Robert Saleh left a lasting imprint on the 49ers, the team’s top decision-makers said on Saturday.
Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch described the 49ers’ former defensive coordinator as a man who provided the tools to improve everybody around him, players and coaches alike.
The New York Jets on Thursday night announced Saleh as the team's new head coach.
“Robert helped to build a successful environment that has developed both players and coaches, and we are thankful for everything he brought to the 49ers these last four years,” Shanahan said in a statement released through the team.
After the 49ers’ defense struggled in the first two seasons under Saleh’s leadership, that side of the ball became the team's strength. The 49ers’ defense led the club to the Super Bowl last year. Saleh was named NFL Assistant Coach of the Year by The Sporting News.
Despite injuries at every level of the defense, Saleh’s touch enabled the 49ers to rank in the top five in nearly every statistical category in 2020. There is little doubt he has left the 49ers in a better position than when he arrived.
“Robert is a great coach and an even better person,” Lynch said. “He’s a gifted leader who has earned the opportunity to direct a team in this League. His contributions to the 49ers over the last four years have helped us establish a culture and a standard that will continue to serve us well.”
Last year, Saleh was a finalist for the Cleveland Browns’ head-coaching job. When he did not get the job, Shanahan admitted he was “pumped” he would be able to retain his defensive coordinator for another season.
Now, Shanahan said he is happy for Saleh to receive what he deserves as an NFL head coach.
“As a friend, I respect him greatly and could not be happier for him, (wife) Sanaa and their family,” Shanahan said.
“We wish him all the best.”
Said Lynch, “We wish Robert, Sanaa and their entire family the best, and look forward to watching his future accomplishments.”