Robert Saleh travels to New York after four years of advancement as defensive coordinator for the 49ers to become the next head coach of the Jets.
Trainer Kyle Shanahan had been waiting for Saleh’s departure for a long time and supported his initiation into the Head Coaching Brotherhood. Shanahan said last Monday he wasn’t too stressed out to find a replacement, and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Thursday the 49ers linebacker coaches should promote DeMeco Ryans to defensive coordinator.
The 49ers may also need a replacement for Mike LaFleur, their passing coordinator. He is expected to follow Saleh as the Jets offensive coordinator to New York.
Saleh had interviewed his hometown Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons as well, but returned to New York this week for a second interview with Jets Brass. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers also wanted to speak to him about their openings a year after Saleh was a finalist for the Cleveland Browns in the 49ers playoffs for Super Bowl LIV.
The Jets hold number 2 in the 2021 NFL Draft after breaking a 2:14 record under senior senior senior coach Adam Gase, who was sacked at the end of the season. The team that wanted to compete before New York, the Jaguars, announced on Thursday the hiring of former Ohio state head coach Urban Meyer.
Saleh inherits a Jets team that had the 12th best rapid defense in the NFL this season, but the 28th worst pass defense. In addition to supporting the side of the ball for which he will be responsible, Saleh will play a role in determining the future of the Jets’ attack.
It’s unclear whether Saleh wants to keep starting quarterback Sam Darnold, but if the new head coach wants to trade the former USC star and start over on offense, the 49ers have been rumored as a possible target for Darnold.
Saleh’s four-year tenure in his 49ers post began as a surprise at Shanahan. Frustrated 49ers fans called for Saleh’s fall in his first two seasons as defensive coordinator, only to put coach Shanahan firmly on Saleh.
« I know what he can do with his personality and how smart he is, and that’s a lot, » Shanahan said after the 2018 season. « Saleh did a good job and he will only get better. »
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Saleh is the 49ers’ first defensive coordinator since Jim Mora (2004, Atlanta Falcons), who stepped straight into the role of NFL head coach.
The 49ers will receive a third-round selection in the next two drafts as part of the NFL’s diversity recruitment initiatives as Saleh becomes the NFL’s first Muslim-American coach.
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