Why Detroit Lions’ Dan Campbell is nervous he’ll lose defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn

Detroit Free Press

MOBILE, Ala. — More than Xs and Os, more than managing personalities, the job of a head coach in the NFL is to be the face of a franchise.

“That’s a huge responsibility,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said.

And it’s one both Glenn and his current boss say he’s ready for.

Glenn is scheduled to interview for the New Orleans Saints head coaching position Wednesday at the Senior Bowl, the second opening he’s been a candidate for this offseason.

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Previously, Glenn interviewed for the Denver Broncos job, which went to Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

“I think I’m ready for it,” Glenn said Tuesday. “I would say this, I was told this a long time ago (with the) coordinator job, like you’re never ready for it but you’ll always grow into it because there’s always going to be mistakes, but you learn from those mistakes and you just keep on going.”

Glenn played and coached in New Orleans and was the team’s defensive backs coach in 2016-20, when he elevated the unit into one of the best in the NFL.

He left the Saints for the Lions last January and oversaw a defense this season that finished 29th in the NFL in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed but was widely considered to have overachieved.

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The Lions held seven opponents to 20 or fewer points this season and had 19 takeaways, seven more than last year, despite an injury-depleted and talent-deficient roster.

They lost starting cornerback Jeff Okudah and 2020 sack leader Romeo Okwara to Achilles tendon injuries in the season’s first month, placed defensive starters Amani Oruwariye, Jerry Jacobs and Alex Anzalone on injured reserve in December and finished the season with three rookies — Ifeatu Melifonwu, A.J. Parker and Derrick Barnes — in the starting lineup.

Lions coach Dan Campbell said he is “nervous” about losing Glenn to the Saints. Along with Glenn, the Saints will reportedly interview current assistants Dennis Allen and Darren Rizzi, ex-Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson and ex-Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores for the job.

“He’d be a great fit and that’s why I’m nervous,” said Campbell, who worked with Glenn in New Orleans in 2016-20. “He would be a great fit. And honestly, A.G.’d be a great fit for just about anybody. That’s how much I think of him and know where he’s going. So I know that’s real, it’s out there. They have a good feel of A.G., A.G. has a great feel of that organization, the players and all it entails. So if you’re asking me, it’s a fit. Now, I hope it doesn’t go that way, but yeah.”

Glenn downplayed his ties to the Saints while talking with reporters Tuesday, saying “just getting a chance to be able to express myself on how to be a head coach is more important than anything.”

“Regardless who the organization is, just for those guys to pick me out as a guy they feel like can run the organization, man, that’s an enjoyment in itself,” he said. “So I try to prepare the best I can. I’m going to put my best foot forward and if I win the job, I win the job. If I don’t, I’ll get ready for the next opportunity.”

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A Pro Bowl cornerback as a player, Glenn earned high marks in Detroit for his relatability to players, his hands-on approach as a teacher and his aggressive mindset as a play caller.

He said he spent 6½ hours interviewing with the Broncos, a meeting held at The Henry hotel in Dearborn. He praised Denver general manager George Paton for conducting a thorough search. And he said whenever he gets the chance to be a head coach his goal will be “to be the best head coach in the league just like I said about being the best D-coordinator.”

“My interview (in Denver) went almost 6½ hours, which to me spoke volumes of apparently they liked what they were hearing, but the thing is I just didn’t win the job,” he said. “The thing is, man, I have a really good job. I have a really good job with really good people that I talk to every Thursday and I’m enjoying that. So if I don’t get one of these jobs you know what man? I’m going to still be there with you guys and we’re going to turn this thing around in Detroit and we’re going to continue to play hard and play fast and get some more talent in there and go play.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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