SF 49ers: Robert Saleh would be a great fit for NY Jets
By Peter Panacy
With a number of interviews lined up already, SF 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh can now look at the NY Jets’ opening.
SF 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is a red-hot name on the head-coaching vacancy market this offseason.
Saleh, who helped engineer the Niners to a top-five defense despite a slew of major injuries in 2020, has already received a number of interview requests. The Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars and LA Chargers have all requested interviews with San Francisco’s defensive coordinator.
And now, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the NY Giants are joining the fray in the Saleh sweepstakes:
While a loaded team with a top up-and-coming quarterback and a roster built to win now (ahem, the Chargers) would be ideal for Saleh to step in and win right away, the Jets present a great opportunity for the future head coach to prove his value and worth.
New York finished 2-14 this season and was widely viewed as potentially going defeated over the course of the year, those two wins coming as something of a surprise.
Those wins cost the Jets the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and a guaranteed shot at a franchise-changing quarterback, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. But with a number of other needs on the roster, New York won’t have any shortage of suitors looking to potentially engineer a blockbuster trade for the No. 2 overall selection, where it’s currently slated to pick.
More ammunition for a would-be rebuild under Saleh.
There are already some solid building-block pieces, too, namely young players like defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, wide receiver Denzel Mims and, should the front office see fit, quarterback Sam Darnold. It’s not the worst situation ever, and it’s nothing like what Saleh came to terms with back in 2017 when he was named a first-year defensive coordinator with the SF 49ers.
That experience alone, when the Niners were kicking off their own massive rebuild, makes Saleh a prime candidate — something Niner Noise explained to 1260 The Score’s Boy Green earlier this week:
The Jets could use Saleh’s amped-up personality, which would stand in stark contrast to the relatively dull persona of former head coach Adam Gase.
Plus, armed with over $72 million in cap space (second only to the Jaguars) in a year where there figures to be plenty of cap casualties around the league in light of a diminishing salary cap, the Jets aren’t exactly in a position where their roster is handcuffed.
There’s always the realization Saleh would be entering a big market, too, attractive to high-profile free agents instead of other potential landing spots like Jacksonville or Atlanta.
But what would matter most to Saleh is the ability to create a culture. It would be difficult to replicate what he did with the SF 49ers defense in a place like Los Angeles, where the Chargers already have a share of defensive stars. On top of that, the ability to start over in New York could add to Saleh’s budding legacy.
That’s important to consider, too, whereas other locations might be tabbed as more favorable situations where Saleh didn’t have to do as much to repair a franchise.
Either way, the SF 49ers’ defensive coordinator would be in a great situation to turn one of the NFL’s marquee franchises around with a decent context to assist him.