Robert Saleh is set to become one of the hottest names on the coaching market, and the Detroit Lions are likely all-eyes as he makes his late season moves with the San Francisco 49ers.
For the first time, Saleh has spoken directly about the Detroit job, even if the Michigan native didn’t give the type of answers any fans might crave. Recently, ESPN’s Adam Schefter scored an interview with Saleh for an episode of The Adam Schefter Podcast. Unsurprisingly, he asked Saleh directly about the Detroit opening, and the coach remained very tight lipped.
🎙49ers’ DC Robert Saleh shares his thoughts on potentially becoming a head coach.
🎙Former Seahawks’ DC Kris Richard discussed how he has spent this season and what could be ahead next season.
🎙 @EpKap previews Week 14.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 7, 2020
Specifically, Schefter questioned Saleh about a group of Michigan lawmakers recently endorsing him to be the team’s next coach and petitioning the Lions to make the hire. Saleh admitted he didn’t know about the honor until he was told prior to a recent press conference and was flattered, but he doesn’t read much into it.
“I wasn’t aware until after practice. It’s flattering and all but I would still imagine the Lions are going to go through their due diligence and their process and still find a way to hire the best man for that job.”
Detroit won’t be able to talk to Saleh until San Francisco’s season ends or until there is a break in the action on their playoff schedule, so there isn’t likely to be any movement on this front in the coming weeks. Saleh has a job to do with his current NFL team, and he will do it the rest of this month and perhaps a bit more moving forward.
Even with Saleh potentially in the mix, there will be other candidates linked to the Detroit job. Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy might also be an interested top contender as well.
There figures to be a day and time for Saleh to think about the possibility of coaching his favorite team growing up, however. That time may have already come for some within his inner circle.
Robert Saleh’s Family, Friends ‘Excited’ Over Lions Opening
In terms of the Detroit opening itself specifically, Saleh had even less to say, but did admit that his family and friends are quite excited about the prospects of him potentially coming back home to coach the team even if he isn’t giving it much consideration.
Saleh explained on the podcast:
“You know what, I really haven’t taken time to think about it. I know it’s not the answer you want, I just haven’t had time to digest that. I know my family is uber excited, I know friends from high school and all that, they blow my phone up every day and they’re super excited but I am not lying to anybody when I genuinely can say it would be irresponsible for me to really think about it when there’s an organization who’s counting on every person involved to do the best they can. If my mind is elsewhere, there’s no way in heck that I could do my best. I haven’t had time to reflect on any of the job openings or any possibilities moving forward.”
The quote is quite telling as it relates to the future. If nearly everyone around Saleh is feeling excited about the possibility for the gig, chances are he will eventually get a chance to feel that way too even though he cannot allow himself to think that way right now.
Saleh has six children and family ties have been said to be very important to him, so it’s possible this could eventually play a role in his candidacy.
Robert Saleh’s Michigan Ties Make Him Strong Lions Fit
Saleh, 41, might be favored by the team as the potential top candidate thanks to his work on the field and his fit off. Not only is he a great NFL coordinator and one of the top candidates on the coaching carousel, but he got his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Michigan State and Central Michigan after his playing days at Northern Michigan. To this end, he has deep football roots within the state and a return home could be a natural fit.
His NFL journey began in 2005 with the Houston Texans, where he was a defensive intern. He rose from that role to linebackers coach and then defensive quality control coach for the Seattle Seahawks before becoming the Jacksonville Jaguars’ linebackers coach in 2014. Finally, he was tapped by Kyle Shanahan in 2017 to lead the 49ers’ defense.
Saleh’s defenses in San Francisco have been tough and ferocious throughout his tenure, which is what the Lions would expect. They are known for strong play in the trenches and secondary where Saleh’s excitement could also help both groups. Last season, Saleh helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl with one of the best units in the league.
While San Francisco has struggled with injuries and consistency during 2020, Saleh’s group has still been good, allowing the fourth-fewest passing yards (2,271) and tenth-fewest rushing yards (1,196) through Week 12. They also have 20 sacks this season, which is a solid total. Detroit’s defense hasn’t managed to be that consistent in years.
Saleh could bring the same passion to the Lions, and it’s clear some close to the coach are already looking ahead to thinking about that even if he refuses to go there.