The 49ers will "dearly" miss former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as he becomes the New York Jets' next head coach, but 49ers general manager John Lynch said they are nonetheless excited to see Saleh take the next step in his career.
In a text message to The MMQB's Albert Breer, Lynch called Saleh "a tremendously gifted leader" who's "ready for this challenge."
Saleh came to the 49ers in 2017, soon after Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan took the reins of the organization. Over the ensuing four seasons, the 49ers' defense emerged as one of the NFL's best under Saleh's guidance.
After revamping the unit in free agency and drafting edge rusher Nick Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the 49ers' defense arguably was the league's best during the team's run to Super Bowl LIV. San Francisco allowed fewer total yards than all but one team in 2019, and fewer first downs than all but three. With Bosa wreaking havoc en route to a Defensive Rookie of the Year win, the 49ers allowed the fewest net yards per passing attempt (4.8) in 2019.
Saleh missed Bosa, who tore his ACL in Week 2, and numerous other star defenders during the 2020 season, but the 49ers continued to perform in their absence. The 49ers allowed the fifth-fewest total yards, the fourth-fewest yards per play and the fourth-fewest first downs.
The Jets have some promising pieces, like 2019 No. 3 pick Quinnen Williams and even the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, but Saleh faces a rebuild similar to -- if not more extensive than -- the one the 49ers underwent during his four seasons with the team.
Saleh has the belief of his now-former boss to pull it off.