Lions Wire editors Jeff Risdon and Erik Schlitt have put their heads together to come up with a Top-10 list of candidates we believe Shelia Hamp Ford should heavily consider for the vacancy.
Those candidates are listed below in alphabetical order.
Eric Bieniemy, OC Kansas City Chiefs
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
After winning the 2020 Super Bowl as offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, Eric Bieniemy is going to be the hot name this offseason. A former NFL running back, Bieniemy played his college ball at the University of Colorado and was eventually selected in the second round by the Chargers. After spending his first four years in San Diego, he signed with the Bengals for the next four years, before ending his career with the Eagles in 1999. Bieniemy began his coaching career at Colorado in 2001 as their running backs coach, then shifted to UCLA, and on to the NFL in 2006, joining the Minnesota Vikings as their running backs coach, under then offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Over the next five years, Bieniemy would remain with the Vikings, coaching up Adrian Peterson, and earning an assistant head coach position in 2010. After his stint with the Vikings, Bieniemy went back to Colorado, this time as their offensive coordinator, but the NFL came calling once again, and he joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013. For the next five years, Bieniemy was the Chiefs running backs coach, before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018 -- his current position. Biemiemy's experience is heavily rooted in a West Coast scheme, something the Lions have been running the last two years under Bevell, so the adjustment on offense would be close to seamless. The major upside would be the creativity that comes along with his style. The idea of having Matthew Stafford and D'Andre Swift cut loose in a Biemiemy run offense is drool-worthy. It's worth noting that Biemiemy does have a few arrests on his record from his college and early professional days that are worth vetting but he has been incident-free for the last 27 years.
Brian Billick, Former Baltimore Ravens coach
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sport
Billick is a name from the past. The former Baltimore Ravens coach has not been employed since he left the team after the 2007 season, his ninth with the team. Billick stands out for his ability to win in diverse ways. Before he became the head coach in Baltimore, he was the architect of the record-setting Minnesota Vikings offenses of the late 1990s. Then he took over the Ravens and led them to a Super Bowl championship on the back of a dominant defense. It's a longshot, to be sure. Billick hasn't even interviewed for any positions in several years, instead spending his time working in the media. It's a situation akin to Dick Vermeil with the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams, a former coach returning to the NFL after a prolonged hiatus. That experiment worked well in part because Vermeil understood how to build a culture and relate to modern players. If Billick, 66, can do that like he did in Baltimore, there might not be a more accomplished and intelligent option for the Lions.
Matt Campbell, Head Coach Iowa State
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Campbell is routinely mentioned as one of the top candidates to make the jump from the college ranks. The 41-year-old has built a winning program at Iowa State after also doing so at Toledo, twice winning the Big 12 Coach of the Year in his four years in Ames. The son of a high school coach in Ohio, Campbell played at D-III powerhouse Mount Union. He picked up a lot of the positive coaching traits from legendary Mount Union coach Larry Kehres, who racked up a record of 332–24–3 at the small school in the Akron-Canton area. Campbell's teams are noted for being close-knit and accountable to one another. His background in coaching prior to taking over as a head coach focused on offense and the OL. Campbell's teams have churned out some impressive NFL running backs, including Kareem Hunt and David Montgomery.
Brian Daboll, OC Buffalo Bills
Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Daboll got his coaching start at Michigan State University as a graduate assistant in 1998 under coach Nick Saban. That turned into a job with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. He then followed Eric Mangini to the Jets and Browns as his OC. He then spent a year with Tony Sparano as OC of the Miami Dolphins, then another year as the Chiefs OC under Romeo Crennell. He would go back to Belichick, then back to Saban, and after 20 years in the business finally landed with Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills in 2018. Daboll is going to turn a lot of people away with his coaching roots stemming from the Saban/Belichick coaching tree but he has really blossomed as a coach under McDermott, completely altering his approach to offense. What Daboll has done with Josh Allen at quarterback is astounding and the Bills offense is Top-12 in the NFL in total yards per game, passing yards per game, and points scored per game.
Matt Eberflus, DC Indianapolis Colts
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Matt Eberflus began his coaching career at the University of Toledo in 1992, -- where he played linebacker under Nick Saban -- starting out as a graduate assistant, then being promoted to coach linebackers and defensive backs. He would spend the next eight years at the University of Missouri as their defensive coordinator before making his jump to the NFL. Eberflus' first NFL job came as linebackers coach for the Browns in 2009, but he really made his mark as the Cowboys linebacker coach from 2011-17. In 2018, his promotion to defensive coordinator in Indianapolis was anything but ordinary. That offseason, the Colts hired Josh McDaniels as their new head coach, and he began building a staff that included Eberflus. But in the eleventh hour, McDaniels backed out of his deal and returned to the Patriots. The Colts GM Chris Ballard thought so highly of Eberflus, he insisted that he remain with the organization regardless of who the new coach was (it would become Frank Reich). Ballard would quickly be proven right as Eberflus overhauled the defense in quick fashion, taking them from the bottom of the barrel and turning them into a hand-picked Top-5 squad in just two years. Eberflus' defense currently ranks 2nd in total yards allowed, 4th in pass yards allowed, 3rd in rushing yards allowed, and 6th in points allowed. Eberflus defense focuses on strength up the middle and runs primarily a zone concept scheme. While his base is Cover-2, he is not content to live there as he mixes in several Cover-3 concepts and beyond. The biggest challenge for Eberflus would be overhauling the Lions' linebacker corps, as he tends to rely on more speed at that level -- hello, Darius Leonard -- but considering this is his specialty, the turnover could happen quickly. Hiring Eberflus would require a lot of change on defense but it's hard to argue with the results he has achieved.
Marvin Lewis, Former Head Coach of the Cincinnati Bengals
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Lewis coached the Cincinnati Bengals for an astonishing 16 seasons, starting in 2003. He posted winning records in 10 of his first 13 before a steady decline in top-end talent on defense and middling quarterback play saw his Bengals lose at least nine games in all three of his final seasons. He had a record of 131-122-3 that includes seven trips to the postseason and four AFC North titles. He did not win a postseason game, however. Lewis, 62, has a defensive background. But the primary selling point for the former Ravens and Washington Football Team coordinator is his ability to mold a tough, physical team that was not easy to play against. Doing that in Cincinnati, which has fallen quite a bit farther following his departure, is a major accomplishment. When he took over in Cincinnati the Bengals were coming off a 2-14 finish and had posted a losing record for 12 straight seasons. He won 10 or more games six times and managed to do that despite an ownership situation that proudly defines itself as cheap. The Bengals almost never added outside talent in free agency, and many of their own top talents departed for greener pastures elsewhere. For many years the Bengals did not have a collegiate scouting department and relied on Lewis to help identify players he preferred in the draft process.
Greg Roman, OC Baltimore Ravens
Roman has been coaching in the NFL since 1995, spending time with the Panthers, Texans, 49ers, Bills, and Ravens (twice). He has coached the offensive line, tight ends, quarterbacks, and has been an offensive coordinator for eight years. Some fans will want to write off Roman due to his connections to the Harbaugh brothers -- Jim at Standford/49ers, and John in his current position with the Ravens -- but when you step back and look at his resume as a whole it's understandable why his name has been brought up as a head coach over the last half-decade. Roman has been directly responsible for designing and calling offensive plays for Colin Kaepernick and Lamar Jackson, two of the most unique quarterbacks to grace the NFL in the last 10 years. What's impressive is, as unique as they are, they are still very different, and Roman has been able to build around each of them. His ability to cater the offense to a quarterback, as well as finding success in the running game, makes Roman a fit regardless of whether the team's future is with Matthew Stafford or a new quarterback in a rebuild.
Robert Saleh, DC San Francisco 49ers
Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Saleh was a popular candidate in last season's coaching carousel, but his work in guiding the 49ers defense to a Super Bowl appearance kept him from finding an open chair. His star hasn't really faded despite myriad injuries to his aggressive, well-honed defense. That's a testament to Saleh's ability to train players and adapt his scheme to different personnel, two things that never happened in Detroit under Matt Patricia. Saleh, 41, is a native of Dearborn in the Detroit suburbs and played football (tight end) at Northern Michigan. He's known for developing loyalty and trust from his players. Saleh also coached under Pete Carroll in Seattle, spending some time working with Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell. He's going to be the hottest name on the coaching carousel with a defensive background.
Nick Sirianni, OC Indianapolis Colts
Sirianni is the Colts offensive coordinator and a lesser-known commodity than Eberflus, but he's also a very worthy candidate in his own right. The 39-year-old Sirianni is a rising star working as the OC under Frank Reich. Now in his third season running the offense, he's successfully transitioned the offense from Andrew Luck's leftovers through Jacoby Brissett and now Philip Rivers. He's worked in different styles of offense, from a downfield spread attack to an up-tempo, run-heavy scheme that often uses multiple tight ends. Sirianni has worked in several different coaching trees. spending time with Romeo Crennel, Todd Haley, Mike McCoy and now Reich. His father and grandfather were both high school head coaches in New York. Sirianni's own background includes time coaching wide receivers and quarterbacks after playing wide receiver at Mount Union. He's never been a head coach at any level, however.
Arthur Smith, OC Tennesse Titans
Smith is currently the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. His work in crafting an effective offense around the throwback running of Derrick Henry and the dynamic improvement in QB Ryan Tannehill makes the 38-year-old one of the hottest young candidates. He has climbed the coaching ladder quickly, working his way up from being a low-level quality control assistant to a tight ends coach to coordinator. Smith likes to design play-action and downfield shots for Tannehill, features that would blend quite well with Matthew Stafford in Detroit. Smith has earned praise for his down-to-earth personality despite being the son of the founder of FedEx. Smith has never been a head coach at any level. He has survived and grown through several coaching and regime changes in Tennessee, where he’s worked since 2011.
Bonus: Brayden Coombs, Lions Special Teams Coordinator
Mike Mulholland/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, Pool
It's clear Brayden Coombs is a rising star in the coaching ranks and in his one season as special teams coach for the Lions he has impressed at every turn. Coombs presents himself in the same manner as a head coach and has achieved some impressive feats as a coordinator. He has taken an undrafted punter in Jack Fox and turned him into the best punter in the league, and saw his punt return team block three punts in two games -- something that hasn't happened in 30 years in the NFL. At age 34, Coombs is still very young, but he has been coaching in the league for a decade and has grown up around football -- his dad is a career coach and is currently Ohio State's defensive coordinator. His coaching career arc and family history are very similar to Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Could Coombs be the next John Harbaugh? It's possible, very possible. But Coombs is lacking one thing Harbaugh had before his shift from special teams coordinator to head coach: Experience. Harbaugh had a decade of experience as a coordinator, while Coombs has yet to complete his first full season calling the shots on special teams. But this is a new era in the NFL and teams are more willing to take shots on up-and-comers than they were a decade ago, and that plays well for Coombs. Odds are, he is still a few years away from getting a real shot at a head coaching gig, but for the time being, he is a must holdover for the Lions. And quite frankly, at a minimum, he's someone the Lions should be talking to about his future.