Lions Reportedly Targeting Pair of Big Names for Coach, GM

John Dorsey

Getty John Dorsey before a Browns game.

The Detroit Lions are ready to jump-start their future, and the next step is getting their prospective head coaching list ready to determine the next leader of the team.

One such name that could be on the list is Robert Saleh, the defensive coordinator for the San Fransisco 49ers. Most have wondered if the Lions would chase after Saleh, a Northern Michigan graduate, to come home and it looks early on as if that could be the case.

According to Tony Pauline and Benjamin Allbright of Pro Football Network, Saleh is of interest in Detroit and the feeling could be mutual thanks to his Michigan ties.

Could Lions Hire New Head Coach Before GM?

A recent piece by Andy Gallagher of Pro Football Network revealed some inside nuggets on the current coaching landscape and explained what the reporters are hearing.

The Lions were mentioned a couple of times, both with regard to an executive and a head coach. When it came to Saleh, the report was there is plenty of interest on the Detroit side.

“Both Allbright and Pauline are reporting that the Detroit Lions are also interested in hiring Saleh. As Pauline said on Wednesday night, league insiders feel Saleh is a natural fit for the Lions; he’s from the state of Michigan, played college football at Northern Michigan and worked his way up the ranks previously coaching at both Central Michigan and Michigan State.”

Some may hope the Lions would hire a general manager first, but the team might move on the coaching side of things before getting their chief football executive in place. In that instance, John Dorsey’s name has popped up, with Allbright reporting that he is “high on the list” for Detroit.

“[Eric] Bieniemy has experience working with John Dorsey in Kansas City, who Allbright has heard is high on the Lions’ wish list, and there are expectations that the two could package themselves together. The Lions are taking a different approach, though. The team is looking to hire a head coach and find a general manager who can work with him, rather than hiring a GM and asking them to lead the head coaching search.”

That might seem like an odd approach, but it could work out for the Lions if Dorsey and Saleh don’t mind working together. Saleh was a runner-up to coach in Cleveland last year, so it’s possible Dorsey would easily know and trust him to be a viable candidate.

Why John Dorsey Makes Sense For Lions

Detroit could be the perfect landing spot for Dorsey, 60, considering he is a veteran football mind and someone who can evaluate talent quite well. That much has been proven true through the years in the executive’s previous stops.

Dorsey has had a hand in building a trio of Super Bowl champions and has his fingerprints all over two of the most exciting teams 2020 has to offer. He started his career with the Green Bay Packers, where he worked in scouting development for the Super Bowl XXXI champions and served as director of football operations for the roster that won Super Bowl XLV.

From there he was hired as Kansas City’s general manager, where he secured QB Patrick Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill via the NFL Draft, all of whom eventually delivered last season’s Super Bowl LIV title after Dorsey was gone. Following his exit there in June 2017, he joined the Browns as general manager, presiding over the decisions to draft QB Baker Mayfield, DB Denzel Ward, RB Nick Chubb and others and trading for key players such as WR Jarvis Landry.

Dorsey’s personality might rub some the wrong way, but he doesn’t have to be everyone’s best friend. All Dorsey has to do is bring in the right players and be allowed to make decisions for the betterment of the franchise without being encumbered by ownership. The Lions need plenty of players to turn things around if they’re going to change their trajectory for the better, and Dorsey could deliver those results.

Robert Saleh’s Experience Also Fits Lions

It’s easy to see why Saleh, 41, might be favored by the team. Not only is he a great NFL coordinator, 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.

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 this season, Saleh’s group has been good, allowing the fourth-fewest passing yards (2,271) and tenth-fewest rushing yards (1,196) through Week 12.

The biggest wild card in this Lions coaching scenario is who Saleh would target as his offensive coordinator. It will be interesting to see if the Saleh-Dorsey pairing is how the Lions elect to move forward in the coming weeks.

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