Detroit Lions: Brian Kelly

Detroit went big on the outside in the beginning with tight end Eric Ebron, who is almost like a tall, hybrid wide receiver. The Lions, though, were almost definitely going to add another receiver during the draft.

They have long lamented the issues the team had in 2013 catching the ball and made some changes to the receiving group heading into this season, most notably releasing Nate Burleson (now injured again in Cleveland) and signing Golden Tate.

Then on Saturday, the Lions added another former Notre Dame receiver with good hands who can make plays -- TJ Jones.

To get some more information on Jones, I caught up with ESPN.com Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna, who covered him the past three seasons:

"Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was effusive in his praise of TJ Jones entering last season, confident that the senior captain was capable of being a true No. 1 receiver," Fortuna wrote. "Then Jones went right out and proved his boss right, notching a 1,000-yard season and earning MVP honors from his teammates.

"Jones was a study in steady advancement throughout his college career, showing improvements each season as he evolved from a possession receiver to a big-play threat. His frame took a beating in college, as he dealt with injuries from his ankle to his shoulder, but he was the model of consistency, a player the younger receivers looked up to as they learned to deal with the nicks and bruises that come throughout the fall.

"It wouldn't hurt Jones to get a little bit bigger, something he's well aware of, saying in April that his focus the past few months has been to add weight without sacrificing speed. But Jones' attitude and pedigree have all the makings of a long, solid NFL career. His late father, Andre, was an end on the Irish's last national title team in 1988, and Jones has been leaning heavily on his godfather, Raghib Ismail, throughout the past five months."
Lovie SmithAndrew Weber/US PressiwireLovie Smith met many of the Lions' stated qualifications, but he's now off Detroit's list.
One of the candidates who appeared to most fit what the Detroit Lions are looking for in a head coach has accepted a job. Just not in Detroit.

A day after Bill O'Brien decided to go to Houston, former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith chose to sign with Tampa Bay, and the Lions search, less than 72 hours old, continues on.

Smith seemed like a potentially ideal candidate for Detroit -- at least based on the criteria Lions general manager Martin Mayhew laid out Monday. He runs a preferred four-man front, fitting the Lions' current personnel. He has head coaching experience, is considered an even-keeled, disciplined coach and he has won, taking the Bears to Super Bowl XLI.

He also understands the NFC North, which meant understanding the Lions.

Now the focus continues on other candidates -- many of whom Detroit won't be able to talk with until next week. That list almost certainly includes San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who once led Arizona to a Super Bowl appearance and has done a good job with Philip Rivers this season.

The Lions are also planning on interviewing Baltimore offensive coordinator and former Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell, according to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter. While Caldwell isn't necessarily an exciting candidate, he does fit a lot of the Lions criteria, including head coaching experience and being able to win as he also guided a team to a Super Bowl.

More candidates are likely to emerge in the next few days, especially as wild-card weekend wraps up and more coordinators and other coaches become available to interview. And there's still a chance the Lions could look at some college head coaches like Vanderbilt's James Franklin, Notre Dame's Brian Kelly or try to make a run at David Shaw from Stanford. Shaw, though, appears to be comfortable at Stanford.

The one thing that Wednesday night made clear, though, is that this search might not wrap up all that quickly.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The search is officially on for Detroit's next head coach.

ESPN Insider Chris Mortensen is reporting Penn State coach Bill O'Brien might already be coming off the board to Houston, but there are other attractive candidates out there for the Lions.

“I think this is a very attractive opportunity,” Lions president Tom Lewand said. “I can verify that by the number of calls we've already gotten since the announcement was made at noon today and it will go through the process. I think going through a thorough process is extremely important.

“But that doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a long process, but it has to be a thorough process and we will go through a process of interviews, of research to make sure that we find the best fit for the Detroit Lions.”

While Detroit would not identify candidates Monday, here are some names that could pop up in the search based off of the criteria Lewand and GM Martin Mayhew laid out Monday afternoon.

Whisenhunt
Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego offensive coordinator: It would be surprising if he isn't one of Mayhew's top candidates. The two were teammates in Washington in 1989 and 1990. He is primarily an offensive guy and has worked with both Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and Philip Rivers last season. He also has prior head coaching experience, running the Arizona Cardinals from 2007 to 2012 -- and taking the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII. If a coach can take Arizona to the Super Bowl, he could fit well in trying to take the Lions to the next level.

Smith
Lovie Smith, former Chicago Bears head coach: Smith has all the characteristics Mayhew would want in a coach. He runs a 4-3 defense, which would fit well with what the Lions already have assembled. He has head coaching experience, having led the Chicago Bears from 2004 to 2012. He knows how to build culture as he has taken a team to the Super Bowl and would be a strong hire for the Lions. However, Insider Adam Schefter is reporting Smith is the favored candidate in Tampa Bay.

Gruden
Jay Gruden, Cincinnati offensive coordinator: He helped in the development of Andy Dalton over the past three seasons and understands the importance of a strong quarterback-wide receiver combination as he worked with Dalton and A.J. Green. He doesn't have NFL or college head coaching experience, but was the head coach of the Orlando Predators of the AFL from 1998 to 2001 and the Florida Tuskers of the UFL in 2011. So he has some experience somewhere leading a team.

Jackson
Jackson
Hue Jackson, Cincinnati running backs coach: Jackson has head coaching experience from his 2011 season with Oakland. He's a former quarterback (University of the Pacific) who has been an offensive coordinator for years on the college and professional level.

In Baltimore in 2008 and 2009, he tutored Joe Flacco and worked with Carson Palmer as the offensive coordinator at USC.

Zimmer
Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati defensive coordinator: Zimmer has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL since 2000 and has spent a lot of time building playoff defenses, something the Lions have shown they have the pieces to build.

The concern here would be the lack of any head coaching experience or any experience on offense, which is a problem considering the struggles of Matthew Stafford. Mayhew indicated experience on a particular side of the ball would not be a huge factor.

Gase
Adam Gase, Denver offensive coordinator: The 35-year-old could be a wild-card hire. He doesn't have head coach experience, but worked with Peyton Manning both as a quarterbacks coach and as offensive coordinator. He was born in Ypsilanti, Mich., and went to Michigan State.

He scouted with the Lions from 2003 to 2005 and was a coach in various roles from 2005 to 2007.

Jones
Kelly
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame head coach: He didn't have the best year last year, but he flirted with the NFL last season and the Lions are a team that could win immediately. He has an offensive pedigree, head coaching experience at one of the most pressure-packed jobs in college football and has elevated every program where he has coached. He could be a decent definition of a coach that can push a team over the hump.

The concern would be his lack of NFL experience.

Shaw
David Shaw, Stanford head coach: If there was the thought Shaw would actually leave Stanford, he might be the top coach on this list. He has an offensive pedigree as an offensive coordinator with the Cardinal. He has extensive NFL experience grooming quarterbacks in Oakland and Baltimore before latching on with Jim Harbaugh. He has ties to the Lions as his father, Willie Shaw, was the defensive backs coach for Detroit from 1985 to 1988 and he spent part of his high school career in Michigan. He'd be the perfect candidate except for this -- will he leave Stanford?

Here's what he said about the NFL on Monday:

“I haven't been contacted by anybody. To be honest it's unbelievably flattering. I think it's really cool,” Shaw said. “I think honestly it continues to shed light on our program, so I don't mind that it keeps happening. It keeps eyes turning toward Stanford, which I think is really cool. I told our players, to be honest, it's a testament to what they've accomplished, it's a testament to what our seniors have helped build at Stanford, to win consistently, win the right way, produce high-character young men and have a football game that's exciting to watch.

“So I don't mind it. I have no desires to pursue another job. As I said, I have not and don't plan on interviewing with anybody. I think it's really nice that my name gets batted around and that's great, and part of it is because I do have nine years of NFL experience, so it seems like an easy transition for some people.

“But honestly I'm looking forward to playing this game and getting into the offseason and starting to put together another winning season next year.”

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