Whole Nine Sports

Detroit Lions Head Coach Candidates

Detroit Lions head coach
Nathan Rarick
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The Detroit Lions have moved on from Matt Patricia after yet another disappointing loss last week on Thanksgiving. In 43 games as the Detroit Lions head coach, he had only 13 wins and finished last in the NFC North the last two years and was on pace to again this year. When Patricia took over the Lions, they were a team contending for a playoff spot and now they are a team needing to rebuild. This organization needs to decide over the next month if they want to blow it up and rebuild or continue with the same core they have.

That decision will have an impact on who they hire to lead this team for the foreseeable future. The Lions have a good QB in Matt Stafford, good young running backs in DeAndre Swift and Kerryon Johnson, two reliable pass catchers in WR Kenny Golladay (who they should re-sign) and 2nd year TE TJ Hockenson. They could also trade Stafford and not re-sign Golladay and go through a rebuild with whoever they decide to hire. The Lions cannot interview any candidates until their team’s season is over. So here is a list of coaches the Lions should consider for their next head coach. 

Robert Saleh, 49ers Defensive Coordinator

robert saleh detroit lions
(Photo by MSA/Icon Sportswire)

If you ask me, Robert Saleh should be the next head coach of the Detroit Lions. He grew up 2 miles from the Lions facility, played college football in Michigan, got his Masters and coached at Michigan State and his family still lives in Michigan. So this almost makes too much sense for the Lions. Aside from all his ties to Michigan, Saleh is a darn good football coach.

If you watch any 49ers game, you will see Saleh going crazy on the sideline when his defense makes a big play. This is the type of coach players want to play for and the type of energy the Lions need in their next coach. Along with the energy he brings, his knowledge to develop and scheme defenses is amongst the best in the league if not the best. Look at the 49ers defense this year that has been ravaged by injuries but they are still a top 5 defense this year. He will come in and re-energize this organization that is in desperate need of some life.

Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs Offensive Coordinator

eric bieniemy
(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

Bieniemy is a common name when head coach jobs open up across the league. He has had interviews with teams before and coming off a Superbowl title and another impressive season to this point. Expect Bieniemy to land a head coaching job this offseason. Bieniemy is an offensive coach so he may not be attracted to Detroit especially with some teams like the Falcons and Texans needing a head coach. Those teams have more offensive firepower than the Lions do at this point. The Lions should still see if Bieniemy is interested because putting Matt Stafford in a similar type of offensive scheme the Chiefs have would be a lot of fun to see. He will bring a championship pedigree and culture to Detroit that they thought they were getting with Patricia but didn’t. 

Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Head Coach

lincoln riley
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Riley has been on the radar of NFL teams for a couple of years now. He did just sign a contract extension through 2025 but many college coaches have left their school to land a job in the NFL. The NFL is now an offensive league and that is what Riley does best. His offense down in Oklahoma has produced two 1st overall picks in the last 3 years and multiple other high draft picks. If the Lions decide to head into a rebuild, they should consider hiring Riley and let him start fresh with his own QB. Look what the Cardinals did with Kingsbury and Murray.

The Lions should follow that plan and get Riley the QB he desires to play in his system whether it’s veteran QB or a rookie QB. Riley may need to hire some coaches with experience in the NFL but we have seen that before. McVay had Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator when he started with the Rams so setting Riley up with a proven coach could help ease the transition. It’s yet another year of “Will Lincoln Riley finally leave for the NFL?” that will probably again end with him wanting to stay in Oklahoma.

Joe Brady, Panthers Offensive Coordinator

Joe Brady detroit lions

Like Riley, hiring Brady would probably signal a rebuild as he would want to bring in his own personnel. Brady has had a meteoric rise over the last few years. After helping lead LSU to a National Championship and breaking a plethora of offensive records, he landed a job as the Panthers offensive coordinator. The Panthers aren’t having a great deal of success but that is not due to the offense.

The Panthers are the 9th best offense in the league and that’s with RB Christian McCaffrey missing most of the season. Brady is young and doesn’t have any head coaching experience but his offensive mind will intrigue a lot of NFL teams. The connections he has made with the Panthers this year and from the time he spent with the Saints will help him build a solid coaching staff around him. Snatching him up before another team can could change the future for the Detroit Lions.