With Whisenhunt out, where will the Lions turn?

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Not long before word emerged that Ken Whisenhunt had taken the job in Tennessee, we explained that Whisenhunt may not actually be the front runner in Detroit.

Regardless of whether he was, he now clearly isn’t.

It’s hard to know where Whisenhunt landed on the Lions’ wish list because the Lions kept quiet throughout the process.  Whether they’ll continue to do so as they move on to Plan B — or as the case may be continue to execute Plan A — remains to be seen.

While the Lions remain tight lipped, their official website has dropped a fairly strong hint.  Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com writes that Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell “looks to be the top choice,” pointing out that the Lions spoke to Tony Dungy as recently as Monday, and that Dungy endorsed Caldwell for the job.  The Lions also spoke with quarterback Peyton Manning, who spent several years working with Caldwell in Indy, where Caldwell ultimately spent three seasons as head coach.

Based on the other known candidates — Mike Munchak and Gary Kubiak — it appears that the Lions want someone who has been an NFL head coach.  As we understand it, however, that’s not necessarily the case.

The Lions would hire an assistant coach if the Lions believe the assistant coach can step into the locker room and seamlessly behave like a head coach.  With some coordinators, there’s a leap of faith.  The Lions don’t want to leave it to chance; they want and need someone who can get the most out of a roster with skill that outpaces its production.

In that regard, don’t be shocked if they wait for Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.  Because the Lions didn’t interview him during Seattle’s initial bye week, the Lions now have to wait until the Seahawks are done playing.

Regardless of whether Whisenhunt chose not to be that guy or the Lions never got to the point where he was the first choice, the Lions still need someone who can maximize the talent everyone believes the team has.

74 responses to “With Whisenhunt out, where will the Lions turn?

  1. Caldwell is overrated. You see what happened when he didn’t have Peyton Manning essentially coaching the team. Lions will be 3-13/4-12 first year if they hire him.

  2. I respect Tony Dungy. he has long, personal & professional knowledge of Caldwell.

    With that being said, Caldwell may be just what the Lions need. But, after having a less than emotional Frazier, and 2/3 losing seasons, the stoic nature works against you.

    So, the Vikings need a more “fiery” guy like Zimmer, and the Lions need a more mature, controlled guy like Caldwell.

    Both approaches may prove good for both.

  3. This is the Lions we’re talking about. They aren’t going to wait for Quinn. They’ll hire Caldwell and in 3-4 years you’ll be telling us who they are interviewing for the head coaching job.

  4. Caldwell and others like him are excellent football guys but the Lions and these other clubs looking for HC material should study the data. Parcells, Walsh, Gibbs, Holmgren, Marriuchi, Gruden and others have failed to find Super Bowl wins after “going back” to being a head coach.

    I would hire brilliant minded college coaches or hot coordinator candidates. Odds are better.

  5. You have to believe Whisenhunt never got the offer from the Lions… I mean, how could a guy pick the Titans when you could have Stafford, Megatron, & that D Line? … They have some really nice building blocks in place & are a lot closer to winning their division than the Titans and that’s the first goal.

  6. I don’t understand the infatuation with hiring a former HC w/ a record under 500. All 3 candidates listed don’t have a whole lot to stand on.
    1. Caldwell: Let Manning run the O, forgot about D. When Manning went down, they won a whopping 2 games.
    2. Munchak went with a hard core ground game plan and decided to air it out? He brought in 2 guards last year and another back only to let his QB try & throw them to victory. Sub 500 coach w/ 40+ years in the game.
    3. Kubiack PASSED on Manning to stick w/ Schaub????? Schaub was/is a solid QB but he’s not in HoF discussions.
    4. Wiz inherited Warner, benched him before being threatened of being fired then went on to the SB w/ Warner. He never developed any QB during his time in AZ. His last year there his 3 QB’s were either undrafted or came in the last round of the draft, why would you bring in O minded person who FORGOT to address the QB situation??????

    I get that not all coordinators will be successful but its also proven not all retread coaches will be better the second time around.

  7. I still don’t get the mentality of getting a recycled retread coach. They were all fired for very good reasons. Yes, they may do better on another go round as a HC, but, personally, I’d take a shot on an up and coming guy full of energy.

  8. Because if you already have a talented team in place, the man least likely to destroy it all is Jim Caldwell.


  9. Any of the three mention above would be a disaster of epic proportions. Lions need to think outside the box and get an innovative coach. Who that is, I don’t know.

  10. The Lions mine as well wait it out to the end of the playoffs and interview other coordinators.

    The Lions HC search has already blown up in their face when they lost out to TEN for Whisenhunt, so why go out and rush to hire a HC?

    I’d love to see the Lions sit down and interview these following guys because they are no worse than Cadwell and a lot better candidates than Munchak.

    Darrell Bevell (SEA OC)
    Dan Quinn (SEA DC)
    Greg Roman (SF OC)
    Jack Del Rio (DEN DC)

  11. Humm, let’s see. Who in their right mind would want to coach in Detroit or Cleveland for that matter?

  12. The absolute best choice for Detroit.
    This guy brings some Dungy calmness and discipline to an out of control team that suffers from stupidity.

  13. To me living in Detroit and seeing this teams problem up close Jim Schwartz cost himself his job last year when he brought back oc Scott Linehan that offence was terrible the way you fix Stafford is run the dam football!! He has thrown up to 45 or more times a game thats way to much especially when u have a good stable of backs that can run balance is what the team was missing it’s tough to watch your team run a empty back set on 3&1 3&2 with a joique bell on your team

  14. my sympathy for the lions fans who just a couple of months ago had to be sky high … they were leading the division , both of the best teams in the division had injured qbs and the playoffs seemed a certainty. To this point – a horrible stretch to miss the playoffs … the alleged franchise qb dismissively refuses off season tutor suggestion . Now this list of uninspiring retreads to be their next leader …. yikes …. hide the cutlery

  15. Caldwell’s tenure in Indy was so wildly unsuccessful I can’t imagine how he could be the choice. But I’m not a Lions fans so have at it!

  16. Caldwell was a terrible HC. Does just having experience really mean that much when the experience was bad? He single handily lost that playoff game to the Jets.

  17. The Lions will pay dearly if they make Caldwell their choice. Caldwell lived off of what Tony Dungy left him and the genius of Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. The Lions will make a HUGE mistake with Jim Caldwell-do you think that with all the class Peyton Manning has he would say anything negative about Jim Caldwell-of course not. The Lions are in bigger trouble than they realize-unfortunately.

  18. Ok, are the Rooney Rule/Fritz Pollard Alliance people happy now? When this nonsense started those people pointed to the fact that they were upset with the fact that there were “retread” coaching candidates getting jobs prior to minority candidates. Now, Lovie Smith and Jim Caldwell will fall into the “retread” category, seems as if we’ve stabilized what those organizations wanted from the beginning.

  19. According to other reports a plane was booked to fly to San Diego this past Monday with the anticipation of bringing Whisenhunt to Detroit as their new coach. Looks like he played Detroit to get what he wanted from Tennessee. They might make it look like Caldwell was their choice but his last interview was 2 weeks ago, hardly a ringing endorsement.

  20. To me, this would seem like the optimal location for a “return from retirement” coach. If the Tony Dungy’s, Bill Cowher’s, or Jon Gruden’s of the world ever wanted back, go here. It’s a team loaded with talent on offense (although I’ve never been sold on Stafford as an elite QB) and defense – they just need somebody to come in and lay down the law. An established coach with SuperBowl rings commands immediate respect from the likes of Suh and the rest of the undisciplined bunch. If that team can find discipline and get more consistent play from Stafford (on throws when he doesn’t just get to chuck it into triple coverage for Calvin), they could be a major threat in the next few years.

  21. I hate to say it, but as a Lions fan, I’d almost rather have kept Jim Schwartz. Show Mayhew the door.

  22. If you put aside the 1-15 season with the colts, and the fact that the ravens offense was one of the leagues worst this year, you have a guy in Jim Caldwell who helped the Colts get to the superbowl (and lose) and put together one of NFL histories best offensive runs in the playoffs, winning a superbowl with The Ravens. Id say this guy has the caliber to run a squad with Smatty and Megatron and be moderately successful. As a matter of fact, Mr. Caldwell is far more qualified to be a head coach then wiz or kubiak. IMO. I hope he gets the job. Thanks for the Lombardi Caldwell. You the man

  23. Trying to convince a top tier coach to take the Lions’ job is like trying to sell a haunted mansion in a scarce housing market. While some may be tempted by the challenge and deny a fear of ghosts, no one wants to hear the “told you sos” once the floating heads and blood curdling screams inevitably appear at the most inopportune occasions.

  24. Caldwell rode Peyton’s coattails to a Super Bowl appearance, went 2-14 with a roster talented enough to go 10-6 with a rookie QB, and turned a Super Bowl winning offense into the 29th ranked unit in the league. I’m completely baffled by the thought of him getting another shot as a head coach. Sure, Schwartz was a moron, but does anyone think he’s actually worse than Jim Caldwell?

  25. Caldwell just doesn’t seem to have the gravitas you need to go into Detroit and get that team under control. They’re wildly talented, but probably the most undisciplined team in professional sports.

    Despite how talented the team is, hiring a coach is going to be difficult for a few reasons. First off, you are going to have to remain committed to the 43 defense. Their personnel just doesn’t translate to a 34 or 52 hybrid. Second, you are effectively tied to Matt Stafford. The kid has had flashes of brilliance, but he’s also had flashes of bonehead. Is he a championship caliber quarterback? Next, what is the running game going to look like? Reggie Bush is a dynamic pass catcher, but isn’t exactly going to be running the power O. Everyone else has been hurt or unreliable. Finally, personnel control. If you want to bring in a well respected, established coach along the lines of a Bill Cowher, then you are going to have to give up the reins. I’m not sure that’s what the front office is looking for.

  26. What a joke this coaching search is becoming.
    I wasn’t a big fan of hiring whisenhunt as I think that he doesn’t necessarily develop QB’s well, big ben excluded. He completely lost the lockerroom and team in AZ. Arians came in and completely improved that team in short time. He is also getting a lot of credit for Rivers’ season, but I would bet that McCoy / Reich had an awful lot to do with that as well.
    Now we are turning to a failed HC—22-63 record at Wake Forest, 24-8 record at Indy with Peyton, 2-14 at Indy without him, terrible offense in Baltimore this year. What a joke; Baltimore will be glad to get rid of him.
    What’s wrong with interviewing someone like Mike Zimmer and seeing if he can get someone like Kubiak for your OC? That seems like it has a much better chance of being successful than Caldwell. I would prefer Kubiak as the HC with a strong DC to Caldwell.
    Once again, these jackasses are going to run this franchise amok.
    I am still perplexed that Mayhew is even getting another chance to hire a HC after hiring Schwartz and giving him a three year extension after one good season that was more luck than fundamentally good.

  27. Out of their minds.
    Caldwell is not suited for the role of bringing discipline to a team. He is not a Coughlin or Parcells. His success comes from working with mature professionals, like Payton Manning and anyone who works with Payton. He has Harbaugh in Baltimore to deal with any unprofessional stuff.
    Suh, Fairly, Stafford, etc. This team can win and win big, but they need someone who bring them in line. It is not Caldwell.

  28. all were left with now is table scraps,they better not hire this guy what a joke.
    The lions would be better off if they started looking for a collage coach or wait till the season is over for some of the other guys still in the playoffs that might fit the job.

  29. I still think it’s going to be Caldwell since he’s the closest profile to having a background that will help Stafford. I personally would find the hiring very displeasing and it makes no sense to me to eat $12MM on Jim Schwartz to go with a HC that isn’t exciting at all, and I don’t like what I have heard so far about how this interview went, it doesn’t make sense to me yet I see the Lions once again falling in love with somebody after a short time and a few good references. Not to say that Dungy and Manning aren’t GREAT references, but this coach doesn’t excite me at all. I think they need to keep looking and find somebody who has a different kind of plan in mind than going with the status quo as I perceive Caldwell to be doing.

    I know everybody hates Schwartz and well I’m not exactly a fan, but I would rather see the team have given him a good GM as well as other support personnel both players and coaches that could have helped him in the areas he was weak at during his time here, and we could have maybe had a good turnout or result, but we didn’t even try, and then Schwartz had really a flawed chance to work with. I don’t want any new coach to come up short in receiving help and support, and I’d rather try and work with the guy under contract and COACH and HELP him rather than fire him and get somebody who isn’t CLEARLY a supremely better choice, and to me Caldwell is NOT that.

    I really think they need to schedule more interviews, and with OFFENSIVE specialists in particular. Somebody that is a QB guru would be VERY much of interest to me. And no I don’t accept Caldwell as a QB guru either even if Peyton says he is. I heard what he was already telling Stafford and I don’t like it.

  30. If you are looking for a professional man to run your organization, Caldwell is your guy. Caldwell did not want to be the Ravens offensive coordinator but was forced into the role and actually won a Super Bowl.

    You do not have to be a great offensive or defensive mind to be a great head coach. See John Harbaugh. Jim Caldwell has plenty of enough ties to put together an amazing staff to surround him and run a competent organization. If I am Detroit, I would want Caldwell.

  31. I don’t see how they can hire a guy that always looks like a clueless mannequin on the sideline. Is that calmness or cluelessness?

  32. ^
    Are you saying that Caldwell isn’t a great offensive or defensive mind? If so, why can’t the Lions find somebody who does have that great mind that can also be a great coach? It surely can’t hurt, and if you aren’t anointing Caldwell as a genius at his craft, then sounds to me like you are settling and unsure. We need some sure confidence on this team and no more compromises or second-rate football people if we want to be a first-rate team.

  33. Awesomely funny reading this morning. Not excited about the prospect of Caldwell getting the job but Whisenhunt is the overrated HC candidtate here — in reality he didn’t do squat at AZ.

  34. Calling dungy is the same as asking a kid he if he likes candy. You know the answer before you ask the question. If management is this stupid they deserved Schwartz and probably Caldwell. Maybe they should ask, if this guy is so good how come no one jumped on him last year?

  35. I wouldn’t get so upset about losing Whisenhunt. It’s not like the guy had a ton of success at Arizona. Yeah, he took a team to the Super Bowl, largely on the back of Kurt Warner’s performances.

    Whisenhunt may be good, but he’s not the only fish in the sea.

  36. The Lions problem is not this hire, it never has been. This organization has always been a messed up organization. It starts and ends with the Ford family. It always has. They have never gotten anything right. And that will continue with this next hire. Matt Millen was left in charge there for almost a decade, enough said.

  37. This is such a joke, we are the laughingstock of the NFL. We have some of the best talent around but no one wants a part of it. They won’t because they don’t care about us, but what they should do is clean house now!!!! Call Bill Polian and do WHATEVER he says from the get go. Find someone who knows what there doing. That is right the opposite of what there going to do. I feel like I have battered wife syndrome being a Lions fan!

  38. @steelerben

    They aren’t tied to the 4-3. Suh can easily move to an end spot and Ansah can stand up on the outside. That leaves Levy and Tulloch in the middle. If Whisenhut had been hired, they were probably going to end up with Ray Horton as the D-Coordinator to install the 3-4.

  39. How did you manage to find a picture of Caldwell where he appears to actually be feeling an emotion of some sort?

  40. As I said on a previous post a week or so ago, people wondering what Caldwell did to distinguish himself from other retread candidates are missing the point.

    For some reason, the football cognoscenti have anointed Tony Dungy as the supreme expert on all things football. If Tony Dungy says it, it’s so. Period.

    So if TG says Jim Caldwell should get another shot, Jim Caldwell will get another shot. It’s just a matter of when and where.

  41. Here is the Lions interview with Peyton Manning.

    Lions….”Thanks Peyton for meeting with us. How was Jim as a coach?”
    Peyton…”What the hell are you talking about? I was the coach!!!”

  42. Note to the Lions: Tony Dungy endorsement doesn’t mean crap. Look what happened when he endorsed Lesie Frazier.

  43. Nobody knows anything about who the Lions want and I think that they are smart for not talking. They have been in trouble for talking about other teams players and violating the Rooney rule. They need a Coach that can get a talented team motivated not another Coach that the players can quit on.

  44. Goku – you should know of all people that getting beat down only sets you up to become stronger than before!

    And I hear you, but once they finally figure out that the Front Office is the source of all football problems, then at least we will be pointed in the right direction so there is still plenty of time to win some championships before CJ retires. All they need to do is get rid of Mayhew and get somebody good that has clear powers and control to fix everything that needs fixing. It’s just a matter of time before they stumble into figuring that out.

  45. Caldwell was only successful in Indy because of Peyton Manning. Detroit doesn’t have anyone near that talent level (and never will).

  46. BIG mistake yer again if lions hire caldwell. He
    was badly outcoached by sean payton in the sb
    Caldwell is only good ad a positional coach in nfl.

  47. As a Ravens fan whatching our offense this year was torture. Especially after the post season run we had to SB45. I can’t imagine that losing Matt Birk was that much of an impact on our team, but Gradkowski was under constant ridicule this year.
    Juan Castillo, also had the same role this season that he did in the post season, although a different title. Many people put the blame on him.

    I can only wonder why, with very little changes made to the offense, why we failed to produce this year. I thought this would be the year Flacco earned a Pro Bowl. Alsa, that did not happen.

    But if Caldwell is any good at being an Offensive Coordinator, why did nothing change all year? Why was the playbook so vanilla? Why did the running game disappear with Leach on the roster?

    If Caldwell does go to Detroit, I hope you guys fair better than we did. Because that will tell me the problem lies elsewhere in Baltimore.

  48. Bengals fans are hoping that the Vikings don’t take Zimmer from them. Ravens fans are hoping that the Lions DO take Caldwell from them.

    What does that tell you?

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