Detroit Lions can hire Dan Campbell as head coach after New Orleans Saints loss

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions are free to hire their preferred choice for head coach.

The New Orleans Saints lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC divisional playoff game Sunday, 30-20, ending assistant head coach Dan Campbell’s season.

The Lions have zeroed in on Campbell as their next head coach, and can now bring him to town for a second interview this week.

Lions president Rod Wood has said he would not hire a new head coach or GM until meeting that candidate in person, and NFL rules prohibit teams from hiring coaches until their seasons are done.

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Campbell, a former NFL tight end who played for the Lions in 2006-08, is in his fifth season with the Saints after starting his coaching career in 2010 with the Miami Dolphins.

He coached tight ends for most of his tenure in Miami, and went 5-7 as interim head coach after Joe Philbin was fired in 2015.

Jake Stoneburner, a former Dolphins tight end, said Campbell was a master motivator and great teacher who should excel as a head coach.

“He’s not going to bring some defensive guru knowledge to the table,” Stoneburner said. “He’s pretty smart offensively. Yeah, he only played tight end, but he’s been in the NFL a long time to be able to know what’s going on, be pretty good on the offensive side. But sometimes teams just need a leader, and people to want to win for. I think that’s goes a (long way) in the NFL, wanting to win for a coach. That gets a team going, I think.”

Campbell is expected to hire playcallers on both sides of the ball, and he could bring at least one Saints assistant with him on defense.

New Orleans assistants Ryan Nielsen and Aaron Glenn are among the leading candidates to be the next Lions defensive coordinator, along with ex-Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

Trinity University strength coach Mike Clark also is expected to take a similar job with the Lions.

Clark was Campbell’s strength coach at Texas A&M and spent 13 seasons in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears and Washington.

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The Lions interviewed five other candidates for the job, and two already have accepted other head coaching positions: Arthur Smith was introduced as the Atlanta Falcons new head coach last week, and Robert Saleh was hired by the New York Jets.

Interim Lions head coach Darrell Bevell, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and ex-Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis also interviewed for the job.

None have been contacted about a second interview.

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

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