Is San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh the favorite to be the next head coach of the New York Jets? The team is looking to replace Adam Gase, whose tenure left a sour taste among Jets’ fans. Robert Saleh is a contender for the Jets’ job, but is he the favorite? On Tuesday’s episode of PFN Quick Slants, PFN Insider Benjamin Allbright discussed Saleh and the Jets.
What PFN is hearing about Robert Saleh and the NY Jets
“They have several candidates they are looking at. If it’s a defensive guy they ultimately hire, you’re talking about somebody that is going to have to have a plan for a strong offensive coordinator to come with him,” Allbright said. “If it’s Robert Saleh, that’s probably gonna be Mike LaFleur — Matt LaFleur’s brother — or Mike McDaniel… if you do bring in Saleh, it probably means you stick with Sam Darnold for a year…Saleh could be the guy. I don’t know if he’s the heavy favorite right now, but he’s in the mix.”
Allbright emphasized that Saleh’s offensive coordinator would likely be Mike McDaniel over Mike LaFleur. Allbright also mentioned that the team had previously reached out to Bills OC Brian Daboll and Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy. However, he doesn’t believe either will be strongly considered for the job.
“If you get a defensive coordinator or a defensive guy up there, he’s got to bring a strong offensive candidate to really sell that group,” added Allbright. “Because the Sam Darnold thing really hinges with this pick and what they are going to do — whether they take a quarterback at 2 or trade back and keep Darnold, which is Joe Douglas’ preferred idea.”
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Jets’ GM believes Robert Saleh can help Sam Darnold
In a previous episode of PFN Weekly, Allbright mentioned that Jets General Manager Joe Douglas is a firm believer in Sam Darnold. This means that Joe Douglas would likely prefer his first head coach hire to be a guy who he believes can help Sam Darnold become a true franchise quarterback.
Bringing in a coach who believes in Darnold would also allow Douglas to trade out of the second overall pick and accumulate more draft picks. Allbright reports that this is something that Douglas would like to do.
If it’s Saleh, with Mike McDaniel as his offensive coordinator, that means a Kyle Shanahan-style offense, which tends to be quarterback friendly. Saleh has flown in for his second interview already. Right now, he looks like, at the very least, a finalist for the job as the next Jets head coach.
A look into Robert Saleh’s time with the San Francisco 49ers
Saleh has been the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers from 2017 to 2020. He’s turned the 49ers’ defense into one of the best units in the league through that time period.
In 2016, before Saleh’s arrival, the 49ers’ defense distinguished itself in a different way. They ranked dead last in the NFL in average yards allowed per game. They were the only team in the league to allow over 400 total yards per game on average, and they were also the only defense in the NFL to allow over 30 points per game.
Robert Saleh provided an immediate boost in his debut season with San Francisco
In 2017, his defense ranked 24th in the NFL in total yards allowed per game, eight spots higher than the previous year. They also saw a massive decrease in points allowed per game, from 30.0 to 23.9. Saleh’s growth continued in 2018, but things didn’t truly come together until 2019. In that season, Saleh once again helped his team reach the Super Bowl.
The 49ers’ defense has been competitive and feisty under his tenure. He has been instrumental in unlocking DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Fred Warner in San Francisco. His track record of player development, dating back to the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans, is impressive.
In 2020, Saleh’s 49ers’ defense ranked sixth in total DVOA, despite losing key players like Buckner, Nick Bosa, and many others. 84 different players took snaps on defense for the 49ers this season.
Saleh’s fit as the head coach of the New York Jets
The Jets’ defensive line was arguably the best part of the team in 2020. Players like Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers really broke out and put out encouraging tape. Considering Saleh’s emphasis on the defensive line in San Francisco, this bodes well for his potential future defenses in New York.
Perhaps the most critical part is Saleh’s offensive connections. As Allbright mentioned, Mike McDaniel would be Robert Saleh’s pick at offensive coordinator. McDaniel is the run game coordinator for San Francisco and is a bright offensive mind. McDaniel has worked with plenty of positions and has been Kyle Shanahan’s understudy for several seasons now.
Kyle Shanahan’s run game is regarded as genius. This takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback and makes his scheme “QB-friendly”. Obviously, that’s something Joe Douglas will consider with Sam Darnold in mind.