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Notes: Lions fans should watch the Titans closely this weekend

Another coach in San Francisco might eventually matter to Detroit.

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San Francisco 49ers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

It’s Wild Card weekend in the National Football League, and Detroit Lions fans ought to be interested in watching one of these playoff games because it may give a glimpse into a possible future. While the Lions are not actually playing, there is a Kevin Bacon connection to the Tennessee Titans that is worth paying attention to if one believes San Francisco’s defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is likely to become the next head coach in Detroit (yes, I know that sounds convoluted). Here is The Athletic’s Chris Burke telling us why:

If current Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith became the next Lions head coach, of course the Titans’ offense would be of immense interest. To understand why it matters if the Lions hire Saleh requires some dot connecting. Arthur Smith used to be the Titans’ tight ends coach and was promoted in 2019 to offensive coordinator when their previous offensive coordinator was hired by the Green Bay Packers. Naturally, Matt LaFleur’s offense for the Packers did a lot of things similar to what he used when he was with the Titans.

Now let’s get back to Saleh. NFL Media’s Mike Silver wrote this week that he believes Saleh would probably take San Francisco passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur with him if he is hired to become the head coach anywhere—Matt Maiocco said the same thing on our podcast. While San Francisco may lose both Mike McDaniel (run game) and Mike LaFleur (passing game), Silver thinks McDaniel would go to work with Raheem Morris. Saleh, oh the other hand, could take brother-of-Packers-head-coach LaFleur, who no doubt has ideas and influences from the offense his older brother used to run in Tennessee and still runs in Green Bay.

Look at what MMQB’s Conor Orr had to say about the San Francisco coordinators in his post-mortem for the 2020 Denver Broncos:

Punch the accelerator on one of Kyle Shanahan’s two “offensive coordinators,” Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniel and see if you can pay through the teeth to get one of them to run your offense in 2021. Shanahan held on to both tightly during the head coaching cycle last year, so perhaps some kind of “assistant head coach” title would be necessary to subvert all the administrative red tape. I really think Lock is savable and that Denver has all the pieces to win 10 games. While this would be a temporary fix, given that both LaFleur and McDaniel are on a head coaching track, installing and committing to the Shanahan offense is among the safest bets you can make right now as a head coach.

As noted by Silver, one way to prevent the Niners from blocking a hire is to offer a play-calling position as a full-time offensive coordinator. Another way to get one of them is if they willingly chose to leave with someone they want to work with like Robert Saleh. So, if you are a Lions fan that believes Robert Saleh is the front-runner to come home and become head coach, then you might want to pay attention to the Tennessee Titans on offense against the Baltimore Ravens this weekend.

Now we move on to the rest of today’s Notes:

  • The Athletic’s Bob McGinn asked four NFC executives in personnel to rank players in the division at each position and wrote up the results as an All-NFC North team (subscription required). According to The Athletic Detroit, tight end T.J. Hockenson was “among the Lions who stood out” on offense.

  • There is still time to sign up to try and get some free stuff from the Detroit Lions:

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.