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Michigan lawmakers pitch Robert Saleh for Lions coach

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

There isn't much that can unify opposing sides in the political realm these days, but apparently the Detroit Lions are enough to get state legislators on the same page.

A group of 36 bipartisan Michigan House legislators, led by Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn), sent an open letter to Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp, advocating the hiring of San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, and Dearborn native, Robert Saleh as the franchise's next head coach.

Robert Saleh

"We are writing today to thank you for your recent decision to make a change at manager and head coach for your franchise," the letter states. "These decisions are often difficult but are necessary to move forward. For many in our state, and across the globe, the Detroit Lions hold a special place in our lives. We look forward to future success through transitioning to a new manager and head coach. 

"Speaking of head coach, we have one name in mind — Robert Saleh," the letter continues. "A hometown hero, Robert was raised in the Dearborn community, attended Fordson High School, played his college career at Northern Michigan University, and coached at Michigan State University. Everywhere Robert has been he has achieved success. Most recently, as Defensive Coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, his defense has improved across numerous categories; turnovers, sacks, and yards allowed per game. He has built and maintained one of the best defenses in the league."

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Saleh, along with Kansas Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, are considered two of the hottest coaching candidates this hiring cycle. It's almost certain that Saleh will garner consideration from the Lions once the interview process begins next month, but the ultimate decision on the hire is likely to hinge on who the team brings in to replace general manager Bob Quinn. 

As the letter notes, an undeniable part of Saleh's appeal is his local ties, giving him an inherent understanding of the franchise's history. But there's also little denying the credentials that extend beyond his geographic roots. 

Since joining the 49ers in 2017 as part of Kyle Shanahan's staff, the team went from the worst defense in the NFL to a top-10 unit during last year's Super Bowl run. And despite the 49ers suffering significant injury issues on both sides of the ball in 2020, the defense has continued to play at a high level. Entering Sunday's games, the unit ranks sixth in yardage and 11th in points. 

After last Sunday's victory over the Los Angeles Rams, cornerback Richard Sherman, one of San Francisco's best defensive players, also advocated for his coordinator to get a shot in Detroit. 

"He has to get the Detroit job,” Sherman told Sports Illustrated. “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."

As it currently stands, the Lions have five games remaining on their regular-season schedule, starting with Sunday's matchup against the Chicago Bears. They'll be led by interim coach Darrell Bevell, making his head coaching debut.