Jim Schwartz's tenure is now complete, and the Detroit Lions are once again searching for a new sideline boss. For all his flaws, Schwartz was successful at rebuilding the complete mess that was the Lions following the nightmare of 2008's winless regular season and restoring winning expectations.
Eventually, that wasn't good enough. Schwartz didn't get the team over the hump with playoff appearances and consistent winning, and as a result, he was sent packing. What might the Lions be looking for in their new head coach? Perhaps an offensive background, perhaps some head coaching experience, perhaps some youth, perhaps a Super Bowl pedigree.
With Bill O'Brien and Lovie Smith still on the market yet looking entrenched with Houston and Tampa Bay and Jon Gruden sounding as if he isn't interested in returning to coaching, it's time to start thinking realistically about whom the Lions might be able to lure to be their next coach in 2014. Here's five names that could be heard in the weeks ahead.
1. Ken Whisenhunt, Offensive Coordinator, San Diego Chargers. Whisenhunt fits all the criteria to get the job in Detroit, considering he's won a Super Bowl as an offensive coordinator, led a team to a Super Bowl as a head coach and has an excellent penchant for developing quarterbacks. Whisenhunt's work with Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and Phillip Rivers should have him in the discussion.
2. Jay Gruden, Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals. Gruden has been a head coach in the arena league, and along the way, has worked with several quarterbacks. Since taking over in Cincinnati, Gruden has helped aid in the development of Andy Dalton, and has creatively helped the Bengals' offense do exceptionally well. The Lions would be wise to give Gruden a call and gage his possible plan for reshaping the offense.
3. Mike Zimmer, Defensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals. The Lions might not wish to go with another defensive coach, but if it's discipline they crave, Zimmer might be the best choice. His defenses have notoriously been some of the toughest in the league, and Zimmer is also known for being demanding of his players. Zimmer hasn't been given a chance as a head man yet, and it might be because he's a prickly character who is outspoken. Still, his tight ship mentality could help the Lions turn things around, especially if he had a concrete plan for assisting Matthew Stafford's development.
4. Greg Roman, Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers. Roman has been a hot candidate since helping Jim Harbaugh turn around the 49ers' offense. His work with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick speak volumes, and Roman could be the right choice to help Stafford along. He's also reportedly interested in the job, meaning he might be motivated by the challenge and already have a plan for change.
5. Adam Gase, Offensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos. At 35, Gase will likely be the youngest assistant considered for any job. Gase is originally from Michigan, and went to Michigan State University, meaning Detroit could have home field advantage on their side. He also worked with the Lions before (in the 2007 season) and has done great work with Denver's offense. Detroit might have to wait until February to interview Gase, however, considering the Broncos could be primed for a long postseason run.
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