The Jets have hired Robert Saleh, the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator for the past four seasons, as their head coach. The agreement became official Tuesday when Saleh, who became the Jets' 20th head coach in franchise history, signed his contract.
"After a thorough process and meeting with a number of talented coaches, it was clear to us that Robert was the right person to help us move forward," Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said. "He is a collaborative leader with proven success in the NFL. In addition to his work as a coach on this level, his passion and knowledge of the game along with his vision for establishing an identity for this team sold me. It was also clear that he will partner with Joe (Douglas) to help foster and develop the winning culture we are striving to establish. For us as a group, we were impressed with the way he commanded the space and his ability to communicate his vision throughout the process."
"We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us," added Douglas, who led the search that also included team president Hymie Elhai. "His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years."
After announcing nine completed head-coaching interviews, Saleh was one of two candidates who met with team officials last week at One Jets Drive. On Thursday evening, the Jets agreed in principle with Saleh to lead the team.
"There are no shortcuts to success, and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all," Saleh said.
"To Jets Fans, your passion and commitment are priceless. I understand your expectations and embrace them. We have a lot of work to do and can't do it without your support."
See Top Photos of the New Head Coach During His Career
Four years before interviewing for the Jets' head-coaching opening, Saleh had a major California decision to make about his coaching career: go south to Los Angeles to reunite with his mentor, Gus Bradley, who had become the Chargers' defensive coordinator, or north to San Francisco to join Kyle Shanahan's 49ers staff as a linebackers coach and with the D-coordinator's position still to be filled.
Saleh went with Shanahan to coach his LBs but didn't give up on the coordinator's post. "Why don't you just interview me?" he said to Shanahan in a 2018 profile on 49ers.com. "I was a good QC, I was a good linebackers coach. I'll be a good defensive coordinator."
Shanahan finally agreed to interview him, and realized Saleh's grasp of Bradley's defensive scheme. And Saleh took with him not only his X's and O's but also his motivational skills and his technical expertise, which might've been acquired when he was working as a young corporate lender back home in Dearborn, MI or just as much when he was punching computer keyboards as a college graduate assistant and a pro QC — quality control coach — on his way up the coaching ladder.
Saleh's 49ers defenses showed steady progress in each of his four seasons. In his first year, 2016, his units improved from 32nd-ranked in the NFL the year before in total defense, rush defense and scoring defense to 24th, 22nd and 25th. Then the Niners D moved into the top half of the league in many categories in '18.
In '19 San Fran finished second overall in the league in total defense — with its 281.8 yards/game allowed the best by the team since 1997 — and first in pass defense — with the 169.2 pass yards/game allowed coming in as the best in the NFL since Rex Ryan's Jets defense allowed 153.7 pass yards/game in 2009. After coaching up that 49ers unit, Saleh received The Sporting News' Coordinator of the Year award.
"Coach Saleh's energy, knowledge and focus are contagious and will serve our team well as we continue to develop our culture, our foundation, and move this organization in the right direction," Douglas said. " I am excited to work closely with him to build this team into the winner that our fans deserve and will be proud of."
Despite a number of significant injuries last season, San Francisco checked in as a top-10 defense in total yards (fifth), rush yards (seventh) and pass yards (fourth).
Similar rankings occurred in Saleh's previous pro stops in the previous 16 seasons. At Jacksonville from 2014-16 he was the Jaguars' linebackers coach, and the team improved to sixth overall and fifth vs. the pass in his final season with the Jags. From 2011-13 he was Seattle's defensive quality control coach focusing on LBs and the Seahawks defense rose to No. 1 in the league overall, vs. the pass and in scoring in his last year in the Great Northwest in 2013.
He held three different titles in six seasons with Houston from 2005-10 and the Texans moved into the top half of the league in many defensive categories in 2009, his first of two seasons as assistant linebackers coach.
Along the way, Saleh had a hand in the rising careers of players such as linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing in Houston, LBs K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith with Seattle, Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith in Jacksonville, and D-linemen Nick Bosa and DeForest Buckner in San Francisco.
Saleh grew up in Dearborn, MI and started at TE for four seasons at Northern Michigan University. Before entering the pro coaching ranks, Saleh extended his Michigan roots with two seasons as an assistant coach at Michigan State and one at Central Michigan before a brief stop at the University of Georgia in 2005 before heading to Houston.
Saleh's parents are Lebanese and he is Muslim and speaks Arabic. He and his wife, Sanaa, have four sons and two daughters.
"Throughout the interview process, it became clear that this is the right place to call home," Saleh said. "The passion Christopher, Joe and Hymie have for this team is evident and I look forward to partnering with them to bring us where we want to be.
"You never travel these roads alone and there are so many that have helped along the way, but without my wife, Sanaa, this journey would have been impossible. Thank you for everything. We have six amazing children, with one on the way, and now we are all proud to be part of Jets Nation."