Monday night, it looked as if Ken Whisenhunt was set to be signed, sealed and delivered to the Detroit Lions. One problem emerged, however. Whishenhunt, the new head coach of the Tennessee Titans, was never delivered in the first place, so he was never able to be sealed and signed.
Whether a private plane was sent for Whisenhunt and either left San Diego empty or never departed in the first place, the coach isn't coming to the Lions, a match many thought was made in football heaven from the beginning. After losing their biggest candidate, now is the time for the Lions to step outside the box and get creative.
Moments after the Whisenhunt announcement, sources immediately leaked that the Lions were negotiating with Jim Caldwell, the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, who had become the number one target. That name from the coaching recycle bin doesn't do anything to excite the fan base considering he may be fired by the Ravens anyway, regardless of Tony Dungy's glowing review or Peyton Manning's heavy praise.
Though the Lions have said from the beginning that their criteria revolves around big time NFL experience, playoff success and a Super Bowl background, a narrow brush has been cast over this search from the beginning considering the lack of candidates that fit those expectations, and that narrow focus could be harming the team in the search. Though Whisenhunt seemed like the most obvious candidate, he might not have even been the best option himself.
Who is? Perhaps a coordinator from a finalist, such as Seattle's defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Denver's offensive coordinator Adam Gase or San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Except for Roman, none have Super Bowl experience, but in a few weeks time, they could all collect some fast. Gase, a Michigan State graduate, knows the Lions from prior coaching experience during 2003-2007. Quinn, given a solid offensive coordinator such as Gary Kubiak, could become a home run hire. Roman has interviewed everywhere, and previously expressed some interest in the job.
If Detroit was feeling especially bold, they'd make a play for Gus Malzahn, head coach at Auburn. Though Malzahn is reportedly set on staying, making a few calls never hurt. Perhaps they could entice the coach who came within an eyelash of winning a national title of making the jump to the pros. If nothing else, it would be an exciting move which could help the Lions save some major face in the media with many who assume they were jilted by Whisenhunt.
Either way, the Lions need to press the reset button on their entire search right now. Caldwell, Kubiak and Mike Munchak aren't going anywhere soon on the open market, so the Lions can afford to take their time and make sure they get the right person rather than rushing to hire their favorite candidate. Now is not the time for sticking to an established, cookie-cutter type plan.
To properly dig themselves out of this latest hole, the Lions must branch out and show some creativity, which has previously been unseen in their search.
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