Your early favorite for next head coach of the Lions: 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
That's according to public sentiment in Detroit, where the Dearborn native could become a hometown hero.
That's according to Vegas, where Saleh is the 11-2 favorite to land the job, slightly ahead of Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley.
And that's according to 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, who lauded Saleh after San Francisco's win over the Rams last weekend and then told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, "He has to get the Detroit job. Homegrown."
Saleh, 41, is Michigan to his core. He was born and raised in Dearborn, graduated from Fordson, went on to play football at Northern Michigan and got his first job in the coaching business as an offensive assistant under Bobby Williams at Michigan State. John L. Smith shifted Saleh to defense the next season and he never looked back.
"He's a great leader of men," Sherman said. "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. We battle for that man! He’s a great human being. Makes you want to fight for him.”
The proof is in the pudding this season for Saleh, who has kept the 49ers among among the top defensive teams in the NFL despite major injuries to a pair of Pro Bowlers in Nick Bosa and Dee Ford and another key starter in Solomon Thomas.
San Francisco ranks sixth in the NFL in total defense and fourth in passing defense. Last year it ranked second in total defense and first in passing defense as the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl.
If the Lions were watching Saleh's defense last Sunday, the day after they fired Matt Patricia, they would have loved what they saw. The 49ers notched four turnovers and six tackles for loss and held the Rams to 308 yards in a crucial win over their NFC West rivals.
"You gotta give Coach Saleh an abundance of credit, an unusual amount of credit," Sherman said postgame. "And I don’t think he’s getting enough credit not only here, but in the league in general. To have the injuries that we’ve had week after week after week ... he never makes an excuse and statistically we're still a top-five defense in almost every category.
"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."