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Detroit Lions request interviews with 4 potential head coaching candidates

Lions request interviews with Robert Saleh, Eric Bieniemy, Dan Campbell, Arthur Smith

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 29: San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh looks on in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during their game at CenturyLink Field on December 29, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 29: San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh looks on in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during their game at CenturyLink Field on December 29, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) (2019 Abbie Parr)

DETROIT – It’s the first day of the offseason for the Detroit Lions, and they’ve reportedly requested interviews with four potential head coaching candidates.

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The Lions requested to interview the following assistant coaches around the league, according to Ian Rapoport:

  • Robert Saleh -- defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Eric Bieniemy -- offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.
  • Dan Campbell -- assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the New Orleans Saints.
  • Arthur Smith -- offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.

Robert Saleh

Saleh has gotten plenty of attention as a possible candidate for the Lions’ head coaching job, not only because of his success in San Francisco, but also because was born and raised in Dearborn and attended Fordson High School and Northern Michigan University.

He was named the defensive coordinator for the 49ers in February 2017 and was instrumental in the 2019 Super Bowl run. San Francisco went 13-3 last season and had a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl before losing to the Chiefs.

After coaching at Michigan State, Central Michigan and Georgia in the early 2000s, Saleh has been in the NFL since 2005, working on the defensive side of the ball for the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Saleh was in Seattle from 2011-2013 when the Seahawks went from four straight losing records to back-to-back 11-win seasons. He was the defensive quality control coach for Seattle’s 2013 Super Bowl championship.

He is 41 years old and considered one of the top head coaching candidates on the market.

Eric Bieniemy

On the offensive side of the ball, Bieniemy is the hottest offensive name on the coaching carousel.

Bieniemy, 51, played in the NFL for eight years in the 1990s and has been a coach since 2001. He has been with the Chiefs since 2013 and spent the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator, winning a Super Bowl and reaching the AFC Championship game in 2018.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 12: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy watches pregame warmups prior to the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 12: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy watches pregame warmups prior to the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) (2020 David Eulitt)

There’s no denying the Chiefs’ incredible offensive success under Bieniemy, but if he gets a head coaching job this offseason -- which seems likely -- he won’t be taking Patrick Mahomes with him. Or Tyreek Hill. Or Travis Kelce. Or Sammy Watkins. Or Le’Veon Bell. You get the idea.

Bieniemy is a top head coaching candidate because he’s had tremendous success in Kansas City, but like Saleh, nobody knows exactly how he would handle being in charge of a franchise.

Dan Campbell

Campbell, 44, might be a familiar name to Lions fans because he played for the team from 2006-2008. He signed as a free agent tight end in March 2006 and had a strong season, with 308 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

But he spent the next two seasons battling injuries, and retired after winning a Super Bowl ring while on injured reserve for the Saints in 2009.

While he served as an interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2015, Campbell has spent most of his time in the NFL as a position coach, though he’s the assistant head coach for Sean Payton in New Orleans.

Arthur Smith

Smith is an interesting candidate because he’s only 38 years old but has spent more than a decade in the NFL and the last 10 seasons with the Titans.

Since joining the Titans in 2011, Smith has been a defensive intern, administrative assistant, defensive quality control coach, offensive quality control coach, offensive line assistant, tight ends assistant, tight ends coach and offensive coordinator.

Smith played offensive line for North Carolina but rarely saw the field, and he joined the staff as a grad assistant after his playing days were over. It took just one year as a grad assistant for him to get a job in the NFL with Washington.

As offensive coordinator for the Titans, Smith has helped lead the team to the postseason despite having to replace Marcus Mariota at quarterback last season. He did an exceptional job with Ryan Tannehill this year, and has been heralded as a strong play caller.

Detroit Lions season

Detroit finished the 2020-2021 season with a 5-11 record after losing to the Vikings by two points in the finale.

A third straight disastrous season was enough to cost Matt Patricia his job as head coach midway through the season, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who took over for Patricia, isn’t considered a serious candidate for the full-time job.

Shiela Ford Hamp, the new principal owner and chairwoman of the Lions, is now tasked with hiring a new coach and a general manager to replace Bob Quinn.

The defense is a mess and there are questions surrounding the future of Matthew Stafford this offseason. Top receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are free agents, and the team has the No. 7 overall pick in the draft.

GM opening

The Lions are reportedly interviewing several candidates for the general manager position this week, as well.

Among the candidates: Saints assistant general manager for pro personnel Terry Fontenot, Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes, Vikings assistant general manager George Paton and Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland, according to Albert Breer.


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