ALLEN PARK - Whether it's next week or next season, replacing Lions coach Steve Mariucci isn't going to be easy. For one, Matt Millen will now have a reputation as a GM who doesn't always support his coach, meddles in on-field matters and tries to dictate on-field policy from the booth.
Still, the Lions are likely to be attractive to a number of candidates because of their talent base. While Millen has missed on a number of free agent signings, most notably Fernando Bryant, Kyle Kosier, Rick DeMulling and Marcus Pollard, Detroit still has the talent and a solid tactician might be able to turn things in his favor.
Here is a list of some candidates who could be on the list all GMs keep in their desk drawer:
3. Dick Jauron (Current Defensive Coordinator)
If Jauron is made interim coach anytime before the season ends, he gets basically a four to five game audition. The greatest beneficiary of a Jauron hire would be running back Kevin Jones. Jauron is at least as conservative as Mariucci, but isn't necessarily a West Coast Offense enthusiast.
Instead, he'd likely go with a run-oriented attack behind Raiola, Woody and Butler, allowing the trio to become more attack oriented and then go with play-action passing to Williams and Williams. Detroit would likely use more two tight-end sets to protect Harrington, (Detroit has road grading tight end Jason Randall on the practice squad) but the scheme could work with Jones geting a chance to break out. In Jauron's scheme, Charles Rogers and Jeff Garcia could be made expendable.
2. Herman Edwards (Head Coach, Jets)
Millen wanted to interview Edwards before he took the job with the New York Jets but was unable after Edwards wowed the New York brass and was hired without getting a chance to visit Detroit. Edwards makes a powerful impression on his players. He builds loyalty and a family type atmosphere. He also commands respect because of his success as a gritty defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles.
He and Millen maintain mutual respect and the two could likely work well together. Millen knows he has to at least have a solid minority candidate interview but if Edwards is available he'd be more than just an interview, he'd be a solid candidate. Despite a poor season (the Jets are 2-8 and losers of five straight), New York contends that Edwards will remain his position. In the NFL, however, nothing is guaranteed. Just ask Marty Mornhinweg.
The greatest beneficiary of an Edwards hire would be Charles Rogers. Edwards loves reclamation projects and could turn the talented but troubled Rogers into the star he should be. Plodding Mike Williams and slippery handed Marcus Pollard could be the odd-men out in an Edwards regime.
1. Mike Martz (absent due to sick leave, St. Louis Rams)
Martz is an offensive genius and Joey Harrington would be the beneficiary of a Martz hiring. Martz leaves his quarterbacks out on an island - they get hit and sacked a lot, but he puts them in position to make throws down the field, a Harrington strength. Martz would salivate over the prospect of having Kevin Jones, Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams to work with.
Fans would love the hire because Martz's "Greatest Show on Turf" emphasizes intermediate to long passes and a fast paced tempo. They'd still need to get the offensive line fixed, but Martz would be a solid hire. While the wide receivers and 3rd down back Shawn Bryson would flourish under Martz, Pollard and a power backup Artose Pinner could be the odd men out.
Martz is expected to return to coaching next season with a clean bill of health, but it likely will not be in St. Louis.
Long shots: Mack Brown (Texas), Jimmy Johnson (former Cowboys/'Retired').