The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of three teams to formally request an interview with San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, according to 49ers general manager John Lynch.
Lynch said the Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, and Detroit Lions have all put in requests to interview Saleh. Each team has a head coach opening, with Atlanta and Detroit firing their coaches during the season and the Jaguars firing Doug Marrone on Monday.
The Jaguars fired Marrone after four-plus years following a 1-15 finish in 2020, the worst record in the league and the worst single-season record the Jaguars have ever had. The failures of 2020 were intensified during a 15-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history.
Could Saleh be his replacement? It appears he will at least have a chance to make his case. Jacksonville has been pegged by many as a team likely to hire an offensive-minded head coach due to their holding of the No. 1 overall pick (and eventually Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence), but Saleh is a logical option if the Jaguars look at defensive coaches as well.
Saleh has been a hot name in the coaching ranks for the last two years. The coordinator led the 49ers to an elite year defensively in 2019, with the 49ers finishing ranked No. 2 overall in defensive DVOA, per Football Outsiders.
In 2019, the 49ers' defense finished sixth in the NFL in forced turnovers (27), second in total defense (281.8 yards per game), first in passing defense (169.2 yards per game), and fourth in sacks (48).
The 49ers took a step back in 2020, going from a Super Bowl appearance to a last-place finish in the NFC West. With that said, the 49ers were completely ravaged by injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Despite this, the 49ers still finished the season ranked No. 6 overall in defensive DVOA.
Saleh has ties to Jacksonville as well. The 41-year-old coach was Jacksonville's linebacker coach for three seasons (2014-2016), serving under Gus Bradley. He was named the 49ers' defensive coordinator in 2017.
As a result, Saleh knows the Jaguars' organization and likely has an idea of how the franchise operates, though a lot has surely changed since Saleh was last employed by the Jaguars.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan said on Monday that "ideally" the team would hire its head coach and general manager around the same time, though he is committed to a wide search for candidates on both fronts.
“Well first of all, on timing, I think this is something that we’re not doing that often, so we’re going to take our time to make sure we’ve looked far and wide and really at a whole variety of candidates," Khan said.
"So I really can’t give you the timing, unless when it’s right, obviously, we’ll be sharing it with you. Now, on the general manager search, I mean, we’ve interviewed people who were available. But there are a number of them who are unavailable due to the league rules, and today we’ll be turning in our request to be able to interview some of those. So really, this process is going to be running in parallel and certainly, we’ll keep you [updated] whenever we have something worthwhile.”