Lions could seek defensive-minded coach

Steve Mariucci's firing in Detroit will get the ball rolling on the names of coaches who will be considered as possible replacements.

Updated: November 28, 2005, 7:22 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Considering how poorly Lions president Matt Millen handled the firing of head coach Steve Mariucci, it might be tough to find a suitable replacement in 2006. The Lions will pay Mariucci $11.5 million in 2006 and 2007 not to coach, but the Lions have never been cheap. They are willing to pay top dollar.

Millen wants more of a disciplinarian than Mariucci, who can be a friend to the media and his players. The Lions have loads of attitude problems. They have a crisis at quarterback. Many of the offensive players didn't believe in Joey Harrington, but Millen does, so whoever takes this job might have to try to salvage Harrington's career. Mariucci seemed to be favoring Jeff Garcia after he convinced Millen to give him a one-year contract during the offseason.

The biggest challenge will be to motivate and sort out the rest of the offense. The Lions used first-round choices the past three years on wide receivers Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams, but they have all underachieved. Rogers obviously is on the way out. The team is trying to recoup $10 million of his $14 million signing bonus, so he doesn't figure to be with the team next year.

Whoever takes over must get more production on and off the field from Roy and Mike Williams. Roy has been slow coming off injuries over the past two seasons. Mike has been slow in getting comfortable with the routes.

Who are some of the candidates?:

Dick Jauron
Jauron
Dick Jauron, interim coach, Detroit: Jauron would be considered if he can salvage three victories over the final five weeks. Jauron isn't considered a disciplinarian but he is a strong, quiet, steady boss. Players trust him. At Chicago, he always had a good feel for the locker room. He knew when to work the team hard or when to be soft. Millen made him no promises. It's his job for five games.

Mike Martz (St. Louis), Brian Billick (Baltimore) and Norv Turner (Oakland): They could be on Millen's list if they are let go. With a lot of changes coming, it's possible they would draw some consideration from Millen, who will be trying to sell his young, underachieving talent. All three are offensive coaches, and offense needs the most work.

Jim Bates, defensive coordinator, Green Bay: Bates is the kind of disciplinarian who could be a good fit. Bates was the interim coach in Miami last year and put his name on the short list of teams. Bates has done a good job with little talent in Green Bay just to make them a middle of the pack defense.

Tim Lewis, defensive coordinator, N.Y. Giants: After the slow start, the Giants' defense has come on and Lewis is a rising star among coaches. His schemes are aggressive and players respond to him.

Bob Bratkowski, offensive coordinator, Cincinnati: His work with Carson Palmer has made him a future head coaching prospect. Bratkowski has built the Bengals' offense from the beginnings of the Marvin Lewis era. He built a running game around Rudi Johnson. He managed the development of Palmer properly. Now, he's implementing a lot of no-huddle options for Palmer.

Donnie Henderson, defensive coordinator, N.Y. Jets: Henderson is fiery, which could appeal to Millen. He's aggressive in how he motivates the Jets' defense. Since taking over a couple of years ago, Henderson hasn't accepted anything less than full effort. He wants maximum performance and has been able to get that out of his unit. The Jets have played hard on defense despite the problems that they've had on offense.

Russ Grimm, offensive line coach, Pittsburgh: He could be a candidate for a couple of jobs; maybe in Houston and Detroit. He's like Millen in many ways. He's to the point and gets great execution from his players. Last year, he interviewed for the Bears' head coaching job. The former Washington Redskins "Hog" is all football, and he's disciplined. Millen might like that.

Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator, Tennessee: He's one of the bright young minds in the league and is fiery along the sidelines. He's about as advanced in the technology of coaching as anyone in the league. He's has computer studies for everything. He's up to date on most trends and studies. Plus, he's willing to work with young players, which is important in the modern day salary cap era.

Sean Payton
Payton
Sean Payton, assistant head coach, Cowboys: He was a top candidate for the Raiders' opening in 2004 and will be on the radar screen of several teams this season. Teams know he's worked with Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, and that is a big plus. He's done a great job this year calling plays in helping Drew Bledsoe have a Pro Bowl season and getting the Cowboys into the playoff race. Parcells will highly recommend Payton for this job.

Gregg Williams, defensive coordinator/assistant head coach, Washington: The Chiefs will be interested in him if Dick Vermeil retires. Williams is bright and is demanding. He runs one of the most aggressive blitz packages in football. Things didn't work out the first time for him as a head coach of the Bills, but he's learned a lot in preparation for his second chance. Working with Joe Gibbs for two years has helped.

Al Saunders, offensive coordinator, Kansas City: I still can't figure out why he doesn't get more of a look by more teams. Vermeil is going to recommend him as his replacement if he retires. Saunders was a head coach with the San Diego Chargers and he's strict. Plus, he runs the popular Air Coryell offense that works so well in Kansas City, St. Louis and other places.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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