Lions coaching rumors: Younger college coach the ideal target?

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

If the Detroit Lions replace Jim Schwartz, they reportedly want to bring in a younger coach from the college ranks.

Jim Schwartz is still the Detroit Lions' head coach, but we are more than likely entering the final few days of his tenure. With the Lions eliminated from playoff contention and about to finish up another disappointing season, Schwartz is expected to be fired as early as next Monday. A pretty good sign that Schwartz is on his way out is that we're already talking about potential candidates to replace him, and rumors are already starting to swirl about the Lions' coaching search despite the fact that it hasn't officially started yet.

One rumor of interest popped up on Christmas Day from Mike Freeman, who writes for Bleacher Report and was previously with CBS Sports. According to Freeman, "several league sources" have indicated that the Lions don't necessarily want to hire a veteran coach from the NFL ranks. Instead, according to Freeman, the Lions would prefer a younger coach from the college ranks.

On top of this, Freeman reports that the Lions are "seriously interested" in Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien. It seems that a lot of teams are interested in O'Brien based on Freeman's report. O'Brien has NFL experience from his days as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the New England Patriots, and he's been Penn State's head coach for the last two seasons. Despite all of the off-field controversies surrounding the Penn State program, O'Brien has led the Nittany Lions to back-to-back winning seasons.

Aside from O'Brien, who else fits the "younger college coach" label? I'd imagine guys like Stanford's David Shaw and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin will draw interest from several NFL teams, including the Lions if they change coaches. Perhaps even Auburn's Gus Malzahn or Notre Dame's Brian Kelly could be looked at by the Lions or other teams in need of a new head coach in 2014.

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