If the Detroit Lions choose to move on from Jim Caldwell after this season, Chicago Bears OC Adam Gase would emerge as a favorite according to a report.
The Detroit Lions currently have a head coach, but what they don’t have is a general manager and clarity about the franchise’s direction beyond the next month.
Jim Caldwell has done a good job keeping his team together and making changes to the coaching staff that have led to more success of the second half, but that hardly makes up for the 1-7 start that took the team out of playoff contention by the midway point of the season. With that disappointment and a fresh face in the general manager chair next season, Caldwell would appear unlikely to return as head coach in 2016.
Perhaps adding fuel to that fire is a report today from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports naming Adam Gase a top target if the job is indeed open:
"Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who was a finalist for the 49ers’ head coaching job a year ago, will be a hot candidate again this January, and league sources said he is of particular interest to the Detroit Lions. Gase, who began his pro career with Detroit, remains close to several members of the Lions’ front office. He would be interested in coaching in Detroit and is held in high esteem by former NFL general manager Ernie Acorsi, who is consulting for the team on potential GM and coach hires. While the Lions will not finalize a decision on the fate of coach Jim Caldwell until after the season, Gase will be a top target should Caldwell not return."
The report is interesting in a couple ways.
First, the report cites existing connections between Gase and the Lions and indicates mutual interest in this as a possibility. Although the Lions don’t have a general manager in place, the report indicates that Gase is well thought of by Ernie Acorsi, who is assisting in the GM search.
As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport told Matt Dery and Drew Sharp on Detroit Sports 105.1, the Lions job will be looked at favorably by coaching candidates. Of course an aspiring head coach will have interest – it’s the interest from the Lions that makes this worth talking about at this point. La Canfora reinforced that later in his report:
"Gase also has strong personal and working relationships with members of the Lions front office — individuals that ownership could already be inclined to retain."
Second, Gase could be the ideal candidate for anyone who has heartburn over potentially losing the Lions’ coordinators as collateral damage in a coaching change. Jim Bob Cooter has done good work resurrecting the Lions offense following the mess of Joe Lombardi, validating his status as a rising star in NFL coaching circles. But Gase and Cooter worked together on the Denver Broncos staff so the hiring of Gase would seem to be the scenario that most likely leads to Cooter staying in Detroit (other than retaining Caldwell).
And with Gase bringing an offensive mind to the head coaching position, he could be comfortable leaving Teryl Austin in place as defensive coordinator given the success the Lions defense had last season and Austin’s ability to right the ship after a slow start this season. Austin may once again get the opportunity to hit the interview circuit to find his own head coaching job, so a return may not be possible, but it shouldn’t be ruled totally out.
With Gase a member of the Bears coaching staff, he won’t have to worry about waiting for the end of a playoff run to find a head coaching job. The Lions will undoubtedly bring their general manager search to a conclusion before moving on to the business of a head coach, but this is a little smoke to watch as we wait for the fire.