4 candidates for next Detroit Lions head coach

Lions look to future after house cleaning

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 29: San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh looks on in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during their game at CenturyLink Field on December 29, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 29: San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh looks on in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during their game at CenturyLink Field on December 29, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) (2019 Abbie Parr)

The Detroit Lions are once again looking for a new general manager and head coach after firing Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn on Saturday.

The firings follow a blowout loss to Houston on Thanksgiving and multiple years of under-achieving.

“It clearly wasn’t working,” Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp said on a Zoom call with reporters. “Ten days ago, we looked like we had a good chance to be playoff bound and both of those games were extremely disappointing. Yes, we thought it was a good time to make a change.”

Ultimately, it’ll be up to the new general manager to hire a new head coach. And without knowing who the new GM is, it’s impossible to know which way they would lean. But there are a handful of candidates that will be on any team’s coaching radar.

4 Detroit Lions head coaching candidates

Robert Saleh

Saleh is the current defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and is the odds on favorite to land the job in Detroit -- probably because he’s from the Detroit area.

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 01: Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the first half of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 1, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) (2019 Scott Taetsch)

Saleh, 41, is from Dearborn and was raised a Detroit Lions fan. He graduated from Fordson High School and played football at Northern Michigan University, earning a degree in finance. He actually worked at Comerica Bank after college.

Saleh is known as a players coach and has built a 49ers defense that gets the job done -- and adapts quickly and effectively. The 49ers have the 6th best defense, including 4th best pass defense. He helped lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl last year.

Eric Bieniemy

Bieniemy is currently the offensive coordinator for the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs and will be a top coaching prospect around the league this offseason.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 12: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy watches pregame warmups prior to the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) (2020 David Eulitt)

Bieniemy, 51, is from New Orleans and has been OC in Kansas City since 2018, helping to lead the team to a Super Bowl win last year.

Bieniemy is known as a motivational voice who gets the most of out of his players. Kansas City is the league’s top ranked offense behind QB Patrick Mahomes, scoring more than 30 points per game.

Arthur Smith

The Tennessee Titans have been the surprise team of the last two years under head coach Mike Vrabel -- but a lot of their success has come of the offensive side under offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 19: Tight ends coach Arthur Smith of the Tennessee Titans talks with Phillip Supernaw #89 during a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Nissan Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) (2017 Joe Robbins)

Smith is credited with turning QB Ryan Tannehill into the franchise quarterback they needed when the team decided to start Tannehill in Week 7 of last year.

Smith, 38, is from Memphis and has been with the Titans since 2011. The Titans have the 8th ranked offensive in the league, including 3rd in rushing, thanks to Derrick Henry.

Brian Daboll

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is a longtime coaching assistant who will likely get a shot at being a head coach at some point.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 27: Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll of the Buffalo Bills walks to the field before an NFL game against the Philadelphia Eagles at New Era Field on October 27, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) (2019 Bryan Bennett)

Daboll has turned the Bills into a top-10 offense behind QB Josh Allen. He spent several years in New England under Bill Belichick, along with Kansas City, the Jets and the Dolphins. He also helped lead Alabama to a NCAA championship in 2017 as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Daboll, 45, is from Ontario and worked as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1998.

Some other names to watch:

  • Colts DC Matt Eberflus
  • Rams OC Kevin O’Connell
  • Former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis
  • Ravens OC Greg Roman

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.