Robert Saleh

AFC East Notes: Saleh, Darnold, Patriots, Bills

Robert Saleh signed his contract with the Jets today, making him the 20th head coach in franchise history. While speaking to the media, the former 49ers defensive coordinator indicated that he’d be looking for specific types of players as he helps general manager Joe Douglas fill out the roster.

“There are no shortcuts to success, and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all,” Saleh said (via the team website).

Douglas, who led the coaching search alongside included team president Hymie Elhai, noted that Saleh believes in many of the same principals that the executive brought with him from Philadelphia when he joined the Jets in 2019.

“We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us,” Douglas said. “His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years.”

The 41-year-old Saleh was an early favorite for the job based on the strength of his SF defense. In 2020, the Niners finished fifth in total yards, seventh in rushing yards, and fourth in passing yards allowed. In 2019, Saleh’s D surrendered just 169.2 passing yards per contest — the lowest average since Rex Ryan‘s 2009 Jets D.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC East…

  • Saleh and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have spent time evaluating Sam Darnold‘s tape, and the coaches believe the Jets quarterback has “untapped potential,” per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The former third-overall pick had a rough season in 2020, leading some to wonder whether the new staff would prefer to take a quarterback with the second-overall pick.
  • The eight Patriots players who opted out of the 2020 season were asked to return for year-end physicals last week, writes ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Wideout Marqise Lee and running back Brandon Bolden have both said they plan to play in 2021, and Reiss opines that safety Patrick Chung, tight end Matt LaCosse, and fullback Danny Vitale will also return. However, the writer is much less certain that offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and linebacker Dont’a Hightower will be back in New England.
  • While Dave Ziegler was always an underdog in the Broncos GM search, he parlayed that experience into a “multiyear contract and pay bump as Nick Caserio‘s successor” in New England, writes Reiss. The Patriots assistant director of player personnel eventually withdrew his name from the search in Denver, and Reiss writes that this is a “reflection of the decisiveness that has earned him a measure of respect in the Patriots’ offices over the past eight year.”
  • Bills running back Zack Moss underwent minor surgery on his ankle this morning, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 23-year-old is expected to make a full recovery from the “tight rope procedure,” and he should be ready to go for offseason workouts. The third-rounder finished his rookie campaign having compiled 576 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (4:30pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Jets Officially Hire Robert Saleh

The Jets have hired Robert Saleh as their new head coach, per a club announcement. It’s a five-year deal for Gang Green and the 49ers defensive coordinator , as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets

Saleh is now the Jets’ 20th head coach in franchise history. The 41-year-old was an early favorite for the job, based on the strength of his SF defense. In 2020, the Niners finished fifth in total yards, seventh in rushing yards, and fourth in passing yards allowed. In 2019, Saleh’s D surrendered just 169.2 passing yards per contest — the lowest average since Rex Ryan‘s 2009 Jets D.

The Jets have lots of holes to fill, but also lots of room to remake the team with their new coaching staff. They’ll have ample cap space to work with in March, plus two first-round picks (Nos. 2 and 23) in April.

There were seven vacancies in this cycle, and six of those teams requested interviews with Saleh. The Jets didn’t want to let him get away and, ultimately, they got their man.The 41-year-old edged out a number of qualified candidates, including Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Smith — similarly popular in this cycle – had just completed a second interview. Here’s the full rundown, via PFR’s tracker:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles To Interview Robert Saleh

The Eagles are a bit behind the curve after their late firing of Doug Pederson, so they don’t have any time to waste as they move forward in their unexpected coaching search. We’ve already heard they’re interested in luring Lincoln Riley from the college ranks, they’ve requested interviews with Todd Bowles and Arthur Smith, and now we’ve got another candidate on their radar.

Philadelphia has requested an interview with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. After going through a second Jets interview Wednesday, Saleh is on his way to Philly and will begin interviewing with the team tonight, Ian Rapoport and Peter Schrager of the NFL Network note (Twitter links).

Saleh has been a hot name, getting linked to pretty much every open job. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie indicated at his press conference Monday that he usually prefers a quarterback guru as head coach, but he clearly isn’t married to that idea.

To that end, we also have some additional details on what a potential Saleh coaching staff would look like, via this tweet from Peter Schrager of NFL Network. Schrager writes that the belief around the league is that Saleh would bring a 49ers offensive assistant with him to be his OC wherever he goes, and that they would seek to implement a “Shanahan”-style offense.

That would mean a heavy run and play-action scheme. Schrager specifically highlights Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniel as names to watch on that front. McDaniel is the 49ers’ run game coordinator who has coached under Kyle Shanahan for most of the past decade, while LaFleur is the passing game coordinator who has been with Shanahan since 2014 with the Browns when he was an offensive intern. He’s also the younger brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Lions GM Search

Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes is in Detroit for a second interview, which will occur Tuesday. He is the first such GM candidate to meet with the Lions a second time during this cycle. He may not be the only exec the Lions meet with twice.

The Lions want to bring Vikings assistant GM George Paton and Saints execs Jeff Ireland and Terry Fontenot back for second meetings, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (on Twitter). Detroit also added Indianapolis assistant GM Ed Dodds to its interview list, meeting with him Tuesday. The Lions were evidently impressed, with Breer noting they would like to speak with Dodds again.

Dodds recently bowed out of the wide-ranging Panthers GM search, leaving only the Lions pursuing him. The former Seahawks exec may be connected to another ex-Seattle staffer. The Lions have been connected to 49ers DC Robert Saleh about their HC vacancy for weeks, and the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers notes some believe Dodds would want to bring Saleh with him to Detroit (Twitter link). Saleh and Dodds were both with the Seahawks from 2011-13, though Saleh was only a defensive quality control coach at that point.

A Michigan native, Saleh interviewed for the Lions job last week but remains in the mix for other gigs — a list that now includes Philadelphia. Saleh has also been connected to an Adam Peters HC-GM pairing, but Peters is not a Lions GM candidate.

Paton and Fontenot remain in the mix for the Broncos GM post, having booked second interviews with Denver. While the longtime Vikings exec has been quite particular in past GM searches, he has remained a sought-after candidate. Fontenot, who interviewed for the Jets’ GM job in 2019, and Ireland — the former Dolphins GM — each went through virtual interviews for the Detroit job last week. Holmes is a Falcons finalist as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Request Todd Bowles, Arthur Smith Interviews

The Eagles have requested interviews with Todd Bowles and Arthur Smith for their head coaching vacancy (Twitter links via ESPN.com’s Sal Paolantonio and Dan Graziano). They’ll also chat with Robert Saleh, though his dance card is filling up fast.

[RELATED: Eagles Interested In Lincoln Riley]

After much deliberation, the Eagles fired one-time Philadelphia hero Doug Pederson. Now, they’re hitting the ground running in their search, starting with some of this cycle’s hottest names. They’ll also look at some of their current coaches, including assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley. Earlier this week, owner Jeffrey Lurie pegged him as a likely candidate.

Every team without a head coach has asked to chat with Smith. At this point, it would be a shock if the Titans’ offensive coordinator didn’t land one of those jobs. Bowles is also drawing interest, even though his Jets tenure ended with a 24-40 record.

University of Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley might also be in the mix, but it’s not immediately clear if he’s willing to interview.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Meet Robert Saleh For Second Interview

Robert Saleh has advanced to the next round. The Jets are flying 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in for a second interview, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo (Twitter link). 

Saleh — who is also in the mix for the Falcons, Lions, Jaguars, and Chargers — appears to be one of the hottest candidates in this cycle. He’s got ties to several of those teams. Before going to SF, he spent 2014-2016 as Jacksonville’s linebackers coach. He’s also been heavily connected to the Lions job, which makes sense since he’s a Michigan native who spent time with the Spartans.

The Jets were a mess on both sides of the ball and they might be inclined to go for a defensive specialist. The 41-year-old Saleh led a healthier 49ers defense to the NFL’s second-best DVOA in 2019 and managed to keep this year’s injury-ravaged unit towards the top.

Saleh, meanwhile, has no shortage of options, and the Jets might not be the belle of the ball. The Chargers might be especially appealing for Saleh, allowing him to stay in the same state and manage one of the league’s most talented units.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets To Interview Aaron Glenn, Robert Saleh

The Jets have requested permission to interview Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn for their head coaching job, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Glenn, who played for the Jets in his first eight NFL seasons, has impressed as a lieutenant to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen

The Bengals were interested in hiring Glenn as their DC in 2019, before the Saints blocked their interview request. In this case, Glenn is in the clear, since teams cannot block assistants from discussing head coaching opportunities. The move to HC would slingshot Glenn up the ladder, but it wouldn’t be an unprecedented leap.

The Jets are also set to interview 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh for the position, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Saleh — who is also in the mix for the Falcons, Lions, Jaguars, and Chargers — appears to be one of the hottest candidates in this cycle.

Even though much of the talk in New York is centered around the quarterback position, the Jets could use the defensive expertise of someone like Glenn or Saleh.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars To Interview Eric Bieniemy, Robert Saleh, Raheem Morris

Clarity emerged in the Jaguars’ Doug Marrone replacement search Tuesday. The Jags are set to interview Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and former Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris this week, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

While Urban Meyer has been the name most closely connected to this search, no interview has been scheduled. Bieniemy will speak with Jags brass Wednesday, with Morris and Saleh interviews on tap for Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

Now a regular on the HC interview circuit, Bieniemy has been Kansas City’s OC since Patrick Mahomes‘ QB1 tenure began. While Bieniemy is not the Chiefs’ primary play-caller, he has long been expected to land a coaching gig this year. He may hit for the cycle in coaching interviews as well. The Chargers have requested an interview with their former running back. The Lions have already interviewed Bieniemy, while the Jets and Falcons will speak with him as well.

Saleh would be an interesting hire. He has a history with the Jaguars during Shad Khan‘s ownership tenure. The current 49ers defensive play-caller spent three seasons (2014-16) as Jacksonville’s linebackers coach. A Michigan native, Saleh has been most closely connected to the Lions job and has already interviewed with the Falcons. The Bolts submitted an interview request as well.

Re-emerging on the HC radar for the first time in many years, Morris interviewed for the Falcons job he held during this season’s second half and has come up in the Raiders’ defensive coordinator search. The Jags are the first non-Falcons franchise to request a Morris HC meeting, however.

The Jaguars have also requested an interview with Titans OC Arthur Smith, joining every other HC-seeking team in that regard.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Request Interview With 49ers DC Robert Saleh

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh continues to be a busy man. He’s already been linked to the jobs in Detroit and Atlanta, and now Los Angeles has come calling. The Chargers have requested an interview with the Kyle Shanahan deputy, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Saleh is from the Michigan area and coached for a while at Michigan State, which has led to some reports that he’s high on the Lions’ wish list. But if Detroit wants him, they’re going to have some competition. On paper, the Chargers might be the most attractive job opening. Not only do they have a rookie sensation at quarterback in Justin Herbert, but there’s a ton of talent on defense for someone like Saleh to work with as well.

Safety Derwin James missed the entire 2020 season, but should be back at an All-Pro level in 2021.Then there’s Casey Hayward and Chris Harris at cornerback, and Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa at edge rusher. With Pro Bowl defensive tackle Linval Joseph clogging up running lanes in the middle. The 49ers were besieged by injuries this past year, but they had one of the best defenses in the league in 2019.

If Saleh were hired, it’d be very interesting to see what OC he paired Herbert with. Herbert apparently “loves” his current OC Shane Steichen, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports (Twitter video link), so maybe Chargers GM Tom Telesco will be looking for a candidate willing to keep Steichen on staff.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.