The Detroit Lions head into the 2019 offseason at a crossroads. On one hand, they have a solid mix of veteran and young talent and could be a playoff team next season. On the other, they finished 6-10 this past season after back-to-back 9-7 seasons, which illustrates just how fickle this team is. For the Lions to become playoff contenders again, the biggest move they have to make is hiring an offensive coordinator. Hire the right guy, and this offense (which was atrocious most of the year) could all of a sudden become competent enough to go hand-in-hand with the Lions’ resurgent defense. Get it wrong, and you’re looking at another 6-10 lost season. This decision is magnified even more when considering that if Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, the GM and head coach of the Lions, get it wrong, they both will most likely be out of a job. The upcoming decision is a real turning point for this organization, so with that in mind, here are five potential candidates that could be the next offensive coordinator of the organization.
The Michigan native is the perceived favorite for the job. Adam Gase is the recently-fired head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Before he flamed out in Miami, Gase turned heads as the offensive coordinator of the Broncos during their historic 2013 season, where they broke all sorts of records with Peyton Manning and company. Gase runs a similar but more sophisticated offensive system to that of previous Lions offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, as Cooter learned under Gase as an offensive assistant coach during that 2013 season in Denver. With Gase, the Lions wouldn’t have to completely revamp the playbook, and also, the team wouldn’t have to learn an entirely new system. That is why he is considered to be the Lions’ top target, provided he does not get a head coaching job this offseason.
If you’re not familiar with Waldron, don’t worry – he is going to get a lot of buzz on the market, as he is the passing game coordinator for the high-powered Los Angeles Rams. After earning rave reviews from Sean McVay Waldron, he is one of the hottest offensive coordinator names on the market. He helped turn Jared Goff from a bust in 2016 to an MVP candidate and fringe elite QB over the past two seasons. Also helping Waldron is that he has worked with Lions head coach Matt Patricia in the past, as they were both on the Patriots staff in 2008-09.
Matthew Stafford finished the 2018 season 27th in yards per attempt. That is simply not acceptable for a guy with his pedigree and talent. Many will blame Cooter’s conservative scheme as the reason for that mark. If you want to fix that, Monken is one of the best alternatives to conservatism. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran an aggressive downfield passing attack in Tampa that led journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead the NFL in yards per attempt this past season. Monken also has ties to the Michigan area, as he coached at both Grand Valley and Eastern Michigan.
The former Northwestern star has earned immense praise for his work as the QB coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. His work with presumptive MVP Pat Mahomes has led him to be one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the sport. He also comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, which is like the ultimate gold star for future NFL success at the coaching ranks (Matt Nagy, John Harbaugh, and Doug Petersen all come from the Andy Reid tree). While I think Patricia is more likely to go with a coach who has previous play-calling experience, if he wants to try to find the next great offensive innovator, Kafka is as good of choice as any.
While it pains me to say this, there is a chance that Weis could be the next Lions offensive coordinator. The former Patriots offensive coordinator and Notre Dame head coach has been out of coaching since his disastrous run as the head coach of Kansas five years ago. He has been mentioned because he has a previous relationship with Patricia. Patricia started out as an assistant under Weis in New England 15 years ago, and after the success he had with hiring Paul Pasqualoni as the defensive coordinator, it could be Matt’s MO to bring another of his former coaches back to the NFL. I hope not, but with Patricia, who knows what he is thinking? Also, Lions GM Bob Quinn worked with Weis in New England, so it’s definitely a possibility they could bring him back to the NFL, which would be the most Lions thing to do, by the way, bring a guy who was basically exiled after his previous failures back to the league.
Out of all these options, I expect Gase to be the next offensive coordinator of the Lions. The process is very similar to what the Lions did last year, where it was clear that Patricia was the guy they wanted, and they just had to wait for him to finish coaching the Patriots through their playoff run. The Lions are waiting again to see if Gase will get another head coaching Job, as he has interviewed for several of the head coaching vacancies. Assuming he isn’t hired as a head coach, my prediction is that he will return to his home state and become the next offensive coordinator of the Lions.