| Detroit Free Press
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The Detroit Lions have a full plate of interviews scheduled for this week, including with the top offensive and defensive assistant coaches on the market.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is interviewing for the Lions head coaching job Monday, Sports Illustrated reported, the first of at least nine coach and GM candidates the team will sit down with over the next seven or so days.
Bieniemy, a former NFL running back, is in his third season as Chiefs offensive coordinator. He does not call plays in Kansas City, but has helped oversee the rise of the NFL’s best offense and the development of MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Two Lions who played in Kansas City said last week they see Bieniemy excelling as a head coach.
“He’s one of the realest dudes, straight-forward dudes you’re ever going to meet,” linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “So he’s a hell of a coach. I can’t say nothing bad about him and I won’t because he’s a great dude and an excellent coach and an excellent person at the end of the day, too. He loved his players, so I respect him a lot.”
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator and Dearborn native Robert Saleh will interview with the Lions on Thursday, a person familiar with his schedule told the Free Press.
Saleh, like Bieniemy, is considered a likely candidate to land a head coaching job this offseason. He was considered runner-up for the Cleveland Browns job last year, when he helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl. This year, the 49ers finished in the top 10 in rushing, passing and total defense despite significant injury problems.
The Atlanta Falcons also are expected to interview both Bieniemy and Saleh, and the New York Jets reportedly requested an interview with Bieniemy.
Along with the Lions, Falcons and Jets, the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers also have openings at head coach, and the Lions, Falcons, Texans, Jaguars, Carolina Panthers and Washington are looking for GMs.
“I will be very surprised if we don’t lose (Saleh),” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters Sunday. “I don’t know what’s wrong with people if they don’t hire him. He’s as good as you can get, knows more about football, all three phases, and he’s going to hire the best staff, he knows about players, he knows what they’re talking about, who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. He also knows how to deal with people. I hope everyone’s not very smart and doesn’t hire him so I can keep him, but I’m expecting not to have him.”
Interim Lions coach Darrell Bevell also is expected to interview for the full-time job this week, with Sports Illustrated reporting that he will officially interview Tuesday.
The Lions went 1-4 under Bevell after Matt Patricia was fired in late November, but Bevell impressed people in the organization with his leadership ability.
“I was extremely proud of the way he stepped into that situation,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “It’s a tough one. It’s a tough year to be a coach in the NFL with all the extra COVID stuff going on, all the regulations and all that. I thought he did an outstanding job. He’s a heck of a person, and I think everybody got to realize that. I’m sure you guys did, getting your chances to talk to him a little bit more. He’s a great person and a great coach and I was just really happy that he got the opportunity and I think everybody in our locker room really rallied around him, which was awesome and obviously want to win more football games than we did, but I thought he stepped in and did a great job.”
Along with Bieniemy, Saleh and Bevell, the Lions will interview Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and New Orleans Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell next week.
Both the Titans and Saints have playoff games this weekend, while the 49ers have been eliminated and the Chiefs are on bye.
Previously, the Lions talked to ex-Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis about their head coaching position.
On the GM side, the Lions have interviewed seven candidates already: in-house candidates Kyle O’Brien, Lance Newmark and Rob Lohman, ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, and ex-NFL GMs Thomas Dimitroff, Rick Smith and Scott Pioli.
This week, they plan to interview Saints assistant general managers Terry Fontenot and Jeff Ireland, director of college scouting Brad Holmes and Minnesota Vikings assistant GM George Paton, who works with new Lions executive Chris Spielman’s brother, Vikings GM Rick Spielman.
Here is the Lions’ full interview schedule, according to Sports Illustrated:
Tuesday: Bevell, Fontenot
Wednesday: Holmes, Paton
Next week: Smith, Campbell
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