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Looking at potential Lions coaching candidates

A rundown of various coaches who could potentially be candidates to replace Jim Schwartz as the Detroit Lions' head coach if he is in fact fired.


Admittedly, it feels a bit weird to be talking about potential coaching candidates for the Detroit Lions with Jim Schwartz still in place as the head coach. However, it seems inevitable that Schwartz will be fired by the Lions at some point next week, in turn creating a vacancy, a coaching search and a list of candidates featuring many different names.

To get a jump on this, I went ahead and put together a list of various coaches who could potentially be candidates to replace Schwartz if a change is made. Some names are more realistic than others, and some probably aren't realistic at all. All of this is simply speculation about who might draw interest from the Lions. To get an idea of who might be out there to take over the Lions' head coaching job, I included virtually every option that seems somewhat possible. Take a look:

Current NFL coaches

Coach Current team Current position
Josh McDaniels New England Patriots Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
McDaniels had a rough two-year stint with the Broncos, but after returning to New England, many think he will get another shot at a head coaching gig.
Jay Gruden Cincinnati Bengals Offensive coordinator
The brother of Jon Gruden, Jay has helped develop Andy Dalton in Cincinnati. If any Gruden is going to get a head coaching job this year, it's likely Jay.
Pep Hamilton Indianapolis Colts Offensive coordinator
Hamilton spent time at Stanford before heading to Indianapolis in 2013. He is expected to land a head coaching job sooner rather than later.
Adam Gase Denver Broncos Offensive coordinator
Gase went to Michigan State and was the Lions' quarterbacks coach in 2007. This year, he's been in charge of the Broncos' explosive offense.
Ken Whisenhunt San Diego Chargers Offensive coordinator
Whisenhunt led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl as head coach, and he won a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh as offensive coordinator. He will likely be a top candidate for several head coaching jobs this offseason.
Pat Shurmur Philadelphia Eagles Offensive coordinator
Shurmur, who attended Michigan State, struggled mightily as the Browns' head coach from 2011-12. However, perhaps he will get another shot at being a head coach if a team strikes out with its top candidates.
Kyle Shanahan Washington Redskins Offensive coordinator
The son of Mike Shanahan, Kyle seems to be on track for a head coaching job at some point. He's probably still a few years away from that, though.
Aaron Kromer Chicago Bears Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach
Kromer has done wonders for the Bears' offensive line, and he had lots of success in New Orleans, although not as an interim head coach in 2012.
Dirk Koetter Atlanta Falcons Offensive coordinator
Koetter has been a head coach before in college, and he drew interest for various NFL head coaching jobs last year.
Pete Carmichael New Orleans Saints Offensive coordinator
Carmichael has served as the Saints' offensive coordinator since 2009, and he was involved with their high-powered offense even before then.
Greg Roman San Francisco 49ers Offensive coordinator
Roman has played a big role in developing Colin Kaepernick, and he's expected to end up with a head coaching gig somewhere in the next year or two.
Darrell Bevell Seattle Seahawks Offensive coordinator
Staying in the NFC West, Bevell has played a big role in developing Russell Wilson. He also will likely end up with a head coaching job in the near future.
Mike Pettine Buffalo Bills Defensive coordinator
Before landing in Buffalo this year, Pettine led the Jets' dominant defense.
Matt Patricia New England Patriots Defensive coordinator
Patricia has coached the offensive line, linebackers, safeties and defense in general in New England since joining the team in 2004.
Dean Pees Baltimore Ravens Defensive coordinator
Pees, a former Patriots defensive coordinator, has led Baltimore's defense since 2012.
Mike Zimmer Cincinnati Bengals Defensive coordinator
One of the names mentioned most often in coaching searches the last couple years, Zimmer seems poised to eventually get a head coaching job given what he's done with the Bengals defense.
Ray Horton Cleveland Browns Defensive coordinator
Horton is pretty highly thought of as a defensive coach, and he served as the Lions' secondary coach from 2002-03.
Wade Phillips Houston Texans Defensive coordinator/interim head coach
Phillips has lots of experience as a head coach and an interim coach. It's unlikely he will have the interim tag removed in Houston, and he's probably more likely to land elsewhere in another defensive coordinator role.
Jack Del Rio Denver Broncos Defensive coordinator
Del Rio did a solid job as the Broncos' interim head coach for about a month this season, and he's done a solid job in general with Denver's defense. He appears to be ready for another head coaching job.
Perry Fewell New York Giants Defensive coordinator
Fewell was once the Bills' interim head coach, and he's been with the Giants as their defensive coordinator ever since.
Mel Tucker Chicago Bears Defensive coordinator
Tucker has been a defensive coordinator for a few teams in the NFL, and he actually started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State.
Sean McDermott Carolina Panthers Defensive coordinator
McDermott has been the Panthers' defensive coordinator since 2011, and his unit has been one of the very best in all of the NFL this season.
Todd Bowles Arizona Cardinals Defensive coordinator
Bowles has done an outstanding job this season in Arizona, and he may be one of the hot names for teams looking for a defensive-minded head coach.
Vic Fangio San Francisco 49ers Defensive coordinator
Another coach from the Stanford/San Francisco/Jim Harbaugh coaching tree, Fangio has been in charge of the dominant 49ers defense since 2011.
Dan Quinn Seattle Seahawks Defensive coordinator
Quinn took over as the Seahawks' defensive coordinator this year, and he could be the next Seattle assistant to land a head coaching job.
Dave Toub Kansas City Chiefs Special teams coordinator
A former Bears special teams coordinator, Toub has interviewed for head coaching jobs in the past. Perhaps he will be the next special teams coordinator to get a shot at leading his own team.
Mike Shanahan
Washington Redskins Head coach
Shanahan may be on his way out with the Redskins after a difficult last year or so. He will likely warrant a look from teams in need of a head coach if he is indeed let go.
Hue Jackson Cincinnati Bengals Running backs coach
Jackson went 8-8 in his one season as the Raiders' head coach, and many people believe he deserves another shot at being a head coach.
Tom Cable Seattle Seahawks Offensive line coach/assistant head coach
Speaking of former Raiders head coaches, Cable could also get another shot at being a head coach at some point given what he's done in Seattle.

Former NFL coaches

Coach Last team Current job
Lovie Smith Chicago Bears N/A
The former Bears head coach will likely land a head coaching job somewhere this offseason given his relatively strong track record in Chicago.
Gary Kubiak Houston Texans N/A
The 2013 season wasn't kind to Kubiak, but he may not be out of work for long if the right situation comes along.
Jon Gruden Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday Night Football (ESPN) announcer
At this point, there's no reason to believe Gruden will leave the broadcast booth to coach again, but that won't stop people from mentioning him as a candidate.
Bill Cowher Pittsburgh Steelers The NFL Today (CBS) analyst
The same goes for Cowher. There's been no indication that he plans to return to coaching, but he is always mentioned as a candidate for openings.
Tony Dungy Indianapolis Colts Football Night in America (NBC) analyst
Dungy has already said that he doesn't plan to return to coaching. That's too bad for the Lions, as they have reportedly already reached out to him.

College coaches

Coach Current team Current position
Brian Kelly Notre Dame Head coach
Kelly has been linked to the Lions since last June. It's unclear if he will leave Notre Dame, but the Lions have reportedly already expressed interest in him.
David Shaw Stanford Head coach
Shaw doesn't seem likely to leave Stanford, where he's compiled a 34-6 career record. He's viewed as one of the top candidates out there, though.
Jim Mora UCLA Head coach
Mora has coached both the Falcons and Seahawks, and he's put together two solid years at UCLA. Might he jump back to the NFL?
Gus Malzahn Auburn Head coach
There's no indication that NFL teams even have any interest in Malzahn, but he's regarded as an offensive genius and led Auburn to the national championship game in his first season as the Tigers' head coach.
Kevin Sumlin Texas A&M Head coach
Because of what he's done in only two years at Texas A&M, Sumlin is viewed as a strong candidate to eventually jump to the NFL.
Charlie Strong Louisville Head coach
Strong doesn't have any NFL coaching experience, but he is an up-and-coming coach in the college ranks with a 36-15 record at Louisville.
Jimbo Fisher Florida State Head coach
Much like Malzahn, it's unclear if Fisher is even on the radar of NFL teams at this point. However, he has a 44-10 record at Florida State and will meet Malzahn in this season's national championship game.
Art Briles Baylor Head coach
If Briles leaves Baylor, he'll probably end up at Texas rather than an NFL job. And if he ends up in the NFL, the Redskins probably make the most sense as a landing spot given his connection to Robert Griffin III.
Bill O'Brien Penn State Head coach
Perhaps the hottest name in the coaching world right now, O'Brien is likely going to draw interest from every NFL team in need of a head coach. He was previously the Patriots' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and he's done wonders at Penn State despite a lot of off-the-field turmoil. If he is willing to leave Penn State after only two seasons, he will likely have his pick of multiple job offers.

UPDATE: Rex Ryan has been removed from this list with the Jets retaining him for next season.

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