Lions have a blueprint for their next coach

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
6:30
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They sat at a table, microphones in front of them as they explained why Jim Schwartz was no longer working as the Detroit Lions head coach.

Like every boss before him firing an employee publicly, general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand discussed why the new regime will be better than the old one.

Never mind the new one hasn't even been selected yet.

But the Lions understand this is different now. They no longer need a builder to replace a coach who went 0-16 in 2008, as Rod Marinelli did before he was fired following that season.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew
AP Photo/Paul SancyaLions president Tom Lewand, left, and general manager Martin Mayhew said head coaching experience would benefit candidates looking to replace Jim Schwartz.
They need someone who can win. Who has proven that he can win. So the criteria have changed for what Detroit is looking for. No longer can the Lions play the wait-and-build game.

“The expectation,” Lewand said. “Is to bring a consistent winning football team to the city of Detroit immediately.”

The Lions declined to give a timetable for their process for hiring a coach, other than it has already begun, will be thorough and exhaustive, and will -- the Lions hope -- produce a coach capable of doing something no other coach has been able to do consistently in the modern NFL era: Win with consistency.

Mayhew and Lewand already have a plan laid out, and Lewand said he had already received phone calls from interested parties.

The Lions will handle the process with Lewand and Mayhew running the search and also asking for some advice from the NFL. Then, Lewand said, the ultimate hiring decision is up to the Ford family.

“We have talked about building a profile for the Detroit Lions for 2014 and there is a lot that goes into that. A lot. There is a detailed profile, it is not abstract, there is a written detailed profile of what the head coach of the Detroit Lions in 2014 needs to look like. It has a lot of specifics. It’s got football specifics in it, it has specific characteristics in it, and we will manage to that process and that design

Here, though, is an idea of what Lewand and Mayhew are and are not necessarily looking for.

Head coaching experience. This is not a complete non-starter for candidates as every coach needs his first opportunity some time, but having been a head coach at some level before will clearly help any prospective candidates.

After all, Lewand considers the Lions job to be “one of the most, if not the single most, attractive head coaching opportunity” in the league.

So having run either a college program or professional organization before would be helpful.

“I think that would benefit a candidate, but I can’t pigeonhole myself into that,” Mayhew said. “I think that would benefit somebody that we were talking to.”

A coach who runs a 4-3 scheme or is capable of running it. Again, running a 3-4 is not a deal crusher to Mayhew, but the Lions have the building pieces in place already to be a strong 4-3 defense with talent and depth at defensive end and defensive tackle.

Plus, the linebacking corps of DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch and Ashlee Palmer returning gives a strong front seven that had one of the top run defenses in the NFL last season.

“It would, but we have not ruled out anybody,” Mayhew said. “Certainly a coach that runs a 4-3 would be more attractive based on the scheme. Again, it is bigger than X’s and O’s. It is bigger than scheme. It is bigger than that.”

Fixing some “culture.” That was a big buzz word for Mayhew on Monday afternoon. When he was asked about scheme or prior experience, he kept drifting back to feeling the locker room needed to become one that avoids late-game and late-season swoons.

“We have to take into account a coach’s ability to change our culture a little bit,” Mayhew said. “It has to be something bigger than just scheme that somebody’s bringing to our table.”

Find someone -- but not necessarily the head coach -- to help Matthew Stafford. This was not as big of a criterion as some of the others in the eyes of Mayhew and Lewand, at least not publicly.

And Mayhew indicated that the new head coach will have to have someone to take Stafford and move him to the next level of quarterbacks, but it doesn’t have to be the head coach.

“He’ll have coaches here that can get him to where he needs to be,” Mayhew said. “He’s already been a great quarterback in 2011. He had 41 touchdowns and 5,000 yards passing. We have to get him to that point and beyond. That hasn’t happened the last two seasons, and part of that is personnel-related I think, but he certainly has the ability to be that guy.”

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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