The first two coaching vacancies have been filled with Jim Caldwell going to Detroit and Ken Whisenhunt heading to Tennessee.
Caldwell, 58, was the head coach in Indianapolis from 2009-11, posting a 26-22 regular-season record. The Colts lost the Super Bowl to the New Orleans Saints at the end of his first season.
Prior to his interview with the Lions, Caldwell broke down every pass play by quarterback Matthew Stafford during the 2013 season. He reviewed film with Stafford during his interview with general manager Martin Mayhew and met with vice chairman Bill Ford, Jr., to lay out his plan for turning the abundantly talented Lions into a contender.
Part of the plan is likely bringing Baltimore secondary coach Teryl Austin with him to Detroit as defensive coordinator.
Caldwell was hired the Baltimore Ravens’ quarterbacks coach before the 2012 season, and he was promoted to offensive coordinator in December 2012. Under Caldwell’s guidance, quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens went on a sizzling postseason run that resulted in a Super Bowl title.
This season, the Ravens’ offense finished 29th in the NFL in total yards.
The Lions own the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft in May.
John Wooten, the head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that promotes diversity in the hiring of NFL coaches and executives, told the Baltimore Sun on Monday night that Caldwell was a leading candidate for the Lions.
“Detroit has said they wanted to bring back two guys to meet with ownership and are supposed to do that (Monday) and (Tuesday),” Pollard said. “We are waiting to hear back from them about Jim and whether it’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for him for the job. Everything has gone very well between Jim and the Lions, and we’re waiting to hear. I feel good about how things are going, but nothing is final.”
The Sun reported that Caldwell met with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr.
The Lions previously interviewed two men who were fired in recent months: Mike Munchak, formerly the Titans’ head coach, and Gary Kubiak, formerly the Houston Texans’ head coach.
Caldwell has 26 career wins as an NFL coach, 24 of which came with Peyton Manning as his starting quarterback.
Caldwell was previously head coach at Wake Forest (1993-2000) and quarterbacks coach at Penn State (1986-1992).
When Ken Whisenhunt accepted the coaching job with the Tennessee Titans on Monday, the Lions locked onto Caldwell, who was Detroit’s other finalist.
The Tennessee Titans named Whisenhunt as their new head coach on Monday, hoping the former San Diego offensive coordinator can turn around a team that has not made the playoffs in five seasons.
“This is a big day for this franchise,” Titans President Tommy Smith said in a statement.
“Ken is a well-respected coach in this league and I am looking forward to seeing his vision become reality for this team.”
Prior to the 2013 season, Whisenhunt, 51, had spent the previous six years as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, a stint that included a Super Bowl appearance in 2009 after leading the team to a franchise-record 12 wins.
Before turning his hand to coaching, Whisenhunt spent nine seasons in the NFL as a player, initially with the Atlanta Falcons then the Washington Redskins and finally the New York Jets.
“He has a history of building successful offenses and took Arizona to a Super Bowl as a head coach,” Smith said.
“We all share a common goal for this team and that is to build a consistent winner.”