Three and out: Gruden ruled out of Lions’ coaching search

Jay Gruden, offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, was reportedly going to interview Friday with the Lions but it never got that far.

THREE AND OUT

Gruden, offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, was reportedly going to interview Friday with the Lions but it never got that far.

It probably didn’t matter anyway because San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt remains the best-available candidate.

The Lions are scheduled to interview him Thursday in San Diego. The big question will be whether Whisenhunt, the former head coach of a Super Bowl team with the Arizona Cardinals, goes ahead with reported plans to meet Friday with Tennessee and Saturday with Cleveland.

No official hiring can take place until after the Chargers’ season ends, per NFL rules. San Diego plays Sunday at Denver in the AFC playoffs.

Lions interview Mike Munchak

But if Whisenhunt ends up canceling those interviews with the Titans and Browns, it will be a clear indication that he’s headed to Detroit once the Chargers are eliminated.

The other candidates for the Lions’ job are Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, former Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak and former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak.

PFF, a website that grades players after analyzing every play of every NFL game, named Warford as the league’s Rookie of the Year.

The Lions, meanwhile, named defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah as their rookie of the year and also selected center Dominic Raiola as the team’s top offensive lineman.

He doesn’t seem like the type who would care much about individual awards, but you couldn’t blame Warford, a third-round draft pick who didn’t allow a sack all season, if he had a few "What about me?" moments.

Stafford reportedly did not meet with Kubiak or Munchak during their visits.

Some believe it sends a bad message to have a player — even a so-called franchise quarterback — with any involvement in the search process for a new coach.

In this case, it depends on how extensive that role is for Stafford. He clearly shouldn’t be hand-picking the next coach or even close to it, but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with trying to find out how the chemistry of a coach and quarterback might work.

The Lions are going nowhere in the near future unless Stafford, who is signed through 2017, bounces back from a mistake-prone second half of the season.

Based on the backgrounds of three of their top candidates — Whisenhunt, Caldwell and Kubiak all have experience working with quarterbacks — it’s obvious the Lions have made fixing Stafford one of the main priorities during this search.

For that reason, why not let him spend a little time and break down some tape with the candidates?

That sounds more like doing your due diligence than anything else.

Johnson was hampered much of the season by a knee injury, missing two games, including the regular-season finale.