Hiring Saleh is the best decision the New York Jets have made in recent memory

Robert Saleh celebration
The Jets have hired Robert Saleh is their new head coach. Photo from Mercury News.
  • The Jets have reached an agreement with Robert Saleh to become their new head coach
  • Saleh’s first venture into head coaching comes in difficult circumstances
  • Here’s everything Jets fans need to know about Saleh

Per the New York Jets on Twitter, the New York Jets have reached an agreement to make former 49ers defensive coordinator, Robert Saleh, their new head coach.

The news comes as little surprise as Robert Saleh has been touted for a head coaching position since the 2019 season, where under his tutelage, the 49ers defence took the league by storm. The team’s disappointing performance in 2020 appeared to have little-to-no impact on Saleh’s reputation as one of the football’s bright young minds as the defence of the 49ers still played admirably, despite losing many key players.

The appointment sees Saleh take over a Jets organisation that has gone through much turmoil since their back-to-back playoff appearances in the late 2000s, early 2010s.

While there are still some question marks surrounding Saleh’s scheme and whether or not he is ready to helm a franchise for himself, the Jets, and their fans, have plenty of reasons to be optimistic heading into the 2021 season; and that’s worth its weight in gold.

Saleh’s scheme

Saleh hails from the Pete Carroll cover 3 scheme that rocked the NFL landscape in the early 2010s with the ‘Legion of Boom’. Before taking over as 49ers defensive coordinator, Saleh worked under Gus Bradley in Jacksonville, who in turn, worked under Carroll in Seattle.

Saleh’s scheme is a typical 4-3, cover 3 shell. Watching the 49ers defence under Saleh these past four seasons, you’re not going to find all sorts of exotic blitzes and coverages. In more recent seasons with the 49ers, Saleh has evolved and grown as a play-caller, often incorporating a cornerback blitz at the perfect moment, or mixing cover 1 man in with his conventional cover 3.

However, the minutia of Saleh’s schematics aside, his defence can only really work when you have the talent to execute it. In 2018, when the 49ers defence was even more devoid of talent than it was in 2020, the 49ers set a new NFL record for fewest turnovers in the league: amassing 7 all season.

Flash forward to 2019 and Saleh has five first-round talents along his defensive line, a solid secondary that included cover 3 specialist Richard Sherman and safety Jimmie Ward, and linebacker corps of Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. In short, the talent of the 49ers defence in 2019 went a long way to making it so productive.


Am I saying that Saleh is only a product of the talent surrounding him? No. Still, talent matters a great deal in the NFL, arguably more than scheme.

You saw in 2020 that Saleh has come a long way from his earlier playcalling days with the 49ers. After a barrage of injuries saw the 49ers defence devoid of any real talent, Saleh made the best out of a bad situation and kept his defence playing respectfully. By the end of the 2020 regular season, per FootballOutsiders, the 49ers defence ranked sixth in defensive DVOA. 

Furthermore, Saleh has been pivotal in the evolution of players such as Jimmie Ward, Emmanuel Moseley, Kerry Hyder, Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, showing that he can heighten the talent he is given: a trademark of any good coach.

The Jets defence already has some solid players on its roster including Quinnen Williams who flashed at the end of the 2020 season and, if they can keep a hold of him, stud safety Marcus Maye.

Although Saleh’s scheme may be simple, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be effective. Contrast to Gregg Williams’ blitz heavy style, Saleh’s defences are clear and rolls are defined. Each player will know exactly what to do and how to execute it.

West coast offence on the east coast

Much to the joy of many a Jets fan, it is likely that Saleh will bring 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur with him to the Big Apple to handle the offensive side of the ball. Brother of Packers head coach Matt LeFleur, Mike LaFleur is just another product of the fabled Shanahan coaching tree.

LaFleur is expected to inject some of that special Shanahan magic into a Jets offence that looked anaemic at times last year under Adam Gase.

Whoever is the Jets quarterback next season, expect to see a lot of play-action, a lot of bootlegs, reverses, jet sweeps, outside zone, and perfectly timed deep-shots.

Suddenly, with a Shanahan offence in place, the Jets missing out on Trevor Lawrence doesn’t seem that bad. If Lawrence does end up in Jacksonville as the first overall pick, Justin Fields or Zach Wilson are likely to excel in this modern style of offence that is taking the league by storm.

Moreover, sticking with Sam Darnold and drafting a stud at another position of need is now a real possibility for the Jets. After being put through endless punishment his first few years in the league, it looks like Sam Darnold might finally be catching a break if he stays in New York come September.

Players coach

Although it may seem cliched at this point, throughout his time in San Francisco, the 49ers players loved playing for Rob Saleh. Countless times when the 49ers defence would come up with a big play or a crucial stop, there would be Saleh on the touchline, as excited and as passionate as any one of the players on the field.

Saleh’s passion and personality will come as a shot in the arm to a Jets organisation that has been lacking a charismatic leader since the Rex Ryan days. Especially when you consider their last head coach had the personality of a stick.

To sum up, although Saleh can be considered somewhat of an unknown, having never been a head coach before, and his scheme can be considered a little too simple for some, on paper, this seems like a fantastic hire for a Jets organisation that has been toiling around in the wilderness of the NFL for close to a decade now.

Finally, there is a plan in place and an adult in the room. A sense of direction and hope for the future. As always with football, things may look bleak come January for the Jets, but right now in the aftermath of one of the darkest seasons in the organisation’s history, that little bit of hope is priceless.

Enjoy it, Jets fans.

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About Matthew Bowen 146 Articles
Matthew is an MA history student at Swansea University. He is an avid supporter of the San Francisco 49ers and Liverpool FC. Twitter: @MatthewJBowen7

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