Lions head coaching search: Detroit's attention shifts to Jim Caldwell, Mike Munchak

Thomas B. Shea

With Ken Whisenhunt headed to Tennessee, the Lions are reportedly turning to other head coaching candidates.

Ken Whisenhunt was thought to be Detroit's No. 1 coaching target. The Lions were so interested, they were reportedly set to send a private plane to pick him up in San Diego. Unfortunately for Detroit, Whisenhunt didn't get on that plane and is instead the new head coach in Tennessee. Now, the Lions must turn to other targets and Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell appears to be the frontrunner, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Caldwell was the first coach to interview for the vacancy in Detroit after the Lions fired Jim Schwartz. If he does become the next head coach in Detroit, he would do so with the recommendation of Tony Dungy. Caldwell coached under Dungy in Indianapolis and Dungy spoke with Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. on Monday to "reaffirm strong attributes he believed Caldwell would bring to the Lions" according to Tim Twentyman.

"I already had told [Lions GM] Martin Maywhew that Caldwell is a great match for a team that has the personnel of being capable of playing in the Super Bowl," Dungy said, via 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."

Caldwell was fired after three seasons in Indianapolis. He took over for Dungy and led the Colts to the Super Bowl in his first season. Things went downhill from there, however, and he was fired following a 2-14 season in 2011. He landed in Baltimore, originally as the quarterback coach. He took over as the offensive coordinator midway through last season. The Ravens struggled on offense this season, finishing 29th in yards and 25th in scoring. Caldwell was also the head coach for eight seasons at Wake Forest. He compiled a 26-63 record and was fired following the 2000 season.

According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, former Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak is also a candidate in Detroit. Munchak interviewed with the Lions and is reportedly a candidate in Cleveland too. A Hall of Fame offensive lineman, Munchak compiled a 22-26 record in three seasons with the Titans. He was fired following a 7-9 season. There was an interesting twist when Munchak interviewed with Detroit as he brought former Tennessee offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains with him. Loggains ran Munchak's offenses with the Titans and is a sought-after coordinator candidate according to Ed Werder.

Teams often look for opposites when replacing a fired head coach. Swartz was known for his intense personality while both Munchak and Caldwell are more mild-mannered types. The Lions also interviewed former Houston head coach Gary Kubiak. Regardless of who the Lions offer the job too, Sean Yuille of Pride of Detroit wouldn't be surprised to see a move made sooner, rather than later to avoid missing out on another candidate.

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