Robert Saleh is the next head coach of the New York Jets.
The former 49ers defensive coordinator will take over for Adam Gase, the team announced on Thursday evening. Saleh has agreed to a five-year deal and is expected to bring along Mike LaFleur, the 49ers passing game coordinator, as New York's new offensive coordinator, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Saleh was the first candidate to interview for the position in person, flying across the country to convene with the Jets' brass on Tuesday night. Those discussions carried over into Wednesday morning before Saleh departed to visit the Philadelphia Eagles.
Just when it appeared that Jets general manager Joe Douglas and team CEO Christopher Johnson were taking their time with the hire, bringing in Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith for a second-round interview on Wednesday, they struck a deal with Saleh, one of the most highly sought-after candidates on the market.
This will be Saleh's first head coaching gig in the NFL. The 41-year-old spent the last four years serving as the defensive coordinator in San Francisco, transforming their defense into one of the best units in the league.
Overall, Saleh has 16 years of experience coaching in the NFL, working with and learning from head coaches like Pete Carroll and Kyle Shanahan. He'll be the Jets' 20th head coach in franchise history.
Saleh drew interest from multiple teams looking to fill their head coaching vacancies this offseason. Known for being animated on the sidelines, Saleh will bring that intensity to a team that won just two games this past season and hasn't been to the playoffs since 2010. The veteran can revitalize a culture of winning for Gang Green as he has a track record for leading programs through tough times and toward success.
Considering what Saleh was able to accomplish during his tenure in San Francisco, it's only a matter of time until New York will return to dominance on the defensive side of the ball.
The year before Saleh took over, the 49ers surrendered 406.4 yards per game, the worst in all of football. In 2020, San Francisco had the fifth-best defense in the NFL (allowing only 314.4 yards per game). They were fourth in the league in limiting passing yards (207.9 yards per game).
Further, Saleh's contributions were integral to San Francisco's Super Bowl run in 2019. Although the 49ers came up short, it was their defense that helped carry them through a 13-win regular season and the NFC Championship. The 49ers allowed only 169.2 passing yards per game that season to lead the league. That's the lowest mark any team has produced in a single season since the Jets in 2009.
Other than Saleh, the Jets had interviewed eight other candidates over the first week and change after firing Gase. That group included Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, veteran head coach Marvin Lewis, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and more. Doug Pederson, who was recently fired by the Eagles, was also rumored to be in the mix due to his connection with Douglas.