Dear candidates for the Detroit Lions head coaching job,
Congratulations on receiving interest from the Lions for their vacant head coaching job. As you probably know, Jim Schwartz was fired by the Lions after completing his fifth season with the team. He finished with a career record of 29-51 in Detroit, and after missing out on the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, the Lions decided to go in a different direction.
So why exactly should you consider joining the Lions and taking over as their new head coach? Their struggles the last couple seasons might suggest otherwise, but there is a lot of talent on this roster. For starters, the Lions have the best wide receiver in football in Calvin Johnson. He's called Megatron for a reason, and he's gained more than 5,000 yards receiving and caught more than 30 touchdowns over the course of the last three seasons.
Johnson isn't the only talented player on offense, by the way. The Lions were among the very best in 2013 at protecting their quarterback, and they have a young trio of linemen (Riley Reiff, Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle) with a bright future. What's more, the Lions have a solid one-two punch in the backfield with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, and rookie tight end Joseph Fauria caught 7 touchdowns in 2013.
The Lions also have a starting quarterback with lots of potential. Yes, Matthew Stafford had a rough time in the second half of this past season, but he's got all of the physical tools and has shown flashes of brilliance in the past (see 2011, when he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns). He just needs some solid coaching to take that next step as an NFL quarterback, and that's where you come in.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions have one of the most feared defensive lines in the league, led by Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley at tackle and Ziggy Ansah, Willie Young and Devin Taylor at end. They also have a solid pair of linebackers in Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy. In the secondary, Glover Quin has been quite good at safety, and there are a lot of young guys at cornerback looking to take their game to that next level.
And don't forget about the special teams units. Punter Sam Martin was outstanding during his rookie season, and returner Jeremy Ross was one of the biggest surprises on the entire team. He became a big threat in the return game in the second half of the season. Also, it's even worth noting that long snapper Don Muhlbach was a Pro Bowler in 2012.
As you can see, there is a lot of talent on this team. The Lions have been able to assemble so much talent because they aren't afraid to spend money -- either to add free agents or keep talented players under contract for years to come. They consistently utilize nearly all of their cap space, and this isn't a situation where you would have to deal with a limited budget. The Lions are willing to open their checkbooks to put together a winning product, and they have a die-hard fan base backing them up. Detroit may be called Hockeytown, but this is a football city and Michigan is a football state.
Finally, let's talk about expectations. Certain franchises are so used to regular success and certain markets are so demanding of consistent excellence that it can be tough to live up to expectations. However, it's important to note that the Lions have won one playoff game since 1957, and they have only been to the playoffs once in the last 14 seasons. With all of the talent on this roster, there is an expectation for the Lions to become perennial playoff contenders, but simply getting to the postseason would be viewed as a major accomplishment. Hopefully you can help elevate those expectations in the future, but the point is this job doesn't carry a Super Bowl or bust mentality. Simply winning one playoff game would match what this franchise has accomplished since 1957. There are no big shoes to fill as head coach of the Lions.
To make a long story short, all of the pieces are in place for the Lions to become the next great NFL franchise. They have talent on offense, defense and special teams, and there aren't many major holes on this roster. What's more, they have owners willing to spend and die-hard fans who show up week in and week out. The Lions really just need the right person to come in and get this franchise over the hump, and even minor playoff success could result in you being called the greatest Lions head coach in the last half-century.
Basically, if you want to take over a team that is built to win and win big early on in your tenure, and if you want to coach a team that is backed by some of the greatest fans in sports, look no further than the Detroit Lions.
Managing editor of Pride Of Detroit