The NY Jets made it official, they’re hiring SF 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as their next head coach, and Saleh is purging assistants.
The SF 49ers no longer have to wonder whether or not defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will return to the fray in 2021.
He won’t be coming back.
Saleh is officially joining the NY Jets as their head coach, replacing fired head coach Adam Gase, as reported by the organization Thursday evening:
"The Jets have agreed in principle for Robert Saleh, the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator for the past four seasons, to become their head coach.Saleh will become the Jets’ 20th head coach in franchise history and their 18th coach appointed to take Green & White reins before the start of a new season."
Saleh was in charge of a Niners defense that, despite a slew of devastating injuries in 2020, ranked fifth best in yards allowed (5,030). He interviewed for the Cleveland Browns’ head-coaching vacancy early in 2020, but that job ultimately went to former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
In addition to the Jets’ job, Saleh was also interviewing recently with the Philadelphia Eagles and LA Chargers for their coaching vacancies.
Robert Saleh will take Mike LaFleur with him from SF 49ers
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported shortly after news broke of Saleh’s departure from San Francisco that he would be taking the SF 49ers’ passing game coordinator, Mike LaFleur, with him to New York to serve as the Jets offensive coordinator.
LaFleur was blocked for the same role with the Green Bay Packers last offseason by head coach Kyle Shanahan. However, a new league rule implemented in 2020 prevented teams from blocking promotional interviews, and there was a good chance LaFleur was going to leave anyway.
It’s unclear and not yet reported whom the SF 49ers will promote to take over for LaFleur.
But what’s apparently the contingency plan for Saleh’s departure will be the promotion of Niners linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans from his old role to defensive coordinator, as reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
Ryans was emerging as a favorite to take over for Saleh if he left, and there were multiple players vouching for the promotion long before Saleh got his job in New York.
Now, the only question will be if Ryans can generate a similar kind of success Saleh was able to generate since becoming a first-time coordinator in 2017.
In addition to the changes in staff, the Niners will receive two compensatory third-round draft selections — one in 2021 and another in 2022 — for developing a minority coach who gets hired on as a head coach elsewhere.