Robert Saleh has found a new NFL home.
The 49ers defensive coordinator has agreed in principle to a deal to become the new head coach of the New York Jets, the team announced Thursday night.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per informed sources, that Saleh's deal is for five years. 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur is expected to be the first member of Saleh's first staff and serve as offensive coordinator, Rapoport added.
Saleh's hiring comes after an expansive head-coaching search, one that saw the Jets complete nearly a dozen interviews in an attempt to find the best leader for the team.
Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday that Saleh, a highly sought-after candidate for the past two coaching cycles, was one of the finalists for the position and flew to the New York/New Jersey area for a second interview. Two days later, the Jets secured their guy.
The Falcons, Lions, Jaguars, Eagles and Chargers all had reported interest in Saleh as the answer to their own head coach vacancies. The Texans were the only team to not request an interview with the 41-year-old coach.
The leader of San Francisco's defense for the past four seasons, Saleh was the guiding force behind the unit's transformation into one of the NFL's most devastating defensive groups.
Saleh quickly became a fan and league favorite during his tenure in San Fran. Cornerback Richard Sherman, who's been with the franchise since 2018, congratulated his former DC shortly after the announcement.
After ranking 19th in total yards allowed per game, 28th in scoring defense and last in takeaways from 2017-18, the Niners improved those marks to first, 10th and ninth (tied), respectively, from 2019-20.
The '19 campaign saw Saleh experience the best success yet in his NFL coaching career as the 49ers finished second in yards allowed per game en route to a run to Super Bowl LIV where they narrowly lost to the Chiefs.
Even with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impacting the world and injuries ravishing the 49ers' lineup, Saleh maintained his tenacity and aggressiveness and led his group to a top-5 finish in total YPG in 2020.
In New York, Saleh, who's been among the NFL coaching ranks for 16 years, inherits a team coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history. In addition to the 2-14 finish, the Jets' D allowed 28.6 PPG, the third-most in a season in franchise history.
With Saleh now in the fold, the Jets will begin another rebuild in earnest as it looks ahead to April's draft where they currently hold the No. 2 and 23 picks. Deciding on the much-speculated future of 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold will be among Saleh's first orders of business.
The team's two first-round selections provides the latest opportunity to add more highly-touted prospects the team hopes to build around. 2020 first rounder Mekhi Becton, '20 second-round pick Denzel Mims and 2019 third overall pick Quinnen Williams are included in that number.
Saleh's passion and exuberance seems like a perfect fit for a rabid fanbase starving for a winning product. With six total picks in the 2021 draft and ample cap space at the Jets' disposal, Saleh will play a key role in getting the team back on track next season and beyond.