Robert Saleh, the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator since 2017, agreed in principle to become the head coach of the New York Jets, the team announced Thursday night.
He replaces Adam Gase, who was fired hours after a loss to the New England Patriots in Week 17 that concluded his two seasons in which the team went 9-23, including 2-14 in 2020.
San Francisco fielded a top-10 defense in total yards (fifth), rush yards (seventh) and pass yards (fourth) under Saleh’s leadership last year. In 2019, the 49ers were second overall in the league in total defense (281.8 yards per game) and first in pass defense, as its 169.2 per-game average was the league’s best since the Jets’ allowed an average of 153.7 through the air per game in 2009.
Saleh, 41, interviewed with the Jets twice, with the second one occurring Tuesday and Wednesday. Saleh met with every team that had a head-coach opening except the Houston Texans, according to the New York Post.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with people if they don’t hire him,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said recently of Saleh. “I mean, he’s as good as you can get. … And he’s going to hire the best staff. He knows about players. He knows who knows what they’re talking about … and he also knows how to deal with people. So, I hope everyone’s not very smart and doesn’t hire him so I can keep him. But I’m expecting not to have him.”
The Jets interviewed Saleh and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith in person and conducted virtual interviews with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady, Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and New Orleans Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn.
Saleh will become the 20th head coach of the Jets, who have the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Jets, who lost a franchise-record 13 consecutive games to open the 2020 season, have gone five years without a winning record. They last made the playoffs in 2010.
The Jets simply weren’t been competitive under Gase, as 15 of the team’s 23 losses under his watch were by double digits. This season, they were outscored by 214 points.
The New York offense ranked last in yards per game in each of the past two seasons. The Jets scored 243 points this season, 37 fewer than the next-worst team, the New York Giants.
Saleh was the linebackers coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2014-16 after serving as the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive quality control coach from 2011-13.
Saleh also served as an assistant coach with the Houston Texans from 2005-10 after college stints at Michigan State, Central Michigan and Georgia.
–Field Level Media