Detroit Lions head coaching rumors: Robert Saleh needs to be top choice

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions should bring home Robert Saleh to be their next head coach.

It’s a Detroit Lions franchise that is desperately seeking a new identity.  What better way for Shelia Ford Hamp and Rod Wood to hit the reset button by bringing in a highly motivated, eager, highly regarded defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh to be the teams’ next head coach.

Over the last year, I’ve lobbied for the organization to hire an offensive-minded head coach after the disaster we’ve seen from Matt Patricia.  I’ve shifted my thought process watching how well the San Francisco 49ers defense has performed in 2020, considering all of the pieces they’ve been forced to play without.  Oh, and it doesn’t hurt knowing Saleh is a hometown guy, having grown up in Dearborn, Michigan.

The 41-year old DC started his coaching career as an assistant with Michigan State, then moving on to Central Michigan and Georgia before heading to the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks.  After cutting his teeth as an assistant in various capacities, Saleh finally received an opportunity to be a lead positional coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching the linebackers.  That success landed him a DC job with the 49ers, coaching on Kyle Shanahan’s staff.

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After enjoying tremendous success, Saleh interviewed last season for the Cleveland Browns job as the 49ers were heading to another Super Bowl appearance, but the job eventually went to Kevin Stefanski, who previously called the Minnesota Vikings offense.

The 49ers have struggled in 2020 to gear up for another title run, mostly due to a plethora of injuries scattered throughout their roster.  The 49ers have not only been playing without their starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on offense, but they’ve also been forced to start their fourth and fifth running backs and wide receivers multiple times.

On the defensive side of the ball, Saleh’s been required to operate without super-star defensive end Nick Bosa, plus Richard Sherman, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, Ronald Blair, Solomon Thomas, Jaquiski Tartt, and Ziggy Ansah.

Oh, and don’t forget the 49ers opted to trade away one of the league’s top interior defenders in DeForest Buckner this past offseason knowing they’d be tight against the salary cap.

With all that said, the 49ers are still producing a top-five defense in 2020 (Before Monday night’s game).  The 49ers rank 10th defending the run plus ranking fourth against the pass.

A lot of this success is due to Saleh’s ability to scheme an efficient game plan with the resources he’s been given week after week.

During the 2019 season with a healthy group, the 49ers had been able to generate pressure without blitzing.  Buckner, Bosa, and company had the ability to make things happen with their raw talent allowing the 49ers to drop into coverage.

Per Pro Football Reference, in 2019, the 49ers defense created the most pressure, 14.7% blitzing the fourth-least, 20.9% of the time.  For the record, in the same season, the Detroit Lions blitzed the third-fewest times, just 18% of the teams’ defensive snaps, creating pressure just 8% of the time, ninth-worst across the league.

Fast forward to 2020.

The 49ers are blitzing a whopping 33.2% of the time, the tenth MOST in the NFL, creating the third MOST pressure at 11.6% of the time.  Think about that for a second, knowing they’ve been operating as a top-five overall defense with all of the players they have missing.

Robert Saleh has done a tremendous job changing his overall philosophy, adapting to the players at his disposal.  He’s exactly what the Detroit Lions need to turn their atrocious defense around.  If he opted to retain Darrell Bevell for another year to be his offensive coordinator while he focuses on repairing the defense; I’d be all for it.

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The Detroit Lions should NOT hire Robert Saleh because he’s a Dearborn native; but instead, because he’s an emerging, young, bright football mind with an opportunity to excel as a head coach for years to come.