Matt Patricia was the latest to join the Detroit Lions’ growing list of failed coaches. In just over two seasons, Patricia had a 13-29-1 record. The 32% winning percentage is tied for the third-worst in franchise history for coaches who lasted at least one full season.
Patricia’s hiring came after the team decided it was a good idea to fire the coach with the best winning percentage in modern history. Jim Caldwell went 36-28 for a 56% winning percentage, which was the highest since Buddy Parker went 47-23-2 (67%) from 1951-56. General Manager Bob Quinn decided a 9-7 record in Caldwell’s final season wasn’t adequate for a franchise with a history of losing.
We saw how that decision turned out.
Quinn and Patricia were fired from their positions on Nov. 28. Now the Lions will be tasked with hiring a new general manager and head coach in hopes of turning around the team’s recent losing trend.
Oddsmakers have listed the favorites to take over as the Lions new head coach, and over at FanDuel Sportsbook, bettors using Michigan betting sites can wager on who will be hired as the team’s next coach.
Here’s a rundown of the odds and what makes each candidate an alluring choice.
Robert Saleh +150
If it were up to the Michigan state legislature, Saleh would be the person to replace Patricia. Some legislators sent a letter to Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp to advocate for Saleh’s hiring as the team’s next head coach.
Saleh is from Michigan and hails from Dearborn, where he still has family. The San Francisco defensive coordinator is expected to be one of the leading candidates for the Detroit position after his defensive units have ranked in the top six in defensive yards allowed per game the last two years, including last season’s Super Bowl run.
Eric Bieniemy +700
After the Patricia debacle, the Lions fan base may be skeptical of another defensive-focused hiring. If Detroit wanted to hire someone with an offensive background, Bieniemy is a logical choice.
Whenever discussions about the lack of minority head coaches in the NFL comes up, Bieniemy is typically one of the first names brought up by analysts who believe he is deserving of being the next black head coach in the league.
Bieniemy has been one of the key architects in helping the Kansas Chiefs become one of the most explosive offenses in the league. He previously served as the team’s running backs coach from 2013-17 before being hired as the offensive coordinator — a position he’s held for the last three seasons. During his tenure as the offensive coordinator, the Chiefs have ranked first, fifth and are currently second this season in points per game.
After seeing what Bieniemy has done with Patrick Mahomes, Lions fans could get excited to see what he could do with another strong-armed quarterback in Matthew Stafford.
Arthur Smith +900
The Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator is credited with rejuvenating Ryan Tannehill’s career. In two seasons working with Smith, Tannehill posted his highest quarterback ratings of his career — 67.2 last season and currently 76.9 this year.
The Titans are currently third in the league in points per game (29.9) and have formed an identity as one of the NFL’s premier power-running teams, averaging the fifth-most rushing yards per game (150.2).
According to analysts, Smith has gained a blue-collar reputation by being humble and hard-working, paying his dues as a graduate assistant, intern and quality control coach before earning a spot as an assistant position coach.
If Smith’s name is unfamiliar, you may know his father, Fred, who is the founder of FedEx.
Lincoln Riley +1000
Whenever Riley’s name is brought up concerning NFL vacancies, it’s always more rumor than substance. In 2019, the Oklahoma head coach even went on record on the Dan Patrick Show mentioning how the NFL isn’t part of his coaching bucket list.
Riley has become a sought-after candidate in large part to establishing himself as one of the best offensive minds in college football. He’s coached two Heisman-winning quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray and has led Oklahoma to a 43-8 record in what is currently his fourth year as the program’s head coach.
Jim Harbaugh +1100
If there’s any hire that would result in an immediate eye roll from Lions fans, this might be it. There are those who don’t even want him to continue as the Michigan head coach, let alone take over the struggling Lions.
But there are reports linking NFL interest to Harbaugh’s name. Harbaugh also reportedly has a three-year extension on the table to continue at Michigan, but there has been no substantial evidence about what Harbaugh’s next move will be.
Despite the tumultuous 2-4 season this year at Michigan, it’s no surprise NFL teams are inquiring about Harbaugh’s services given his success in the league. In four seasons as the 49ers head coach, Harbaugh amassed a 44-19-1 record and earned a trip to the Super Bowl.
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