When the Detroit Lions fired head coach Jim Schwartz, I immediately started to break down possible replacements for Schwartz.
However, since I posted that article, all three of my top three candidates have been hired. Lovie Smith was hired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Bill O’Brien was hired by the Houston Texans and Ken Whisenhunt by the Tennessee Titans.
So as of right now, the Lions have yet to hire a new head coach but the Lions have interviewed a few coaches, one of them being Jim Caldwell, who is the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator and the other being Mike Munchak who was the Tennessee Titans head coach before being fired this season.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Caldwell is the favorite to win the Lions head coaching job right now:
Ian Rapport of NFL.com added, it could come down Caldwell and Mike Munchak but his source feels Caldwell still has the edge right now:
Now I have to admit Caldwell isn’t my favorite candidate but it seems that’s who the Lions are strongly considering right now. When it comes to Caldwell, he’s seems to be a good leader. He has coached quarterbacks and receivers, and he typically runs a pass-first offense, so there is no reason to think he couldn’t continue making the Lions a high-scoring offense if he were to be hired. He did a solid work as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, leading them to a Superbowl berth and he recently help to lead the Ravens to a Superbowl victory in 2013.
My issue with Caldwell comes with the other side of his track record. While he did have some form of success with the Colts, it doesn’t change the fact he basically took over Tony Dungy’s team which was already Superbowl ready which is one of the reason he was able to help guide the Colts to a 14-2 record in his first season and helped them to a Super Bowl the next season. Now I am not taking anything away from Caldwell’s accomplishments with the Colts, I’m simply saying, I think Dungy built that team and made it what it was, no offense to Caldwell but he basically had a Superbowl ready team. Plus I don’t like the fact that he didn’t do the best job of succeeding or even competing once Manning went down in 2011, seeing that the Colts finished with 2-14 record that season. I could say the same thing about this past season with the Ravens, seeing that the offense was less than stellar and struggled half of the season to score consistently and run the ball. Remember, the Lions need a coach who can take Stafford and turn him into a franchise quarterback and so far Caldwell hasn’t done that, most of his success comes when franchise quarterbacks are already in place. They also need a coach who can make sure that the Lions offense stays balance by running the ball and passing the ball consistently. At this point, I’m not sure if Caldwell is the coach who can do that.
When it comes to Munchak, I have mixed feeling about him as well. I like the fact that Munchak is about being professional and believes in discipline. However, after that, I don’t feel he offers much to the Lions. I say again, the Lions need a coach who can take them to the next level and Munchak hasn’t shown the ability to do that. During his three years with the Titans, he only had one good season, after that, the Titans struggled to stay above .500.
Plus, he doesn’t seem to have the tools to help and develop quarterback Matthew Stafford which is something the Lions desperately need. Plus, I’m not sure I could trust him to hire the right and adequate staff because during his time with the Titans, he made some questionable staff changes. Just like I said before, the Lions need a coach who can take Stafford and turn him into a franchise quarterback and a coach who can make sure that the Lions offense stays balance by running the ball and passing the ball consistently. Most importantly, they need a coach who change the culture of this rising franchise.
At this point, I’m not sold on Caldwell or Munchak being the coach who can do that for the Lions.
So with that in mind, I came up with one more possible head coach candidate for the Lions to consider.
I may surprise some with this candidate but the candidate I think the Lions should to consider is Fox NFL commentator Brian Billick, who has reportedly said he would be interested in speaking with the Lions. Honestly, he wouldn’t be a bad option to consider. Billick is a confident coach and man with a great football IQ. He knows how to turn great players into leaders and he’s stickler for discipline. He’s a defensive minded coach, so he could definitely turn around the Lions defense. Remember, his Baltimore Ravens team had a legendary defense that stopped and demolished offenses consistently. Plus it was because of that defense that the Ravens won a Superbowl in 2000. Don’t forget that he has a nice offensive mind too, many people forget because of his great success with Baltimore. Remember that Billick was the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings and during that time the Vikings offense blossomed under quarterbacks Brad Johnson and Randall Cunningham, not to mention all of that complementary pieces at running back and wide receiver and tight end. The point being that Billick is a good option to consider.
My only concern with Billick is his ability to develop the quarterback position. I know he had success with Johnson and Cunningham while coaching the Vikings but I still have my concerns. I mentioned earlier that whoever the Lions hire should be able to help Stafford grow and get better or at least bring someone in who can help Stafford to grow and develop. It doesn’t mean Billick shouldn’t be hired, it would just be something to watch and consider if they do indeed hire him.
If you want one more “wildcard” coach to consider, I would even suggest, Mike Zimmer, who is currently the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.
According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, the Titans brought Zimmer in for a second interview before landing Whisenhunt:
When it comes to Zimmer, you’re talking about one of the top respected defensive coordinators in the league. Due to his great coaching, the Bengals finished third in total defense this year. Plus the Bengals have finished with a top-seven defense four of the past five years. While no one can doubt that the Lions defense has improved, no one can deny that they would truly become a force under Zimmer. Plus I like the fact that Zimmer runs a 4-3 scheme which fits the personnel already on the Lions’ roster.
The problem with Zimmer is that he has no head coach experience which is something the Lions want in their next head coach. He also lacks offense prowess and experience. Basically meaning, if the Lions were to hire him, he would need a good offensive coordinator and quarterback coach to come with him. Remember Stafford, needs someone to develop him and the offense needs someone to make the right play calls based on the skill set of the roster. Zimmer can’t offer that, but the question remains, who would he bring in to make up for what he lacks.
Then you have those coaches like Greg Roman of the San Francisco 49ers but who’s to say he is interested in leaving the 49ers and joining the Lions.
In a perfect world I would encourage the Lions to hire Tony Dungy and Bill Cowher. However, both are retired and have made it clear they aren’t willing to come out of retirement and coach a talented team like the Lions right now, so I have no choice but to accept that.
Overall, I stand by what I said before, which is that the Lions must be aware and careful of who their next head coach is because whoever the Lions chose to hire as Schwartz’s replacement could possibly destroy what Schwartz has built or they could take what Schwartz has built to the next level. If the Lions don’t acquire a good coach to take the Lions to next level, than firing Schwartz will end up being a waste and the team he built could be destroyed.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com