Lovie Smith would have fit well in Detroit

Lovie Smith met many of the Lions' stated qualifications, but he's now off Detroit's list. Andrew Weber/US Pressiwire

One of the candidates who appeared to most fit what the Detroit Lions are looking for in a head coach has accepted a job. Just not in Detroit.

A day after Bill O'Brien decided to go to Houston, former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith chose to sign with Tampa Bay, and the Lions search, less than 72 hours old, continues on.

Smith seemed like a potentially ideal candidate for Detroit -- at least based on the criteria Lions general manager Martin Mayhew laid out Monday. He runs a preferred four-man front, fitting the Lions' current personnel. He has head coaching experience, is considered an even-keeled, disciplined coach and he has won, taking the Bears to Super Bowl XLI.

He also understands the NFC North, which meant understanding the Lions.

Now the focus continues on other candidates -- many of whom Detroit won't be able to talk with until next week. That list almost certainly includes San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who once led Arizona to a Super Bowl appearance and has done a good job with Philip Rivers this season.

The Lions are also planning on interviewing Baltimore offensive coordinator and former Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell, according to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter. While Caldwell isn't necessarily an exciting candidate, he does fit a lot of the Lions criteria, including head coaching experience and being able to win as he also guided a team to a Super Bowl.

More candidates are likely to emerge in the next few days, especially as wild-card weekend wraps up and more coordinators and other coaches become available to interview. And there's still a chance the Lions could look at some college head coaches like Vanderbilt's James Franklin, Notre Dame's Brian Kelly or try to make a run at David Shaw from Stanford. Shaw, though, appears to be comfortable at Stanford.

The one thing that Wednesday night made clear, though, is that this search might not wrap up all that quickly.