Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Coach fits Lions’ needs; Browns wait



Let us review.

The Detroit Lions have a franchise-caliber quarterback, arguably the finest receiver in the game, a pretty good running game, one of the better defensive lines, stable ownership, and were considered the pick of the litter among available NFL head coaching positions.

The Ford family’s jet was warming up on the tarmac, ready to whisk Ken Whisenhunt from San Diego to the Motor City to join his former teammate, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, at the top of the franchise food chain.

And Whiz instead took the Tennessee Titans coaching job.

Let us review.

The Titans have an ownership and front office in transition. Their quarterback of the future has yet to be identified. The star running back is unhappy.

Something seems amiss.

Considering former Lions coach Jim Schwartz was making in the neighborhood of $6 million, which is a fine neighborhood indeed, the decision could not have been based on money.

Detroit versus Nashville? These guys spend 23 hours a day locked inside the team facility, so if there was a franchise in Fallujah the neighborhood wouldn’t be a big issue.

Speaking of Fallujah, the Cleveland coaching search continues. We’ll get back to that.

The Lions’ search, meanwhile, is over. After Whiz went south, Jim Caldwell signed on. As second, or perhaps third, choices go he is not a bad pick. He knows his way around a Super Bowl.

Before his recent interview with the Lions, Caldwell watched tapes of every Lions game and every Matthew Stafford pass of the 2013 season. Stafford reportedly sat in on part of the interview and liked what he heard and the coach’s attention to detail. Bill Ford, the president, got a glowing recommendation from Tony Dungy.

So Jim Caldwell — not Bill O’Brien, not Lovie Smith, not Jay Gruden, and mysteriously not the Whiz — got the choice NFL gig. If you subscribe to the theory that the Lions are close, maybe very close, to an NFC championship run, Caldwell is a poised, cerebral, quiet, and steady hand who may have as good a chance as anybody to get them there.

As a head coach, he steered the Colts to the 2009 Super Bowl, losing to the Saints. He has two Super Bowl rings as an assistant, most recently a year ago when he oversaw Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense.

Ignore some of his 26-22 record with the Colts. He was 24-8 with Peyton Manning and 2-14 without him. His quarterbacks in 2011 were Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. Not exactly Matthew Stafford.

With Whiz and Caldwell settled and with Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer poised to become the new coach of the Vikings, only the Browns continue to pursue a head coach.

They were among the first to create an opening with the surprising and rather heartless dismissal of first-year coach Rob Chudzinski, so why not be last?

No one knows for sure what owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are thinking, if anything, but it appears all their hopes may be pinned to Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who has yet to be interviewed because of playoff obligations, with former Titans head coach Mike Munchak in reserve.

It appears Josh McDaniel, supposedly the early choice, decided he would rather remain as the Patriots’ O-coordinator than take the top job in Cleveland. Insert your own punch line here.

But someone will take the job. Won’t they? Anybody? Please.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.

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