ALLEN PARK - One of the losingest coaches in the NFL over the past three years will become the first to be officially interviewed by the Detroit Lions for their coaching vacancy.
Former New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Haslett (14-34) will interview with the Detroit Lions Friday and is expected to take a tour of the team's facilities and Ford Field in downtown Detroit.
Ironically, Haslett might still be coaching the Saints had it not been for a last second field goal by Lions kicker Jason Hanson that gave Detroit a 13-12 victory - their fifth and last one of the season - over the Saints.
Haslett is considered to be a strong candidate. The former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator was expected to field a playoff contender this season, but the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina forced the Saints into a nomadic existence including playing in three different "home" venues including the season opener in New York - a Monday Night game that wasn't televised.
After interviewing Haslett, Lions president and general manager Matt Millen, executive vice-presidents Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew will fly to Denver to exercise an opportunity to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Kubiak, a well-respected 11-year veteran assistant has long been rumored for a number of NFL openings but always declined as he waited for what he termed the right situation. It appears to be this year, as he is more open to taking a head coaching job than in the past.
Saunders appears to have lost some of the early luster that he possessed. Early rumors out of Kansas City had Saunders almost signed, sealed and delivered in Detroit by last Monday. Instead, the early suitors appear to have quickly cooled on the 23-year NFL veteran assistant, especially so when the Chiefs didn't seem all that interested in putting him atop their franchise as a replacement for the retired Dick Vermeil. Saunders was passed over for the Minnesota Vikings head coaching job which went to Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress.
Sources say Saunders lacks the leadership qualities that the Chiefs wanted after losing the charismatic Vermeil. Instead the Chiefs were willing to offer compensation in an attempt to acquire current New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards. Sources also say if the Chiefs cannot come to an agreement with Edwards, they may look to former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz who led the Rams to a Super Bowl after Vermeil retired in St. Louis.
Detroit apparently will not interview Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who would have become the NFL's first Hispanic head coach. They also appear to be passing on Martz and also likely on New York Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis and Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks.
Detroit is reportedly setting up interviews with Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, (a native of Royal Oak, MI.) and Russ Grimm, offensive line coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Detroit will likely have to wait until the Steelers are knocked out of the playoff picture to interview Grimm.
Detroit has already interviewed interim coach Dick Jauron and by telephone, Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon.
Lions GM Matt Millen was previously fined $250,000 by the NFL for violating the league's diversity policy when he hired Steve Mariucci in 2003. The interview of Carthon apparently has not fully satisfied the league's edict so look for Detroit to interview either Carthon again, or Singletary or Gray before making any hire.