Robert Saleh’s phone is ‘blowing up’ with messages about becoming next Detroit Lions coach

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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Robert Saleh may not have given his candidacy to be the next Detroit Lions coach much thought, but his friends and family have.

Saleh, the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, said Monday on The Adam Schefter Podcast that his family is “uber excited” about the possibility that he will replace Matt Patricia as Lions coach.

“Friends in high school and all that, they blow my phone up every day and they’re super excited,” Saleh said. “But I am not lying to anybody when I genuinely can say that it would be irresponsible for me to really think about it when there’s an organization who’s counting on every person who is involved in the organization to do the best they can, and if my mind is elsewhere than there’s no way in heck I can do my best.

So I really haven’t had time to reflect on any of the job openings or any possibilities moving forward.”

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A Dearborn native whose family still lives in the area, Saleh is expected to be a top candidate for the Lions vacancy and other jobs when the 49ers’ season ends next month.

The Lions fired Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn on Nov. 28 and are one of three teams currently looking for a head coach.

The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, who Saleh worked with 2005-10, also have openings, and another one of Saleh’s former employers, the Jacksonville Jaguars, likely will be in the market for a new coach as well.

Saleh, 41, was runner-up for the Cleveland Browns head coaching job last season, when his 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl. He said his interview with the Browns was “very, very thorough” and indicated it will aid him in getting ready for this year’s hiring cycle.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity that the Browns gave me to put me through that process,” Saleh said. “Obviously, (Cleveland coach Kevin) Stefanski is doing a phenomenal job. I know him very well and he’s doing fantastic, which we all knew he would. But it was cool, to be able to go through that process. And like I said things happen for a reason, but forever grateful that I was given the opportunity to go through that process.”

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In the podcast, Saleh said his three seasons as a defensive quality control assistant with the Seattle Seahawks, where he won a Super Bowl, were the most influential years of his coaching career.

He said last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, when the Chiefs rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter after converting a third-and-15, is something “I’ll never stop thinking about.”

And he reiterated that he had no prior knowledge of the letter a group of Michigan lawmakers sent to Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp last week encouraging her to hire Saleh as head coach.

Some Michigan state legislators threw their support behind one candidate with local ties to be the next Lions coach Friday, while one of the Lions’ chief rivals offered high praise for another.

“It’s flattering and all,” Saleh said. “But I would still imagine that the Lions are going to go through their due diligence and go through their process and they’ll try to find a way to hire the best man for that job.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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