The Detroit Lions have been linked to three candidates in their search for a new offensive coordinator, and all three appear to be headed elsewhere.
Todd Monken, who reportedly was set to interview with the Lions last week, was introduced as a Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator on Monday. Monken will not have play-calling duties in Cleveland, but new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said Monken chose the Browns over other opportunities “based on people.”
It’s unclear how serious the Lions got with Monken, who interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ vacant offensive coordinator position last week and oversaw the NFL’s top-ranked passing offense with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.
Nate Hackett, the former Jaguars coordinator who was fired in November and emerged as a potential replacement for Jim Bob Cooter earlier this month, is reportedly joining the Green Bay Packers as offensive coordinator.
Hackett was widely considered one of the favorites for the Lions job after spending the past 2.5 seasons calling plays for the Jaguars and Matt Patricia’s good friend, Doug Marrone. He was largely seen as a scapegoat for having Blake Bortles as quarterback and an injured Leonard Fournette in the backfield.
And former Atlanta Falcons coach Steve Sarkisian, a potential Lions target as reported by SiriusXM NFL radio, is expected to join Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama. Sarkisian previously worked under Saban and briefly held the coordinator position there. ESPN reported that he was offered the job as Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator before opting to return to college.
So where does that leave the Lions in their search to replace Cooter? Here’s what we know.
Who else is a candidate for the job?
There are four teams still alive in the NFL playoffs and it’s entirely possible the Lions have their eyes on someone from one of those teams. Both Patricia and Bob Quinn got their NFL starts with the New England Patriots, and the Patriots have one well-regarded play-calling candidate on their coaching staff.
Wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea was considered the leading candidate to replace Josh McDaniels in New England had McDaniels landed a head coaching job this hiring cycle. He didn’t, and it’s possible that O’Shea is ready to branch out on his own after 10 years in New England. Tight ends coach Nick Caley and assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski aren’t as experienced as O’Shea, and would make risky hires, but also are considered rising talents in the coaching world.
Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams staff is set to lose quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor to the head coaching job with the Cincinnati Bengals, and pass game coordinator Shane Waldron could be on the Lions’ radar for OC, too. Waldron spent five seasons with the Patriots, where he worked with Patricia and Quinn, and does not have play-calling duties in Los Angeles, which he would in Detroit.
The Lions also have two former offensive coordinators on their current coaching staff, quarterbacks coach George Godsey and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, and there are other potential play callers (Charlie Weis, another ex-Patriots assistant, and Darrell Bevell) currently out of work if they want to go that route.
When should we expect a hire?
Cooter was fired two weeks ago Tuesday, and though the NFL sometimes moves at lightning speed, it’s not like this search has gone on unreasonably long. Six other teams still have OC jobs to fill, including the Jaguars (who’ve been looking since November), Cardinals, Bengals, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans.
The Lions, Jaguars and Titans are the only teams on that list with a returning head coach, and the Titans just had their OC hired away by the Packers, so I understand why fans are starting to get antsy about the hire.
But Quinn declined to put a timetable on the search earlier this month, and it’s entirely possible he did that knowing it could be a long wait with Patricia’s preferred hire on a team expected to play deep into winter. According to NFL rules, the Lions are not allowed to interview candidates on other teams unless they’re granted permission and until their seasons are done, so that could be part of the hold up.
What does it say about Patricia that a hire isn’t done?
Nothing yet. We don’t know if Patricia offered the OC job to anyone and was turned down, and while some Lions fans have taken Kitchens’ comments as a jab at their team, that’s a bit of a leap right now. The Browns have an incredibly attractive situation with Baker Mayfield at quarterback and a young, talented roster, Monken already is on NFL teams’ radars as a potential head coach — he interviewed for the Jets job that went to Adam Gase — and again, we don’t know the extent of the Lions’ interest.
Maybe it says he’s taking his time with a very important hire, maybe it says he wants to hire one of his New England cronies, and maybe, if people have in fact turned the job done, it says the Lions aren’t that attractive a destination. We should find all that out in due time.
What have Quinn and Patricia had to say about the search?
Nothing so far. Neither man has returned messages in the past week or so. Perhaps one or both will be compelled to talk at the Senior Bowl next week, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on it.
Who do you think they hire?
The smart money is and always has been on a person Patricia has worked with before, someone like O’Shea, Waldron or even Godsey. Like it or not, that’s often how things go in the NFL, and in the absence of a slam-dunk hire here, I think that’s what ends up happening.
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