The New York Jets, coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, have reached an agreement in principle with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to be their next head coach, the team announced Thursday night.
The agreement is for five years, leagues sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Saleh, 41, who interviewed virtually last Friday, quickly established himself as the Jets’ front-runner. On Tuesday, he flew to New Jersey for a second interview. On Thursday, the Jets concluded a second interview with Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. At that point, the Jets held internal discussions and decided to make an offer to Saleh, a source said.
There was plenty of competition for Saleh, who received interview requests from six of the seven teams in the NFL head-coaching market.
Saleh is expected to take 49ers passing-game coordinator Mike LaFleur — the brother of Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur — with him as his offensive coordinator, sources told Schefter.
Saleh, who is Lebanese American, will join Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team as active minority head coaches in the league. The 49ers will receive two third-round compensatory draft picks as part of the NFL’s new hiring initiatives to incentivize an expansion of the candidate pool.
Saleh will replace Adam Gase, who went 9-23 and was fired immediately after the 2020 season.
Saleh is regarded as an upbeat, energetic coach. The Jets coveted those traits after two difficult seasons under Gase, whose personality chafed some players. Ownership sought to find a “CEO” coach, someone who could galvanize the organization and build a winning culture.
General manager Joe Douglas, who led the Jets’ search, has no prior experience working with Saleh. At the start of the process, Douglas said he was seeking a “great partner” with strong leadership and communication skills.
Saleh spent four seasons as the 49ers’ coordinator, inheriting the 32nd-ranked defense (yards allowed) and helping transform it into a top-five unit the past two seasons. Despite a spate of injuries, the Saleh-led defense finished fifth in yards and 17th in scoring in 2020.
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