49ers' Robert Saleh Says Head Coaching Rumors a 'Non-Issue'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2020

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh against the Arizona Cardinals during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Tony Avelar/Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh told reporters Friday he's focused on Monday's Week 13 game against the Buffalo Bills, not the buzz about him being a top head coaching candidate:

"This league is so week-to-week, and the most important week right now is Monday Night Football against Buffalo, and we've got a team that's in the middle of the playoff hunt, so it's really a non-issue for me. I don't talk about it. I don't really even see it. I don't have social media. I don't look into the news. So it's probably more for family and friends to enjoy and get a kick out of than it is for me. We're completely locked into Buffalo."

Saleh has rapidly gained national recognition in recent years since taking over as the Niners' defensive coordinator in 2017, and he was mentioned as a possible head coaching candidate after the team reached Super Bowl LIV last season before falling short against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Although he didn't get chosen to lead a staff last offseason, the chatter reached a fever pitch after a group of Michigan state legislators sent a letter to Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp suggesting she select Saleh to replace the recently fired Matt Patricia as the team's head coach.

The letter read:

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"We understand the difficulty of these upcoming decisions. As passionate and loyal Lions fans, we are asking you to hire Robert Saleh as the head coach of our team. He is the best candidate for the job and measures as such across every metric. A head coach like Robert can bring tremendous energy and heart to the franchise and would help us reach peaks that have seemed unobtainable for so long. We have an exceptional opportunity here, and we trust you to make the best decision.

"To turn the corner and become a winning franchise, these next hiring decisions are critical. We hope that you will consider Robert Saleh as the head coach, not only for us but for everyone across the loyal fanbase of our beloved Detroit Lions."

Saleh confirmed he heard about the letter after practice Friday but downplayed any immediate importance.

"To be completely honest, I didn't see anything or hear anything until coming off the practice field," he told reporters. "So I don't know what to make of it or anything like that. So it's just whatever, I guess, you know."

Saleh was born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, and he went on to play college football at Northern Michigan.

The 41-year-old former tight end started his coaching career as an assistant at Michigan State in 2002 and also made a stop on the staff at Central Michigan in the state in 2004.

He reached the NFL ranks with the Houston Texans in 2005 and has spent the past 16 years on the staffs of the Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars and 49ers in various roles. His time with the Niners is his first time working as a coordinator.

Saleh won a ring while working as the Seahawks' defensive quality control coach in Super Bowl XLVIII.

While there's a strong chance he ends up as a head coach before next season, either in Detroit or elsewhere, his focus in the short term is trying to slow down quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills' 10th-ranked scoring offense Monday night.