It’s been a wild week for the Lions since the decision to fire head coach Jim Caldwell after the team posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in over twenty years. Nonetheless, Lions general manager Bob Quinn has made a clear message to the organization: average is no longer good enough for the Detroit Lions.
— Larry Lage (@LarryLage) January 1, 2018
That means firing the most successful Lions coach in terms of winning percentage because he believes this team is good enough to contend right now with quarterback Matthew Stafford in his prime, playing the best football of his career. With so many coaching candidates, let’s recap the interviews that have taken place and examine the best potential fit.
As of today, there have been six official interviews. Quinn began by talking to Detroit’s coordinators Teryl Austin and Jim Bob Cooter. He then brought in Texans defensive coordinator and former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel. Up next, it was Packers linebackers coach Winston Moss, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and finally, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
Aside from the aforementioned interviewees, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been mentioned as a darkhorse candidate as the drama continues to come out of New England following the controversial ESPN story breaking down the possible end of the Brady-Belichick era. Some have connected the dots from Bob Quinn’s long history of working under Belichick as the Patriots’ scouting director. It’s unlikely, but not the craziest theory if you think about it.
This would make sense: Make a long-struggling team a champion. And he coached there from 1976-77. https://t.co/KmmCj0DJKZ
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 5, 2018
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is likely to get an interview as well. So with all of these names being thrown around, let’s examine the best fit and which candidate is most likely to land the job in Detroit.
Best Fit: Bill Belichick/Matt Patricia
Bill Belichick would be the best fit for almost any coaching job in the league if he becomes available. However, it’s hard to take these rumors as anything more than pure speculation at this point. Belichick coached with the Lions way back when, and Detroit has a quarterback in Matthew Stafford that would be appealing to any NFL coach looking to win now. Plus, Belichick is the only candidate that surely wouldn’t be scared of the expectations Bob Quinn has set after firing Caldwell.
Matt Patricia has been around Belichick for a long time, and his New England ties to Quinn would make this selection seem like a slam dunk if Belichick stays in New England or retires. Patricia could adapt to Detroit’s defensive personnel and has experience coaching both sides of the ball. He has the ingredients to be a successful head coach, though Patricia is unproven without Belichick by his side.
Josh McDaniels would seem like a good choice to work with Matthew Stafford, yet his history suggests he may not have the temperament of a head coach after flaming out in Denver. McDaniel’s offensive system could be just what Stafford needs to finally cement himself in that top-five quarterback discussion.
The Lions’ two in-house candidates would make some sense, although it would be surprising to see either Cooter or Austin land the gig since Quinn dismissed Caldwell — a far more accomplished coach — after going 18-14 over the past two seasons. If Quinn wants a New England guy, there are plenty of options available.
Most Likely Pick: Mike Vrabel
Mike Vrabel was a big part of New England’s success on defense when he was a star linebacker during Quinn’s front office time with the Patriots. Vrabel didn’t have the greatest year coaching a Texans defense that suffered key injuries, including one to J.J. Watt — easily the team’s best player.
Vrabel is known for his leadership and could be the kind of young voice, at 42 years old, that is needed to re-ignite a defensive unit that has collectively spun its wheels since losing Ndamukong Suh in the 2015 offseason. In my opinion, Patricia would be Quinn’s first choice, but with so many other coaching opportunities, Detroit may not have the luxury of landing the highly sought after coordinator.
Vrabel would be a solid consolation prize and would fit what Quinn said he was looking for in his next head coach during the press conference that followed the firing of Jim Calwell. Whatever the third-year general manager decides to do, he’d better get it right or he could be the next one to go.