Aaron Glenn set to return for 4th season

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Aaron Glenn will have to wait at least one more year for his shot to be a head coach.

The Washington Commanders hired Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as head coach Thursday, according to multiple reports, completing the 2024 hiring cycle.

Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn reacts to a play against 49ers during the first half of the NFC championship game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.

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Glenn, in his third season as Detroit Lions defensive coordinator, reportedly was one of three finalists for the job, along with Quinn and Baltimore Ravens defensive run game coordinator Anthony Weaver.

Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson previously pulled out of the running for the Commanders’ job, and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp remains under contract and is expected back for a fourth season, giving the Lions continuity at the coordinator spots heading into 2024.

Glenn, 51, interviewed for four jobs this offseason — with the Commanders, Los Angeles Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, and Tennessee Titans — and his leadership traits have been compared by players to Lions coach Dan Campbell.

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Like Campbell, a finalist for NFL Coach of the Year, Glenn played college football at Texas A&M, in the NFL under Bill Parcells, and worked for Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton with the New Orleans Saints.

“He’s probably one of the best leaders I’ve been around, and Dan included,” linebacker Alex Anzalone told the Free Press in mid-January. “Just as far as his relatability, how he teaches is second to none and the best thing about him is that even just as a coordinator, he teaches and explains why he calls certain things and tries to help us understand what he sees. He’ll sit in front of the room and take accountability if we’re watching game film and he said he doesn’t like a call that he made. He’ll self-admit that and I think that’s, when you have a guy that’s not afraid to lead and look at himself in the mirror at the same time, it goes a long way for players. … That’s like Leadership 101.”

The Lions won their first division championship in 30 years this season and made the NFC championship game, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31. They had the NFL’s second-best rush defense in the regular season and finished 19th in total defense and 23rd in points allowed.

Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes (55) celebrates an interception from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield with linebacker Alex Anzalone (34) and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (42) during the second half of the NFC divisional round at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024.

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Glenn transformed the defense midway through the year, leaning more heavily on secondary blitzes to manufacture pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Lions struggled against the pass all season, but forced 13 turnovers in the final nine regular season games and three more in the playoffs.

The Lions return nine of the 11 players that started in their playoff loss to the 49ers, plus slot cornerback Brian Branch and pass rushers Josh Paschal and James Houston, but could look for help at cornerback and edge rush this offseason.

Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, cornerbacks Kindle Vildor and Emmanuel Moseley and tackle Tyson Alualu are the Lions’ top defensive free agents, though none of those players started more than two games in the regular season and Moseley only played two defensive snaps this season because of a knee injury.

Johnson, in his second season as Lions offensive coordinator, pulled out of the mix for the Commanders’ job Tuesday when the team was reportedly traveling to Michigan to interview him and Glenn.

He had five virtual interviews this offseason and was considered one of the frontrunners for the Commanders’ job, though he reportedly scared off some teams with his salary demands and “didn’t knock his first interview with Washington out of the park.”

Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson shakes hands with guard Kayode Awosika during warmups before the NFC divisional playoff game vs. the Buccaneers at Ford Field on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024.

Under Johnson, the Lions finished top-five in total, scoring, passing, rushing and red zone offense this season.

A person familiar with Johnson’s decision told the Free Press he decided to stay with the Lions because of his desire to win a Super Bowl and the team’s proximity to doing that.

Quinn is one of five defensive-minded assistants to get head coaching jobs during this year’s hiring cycle, along with new Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald, new Falcons coach Raheem Morris, new New England Patriots coach Jerod Mayo and new Las Vegas Raiders coach Antonio Pierce.

The Chargers hired former Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, while the Carolina Panthers (Dave Canales) and Titans (Brian Callahan) hired offensive coordinators.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @davebirkett.

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