Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford talks about the impact Jim Caldwell had on the franchise during his four seasons. Max Ortiz, Detroit News


Allen Park — Following the firing of Jim Caldwell on Monday morning, here are 12 potential candidates to become the next head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Matt Patricia – Patricia is perceived to be the early favorite for the job. A small school offensive lineman, he’s worked his entire NFL coaching career in New England, spending time working on both sides of the ball. He’s been the team’s defensive coordinator the past six years. Patriots opponents have averaged under 20 points the past four seasons.

Mike Vrabel – The former Patriots linebacker is a rapidly-ascending coaching star. He spent three years as a position coach at his alma mater, Ohio State, before moving to the NFL. He became the Texans LB coach in 2014 and was promoted to defensive coordinator prior to this season. Bill Belichick has raved about Vrabel’s football intellect and leadership.

Matt Nagy – A former All-American quarterback at Delaware and longtime Andy Reid assistant, Nagy has been the Chiefs' offensive coordinator the past two seasons, but only recently inherited play-calling duties. He’s thrived since taking over, with the team averaging more than 400 yards and nearly 30 points the five games he’s been in the role.

Steve Wilks – Wilks amassed an impressive resume as a position coach in San Diego and Carolina before getting promoted to defensive coordinator with the Panthers prior to the 2017 season. In his first year at the post, the 48-year-old coach known for his intensity has led a unit that’s held opponents to an average of 20.3 points per game.

Josh McDaniels – The longtime Patriots assistant struggled in his first go-round as a head coach, losing 17 of his final 22 games with the Denver Broncos, while also getting caught in a scandal after failing to immediately report one of his assistants for filming an opponent’s practice. But it’s believed the coach of the NFL’s best offense has matured and is ready for his next opportunity.

George Edwards – A 27-year coaching veteran, Edwards has spent the past four years as the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator. Head coach Mike Zimmer still calls the plays for the unit that is the NFL’s best in 2017, but Edwards plays a key role in getting the group prepared and game planning. Plus, he did well filling in for Zimmer last season, when the Vikings held the high-octane Cowboys to 17 points.

Dave Toub – It’s an uncommon path for a special teams coordinator to become a head coach, but it’s not unprecedented and has worked well for the Baltimore Ravens with John Harbaugh, who Toub worked with in Philadelphia.  His groups in Kansas City and Chicago have been among the league’s best for more than a decade.

John Harbaugh – Speaking of Harbaugh, it’s a longshot, but if the Ravens considered a change after missing the playoffs three straight years, and four of the past five, a call would have to be placed to the former Super Bowl champion.

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Pat Shurmur – A local product who got his coaching start at Michigan State, Shurmer has worked wonders with inferior talent as the Vikings offensive coordinator. He’s molded Case Keenum, a career backup, into one of the league’s most efficient starters, developed Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs into one of the NFL’s best receiving tandems and kept the team’s run game afloat despite losing rookie starter Dalvin Cook early in the year. After bombing with the Browns 2011-12, Shurmur has earned another look.

Kris Richard – After the previous two Seahawks defensive coordinators landed head coaching jobs, Richard should be the next in line. The unit has continued to hover near the top of the league, despite injury issues to Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril in 2017. Being groomed under Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn only raise Richard’s profile.

Matt LaFleur – Looking for the next Sean McVay, the wonder kid who has the Rams rolling? How about his offensive coordinator? The caveat is we’re talking about another option who hasn’t called plays before. Matt Ryan’s former quarterback coach while working under Kyle Shanahan, LaFleur has been around some of the game’s brightest offensive minds. And it doesn’t really matter, but he’s a Michigan native who played at Saginaw Valley State.

John DeFilippo – Another under-40 coaching option on the rise, DeFilippo has been credited with the rapid maturation of Carson Wentz into one of the game’s best young quarterbacks. Inexperience is the big concern here as he’s only been a coordinator two seasons, and just one in the NFL, with Cleveland.


The Lions blasted the Packers to end the season and now must decide on the futures of coach Jim Caldwell and defensive end Ziggy Ansah.