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Report: Detroit Lions already pursuing Mike Vrabel, Steve Wilks, Matt Patricia for head coaching vacancy

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The first three likely candidates for the Lions head coaching job have emerged.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions are apparently wasting little time in filling Jim Caldwell’s vacancy at head coach. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, general manager Bob Quinn has already identified two top candidates: Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia:

Patricia comes as no surprise, as he’s been the name most commonly linked to the Lions ever since it looked like Caldwell was on the way out. Quinn obviously has a lot of familiarity with Patricia and knows what he’s capable of.

Quinn is also likely very familiar with Vrabel, as the former NFL linebacker spent most of his playing career with the Patriots while Quinn was working there as a member of the scouting and personnel teams. Vrabel has since climbed the ranks of the Texans’ coaching ladder, starting as a linebackers coach and working his way up to defensive coordinator this season.

Vrabel has had a lot of talent at his disposal in Houston, but he has also helped build the careers of some of the most feared defensive players in the league including Brian Cushing and Jadeveon Clowney.

The Lions have a slew of young linebackers that could use some mentoring—including rookies Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Who better to help coach them up than one of the best all-time linebackers in the league?

The Detroit News’ Justin Rogers threw a third name into the mix: Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks:

Wilks has been coaching football for over 20 years and has yet to get a head coaching job. However, he has helped build a solid defense in Carolina since joining the team as a defensive backs coach in 2012.

Promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017, Wilks quickly helped turn around the Panthers after a disappointing 2016 season marred by injuries. He would be comfortable in Detroit, as the Lions have a ton of secondary talent.

While it’s still very young in the Lions’ head coaching search, it is interesting to see the first three names linked to the Lions be defensive coaches. The Lions defense has struggled since Ndamukong Suh left town after the 2014 season, but that side of the ball has also been devoid of talent.

We’ll see if this trend continues as the Lions’ coaching search progresses.