The Lions reportedly were in talks with Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell on Monday. (Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Allen Park — Turns out, William Clay Ford’s private jet never left the tarmac in Detroit.
Ken Whisenhunt, the head-coaching candidate for whom the Lions owner’s jet was going to be sent, has landed instead in Nashville. Whisenhunt agreed to terms with the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
The Titans have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon.
The Lions had Ford’s jet ready to fly to San Diego Monday to bring Whisenhunt, the Chargers’ offensive coordinator, to Detroit, but three different departure times were canceled.
Whisenhunt spent most of Monday in exit interviews with his players after the Chargers lost to the Broncos on Sunday. According to ESPN, Whisenhunt spoke with Titans officials on the phone and eventually agreed to the framework of a deal.
Former Titans coach Mike Munchak, who was believed to be the Lions’ Plan B, spent Monday meeting with the Cleveland Browns for their coaching vacancy. The Lions, once Whisenhunt was out, reached out again to Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
It is unclear where the Lions stand with Munchak, but several league sources close to the situation believe Caldwell is the Lions’ choice now.
Lions have spent day in talks with Ravens HC Jim Caldwell and Detroit has been focusing on him, via @mortreport and me.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 13, 2014
ESPN reported Lions vice chairman Bill Ford spoke Monday to former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who had Caldwell on his staff with the Buccaneers and Colts.
Caldwell succeeded Dungy as head coach in Indianpolis.
"I already had told (Lions GM) Martin Mayhew that Caldwell is a great match for a team that has the personnel of being capable of playing in the Super Bowl," Dungy told ESPN. "I think the Lions were not only impressed with Jim's interview, but they were pleasantly surprised by the number of former Colts players who called on his behalf.
“Jim made Peyton Manning an even better quarterback — look at the numbers and wins — and I think he can do the same for Matthew Stafford.”
Speaking to the Detroit News on Monday night, John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, said the Lions’ front office is working to narrow its list of candidates to two coaches who will meet with the Ford family in Detroit. A decision is expected Monday night or Tuesday, Wooten said.
Wooten said he didn’t know who the finalists were.
Caldwell, 58, was the first candidate to interview with the Lions. Like Whisenhunt, he fits the profile Mayhew is looking for in the next head coach. He is an experienced NFL coach with an offensive background who has had success grooming quarterbacks — Peyton Manning and the Ravens’ Joe Flacco. He has won two Super Bowls as an assistant coach and lost one as a head coach.
“This is an unusual situation because of the fact that you don’t typically walk into a place that has a talented quarterback, one of the best receivers in all the game and just a fine nucleus — then a defense that has an extremely talented front four,” Caldwell told the Lions’ website after his interview. “I saw them up close and personal."
Caldwell’s Ravens offense was limited to six field goals in an 18-16 win over the Lions last season.
"You have to look at what wins," Caldwell said of his coaching style. "That’s the important thing. You have to be very good in terms of your fundamentals and techniques ruling the day. Those are the things that are going to carry you when times are difficult. Those are the things that are going to put streaks together. Those are the things that certainly will help you win games and get you enough games to get you into the postseason.
"When you look at it, that’s what it boils down to. The basics and the rudiment of it all is to make certain you’re very good at the things you have to do most often: You block, tackle, catch, run and throw accurately."
The Colts went 14-2 and lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl in Caldwell’s first season as head coach.
He won another ring last season as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator, calling the plays for Flacco’s MVP performance in the win over San Francisco.
"I know the Lions also want discipline and good character in the locker room,” Dungy told ESPN. “I'm not saying their other candidates can't achieve those things, but those are Jim's strengths with his background, especially from his influence under Joe Paterno at Penn State and hopefully in our program in the NFL."
Several factors may have worked against the Lions in their pursuit of Whisenhunt. One was location. Whisenhunt spent two years coaching at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. A second factor may have been the Lions’ insistence on keeping a 4-3 defensive scheme. Whisenhunt has always favored a 3-4 scheme.
Lastly, Whisenhunt may have preferred to remain in the AFC.
Josh Katzenstein contributed.