Detroit Lions: Jay Gruden

Troy NiklasAP Photo/Michael ConroyTroy Niklas, who worked out at the combine on Saturday, says he's a "prototypical tight end."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Troy Niklas walked off Podium C in Indianapolis on Thursday afternoon, answered one more question and laughed at the proposition of it.

Unlike a lot of tight ends in this NFL draft, the former Notre Dame tight end is a rarity at the NFL combine as opposed to a decade ago, when more players at his position were like him.

Or, as he put it, “last of a dying breed.”

The breed being the tight ends who can both block and catch passes, whose skills aren’t limited to one or the other as an obvious strength/weakness comparison but rather a dual-threat tight end who can do a little bit of everything.

Niklas understands this, too.

“I guess in some senses, I think I’m more of a prototypical tight end,” Niklas said. “One that can really block and one that you can also use in the pass game and be pretty effective.”

Teams want guys who can do both of those things, and the value of players who can do that is high, in part, because of the way tight ends are being coached now versus a decade ago.

“You don’t see many guys who are good at doing both,” Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew said. “But there are guys who can block coming out of college this year and there will be guys in free agency that can block.”

And in many offenses, those players become premium options. In the draft, Niklas is one, as are Austin Seferian-Jenkins from Washington and C.J. Fiedorowicz from Iowa and is a position of potential need for Detroit.

But the position has evolved dramatically over the past 10 years, turning from a definitive spot on the line next to a tackle to potentially lining up anywhere from out wide to the slot, backfield and in the traditional spot next to a tackle on the line.

And a lot of it has to do with the transition of college offense from drop-back passing run-first pro-style and west coast offenses to shotgun, spread, zone-read ones.

The proliferation of spread offenses has often eliminated the use for a traditional tight end, instead turning the position into a mismatched bigger receiver against a linebacker or safety and becoming a headache for more than opponents but those looking to evaluate them as well.

“You don’t see a lot of in-the-line tight ends, true blocking tight ends very often anymore, and when you do, it’s different,” Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “But there are still some guys that utilize the tight end position in college and those are the guys that you get a good chance to look at.

“But the ones (who don’t), you would have to see how he would fit because he hasn't been asked to do it. No fault of theirs, but it’s a tough position to evaluate right now because of all the spread offenses.”

That is one of the tougher things for coaches, general managers and scouts to decipher over the next few months. Depending on a team’s offensive system, finding a tight end who can both block and pass could be an issue.

Blocking on the line of scrimmage is becoming more of a lost ability for tight ends, who see players like Jimmy Graham and how he is used and end up being utilized in similar ways.

“I think right now people are looking for tight ends to catch more balls,” Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro said. “Than they are to make more blocks.”

So if a team wants a tight end who can line up on the line of scrimmage to be able to run block as well as run routes, it has become somewhat more of a guessing game as to when and if some of the spread offense tight ends will adapt.

“A couple of years ago we were looking at a prospect and we and it took us two years (of film) to see five snaps where he lined up in a two point stance,” said Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith. “You have to do some projecting when you’re looking at the tight ends. But I do think it’s an evolving position. It’s changing.

“Offensive coordinators are being very creative in how they align the tight end. He can line up in that fullback position. He can line up as an H back. He can line up in the No. 1 wide receiver position as well.”

How a team views the tight end in their system will often define what type of tight end they are looking for -- more of a specialist or a guy who can do a little bit of everything, just like the modern tight end has turned out to be.
Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will not even make it to Detroit for an interview with the Detroit Lions.

Per a tweet from ESPN Insider Adam Schefter on Thursday morning, Gruden has been hired as the next coach in Washington.

Gruden never seemed like a favorite candidate for the Lions, but he did fit the profile of what the team has been looking for, and the Lions requested to talk with him about the opening.

It also means the pool of candidates for Detroit has slimmed even more. Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Munchak, Jim Caldwell and Gary Kubiak are the four candidates who have either interviewed or are scheduled to interview with the team.

They are all, essentially, similar candidates. All have been head coaches in the NFL. All have offensive experience. Of the four, all except Munchak have extensive experience working with quarterbacks. And all except Munchak have led their teams to the playoffs in their time as a head coach.

As for Whisenhunt, Schefter reported Thursday morning that Whisenhunt, as we wrote Wednesday, will interview today with the Lions. Then he'll talk with Tennessee on Friday and Cleveland on Saturday leading up to his divisional playoff game against Denver on Sunday.

No team can hire Whisenhunt until after the Chargers are knocked out of the playoffs. By Monday, the Lions could know where they stand -- or potentially be able to hire -- the candidate they have appeared to favor all along.
ESPN Insider Ed Werder has learned San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will likely interview with the Detroit Lions on Thursday evening in San Diego.

Whisenhunt has been thought of as the lead candidate for the Lions job since the team fired Jim Schwartz on Dec. 30 after five seasons with the club.

The team is allowed to interview him this week, but is not allowed to hire him if they chose to until after the Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs.

Whisenhunt fits the exact profile for what the Lions are looking for in a head coach. He is a former head coach who has experience running an offense and developing and refining quarterbacks.

He helped to develop Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, then retooled the careers of both Kurt Warner in Arizona and Philip Rivers in San Diego. His biggest issue came when he did not have an elite quarterback to work with, which happened his final three seasons in Arizona and led to his dismissal.

Whisenhunt will be the fourth candidate expected to interview for the Lions job. Jim Caldwell interviewed last Friday, Gary Kubiak interviewed on Tuesday. Mike Munchak has his interview moved to Wednesday and Jay Gruden is still potentially going to interview.
Former Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak formally interviewed with the Detroit Lions on Tuesday, according to multiple media reports.

Kubiak, who was fired as the Texans head coach in December after almost eight seasons with the franchise, is the second candidate to officially interview with the club. He joins Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who interviewed Friday.

Kubiak
ESPN Insider Ed Werder reported earlier Tuesday that the Lions will interview former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak this Friday. The Lions have also have reportedly asked for permission to talk with Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the job is Whisenhunt’s to lose.

All of these candidates fit a similar profile for the Lions. They have been head coaches at some level -- all except Gruden in the NFL -- and all come from an offensive background. Other than Munchak, all have worked extensively with quarterbacks at some point in their careers.

As for Kubiak, he coached Houston from 2006 until Week 14 of this season, when he was fired by the Texans. He compiled a 61-64 record over that span, including two AFC South titles and two playoff appearances.

He also developed quarterback Matt Schaub, who made the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2012 and had three seasons of more than 4,000 yards passing. Schaub completed more than 61 percent of his passes in each of his seasons with Kubiak.

Kubiak’s team plummeted this season to a 2-11 record before he was fired. He collapsed at halftime of a Nov. 3 game against Indianapolis while having a “transient ischemic attack,” or mini-stroke, on the field.

Prior to his head coaching stint with Houston, Kubiak was the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos from 1995 to 2005, working with John Elway, Brian Griese and Jake Plummer, under former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.

He also worked for San Francisco as its quarterbacks coach in 1994 with Steve Young.

Kubiak is an intriguing candidate in some ways. His offenses with Houston were in the top half of the NFL -- often in the Top 10 -- in all but his first and last seasons with the Texans. When he was with the Broncos, his offense was also routinely in the top half of the league.

He also turned Griese into a Pro Bowler in 2000 and Plummer into a Pro Bowler in 2005.

A message left with Kubiak seeking comment about his interview was not immediately returned. Kubiak's interview was first reported by Fox 2 in Detroit.
If the Detroit Lions have made one thing clear during their coaching search, it is this: prior experience matters.

With Tuesday's news from ESPN Insider Ed Werder that former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak will interview with the Lions on Friday, it is becoming more and more apparent that being a head coach before is likely criteria No. 1 when it comes to selecting a new on-field leader for the franchise.

Consider the candidates the Lions already have spoken with or requested to speak with: Jim Caldwell, Ken Whisenhunt, Jay Gruden and now Munchak. All have, at some level, been a head coach before.

Now, the levels of success as head coaches are a bit different -- Caldwell and Whisenhunt went to Super Bowls, Gruden won Arena titles and Munchak never made the playoffs in Tennessee -- but they have success leading a franchise.

They also all have some sort of offensive pedigree. Caldwell, Whisenhunt and Gruden are all considered coaches who can develop or refine quarterbacks. Munchak does not have that background.

He is an offensive line specialist, having played guard for the Houston Oilers from 1982 to 1993 before going into coaching with the Oilers, first as a quality control coach and then with the Oilers-turned-Tennessee Titans as an offensive line coach from 1997 to 2010.

Then, when Jeff Fisher departed Tennessee after the 2010 season, the Titans promoted Munchak to the head-coaching position. He went 22-26 over three seasons with the club and was fired last week for refusing to make staff changes.

Now, as Werder reports, he'll bring his offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Dowell Loggains, with him to the meeting with the Lions. Loggains was a quarterback at Arkansas and has spent his entire coaching career with the Titans, first as a quality control coach, then the quarterbacks coach from 2010 to 2012 before being promoted to offensive coordinator with five games left in the 2012 season.

Some concerns about Munchak would be that he -- or Loggains, for that matter -- has not shown the ability to truly develop a quarterback. Also, for an offensive coach, he never had an offense ranked higher than 17th in total offense in his three seasons.

The quarterback Tennessee did draft to develop, Jake Locker, played as a backup to veteran Matt Hasselbeck in 2011, beat out Hasselbeck for the job in 2012 but ended up being injured during that season. Then he suffered two injuries in the 2013 season, so it is unknown how much Locker could have developed under Munchak and Loggains’ tutelage.

Locker showed some statistical improvement each season, but was never healthy enough to show true development.

Another likely random coincidence is where the Lions looked the last time around when they hired a head coach: Tennessee. Former coach Jim Schwartz, who was fired last week after five seasons, was hired by the Lions after being the Titans defensive coordinator under Fisher.

Werder reports Whisenhunt, who will interview this week, continues to the be the front-runner for the position, but Munchak appears to be another option Detroit is at least considering.

What is telling is who Detroit hasn’t reportedly asked to speak with as of now: Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Neither one has head-coaching experience despite being considered top-end coordinators.
The Detroit Lions have requested permission to talk with San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.

Whisenhunt has long thought to be one of the favorites -- if not the favorite -- for the head coaching position vacated when Detroit fired Jim Schwartz last Monday. ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the Lions job is Whisenhunt’s to lose.

Time will tell how much Whisenhunt is interested in the job. Still coaching with the Chargers, it would be highly unlikely he would be able to go on four interviews while prepping for Denver in the divisional round Sunday.

But as long as Whisenhunt agrees to interview with Detroit -- and there is little reason to think he won’t -- he’ll be in good position with the Lions. He has a long relationship with general manager Martin Mayhew dating back to playing together for two seasons with the Washington Redskins.

He also fits everything the Lions are looking for in a head coach, from prior head coaching experience to his ability to refine quarterbacks with some experience, as he has done in Arizona with Kurt Warner and San Diego with Philip Rivers. He also worked with Ben Roethlisberger when he was a younger quarterback, helping to develop him.

The only question about Whisenhunt is how he does with non-elite quarterbacks. With guys ranging from Derek Anderson to Kevin Kolb to John Skelton, Whisenhunt went 18-30 over his final three seasons in Arizona, eventually being fired after the 2012 season.

Then he landed in San Diego with Rivers and has helped the Chargers to the divisional round of the playoffs, the same reason why the Lions can interview, but not hire, the man believed to be their top choice.

Whisenhunt is the third coach to have his name surface in the Lions' search, joining Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell and Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Caldwell interviewed with the team Friday and the Lions requested permission to talk with Gruden on Monday, but it is not known whether or not he will definitely interview.
The Detroit Lions have officially asked for permission to talk with Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, a source has told ESPN Insider Adam Schefter.

Schefter reported the Lions are one of four teams to request to talk with Gruden, the brother of ESPN analyst and former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, joining the Titans, Vikings and Redskins.

Gruden fits the profile of what Detroit is looking for in its next head coach. He has head coaching experience, albeit at the Arena Football League and United Football League levels, but was successful in the AFL, winning two league titles.

He is an offensive mind, having run the Cincinnati offense since 2011, and helped develop quarterback Andy Dalton over his first three seasons. Dalton is a 60.9 percent career passer with 11,360 yards, 80 touchdowns and 49 interceptions during his first three seasons.

The Bengals were the No. 10 offense in the NFL this season in yards per game, but were 20th in 2011 and 22nd in 2012. So there is some question about his productivity there.

"Jay has done an incredible job with Andy but also with implanting all of our young players and to me, that's where we are in the NFL right now," Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said in October. "You've got to interject the young guys, you can't draft them and have them stand behind us. We have to get them in there, get them going and making them productive."

Presumably, Gruden had done that, as he was the coordinator for both Dalton and receiver A.J. Green, a combination that could make him familiar with using Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

Gruden would be an interesting choice for the Lions, who have appeared to make head coaching experience a priority for them during this cycle because the team believes they have the pieces in place to win now, just with some fine-tuning.

The 46-year-old Gruden played college football at Louisville, where he was a quarterback. He then played in NFL Europe and in the Arena League. Other than Cincinnati, his other NFL experience came with Tampa Bay, where he worked under his brother, Jon.

He split time between coaching and playing in the AFL from 2002 to 2008 while also coaching with the Bucs, according to his bio on the Cincinnati website.

He is the second candidate to officially surface with the Lions, joining Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who interviewed with the team Friday.
At noon Monday, the Detroit Lions' coaching search will officially hit its second week, with some candidates already off the board and others available to talk for the first time.

“We will go through the process,” Lions team president Tom Lewand said when he and Martin Mayhew announced they had fired Jim Schwartz last Monday. “I think going through a thorough process is extremely important.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that has to be a long process, but it has to be a thorough process.”

Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell already interviewed and is the only known candidate to formally do so. John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, told ESPN.com last week that Caldwell was told the Lions would get back to him in a few days after his Friday interview.

Now starting its second week, much of the focus will begin with San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who is a candidate for some of the five current NFL openings.

While requests to talk with coaches have yet to go out or be made official, here are some of the candidates the Lions might target:

Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego offensive coordinator: It would be beyond stunning if Whisenhunt did not interview with the Lions this week. ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported Sunday it is essentially his job to lose, which makes sense considering he fits all of the qualities Detroit is looking for in its next coach. The downside for Whisenhunt is the Lions cannot hire him for at least another week, as they can’t make an official move -- if they choose to do so -- until San Diego is out of the playoffs. But they can at least chat with him this week if they would prefer.

Jay Gruden, Cincinnati offensive coordinator: Schefter mentioned him as someone Detroit would likely want to talk with as well, as he has played a major role in developing quarterback Andy Dalton (and you can argue whether that is good or bad after his performance Sunday, but he has been a very good regular-season quarterback). He has also been a head coach before in the AFL and UFL and was successful there. Another thing to watch with Gruden is his ties to agent Bob LaMonte, who also lists Detroit senior personnel executive Brian Xanders among his clients.

Greg Roman, San Francisco offensive coordinator: Like Whisenhunt, if the Lions want to talk to Roman, they can talk, but not hire since San Francisco is still in the playoffs. His name has not come up as much as Whisenhunt and Gruden, but he has been a head coaching candidate before and he has developed a dynamic offense with the 49ers. It is unknown how much Roman really helped develop Colin Kaepernick, though, as he has a bevy of coaches with quarterback experience in San Francisco, including Jim Harbaugh, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst and offensive assistant Ronald Curry. He has coached David Carr, Andrew Luck and Kaepernick, though.

Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati defensive coordinator: He isn’t an offensive coach and he does not have head coaching experience, but Zimmer led one of the top-ranked defenses in the NFL and has been a defensive coordinator since 2000. He’s also been close in the past, interviewing for the Cleveland job last season. In Mayhew’s news conference to discuss firing Schwartz, he mentioned that an offensive coach wasn’t a dealbreaker for the Lions, but that whomever the team hired would have to bring in someone to work with Matthew Stafford. If Zimmer gets an interview, that would have to be a strong part of his presentation to truly be considered.

Other names that might get a look: Cincinnati assistant and former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson; Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Good morning and ROOOAAAARRR (AND BRRRRRRRRRR)!!!

The wait continues.

San Diego's win over Cincinnati in the wild card playoffs on Sunday afternoon means if the Detroit Lions want to eventually hire Ken Whisenhunt as the team's next coach, there will be a bit of a wait.

It is expected the Lions will formally request to interview Whisenhunt this week, but per NFL rules, Detroit will be unable to hire him until San Diego's season concludes. The Chargers head to Denver on Sunday afternoon for the divisional round of the playoffs.

So if Detroit's search extends past this week, it could mean that Whisenhunt is indeed the Lions' top target, as colleague Adam Schefter reported Sunday.

This week should also bring some other interviews for Detroit, potentially with Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who would be in the same situation as Whisenhunt.

Only one public candidate has surfaced thus far, Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who interviewed with the team, the ownership and quarterback Matthew Stafford on Friday.

And now, a look across the snowy Interwebs in search of Lions news:
This is not surprising in the slightest, not after a week has come and gone with only one candidate, Jim Caldwell, even having an interview pop up publicly.

Colleague Adam Schefter is reporting the Detroit Lions are extremely interested in San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, going as far to say that the job is Whisenhunt’s to lose.

This is logical on a lot of levels.

Whisenhunt hits every criteria the Lions have been looking for in a head coach. He has prior experience, leading the Arizona Cardinals for six seasons, including two playoff appearances and a Super Bowl appearance, losing to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII.

He is an offensive mind and experienced in molding quarterbacks, having worked with Kurt Warner in Arizona, helped develop Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and ran an offense that saw Philip Rivers have career bests in completion percentage (69.5 percent) and passer rating (105.5).

This season in San Diego, Rivers also threw more touchdown passes (32) than any time since 2008 and fewer interceptions (11) than any time since 2009.

All of these things are paramount for Detroit, which is looking for a mentor who can both push and fix franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford, who the team invested in last offseason with a three-year, $53 million extension with $41.5 million guaranteed.

Stafford is the quarterback of the foreseeable future in Detroit, and he responded this season with his worst completion percentage (58.5 percent) and most interceptions (19) since his rookie season in 2009.

Bringing in a quarterback-minded coach with that experience is a priority for Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand.

Add to this the familiarity Mayhew has with Whisenhunt as teammates in Washington in 1989 and 1990. That should lead to more comfort between the coaching staff and the front office, a give-and-take and understanding most successful franchises have.

So Whisenhunt is certainly the main coach to watch both Sunday and this coming week.

Perhaps the biggest concern with Whisenhunt would be what he did when he didn’t work with an elite quarterback in Arizona. After Warner retired following the 2009 season, Arizona dropped to 5-11 with a combination of Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Richard Bartel in 2010, improved to 8-8 with Kevin Kolb, Skelton and Bartel in 2011 and another 5-11 mark in 2012 with Skelton, Brian Hoyer and rookie Ryan Lindley.

The Cardinals' offense was last in the league in 2012, 19th in 2011 and second to last in 2010 with that crew of quarterbacks.

Another interesting nugget in Schefter’s story is that the Lions will also be looking at Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who has helped develop Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and has some head coaching experience with the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League and the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League.

While that isn’t major NFL or college experience, it does show leadership on some level -- and Gruden did win two Arena Football League titles with Orlando.
The Detroit Lions had been hoping to play this weekend in their second playoff appearance in three seasons.

Instead, the team is hunting for another head coach.

While the Lions interviewed Jim Caldwell on Friday, there are many other potential candidates that are where the Lions would like to be -- involved in the playoffs.

Here’s a quick primer of some of those candidates to watch for as you’re taking in the wild-card games this weekend. After this weekend, more candidates will open up for Detroit to talk with. If teams keep winning, that could alter the Lions' plans a little bit -- or force them to have patience.

Kansas City vs. Indianapolis (Saturday, 4:35 p.m.): No real candidates have surfaced in this game that the Lions would be interested in.

New Orleans vs. Philadelphia (Saturday, 8:10 p.m.): As of now, none of the Lions' top candidates are coaching in this game, either.

San Diego vs. Cincinnati (Sunday, 1:05 p.m.): This is the big one for the Lions. Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is a top candidate for the job and believed to be one of the front-runners as soon as the Lions can talk with him. Both of Cincinnati’s coordinators -- offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer -- are also thought to be on the Lions' list of candidates. Cincinnati assistant Hue Jackson, the former Oakland coach, could be another possibility here.

San Francisco vs. Green Bay (Sunday, 4:40 p.m.): San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman could eventually emerge as a candidate either in Detroit or for another job in the football sphere. Green Bay assistant head coach Winston Moss is a name that hasn’t really been mentioned, but Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten said he is a candidate that has been “overlooked a little bit there” as a potential candidate for a head-coaching job.
Good morning and ROOOOAARRR!!!!

This weekend will be a big one for the Detroit Lions and the team isn't even playing. Why, you ask?

The reason is simple. A lot of potential head-coaching candidates -- men the Lions are likely waiting to chat with next week -- are all coaching this weekend. So here's a quick primer on whom to pay attention to:

Cincinnati: Almost all of the coaches, really, but specifically offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and assistant coach Hue Jackson.

San Diego: Possibly the favorite in this entire search -- offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

San Francisco: Greg Roman's name has been thrown around often the past few years, but the 49ers' offensive coordinator could finally get a look as a head coach.

It'll be interesting to see after this weekend which of these coaches really start to get some more attention.

And now, searching the Interwebs for news about the Lions.

Lovie Smith, hired by Tampa Bay on Wednesday night, would have been a good fit in Detroit. It also made one of my (likely to be wrong) predictions for 2014 already incorrect. And 10 moments that stood out from 2013.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes that Lions players believe Jim Schwartz will be a head coach again somewhere.

Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated names four Lions to his All-Pro team, including two offensive linemen.

MLive's Justin Rogers takes a look at Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

 
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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