Why Lions could pursue 49ers' Saleh after firing Patricia

Kerry Hyder Jr. and Robert Saleh, 49ers

While Robert Saleh has had a lot of success as the 49ers' defensive coordinator, an enticing opportunity could present itself this offseason.

The Detroit Lions finally fired coach Matt Patricia on Saturday, along with general manager Bob Quinn. It was a shakeup that has been a long-time coming. In less than three seasons in the Motor City, Patricia had a 13-29-1 record.

For now, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will serve as interim head coach.

But the Lions likely will be looking for a long-term solution in the offseason, which is where Saleh could be a factor.

Saleh garnered head-coaching interest from the Cleveland Browns in January as the 49ers were making their run to the Super Bowl. He interviewed for the job, but ultimately, former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski got the gig.

This time around, Saleh has some natural ties to Detroit that could work in his favor. The 41-year-old was born in Dearborn, Mich. and played college football at Northern Michigan.

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After his college playing days were over, Saleh was hired as a defensive assistant at Michigan State in 2002. Two years later, he took on a similar role at Central Michigan for one season before moving on to Georgia for one season. He broke into the NFL coaching ranks after that, with stops in Houston, Seattle and Jacksonville before landing in San Francisco.


It's unknown if Saleh views the Lions' head-coaching gig as his dream job, but if he has any desire to return to his home state, this might be his best chance.

The Lions hired Patricia after he spent six seasons leading the New England Patriots' defense, but Detroit's defense has been pretty bad the last two seasons.

Unlike the Lions under Patricia, the 49ers' defense has thrived over the last few seasons with Saleh at the helm. Last year, San Francisco had one of the best defensive units in the NFL and rode it to a 13-3 record, the No. 1 seed in the NFC and a berth in Super Bowl LIV.

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This season, the 49ers' defense has been decimated by injuries, but Saleh's group still has played well, ranking fifth in total yards allowed and 11th in points allowed per game.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan would hate to lose Saleh from his staff, but a byproduct of team success is losing players and coaches to other opportunities. Whenever the 49ers' season ends, Saleh should get a few calls from other teams, possibly even from the Lions.