Former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak played for the Houston Oilers from 1982-93 and was an offensive assistant for the Oilers for three years after his career. When the franchise moved to Tennessee, he became the offensive line coach from 1997 until his promotion to head coach in 2011. (Wade Payne / Associated Press)
Allen Park — Two weeks after firing Jim Schwartz, the Lions coaching search appeared to be drawing to a close, but the front office may be looking for its second choice.
Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was long considered the front-runner for the job, but with him taking the head-coaching job with the Titans, the Lions must find another coach.
The front office already has interviewed Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, former Titans coach Mike Munchak and former Texans coach Gary Kubiak. All three fit the profile of what the Lions are looking for in a coach with NFL head-coaching experience as well as offensive backgrounds.
Caldwell and Kubiak have a history of working with quarterbacks, which could help them as the Lions look for someone to stop the regression of quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Unless a new candidate, expect the Lions to move quickly to hire Caldwell, Munchak or Kubiak.
Here is another look at the three candidates:
Jim Caldwell, Ravens offensive coordinator
Head coaching experience: Indianapolis, 2009-11 (26-22)
Postseason record: 2-2
Best finish: Super Bowl loss, 2009
Analysis: Caldwell’s NFL resume is actually strikingly similar to Whisenhunt’s, if the Lions are looking for a good second option. Caldwell was quarterbacks coach for the Colts from 2002-08 and was on the staff when Indianapolis won the Super Bowl in 2006 behind quarterback Peyton Manning.
Caldwell took over for Tony Dungy as Colts head coach in 2009 and helped Indianapolis reach the Super Bowl, where it lost to New Orleans. The Colts reached the playoffs again in 2010 under Caldwell, but when Manning missed the entire 2011 season, Indianapolis fell to 2-14 and Caldwell was fired.
After his dismissal in Indianapolis, Caldwell became quarterbacks coach for Baltimore, but he took over as offensive coordinator in December 2012 when the Ravens fired Cam Cameron. The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl, and quarterback Joe Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions during the run.
While Caldwell isn’t the most exciting candidate, his calm demeanor could help a Lions team with discipline issues. And based on reports about his interview with the Lions, Caldwell understands that improving quarterback Matthew Stafford should be the No. 1 goal of the next staff.
Mike Munchak, former Titans head coach
Head coaching experience: Tennessee, 2011-13 (22-26)
Postseason record: None
Best finish: 9-7 in 2011, second in AFC South
Analysis: Munchak reportedly impressed the Lions during his interview, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Few coaches have as much NFL knowledge as the Hall of Fame offensive lineman.
Munchak played for the Houston Oilers from 1982-93 and was an offensive assistant for the Oilers for three years after his career. When the franchise moved to Tennessee, he became the offensive line coach from 1997 until his promotion to head coach in 2011.
The Titans fired Munchak earlier this month after he refused to fire some of his assistant coaches. Munchak reportedly thought consistency with the staff was important for quarterback Jake Locker.
Locker didn’t play more than 11 games in any of his first three seasons after being drafted eighth overall in 2011, which didn’t help Munchak’s job security.
Although Munchak isn’t hailed as an innovator, he would inherit a Lions team whose strength is on offensive line. If he could continue to develop that unit and bring with him an established quarterbacks coach, this could be a good fit.
Granted, hiring another longtime Tennessee coach would stir up Schwartz memories for many in the fan base.
Gary Kubiak, former Texans head coach
Head coaching experience: Houston, 2006-13 (61-64)
Postseason record: 2-2
Best finish: Divisional round loss, 2011 and 2012
Analysis: Kubiak’s interview was the most surprising of the bunch considering how things ended in Houston.
After two straight AFC South titles, including a 12-4 finish in 2012, the Texans completely fell apart in 2013, losing their last 14 games after a 2-0 start. Kubiak was fired in Week 14.
One key reason for Houston’s struggles this season was terrible quarterback play, specifically Matt Schaub who finished the season with a 73 passer rating.
Kubiak certainly has some redeeming qualities, though, and his ability to turn around the Texans as the franchise’s second head coach was impressive.
He’s also a former NFL quarterback and won three Super Bowls as an assistant, one as quarterbacks coach with the 49ers in 1994 and two with the Broncos (1997 and 1998) as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Kubiak is a good offensive mind who would help utilize all of the Lions weapons. In addition to developing Stafford, he could help wide receiver Calvin Johnson maintain his production as Houston’s Andre Johnson has.