NEW YORK — The New York Jets were searching for a leader, someone who could bring a frustrated, playoff-starved franchise back to respectability.
They think they found their guy in Robert Saleh.
The Jets reached an agreement in principle with the popular and energetic San Francisco 49ers defensive
The 41-year-old Saleh, believed to be the first Muslim head coach in NFL history, emerged as a
Saleh left the Jets and met with Philadelphia, which fired Doug Pederson on Monday. And New York also had an in-person meeting with Tennessee offensive
After Smith left without a deal, New York had internal discussions and opted to hire Saleh.
“YESSS SIRRRRRRRRRR,” an excited defensive tackle Quinnen Williams wrote on Twitter.
Saleh, recognized as an energetic leader who is well liked by his players, had been the 49ers’ defensive
The 49ers ranked fifth in overall
“The @nyjets got a great one!” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman tweeted. “Congrats to them!”
Saleh, the son of Lebanese parents, is the the second minority coach to be hired by the Jets in the last six years and first since Todd Bowles, who is Black, in 2015. He’s the fourth active minority coach in the NFL, joining Miami’s Brian Flores, Washington’s Ron Rivera and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.
Saleh, who first interviewed remotely with the Jets last Friday, also spoke with Detroit, Atlanta, Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Chargers.
New York pounced, though, after Douglas promised the team would “cast a very wide net” in its search. Both Johnson and Douglas spoke about finding a leader, a CEO-type of coach who would oversee the entire operation of the team and help re-establish a culture and identity for the franchise.
The 20th coach in franchise history, Saleh beat out Smith, Kansas City offensive
Saleh is the sixth out of the past seven coaches hired by the Jets to not have previous full-time head coaching experience, with Gase being the exception. Bowles was Miami’s interim coach in 2011. Saleh is also the fourth former defensive
With the Jets, Saleh will have plenty of work to do. New York hasn’t made the
Saleh and Douglas will also have lots of questions to answer about the roster, none bigger than what the Jets should do at quarterback.
Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick in 2018, hasn’t lived up to his lofty draft status and regressed this season under Gase. New York currently holds the No. 2 pick in the draft and could opt to take a quarterback — perhaps Ohio State’s Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson — and start fresh at the position. The Jets, who also have the No. 23 selection, could trade down to collect more picks. A lot will depend on who Saleh brings in as his offensive
Saleh could bring in 49ers passing game
The Jets also have 20 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, including several standouts on
Saleh, from Dearborn, Michigan, began his coaching career in 2002 as a defensive assistant at Michigan State for two seasons, followed by stints at Central Michigan and Georgia. He joined the Houston Texans in 2005 as a defensive intern under Dom Capers and worked three seasons as a defensive quality control coach under Gary Kubiak before being promoted to assistant linebackers coach in 2009.
Saleh joined Pete Carroll’s staff in Seattle as a defensive quality control coach in 2011 before being hired by Gus Bradley in 2014 as Jacksonville’s linebackers coach. He spent three seasons with the Jaguars before joining the 49ers.
“He makes sure there’s no gray area in terms of coaching and teaching,” San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner said last month. "There’s a lot of coaches out there who just coach. But he’s a great teacher.”
AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.
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Dennis Waszak Jr., The Associated Press