Lions turn attention to Jim Caldwell

Updated: January 14, 2014, 1:34 AM ET
By Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter | ESPN

Jim Caldwell has emerged as the leading candidate for the Detroit Lions' head-coaching vacancy, according to multiple sources.

One source said the Lions' discussions with Caldwell had turned to negotiations.

Earlier Monday, while the Lions were waiting on a decision from Ken Whisenhunt -- who ultimately took the Tennessee Titans job -- they kept open communications with Caldwell and his representatives.

Former Colts coach Tony Dungy spoke with Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. earlier Monday to reaffirm strong attributes he believed Caldwell would bring to the Lions. Caldwell coached under Dungy while with the Bucs and Colts before succeeding him in Indy.

"I already had told [Lions GM] Martin Maywhew that Caldwell is a great match for a team that has the personnel of being capable of playing in the Super Bowl," Dungy said. "I think the Lions were not only impressed with Jim's interview but they were pleasantly surprised by the number of former Colts players who called on his behalf. Jim made Peyton Manning an even better quarterback -- look at the numbers and wins -- and I think he can do the same for Matthew Stafford.

"I know the Lions also want discipline and good character in the locker room. I'm not saying their other candidates can't achieve those things but those are Jim's strengths with his background, especially from his influence under Joe Paterno at Penn State and hopefully in our program in the NFL."

The Lions also have had a former Paterno player, ex-Titans coach Mike Munchak, high on their list. Sources said they were "pleasantly surprised" with Munchak's plan, presence and leadership. The Browns were in Tennessee interviewing Munchak for their vacancy on Monday.

Whisenhunt was viewed as the leading candidate for the Lions but both sides wondered whether it was an ideal match, including Whisenhunt's preference to run a 3-4 defense with players who had been drafted primary for a 4-3 scheme.

Former Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak also interviewed with the Lions.

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