim: When asked after the season what he thought were his team's strengths and weaknesses, Quinn pointed as strengths being quarterback Matthew Stafford, skill positions on offense and personnel along the offensive line.

When it came to the defense, Quinn said he needed to do better on that side of the ball, and he needed to add pieces there. One of those adds could be a defensive-minded coach.

It will be interesting to see if the Lions interview Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. They reportedly asked for permission to interview him when they set up their original candidates list. With Carolina now out of the playoffs, that interview can take place at any time.

The fact that Teryl Austin has already left the team to become the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati lends to the theory that the Lions are looking for a defensive-minded coach. That’s certainly not a given, but it gives the impression that’s the way the team is leaning.

The Lions also interviewed Houston defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel and Green Bay associate head coach and linebackers coach Winston Moss.

Detroit couldn’t hire Patricia or Shurmur until their seasons conclude. The longer the search goes, the more evidence points to one of those candidates as being the front runner.

The familiarity Quinn has with Patricia, and the fact that he’s considered one of the great young defensive minds in the game, certainly seems to fit.

Mike: So ... Patriots vs. Vikings in Super Bowl LII.

Matt Patricia’s defense vs. Pat Shurmur’s offense.

Winner is next head coach of the Detroit Lions?

Kidding, of course.

What isn’t a joke is how important this hire is. Not that all the others were unimportant, but the Lions are in position to make a galactic leap.

People often talk about getting over the hump. In reality, the Lions have gotten to the hump, as a consistent playoff team. Over the hump is the next step, and that’s a giant leap. It means winning division titles, hosting playoff games with Ford Field rocking – and winning playoff games.

A lot rides on this hire. Quinn already has done one smart thing that puts him in position to make the right choice.

You might be able to guess where I’m going.

Tim: Are you talking about old No. 9? And yes, once a player reaches 10-year status, we’re allowed to call him old, at least for NFL standards, even if he is shy of his 30th birthday by less than a month.

This isn’t a typical situation in Detroit when it comes to a coaching hire.

This is a team with a bonafide franchise quarterback in place for the foreseeable future after Quinn signed Matthew Stafford to an extension last offseason. That's very attractive to candidates.

This is also a Lions team coming off a winning season (9-7). There are some nice young pieces on this roster for a new coach to work with. This is maybe the farthest thing from a rebuild out of all the open jobs.

The most important statistic the new head coach needs to worry about upon inheriting this team is 1-6. That was Detroit’s record this season against teams with a winning record. You talked about humps. That's Detroit’s, and it’s a pretty big one.

Mike: You were close, and good point by you on Stafford, but Quinn’s biggest advantage now is the two years he spent on the job with the head coach and staff he inherited.

Not saying he couldn’t have done it anyway, but he has a two-year evaluation of the roster and direction of the team – and the franchise – heading into this coach search.

Quinn knows with certainty that Stafford gives the franchise an extended window of opportunity with a franchise quarterback. He also knows the priority of positions that need strengthening.

His experience on the job cannot be replaced by film study. In that regard, he’s ahead of the game in making this critical hire.

Tim: OK. So I was a little off there.

You make a good point, though. Quinn was able to take two years to get his front office in order the way he wanted it in terms of the personnel within it and how it’s run. With that part of the puzzle in place, the final piece is getting a head coach that aligns with his scouting and player development philosophies, who can be the guy to take this team to the next level.

Mike is right. This is an important hire, and the next couple weeks should be interesting.