Detroit Lions coaching stock watch: Two college hot names headed in different directions

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions have interviewed three internal candidates for their general manager job, but things are naturally moving a little slower on the coaching side. With most of this year’s top coaching candidates currently employed by other NFL teams, the Lions will have to wait until the regular season ends to meet with their top choices. Until then, the only thing to do is measure their progress on the field. Here is a look at who helped and who hurt their chances of replacing Matt Patricia as head coach from Week 15:

[ Lions stock watch: Give Matthew Stafford his due, and the defense an enema ]

Stock up

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald has long been considered one of the holy grails of the college coaching ranks, though until this year he has shown no interest in leaving. Well, after leading the Wildcats to the Big Ten championship game, ESPN reported that Fitzgerald might finally be tempted by an NFL job. He played at Northwestern, genuinely seems to enjoy being in his home state of Illinois and might only leave for the Chicago Bears. I personally doubt the Lions would have the cache to lure him to the pros, but he’s definitely worth a phone call if he’s listening.

Buffalo Bills OC Brian Daboll: Daboll is on this list for a second straight week because it’s impossible to ignore what’s going on in Buffalo. The Bills hung 48 points on Denver last week to win their first AFC East title since 1995, and Daboll’s offense — and the play of quarterback Josh Allen — is a big reason why. Allen has made tremendous strides in his third NFL season to the point that he could garner MVP votes. Daboll has had success at a number of stops in college and the NFL, and after striking out with defensive-minded coaches in three of their last four hires, the Lions need to explore some of the league’s top offensive minds.

Tennessee Titans OC Arthur Smith: Speaking of offense, Smith made quite the case for an interview Sunday when his Titans put up 46 points and 463 yards of offense in an easy win over the Lions. He’s a bright offensive mind with an interesting backstory, and his desire to “beat the tar out of people” should resonate with new Lions adviser Chris Spielman. Smith, like Daboll, will not be able to interview until the week of Jan. 11, but he could have a full dance card with all the head coaching jobs that are going to be open. 

MORE ON SMITH: What to know about the the Titans play caller

Stock down

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell: Campbell is the best college coach who is considered likely to jump to the NFL at some point, but his Cyclones dug themselves a big hole in a Big 12 championship game loss to Oklahoma and he had a sideline rant for the ages that might turn off some prospective employers. The image of an irate Campbell will fade over time, but for now it has to be etched in the mind of owners doing their diligence on potential head coaches.

REPLACING PATRICIA: 5 candidates for new Lions coach

San Francisco 49ers DC Robert Saleh: Saleh’s star remains bright as a coaching candidate, but his defense did not have its best game Sunday, when the Dallas Cowboys, playing without Ezekiel Elliott and with Andy Dalton at quarterback, put 41 points on the board. The 49ers have serious injury issues on both sides of the ball, and they committed four turnovers that led to the down day. But they’re also 5-9, and hiring a coach from a losing program is not always an easy sell.

Atlanta Falcons interim HC Raheem Morris: In mid-November, Morris seemed like a good candidate to either get the full-time job in Atlanta or get a second chance as head coach somewhere else. But the Falcons have lost four of five games since the bye and on Sunday they blew a 17-0 halftime lead in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the Kansas City Chiefs and a rematch in Tampa ahead, Morris has his work cut out to generate some buzz again.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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