After two lifeless showings in back-to-back losses, the Detroit Lions finally pulled the trigger on an expected move to jettison the ill-fated experiment involving head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn. The Patriots-light combo never produced any results of note on the field (13-29-1) as the Lions have truthfully fallen well short of where they once were under former coach Jim Caldwell.
Now the question is where the Ford family and the franchise go from here. There are some good pieces in place but also a lot of work left to be done for a team that has truthfully been a punchline much of the past half-century. It's a challenging job but ownership's loyalty is worth a lot to many coaches and if you win here, you can be a hero to more than a generation of fans.
Offensive coordinator Darrel Bevell will serve as the interim head coach, but he's probably only keeping that seat warm. With that in mind, who could wind up replacing Patricia? Here are 10 candidates to watch that could be the next Lions head coach:
The NFL Assistants
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
The A-list candidate for every search may need some convincing to take this job, especially after the way the front office got rid of Jim Caldwell a few years ago. He could get to pick his own GM to work in tandem with however and the offensive personnel with Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay and D'Andre Swift is an appealing little core. Plus, the division is normally quite winnable and you likely won't have to deal with Aaron Rodgers for too much longer in Green Bay either.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator
Daboll has done a terrific job with the Bills and has benefitted greatly from working under a number of defensive-minded head coaches, including Nick Saban and Bill Belichick. The blue-collar Canadian would seem to fit in well in Detroit and has the kind of even keel that wouldn't get rattled by a bad game or two. Given the way the team has been built the last few seasons, he could help seamlessly transition the franchise while actually providing a knowledgeable coach who can relate to the players.
Joe Brady, Panthers offensive coordinator
It's only a question of when Brady gets a head coaching gig, not if at this point. While he's super young, the Lions could well bet on upside and give him time to grow into the role as a long-term play. He would be a great way to give Matthew Stafford a few extra years of playing at a high level and it wouldn't take much to break through in the division. If he's got a good veteran DC in mind to come in as a pair, this could be a big swing from ownership.
Arthur Smith, Titans offensive coordinator
Folks around the league have raved about Smith, who has worked his way up the ranks from the very bottom. Much will be made about his background (he's the son of the FedEx founder Fred Smith), which will be viewed favorably by ownership but isn't as important as his fit. He'll bring a much different attitude than the previous regime and could help raise the team's floor every year in a big way.
Pep Hamilton, Chargers QB coach
Hamilton got his feet wet as a head coach in the XFL and has years of OC experience around the league and in college (including at nearby Michigan). His work with rookie Justin Herbert has really turned heads and he could well get an interim stint with the Chargers before the year is out to show what he can do. He's an excellent communicator and would be the perfect face of the franchise moving forward.
Dan Campbell, Saints assistant head coach
A bit off the radar, but if the team is truly interested in finding someone to change the culture and become a real CEO in Detroit, they could do worse than Campbell. He's played a big role in the Saints organization and has credibility as a former player too. He did well in an interim stint with the Dolphins so he at least has more head coaching experience than others on this list.
Matt Eberflus, Colts defensive coordinator
Eberflus has quickly transformed the Indianapolis defense into a top-tier unit and might be the best coordinator hire available with a defensive focus. He interviewed with a number of teams before and has Midwest roots from his time at Toledo. He'll get a big recommendation from Frank Reich and the rest of the Colts organization, which rave about him on and off the field.
Robert Saleh, 49ers defensive coordinator
The 49ers DC might just be the odds-on favorite for the gig in Vegas for a reason given he was born in Dearborn and went to Northern Michigan. He coached at both Michigan State and Central Michigan too and has helped keep San Francisco's defense afloat this year despite a rash of injuries all over the place. He was a hot name after making it to the Super Bowl a year ago and will be again in the 2020 cycle.
The College Coaches
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
Wolverines fans might have mixed feelings about this one but there's no doubt that Harbaugh would bring a top-notch resume with him from his time turning around San Francisco. He's worn out his welcome in Ann Arbor but the fit in Detroit is pretty obvious even if he's known mostly as a former Bears QB. One question might be if he can pry OC Greg Roman away from his brother for a reunion that could work out well in a fascinating reboot.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
Campbell's name is going to come up for pretty much every big gig at the college and pro level and it's not hard to see why after getting the Cyclones in position to win the Big 12. His players love him and cite his culture-building aptitude as a big reason why ISU has had the success it's had. A former Mount Union player who has coached a lot in the Midwest, the Ohio native could be tailor-made to turn around the Lions franchise if he is interested in making the move to the pros.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)