Only one game remains in the NFL regular season and the race to be the next head coach of the Detroit Lions is heating up. The team fired coaching “genius” Matt Patricia in November and all eyes are now on the odds for who will take over as the permanent head coach.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh (+200) and San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh (+200) top the list of contenders, followed by Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy (+700). Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley is also an intriguing candidate at +1100.
With the time for the Lions to make a decision fast-approaching, let’s take a look at the FanDuel Sportsbook odds as of Tuesday on contenders who would have the task of replacing a rocket scientist.
Jim Harbaugh: +200
Harbaugh’s odds for the job are short, but would he take it if the Lions offered? He’s been the Michigan head coach since 2015 and his past head coaching jobs include the University of San Diego, Stanford, and the San Francisco 49ers.
On paper, Harbaugh is the obvious fit. But he would be leaving a cushy $7.5 million-a-year college coaching job to take the helm of a team with no talent and an old quarterback in Matthew Stafford. However, he would inherit a coaching staff with COVID-19 antibodies after Week 16 probably, so there is that if you’re looking for a silver lining.
Bottom line is there is likely no way Harbaugh accepts the position if Detroit offers it to him. You’ll be better off putting your money on one of the other candidates here.
Robert Saleh: +200
Saleh is the hottest name in coaching right now and he will no doubt pop up on the short list for every head coaching job this offseason. His NFL coaching resume is lengthy and includes positions with the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, and Jacksonville Jaguars, before assuming his current defensive coordinator role with the 49ers in 2017.
The 49ers are 6-9 this season and the Saleh-led defense ranks 17th in the league heading into Week 17. Although, with multiple injuries to stars like Nick Bosa, it can be argued that Saleh's defense actually over-performed in 2020.
Saleh was born in Michigan and served as the defensive assistant at Michigan State and Central Michigan between 2002 and 2004, so he would be at home in Detroit. 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman is also endorsing Saleh for the role, saying earlier this month, “He has to get the Detroit job. Homegrown. He’s a great leader of men. And he’s not stubborn. He doesn’t think he has all the answers. He comes up with a great plan and evolves it with his players.”
It feels unlikely Saleh would take the Lions job if other coaching opportunities appeal to him, so it’s best to put your money on one of the other candidates.
Eric Bieniemy: +700
If Saleh doesn’t want this coaching job and lands somewhere else, it’s Beiniemy’s for the taking. Take advantage of these 7/1 odds.
Bieniemy’s coaching history includes positions at Colorado and UCLA at the collegiate level, and the Minnesota Vikings, before joining the Chiefs in 2013 as a running backs coach. He has served as the team’s offensive coordinator since 2018 and won Super Bowl LIV with the team. This season, the offense for the 14-1 Chiefs ranks second in the league. The guy is good at this.
Bieniemy also has a glowing player-endorsement behind him, as Kansas City wide reciever Tyreek Hill sang his praises this week to TMZ Sports.
Of Bieniemy, Hill said, "Everything that he says on the sidelines or in meetings, guys are going to go out and do it because all of us, we want to fight for him because he's a great coach.”
Bieniemy doesn’t have an aerospace and nuclear engineering degree like former head coach Matt Patricia, but he’s one of the brightest coordinators in the league. Putting your money on Bieniemy at these odds is a smart move.
Lincoln Riley: +1100
Riley will be associated with every head coach vacancy this offseason but the Lions job doesn’t make a ton of sense for him right now, considering he, like Harbaugh, has a pretty good gig at Oklahoma. He’s enjoying a $6.5 million a year salary with the Sooners. Why leave OU for the Lions when he can continue to be in the National Championship hunt every year and coach Heisman Trophy candidate quarterbacks?
Riley’s overall head coaching record is 44-8 and he’s led Oklahoma to four Big 12 championships, but considering this would be his first NFL head coaching job, the 11/1 odds make sense. And I wouldn’t bet on him taking this job if the Lions offered it to him.
Whomever gets this head coaching job will be the team’s 11th coach since 2000 and has the chance to be the first of those coaches to win a game in the postseason. Best of luck to anyone willing to take on this role.