Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia was fired on November 26 (along with GM Bob Quinn), following the team’s 41-25 loss on Thanksgiving Day. Patricia earned a 13-29-1 record through two and three quarter seasons as the Lions’ head coach.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is taking over coaching duties in the interim, while the front office will likely begin their search for new blood. Here are four potential candidates that could be the next head coach for the Detroit Lions.
Eric Bieniemy is, for good reason, a name that crops up every time there is a head coaching vacancy in the NFL. He and the Kansas City Chiefs have built the league’s best offense over the past three seasons, meaning he has been a hot commodity.
Considering Matt Patricia was a defensive-minded coach that came from a winning program (New England), it would make sense for the Lions brass to take an opposite approach when replacing him; I.e. an offensive-minded coach from a winning program.
It may be Matt Stafford’s last year, so Bieniemy would have to build the offense almost from scratch if Detroit wants to find a quarterback through the draft rather than signing a veteran. However, he is built for exactly that challenge.
The word around San Francisco is that defensive coordinator Robert Saleh leaving town to take a head coaching position is almost a foregone conclusion. He has built and run a 49ers defense that has still managed to be productive, despite losing players like Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman.
If he takes the job, Saleh would likely build a new brand of defense around last year’s third overall pick, cornerback Jeff Okudah. This would allow the Lions to keep pace in a division with high powered offenses like the Packers and Vikings.
There are a few issues however, including his lack of offensive experience in a time where the offense clearly needs a reboot. Add to that the fact that the team just fired a defensively oriented head coach, so the locker room may benefit from a bigger change of pace.
This one is a bit of a long shot for a few reasons. Not the least of which include the fact that he is still technically employed by the University of Michigan. But there are enough upsides to make looking into a Harbaugh era worth it for Detroit.
First and foremost, Harbaugh built one of the most productive and formidable NFL defenses of the past 20 years while he was with San Francisco. If the new GM and Harbaugh are on the same page, they could start building a similar unit right away.
Another not insignificant reason for hiring him is the fact that Harbaugh and the 49ers had the Packers’ number during his head coaching days. Continuing that trend would be huge, because the Lions have no choice but to go through the Packers to get atop the NFC North.
Harbaugh played quarterback and coaches for University of Michigan, so he has ties to the Lions’ fanbase. But whether or not they would accept him after a coaching tenure there that has been well below expectations is a big question.
Offensive coordinator Joe Brady joined Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers a few months after winning the College Football National Championship with LSU as the passing game coordinator. In no uncertain terms, he coordinated an offense that led Joe Burrow to the one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had in the history of the college game.
He chose the Panthers over a three-year extension at LSU, and Carolina is benefitting. Expected to be at the bottom of the entire NFC, under Rhule and Brady the team has put up almost the same record as the Lions have through 12 weeks. Considering their lack of depth and the fact that Christian McCaffrey has been out of the lineup for a significant amount of games, that is an impressive feat.
Brady may want some more time as a full-fledged offensive coordinator before making the jump. But if Detroit wants someone to coach up a new quarterback and switch up the culture, they could do much worse than the man who transformed Burrow.
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