‘Great leader of men’: Richard Sherman endorses 49ers’ Robert Saleh for next Lions coach

Jon Becker
San Jose Mercury News

If Richard Sherman gets his way, the San Francisco 49ers are going to need a new defensive coordinator next season.

The 49ers’ Pro Bowl cornerback continues to be a strong advocate for Robert Saleh leaving to become the next Detroit Lions head coach.

Two days after effusively praising the 49ers defensive coordinator following a 23-20 victory over the Rams, Sherman said it’s a no-brainer for the Lions to hire the Dearborn native Saleh.

Robert Saleh

“He has to get the Detroit job,” Sherman told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “Homegrown. He’s a great leader of men. And he’s not stubborn. He doesn’t just think he has all the answers. He comes up with a great plan and evolves it with his players.”

The Lions, 4-7 and on their way to a third straight last-place finish in the NFC North, will be looking for their third head coach in four years after the season. And, as Sherman has argued, Saleh makes a lot of sense to replace Matt Patricia, who was fired along with general manager Bob Quinn over the weekend after leading Detroit to a 13-29-1 record in almost three years.

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The gambling houses certainly agree with Sherman. Las Vegas oddsmakers have Saleh as the slight favorite to replace interim Lions coach Darrell Bevell.

The 41-year-old Saleh has probably turned in his finest work this season, given the devastating injuries that have hit the 49ers defense this season — Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford and Jaquiski Tartt out for the year; Sherman missing 11 weeks. Despite those significant losses, the concepts and principles of Saleh’s defense just keep on working. The 49ers are sixth in the league in total defense, including fourth in pass defense despite having to shuffle players in and out of the secondary.

Given the timing of Patricia’s firing and the prospect of Saleh being under consideration to coach a Lions team he grew up rooting for, the 49ers’ performance against the Rams was prescient. San Francisco harassed Rams quarterback Jared Goff while limiting L.A. to just 308 yards and forcing four turnovers.

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“You’ve got to give Robert Saleh an abundance of credit, an unusual amount of credit, and he’s not getting enough here but around the league,” Sherman said after the 49ers’ win. “To lose so many (defenders) and have guys who can’t practice, week after week, he never makes an excuse. We’re still a top-five defense in almost all categories.

“There are (coordinators) out there with Pro-Bowlers and All-Pros and never had an injury, never had any adversity, and they’re not putting out a top-five defense. He’s not making any excuses. He’s making great plans, week in and week out, and we’re making it happen. I expect him to be a head coach next year because of what he’s able to do. He’s able to rally men, and that goes a long way.”

Far enough to get Saleh back home to Michigan? Only time will tell.