Wednesday was a bit of a crazy day for the NFL and the Detroit Lions when it came to their head coach and general manager search. The day started with a spectacular rumor that was only squashed a few hours later. Then, the first real domino of the NFL GM carousel fell with the Denver Broncos hiring former Vikings assistant general manager George Paton, who appeared to be high on Detroit’s wish list.
Throughout the rest of the day, rumors were sprinkled about the internet, as the Lions confirmed a couple of interviews and reportedly scheduled a couple more.
So let’s get everyone caught up on what the latest news is and what you can expect from the Lions’ search in the upcoming days.
Head coaching search
Scheduled interviews: Todd Bowles (1/15)
Second interviews: Arthur Smith (1/15)
A finalist emergest
On Wednesday, it was reported by Ian Rapoport that the Lions were bringing in Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith for a second interview, making him the first clear finalist for the Lions’ job. It’s interesting that he’ll be scoring an in-person interview on the same day that the Lions will be interviewing Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles virtually for the first time.
Smith will be a tough candidate to wrangle, however. He’s already had a second interview with the Falcons and Jets. He’s already interviewed for the Jaguars and Chargers job. He’s scheduled to interview with the Eagles on Thursday and the Texans have put in a request, too.
What about Saleh?
It appeared the New York Jets may land Saleh, as they hosted him for a second interview on Wednesday. However, he left New York without accepting the job, and will apparently explore all of his options. He has already since headed down to Florida for a meeting with the Eagles.
While the trail seems to have gone cold for the Lions, MMQB’s Albert Breer had this interesting note, still linking the Lions and Saleh (emphasis is mine)
Saleh could have multiple opportunities—I’m told he’s stayed in touch with Detroit throughout, even as he headed to interview in-person with the Jets. So it’s certainly possible that the Jets move on Saleh, and Saleh’s people try and get an answer from the Lions on where they stand. Would the Lions then bring their process to an abrupt end in order to land Saleh? That I’m less sure of.
Breer also believes the addition of Ed Dodds to their GM interview list could indicate a deeper interest in Saleh, as Dodd’s is high on Saleh’s list of GM candidates.
Dan Campbell gaining traction?
Mike Fisher of Dallas 105.3 The Fan and CowboysSI.com, believes Campbell has strong support inside the Lions organization.
#Lions rumors had them falling in love with #49ers DC Robert Saleh as HC. But source tells me there is influence in their building that favors Dan Campbell, the former #Cowboys TE now a top #Saints assistant. pic.twitter.com/fbjX4FE0fU— fishsports (@fishsports) January 12, 2021
Completed interviews: Kyle O’Brien (early December), Lance Newmark (early December), Rob Lohman (early December), Louis Riddick (12/18), Rick Smith (12/21), Scott Pioli (~12/21), Thomas Dimitroff (~12/21), Terry Fontenot (1/5), George Paton (1/6), Brad Holmes (1/6), Jeff Ireland (1/8), Ed Dodds (1/12)
Second interviews: Brad Holmes (1/13)
Kevin Colbert rumor false
Early on Wednesday, 97.1 reported that the Lions had given long-time Steelers GM Kevin Colbert an offer, and a deal was “pretty close to happening.” Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free press seemed to corroborate that story, quickly adding on Twitter that he wouldn’t rule out Colbert for the job, and “if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen soon or not at all.”
However, it was shortly reported thereafter that the Lions had not even submitted a request to the Steelers to interview Colbert, which would obviously mean no deal is on the table. Later, Michael Stone of 97.1 recanted his report that a deal was imminent:
Obviously my information has been debunked. This does not mean there isn’t or wasn’t back channel things going on. This is a reputable football person, not a limo driver,lawyer or chef. It appears he is wrong and that is on me.— michael stone (@stoney16) January 13, 2021
That doesn’t take things completely off the table for the Lions and Colbert to potentially strike a deal, but apparently communication is nowhere near where it was suggested on Wednesday. But it’s worth nothing there has been some smoke there from the very beginning of the process.
Brad Holmes is your favorite
Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes has emerged as the favorite for the Lions job. That comes as no surprise, considering he was the first to score an in-person interview, which was confirmed by the team on Wednesday.
Holmes is also considered a finalist for the Falcons job, along with Terry Fontenot and Rick Smith.
Three other top candidates
Per Albert Breer, the Lions still plan on bringing in three more candidates for an in-person interview: Colts assistant general manager Ed Dodds, Saints VP/assistant GM of pro personnel Terry Fontenot, and Saints VP/assistant GM of college personnel Jeff Ireland. George Paton was on that list as well, but he took the Broncos job on Wednesday.
Here’s where things get tricky, though. The Lions cannot interview Fontenot or Ireland in person until the Saints are out of the playoffs (or it’s the week between the Super Bowl and the Conference Championship games). So right now they’re stuck. They can bring Dodds in for another interview, but then they’ll either have to wait on a decision, or skip Ireland and Fontenot completely and pick from Dodds and Holmes (or another candidate that hasn’t emerged from the group.) If you’re the impatient type, you should probably root for the Buccaneers to topple the Saints this weekend.
Breer suggests Detroit’s general manager search may be intrinsically tied to whoever they decide will be the head coach.
“If Saleh gets the job, I think Dodds will become the favorite to get the GM job,” Breer wrote on Wednesday. “If one of the Saints guys land there, then Campbell could make sense.”