With Lincoln Riley a Likely Longshot, Robert Saleh Could be in Mix

Here's more on the DC for the 49ers, who could be getting close to an offer by the New York Jets, though the Eagles were granted permission to interview him
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The Eagles are not putting all their hopes and dreams for Lincoln Riley to be their next head coach all in the same basket, and wisely so.

Riley is a longshot, one that probably even a blank check from owner Jeffrey Lurie to head north from Tornado Alley would be enough to entice him. What Riley presumably wants his power on top of cash.

SI reporter Mike Fisher wrote that Riley “is aware of the power structure in Philly, where Roseman is the boss. He is also aware of the power structure in Carolina, where the former college coach Matt Rhule is the Panthers boss. A Riley move to the NFL would, ideally for him, follow the Rhule model.”

READ MORE: Lincoln Riley Tops Eagles Wish List to be Their Next Head ...

With Howie Roseman in firm control of the football operations in Philadelphia, Riley isn’t likely coming unless Roseman relinquishes some control, or Riley just says, ‘The heck with it, I’m coming anyway.’

READ MORE: Sources: Eagles Contact Oklahoma Coach Lincoln Riley ...

There was an interesting development on another front, though, and that was regarding San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

Saleh was one of three players the Eagles requested, and were granted, interviews with on Tuesday, the first official full day of the team’s search to replace Doug Pederson, who was fired on Monday after five years and a Super Bowl title with the Eagles.

The other two were defensive e coordinator Todd Bowles with the Buccaneers and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith of the Titans.

They are the same names on a lot of teams’ list, and Saleh has already emerged as a strong candidate with the New York Jets after having a second interview with them.

Saleh is a defensive mind, and Lurie wants offense, right?

Well, not so fast.

Reports indicate that Saleh would try to bring with him either Mike LaFleur or Mike McDaniel to be his offensive coordinator.

LaFleur is San Francisco’s passing game coordinator; McDaniel is the running game. Both assistants drew some interest from the Eagles in their search for an offensive coordinator last year.

That would have to interest Lurie and Roseman.

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What may not interest Saleh is the lack of any real playmakers on the Eagles’ defense, with an aging core of leaders in Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Rodney McLeod.

On the flip side, Alex Singleton and T.J. Edwards showed future potential at linebacker while defensive end Josh Sweat established a career-high in tackles (45) and sacks (6) despite missing the last two games with injury.

Interestingly, Lurie’s first hire to be a head coach for him when he bought the Eagles in the mid-1900s was Ray Rhodes, who was a defensive coordinator for the 49ers in 1994 before joining the Eagles in 1995.

Saleh, who is a Muslim Arab-American of Lebanese descent and grew up in Dearborn, Mich., which has one of the nation’s largest Muslim populations, is highly regarded as both a leader of men and as a DC.

“He’s just so dynamic, and he’s always evolving,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said in an interview with The Washington Post earlier this year in the days leading up to San Fran’s Super Bowl appearance.

The Washington Post also quoted defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, now with the Colts after playing in the Super Bowl with the 49ers last year.

“He’s just like one of the players,” Buckner said. “Throughout the week, we’re not going crazy and yelling everywhere. We get the game plan, get the scheme, go out every day and execute as good as possible, and on game day, we flip the switch. I feel like he flips the switch, too. If he had the opportunity, I feel like he would go out there and try to hit somebody.”

Ed Kracz is the publisher of EagleMaven. Check out anything you may have missed pertaining to the Eagles by going to www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.