Singletary swings into NFL coaching search

Now that 49ers assistant coach/linebackers coach Mike Singletary has confirmed that he's scheduled to interview in Detroit later this week for the Lions' vacant head coaching position, here is more late-breaking information and inside scoop on head coaching vacancies around the NFL, including the openings in Kansas City, Minnesota, Green Bay, St. Louis and New Orleans. Also: An update on Marty Schottenheimer's situation in San Diego, where the veteran coach could be exiting the organization.

Singletary, a Hall of Fame linebacker as a player, is receiving heavy play now that the season is over and the coaching carousel has begun, even though he just completed his first season in San Francisco, which was only his third as a NFL assistant.

Singletary spent a decade away from football in private business before resurfacing in the NFL arena as an assistant coach in Baltimore. Singletary coached the Ravens' linebackers for two seasons before joining former Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in San Francisco when Nolan became the 49ers coach a year ago.

The Lions are looking to replace Steve Mariucci, a former 49ers head coach who was fired during his third season in Detroit. Mariucci singed with the Lions immediately after being canned by San Francisco following the 2002 season, but he made it only halfway through the lucrative five-year deal he signed with Detroit in January of 2003.

Jim Haslett, the 2000 NFL Coach of the Year who was fired by the New Orleans Saints on Monday, reportedly also has an interview set up with Lions.

Along with Singletary and Haslett, names mentioned for the Lions vacancy include Pittsburgh assistant head coach Russ Grimm, Cleveland offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, and defensive coordinators Tim Lewis of the New York Giants and Jim Schwartz of Tennessee.

With the recent rash of firings around the NFL – eight of the league's 32 teams currently have openings – head coach searches are underway and moving quickly. While the list of potential candidates does have some of the major name recognition of past years, a few of the candidates are highly sought and will be the focus of several searches.

The focus will continue to be on long-time assistant coaches, as it was when the 49ers hired Nolan last year and the Cleveland Browns hired head coach Romeo Crennel, the former New England defensive coordinator.

For example, there is a Ted Cottrell (current Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator) and others who deserve the opportunity to be the head of a team. Cottrell was named a finalist for the 49ers' head job in 2003 that ultimately went to Dennis Erickson, but his name has not been mentioned near the top of many coaching lists since. This offseason could prove to be one where an emphasis is placed on production and experience, rather than name recognition.

Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress, long known to be a solid coach with a knack for communicating with players, should evolve into a head coach at the professional level, and this could be the year. The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers have displayed a significant interest in Childress, with the Vikings closing in on him quickly. Childress was also a candidate for head coaching jobs in 2005.

As the Vikings look towards Childress, the organization also has been evaluating a member of its own staff. Cottrell is respected and experienced and helped mold a much-improved Minnesota defense in 2005. While Cottrell may not be the frontrunner for the post in Minnesota, he has also been in discussions with the San Diego Chargers regarding a position.

The story in San Diego could become one of interest. Schottenheimer turned around the Chargers fortunes, but disappointment resides within the San Diego organization due to the team falling short of a playoff appearance in 2005. General Manager A.J. Smith and Schottenheimer have had some differences of opinion regarding the roster and handling of the team. At present, there remains a possibility Schottenheimer could exit the organization.

San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is on the short list of a few teams looking for a new head coach (Green Bay, New Orleans, and St. Louis) and there is an expectation in San Diego that Phillips could move on early this offseason, unless something was to occur regarding the Schottenheimer situation. This is where the team could be in the process of covering all the bases with their discussions with Cottrell.

The openings in St. Louis and Kansas City could be resolved quickly. The Rams have Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera at the top of their wish-list. Rivera's defense has been superb and the Rams have been given a glowing recommendation by Bears head coach and former St. Louis defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.

In Kansas City, the Chiefs could be playing with fire if they are not careful. Retired head coach Dick Vermeil has highly recommended his assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Al Saunders to replace him. The Chiefs front office appears to be hesitant on Saunders, all of which could make the offseason in Kansas City an interesting one.

On the Chiefs' radar is current Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops, current New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards, former Cleveland Browns head coach Butch Davis and, interestingly enough, Schottenheimer, if he were to be released in San Diego.

Stoops is a long shot, as he is comfortable at Oklahoma. Edwards could be another story though. The New York front office has been lukewarm in their support of Edwards and indications are the Jets management may be willing to let Edwards walk.

Butch Davis is an interesting prospect in the Chiefs search. Davis did a respectable coaching job in Cleveland, but it was becoming responsible for personnel matters that caused him to lose his grip and progress in Cleveland. While not the best game-day coach, Davis has the ability to lead a team.

Schottenheimer has been there, done that in Kansas City, which is one reason why his name being bandied about in close quarters is seemingly shocking. Despite the Chiefs desire to win and change its face of solely an offensive team, a return of Schottenheimer to KC appears unlikely.

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