Not first pick, Saleh has proven to be best choice as 49ers D coordinator


Not first pick, Saleh has proven to be best choice as 49ers D coordinator

SANTA CLARA – Robert Saleh knows he was not Kyle Shanahan’s first choice as 49ers defensive coordinator. But, now, Shanahan has come to conclude Saleh might have been the best choice for the job.

After Shanahan was named 49ers head coach in February, the clock was ticking for him to put together his staff. Former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley accepted the coordinator job with the San Diego Chargers. And the Chicago Bears would not allow Vic Fangio out of his contract to return to the 49ers.

But with two games remaining in his first season as 49ers’ defensive coordinator, Saleh has proven himself and will unquestionably be back in the same role next season, Shanahan said.

“Yeah, there’s no doubt about that,” Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which is scheduled to air Saturday at 3 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

“Robert has been great. I think he’s gotten better throughout the year, and I think he’ll be even better next year. Robert has a great future ahead of him. And I feel very fortunate that he’s the coordinator for the Niners.”

Saleh, appearing on the 49ers Insider Podcast during training camp, said he knew he was not the top person on Shanahan’s list to become defensive coordinator after serving three seasons as Jacksonville’s linebackers coach. But he said he was confident if he got an interview, he would convince Shanahan of his worthiness to lead the defense.

And that is exactly what he has accomplished while implementing his 4-3 scheme. The 49ers were ranked last in the league a year ago. This season, the 49ers' defense is holding the opposition to 56 fewer yards per game and is 22nd overall.

The 49ers’ defense is playing its best football in the second half of the season. A defense that was among the worst in league history stopping the run a year ago has now turned in four consecutive games of holding the opposition to fewer than 100 yards rushing.

“I think Robert has done a great job,” Shanahan said. “It’s his first year as a coordinator, and I know he’s waited for this time for a while. He’s been everything I hoped for and more. He’s very smart with how he’s run our scheme. I’ve been excited with our scheme.”

The 49ers’ improved defensive play has coincided with better continuity – the result of fewer injuries forcing starters to leave the lineup.

“He’s really worked through a lot of things this year with moving people around with the injuries we’ve had and trying to find the best spots for guys,” Shanahan said. “I think it’s not a coincidence this last month or so we’ve had the most consistent play with the same people out there. If you look through our first 10 weeks, it seemed like a new lineup almost every week.

“And the more guys can play together, the more you can run the same coverages, the same fronts, the same blitzes every week-in and week-out, and that’s when you can start improving.”

An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations


An intriguing dynamic of Garoppolo's contract negotiations

If the 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are unable to reach a multi-year contract extension by March 6, the 49ers have no other choice but to designate him as their franchise player.

The estimated one-year salary for the franchise tag would be $23.307 million, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, whose work now appears at CBS Sports. (That is assuming a 2018 league-wide salary cap of $178.1 million per team.)

There is a lot to consider for both sides as they look to enter into a long-term contract. Corry said if a deal is struck, he would expect it to be in the neighborhood of Derek Carr’s five-year, $125 million deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason.

“And then there’s the other dynamic, which I would not undersell or I think may not be appreciated as much as it should be,” Corry said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “(Garoppolo’s agent) Don Yee has a reputation – no fault of his own – of doing team-friendly deals.”

Yee also represents New England quarterback Tom Brady, whose average of $20.5 million annual pay ranks 15th among NFL quarterbacks. Brady is underpaid by design, Corry said, because one of the great quarterbacks of all-time realizes it helps the Patriots to maintain a strong supporting cast.

“That’s because Tom Brady dictates, ‘I want to do something good for the team, take less money so we can improve the roster to win Super Bowls.’ That’s not Don Yee who wants to do that,” Corry said.

“The agent works for the player, so he’s executing Tom Brady’s wishes. But he gets that held against him in recruiting. So this is his opportunity to erase that perception if Garoppolo allows him to do his job and gives him latitude to strike the deal that he feels is appropriate.”

For more on the potential negotiating strategies of both sides, listen here to the 49ers Insider Podcast.

49ers linebacker Foster named to NFL All-Rookie team


49ers linebacker Foster named to NFL All-Rookie team

Linebacker Reuben Foster was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America.

Foster started all 10 games in which he appeared for the 49ers after being selected with the No. 31 overall pick out of Alabama. Foster finished second on the 49ers with 72 tackles. He had seven tackles for loss, ranking No. 2 on the team behind rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

Foster was one of three linebackers selected as an all-rookie performer. Thomas, the No. 3 overall draft pick, was not among the four defensive linemen honored.

[MAIOCCO: Ex-agent says Reuben Foster's arrest could void salary guarantees]

Foster was selected as the winner of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for November. He missed five games early in the season with a high ankle sprain and another game with a ribs injury.

The NFL’s top defensive rookie was New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who recorded five interceptions and scored a touchdown while making 13 starts.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: RB Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
CO-OFFENSIVE ROOKIES OF THE YEAR: RB Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs and RB Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: CB Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints

QB – Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
RB – Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs; Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
WR – Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams; Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
TE – Evan Engram, New York Giants
C – Pat Elflein, Minnesota Vikings
G – Dan Feeney, Los Angeles Chargers; Jermaine Eluemunor, Baltimore Ravens, and Ethan Pocic, Seattle Seahawks (tie)
T – Garett Bolles, Denver Broncos; Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints

DL – Derek Barnett, Philadelphia Eagles; Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Carl Lawson, Cincinnati Bengals; Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants
LB – Jarrad Davis, Detroit Lions; Reuben Foster, San Francisco 49ers; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
CB – Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints; Tre'Davious White, Buffalo Bills
S – Jamal Adams, New York Jets; Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

Special Teams
PK – Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs
P – Rigoberto Sanchez, Indianapolis Colts
KR – Ryan Switzer, Dallas Cowboys
PR – Jamal Agnew, Detroit Lions
ST – Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals