| Detroit Free Press
NFL headlines: Chiefs clinch top seed in AFC playoffs
The season is winding down and the playoff picture is coming into focus. Week 16 saw more postseason tickets punched and the Kansas City Chiefs clinching the best record in the league.
The Detroit Lions have interviewed seven candidates for their general manager job, but things are 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 16.
San Francisco 49ers DC Robert Saleh: The people’s choice to be the next Lions coach oversaw another stellar defensive effort Saturday as the 49ers dealt the Arizona Cardinals’ playoff hopes a blow, holding them to 12 points and a paltry 4.4 yards per play. Saleh’s players consistently sing his praises, including linebacker Fred Werner this week. “Best DC in the league,” Warner said. “Love that guy, know he’s going to be a great head coach one day soon.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles: Bowles has not generated much head coaching buzz, but he should be of interest to any team that wants experience. He had one winning record in four seasons with the New York Jets, and his defense is a big reason why Tampa is headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Bucs, of course, held the Lions without an offensive touchdown last week. Bowles interviewed for the Lions’ head coaching job in 2009.
New Orleans Saints assistant HC Dan Campbell: Campbell is another under-the-radar name who has ties to the Lions (he played tight end in Detroit in 2006-08), previous head coaching experience (as interim coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2015, when he went 5-7) and is part of one of the NFL’s best-run organizations now (the Saints won their fourth straight NFC South title over the weekend). He came into the league as a player under Bill Parcells, and while he has never been a coordinator, does carry a Mike Vrabel-like presence that resonates as a leader of men.
Tennessee Titans OC Arthur Smith: Smith made “stock up” last week after his Titans hung 46 points on the Lions. This week, he’s on the “stock down” list after Tennessee struggled to move the ball against the Green Bay Packers in the snow. The Titans’ struggles were not necessarily Smith’s fault; quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two interceptions and the Packers ganged up to stop Derrick Henry with tough passing conditions. But if Smith wants to be Lions coach, he’s going to have to do better at Lambeau Field.
New York Giants OC Jason Garrett: This is Garrett’s third appearance on stock watch, with his fortunes fluctuating like the Giants’ playoff hopes. On Sunday, Garrett’s offense whimpered through the first half of an important game against the Ravens, putting up 95 total yards and three points in an eventual 27-13 loss. The Giants are lucky to still be in the playoff mix given the state of their roster, and the good on Garrett’s resume – 85 wins in 10 seasons as Dallas Cowboys coach – can’t be overlooked. But if the Lions want a hire to rejuvenate the fan base, hiring Garrett as Patricia’s replacement will not be it.
Indianapolis Colts DC Matt Eberflus: The Colts had one of the NFL’s best defenses in the first half of the season, but have fallen on hard times of late. They’ve allowed at least 27 points in four of their past six games, and on Sunday gave up 21 points in the final 19 minutes to blow a 24-7 lead. Eberflus should get head coaching interviews this offseason. But after the Lions’ last failed experience with a defensive coordinator, he may not be a fit in Detroit.