Getty MIAMI, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 02: Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh of the San Francisco 49ers looks on against the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh could have coached his last game in the Bay Area on Sunday. Saleh is a hot top candidate for some vacant head coaching roles, including the Atlanta Falcons.
Early on Sunday, reports swirled around that Saleh is set to interview with the Falcons and after the Niners’ 26-23 loss to the Seahawks, head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed those reports were true.
I know Saleh’s going to have a number lined up,” Shanahan said, via Pro Football Talk. “I think he is going to get one with Atlanta pretty fast. It’s a little weird situation with these guys are interviewing out of Zoom, and not kind of the normal way that you do it, but I am pretty sure he’s got one with Atlanta tomorrow, and I know others will start coming later in the week.”
Saleh Could Turn The Falcons Defense Around With Raheem Morris
It took longer than expected, but the Falcons finally moved on from head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after an 0-5 start to the season. They hadn’t had that kind of start since 1997.
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris took over as the interim head coach and the Falcons won four games. You could see the defense was playing hard under Morris but the consistency wasn’t enough. A Saleh-Morris game plan could work for Atlanta.
The Niners may not have made it to another Super Bowl this season let alone the playoffs, but even with an injury-plagued roster and COVID-19 issues, the defensive unit still managed to rank fifth in total defense (316.1 yards allowed per game) to end the season. In three seasons under Saleh, the 49ers have finished 24th, 13th, and second overall.
Saleh has also learned to work around significant injuries to DE Nick Bosa (out for the season after Week 2 with ACL tear) and cornerback Richard Sherman (missed 10 weeks after Week 1 with calf strain).
Sherman is all for Saleh getting a head coaching job elsewhere and also recently praised his coaching and leadership abilities.
“I expect him to be a head coach next year, because of what he’s able to do,” Sherman said in a Week 12 postgame press conference. “He’s able to rally men. He’s a leader of men, and that goes a long way.”
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The Detroit Lions Are Heavily Interested In Saleh
The Detroit Lions are also looking for a head coach and Saleh is reportedly their top candidate.
This is quite fitting since Saleh is a native of Dearborn, Michigan where he spent his entire childhood and then college football career at Northern Michigan.
From there, the 41-year-old started his coaching career at Michigan State — where his family football roots run deep — and then at Central Michigan as a defensive assistant.
Lions fans are all on board with Saleh taking over Matt Patricia’s role and Michigan legislators even sent Detroit’s owner, Sheila Ford Hamp, a letter asking the team to hire Saleh.
Wherever he ends up, Saleh will certainly be missed in the Bay Area.
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