Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
We all knew this day was coming sooner rather than later. Frankly, it was a surprise Robert Saleh stuck around this long. His name rightfully popped up as a popular head coach option after last season’s march to the Super Bowl, and he was a finalist for the Cleveland Browns job, losing out to Kevin Stefanski.
But the point can easily be made that this year was a far more impressive display from Saleh’s defense than last. Without Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Ronald Blair III and myriad other key players missing games, Saleh’s defense allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards, seventh-fewest rushing yards and committed the seventh-fewest penalties in the league. It ranked sixth in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), per Football Outsiders.
Teams around the league recognized this quickly, and with seven head coaching vacancies, Saleh quickly jumped to the top of many boards. Clearly, the New York Jets viewed him that way and had zero intention of letting him leave the building.
Saleh flew into the Jets’ facility for their first and only in-person interview on Tuesday, and signs quickly pointed towards their aggressive courtship culminating in a deal. There was a pause in the action, though, as Saleh interviewed next with the Philadelphia Eagles and then had a second interview with the Los Angeles Chargers.
But as ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported, Saleh, who had been with the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan since 2017, is the Jets’ next head coach.
A source who was a candidate for the job told me the #Jets informed them they are hiring Robert Saleh.
— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) January 15, 2021
Per Adam Schefter, it’s a five-year deal. As expected, Saleh will likely take 49ers’ passing game coordinator Mike Lafleur (brother of Packers head coach and best man at Robert Saleh’s wedding, Mike Lafleur) as his offensive coordinator.
New Jets’ HC Robert Saleh is expected to take 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur as his offensive coordinator, per sources. https://t.co/3b8mPeFfPU
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 15, 2021
The Jets confirmed the hiring.
We've reached an agreement in principle with Robert Saleh to become our head coach.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) January 15, 2021
Due to the new diversity hiring rules in the NFL, the 49ers will be awarded compensatory 2021 and 2022 third-round picks. If VP of player personnel Martin Mayhew were hired as a general manager, the team would also receive a 2023 third-round pick.
With Saleh gone and Gus Bradley becoming the Raiders’ defensive coordinator and Dan Quinn becoming the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, there are two clear replacement candidates for the 49ers: Raheem Morris and DeMeco Ryans.
Morris was the Atlanta Falcons’ interim head coach this season, and assuming he does not get the job, will be a highly sought-after defensive coordinator option. Morris goes waaaay back with Kyle Shanahan. Morris was the defensive backs coach under Jon Gruden back in Tampa Bay from 2004-05 when Shanahan got his first NFL job as an offensive quality control.
They reconvened in Washington under Mike Shanahan for two years from 2012-13 before Morris joined Shanahan in Atlanta in 2015. During that infamous Super Bowl season for Atlanta, Morris converted to assistant wide receivers coach, working on the offensive side of the ball for the first time in his career.
Ryans is the internal option, who is currently the inside linebackers coach for a group that is arguably the league’s best. As a former player, he commands respect among the young, elite group, which has been at the crux of the defense’s success, especially in 2020. They provide speed, range, block shedding and come downhill as effectively as they can zone match in coverage. Shanahan said at the end of the year that he will be a head coach one day.
UPDATE: The 49ers will promote DeMeco Ryans to defensive coordinator.
With Robert Saleh gone, expect the #49ers to promote LBs coach DeMeco Ryans as their new defensive coordinator, source said. An impressive young coach.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 15, 2021