Reassessing head coach, GM candidates: Who do you want Detroit Lions to hire?

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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Maybe there is a dark horse candidate out there, a college coach who does not want it known how seriously he is considering a jump to the NFL.

Maybe the Detroit Lions will be able to lure away a sitting general manager, someone like Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider, who didn’t totally shoot down the possibility of leaving Seattle when asked last week. Or the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Kevin Colbert, whose ties to the Lions organization run deep and is on a contract that expires in May.

Short of those scenarios, though, the next Lions head coach and GM will come from the list of currently known candidates for the job.

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The Lions already have interviewed seven men to replace Bob Quinn as GM, and two to replace Matt Patricia as head coach, and they have two more interviews on tap Tuesday: Interim head coach Darrell Bevell, and reportedly New Orleans Saints assistant GM Terry Fontenot.

“I think that we’re probably to the point where we’ve put it forward every name that we’re going to consider, but we’ve had names that we’ve considered and re-stacked and reordered, and there are a handful that we may still pursue,” Lions president Rod Wood said Tuesday. “But right now I’m assuming that the candidates that we’re interviewing, one of them will be our next head coach and one of them will be our next general manager.”

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The Lions have confirmed nine interviews so far: In-house candidates Kyle O’Brien, Lance Newmark and Rob Lohman, ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, and ex-NFL GMs Rick Smith and Thomas Dimitroff for GM; and former Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for head coach.

Wood said the team is going down parallel paths with its search, and talking to candidates for both positions about what they are looking for and who they are considering in the other job.

“We’ve been sharing our ideas and they’ve been sharing with us their ideas on who a good coach would be if it was a general manager candidate, vice versa if it was a head coaching candidate,” Wood said. “So there’s going to be no surprise, I don’t think, at the end who we end up hiring on both sides, and what we’re really looking for is people that can work together and be partners and not one working for the other, necessarily.”

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After Tuesday’s interviews, the Lions have virtual meetings scheduled with three known GM candidates (L.A. Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes, Minnesota Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Saints assistant GM Jeff Ireland), and at least two head coach candidates (San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell). 

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Sports Illustrated reported Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will interview with the Lions next week, but multiple sources told the Free Press that Smith might not take that interview.

Of the 13 GM candidates (including Schneider and Colbert) and six coach candidates (including Smith), several have previous working relationships.

Schneider worked with both Saleh and Bevell in Seattle. Ireland, Fontenot and Campbell work together in New Orleans now. Campbell and Ireland worked together previously with the Miami Dolphins, and Campbell played in Detroit when Newmark and Lohman were in the front office.

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Saleh and Smith worked together with the Houston Texans. Paton was in Minnesota with both Bevell and Bieniemy. Bevell has worked with all three in-house GM candidates the past two seasons. And both Colbert and Dimitroff have roots in the organization dating back to when new Lions adviser Chris Spielman was a player.

That does not mean one of those pairings will reunite in Detroit, but Wood said teamwork and communication are paramount.

“It doesn’t require us to hire a general manager first,” Wood said. “It may work out that way because we’re a little bit ahead of the general manager search relative to the head coaching search, but if we find the perfect head coach and we’ve not yet found a general manager, we’re not going to wait on the coach. We’re in competition with other teams who are interviewing some of the same people, and it’s important, I think, to get the right coach. If that means we have to hire a coach first, that’s what we’ll do.”

Call me crazy but Lions have several reasons for hope entering uncertain future ]

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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