Detroit Lions coaching search update: Where things stand with Pat Fitzgerald, Todd Bowles

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Two more names have emerged as potential targets in the Detroit Lions’ head coaching search.

The Lions plan to interview Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles next week, NFL Network reported Saturday. And the team has shown “some interest” in Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Bowles, 57, can begin interviewing Sunday, after Tampa’s wild card playoff game against Washington.

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He’s in his second season with the Buccaneers after a four-year run as New York Jets head coach, where he went 24-40, had one winning season and failed to make the playoffs.

Bowles was a finalist for the Lions’ head coaching job that went to Jim Schwartz in 2009. He served as interim coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2011, and this season ran one of the NFL’s best defenses.

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The Bucs led the league in rushing defense during the regular season and finished in the top 10 in total (sixth) and scoring (eighth) defense. They beat the Lions, 47-7, on Dec. 26, when they held the Lions without an offensive touchdown.

The Lions played that game without five coaches, including interim head coach Darrell Bevell, because of COVID-19 protocols, and lost quarterback Matthew Stafford to a sprained ankle on their opening drive.

New Orleans Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell also plans to interview with the Lions next week. Like Bowles, Campbell served a stint as interim Dolphins head coach.

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The Lions are known to prefer previous experience in at least one of their hires, at head coach or general manager.

Fitzgerald, Northwestern’s coach for the past 15 seasons and a former Wildcats linebackers, has long been considered one of the best coaches in college football and until recently has spurned overtures from NFL teams.

ESPN reported last month that Fitzgerald, who led the Wildcats to the Big Ten championship game, was finally ready to consider NFL opportunities after former Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips left to become commissioner of the ACC.

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While Fitzgerald checks off much of what the Lions are looking for in a head coach, some around the league believe he is gearing up for a run at the Chicago Bears head coaching job, should the Bears decide to move on from Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace after this weekend’s wild card games.

The Lions have interviewed 11 people for their GM job and four candidates so far for head coach: Bevell, Marvin Lewis, Eric Bieniemy and Robert Saleh.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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