Detroit Lions News: 3 coaches to target when replacing Matt Patricia

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Detroit Lions
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Robert Saleh

There is no denying that Robert Saleh will have an opportunity to become an NFL head coach as early as next season, and it should be with his hometown Detroit Lions.

Saleh became a name that surfaced last season after overseeing one of the leagues’ top defenses with the San Francisco 49ers en route to a Super Bowl birth.  Saleh garnered plenty of attention after his success calling the 49ers defense last season and interviewed with the Cleveland Browns for their head coaching vacancy but missed out on the job after the Browns decided to hire the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski instead.

For an offensive-minded head coach, Kyle Shanahan couldn’t have been more excited to see Saleh return to the Bay Area for another season.  While the 49ers surely had aspirations to find themselves back in the Super Bowl hunt in 2020, but a plethora of injuries have stalled that notion.

Despite losing star defensive end Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, along with an elite pass-rusher in Dee Ford, and standout veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, the 49ers have produced the fourth-best defense against the pass and tenth best defending the run.  Imagine losing those types of players yet still producing a top-eight defense?  Don’t forget; the 49ers are in a division that plays Arizona, Seattle, and the L.A. Rams twice a season.  That’s facing Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, and Sean McVay twice every season.

We can argue considering the string of serious injuries the 49ers have suffered this season, Saleh’s been forced to scheme a defense week-to-week rather than simply letting the talent of Bosa and Sherman feast each week.

Saleh has schemed pressure without having the availability of his superstars on defense in 2020.  The 49ers have produced a quarterback pressure rate of nearly 24% this season (seventh-highest in the NFL) while blitzing often. In fact, the 49ers have the ninth highest blitz rate in 2020 at 34% of the time; it’s something he hadn’t been forced to do in the past.  Last season the 49ers blitzed the fourth-least amount of time but created the second-highest quarterback pressure rate behind Armstead, Bosa, Ford, and DeForest Buckner.

Saleh’s ability to adapt leaves us salivating.  Maybe he’s the defensive guru we’ve been promised in Detroit?

The 41-year old from Dearborn, Michigan and spent time coaching as an assistant with Michigan State, Central Michigan, Georgia, before landing with the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks before landing a job as the linebacker’s coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars and finally settling in as the defensive coordinator with the 49ers.

Saleh has clearly cut his teeth as an assistant before landing a DC job; now it’s time to see how the young man fares as a head coach.