Shanahan hires Saleh as 49ers defensive coordinator

Shanahan hires Saleh as 49ers defensive coordinator

New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan on Friday confirmed former Jacksonville Jaguars linebackers coach Robert Saleh will be his defensive coordinator.

Saleh, 38, faces a tall task. The 49ers defense last season under coordinator Jim O’Neil was one of the worst in league history.

While staggering to a 2-14 finish, the 49ers’ defense ranked last in yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and points allowed. The 49ers surrendered 6,502 yards and 480 points – the eighth- and tied for ninth-worst figures, respectively, in NFL history.

“Robert Saleh is as smart as anyone I’ve been around,” Shanahan said on the "Murph and Mac Show" on KNBR. “He studies everything. He knows a lot of different systems, but he knows the true Seattle-Atlanta-Jacksonville system inside and out, as much as anybody I’ve been with.

“(We) went through a hard interview process with him. I wanted to see where he’s come in the last eight years that we haven’t been together, and it was extremely impressive. I’m very confident in Saleh. He’s helping me put together this defensive staff. He’s going to build a scheme and we’re going to try to get players to fit that scheme. But we also know we’re going to adjust to the players we have, too.”

Saleh coached linebackers with the Jaguars the past three seasons under Gus Bradley. Saleh and Shanahan coached on the same staff with the Texans for all four seasons Shanahan worked under head coach Gary Kubiak.

The 49ers targeted two experienced coaches before hiring Saleh. The 49ers made a push to hire former Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley before he opted to join Anthony Lynn’s staff with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Shanahan also was interested in hiring former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, but the Chicago Bears would not allow him out of his contract, sources told CSNBayArea.com.

Saleh (pronounced SAHL-uh) started out as a defensive intern with Houston in 2005 before moving up to defensive quality control (’06-’08) and assistant linebackers coach (2009-10).

From 2011 to ’13, Saleh worked with the Seattle Seahawks as defensive quality control coach. In Saleh’s final season with Seattle, he worked under Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who was the defensive coordinator. Saleh also worked two seasons while Bradley was the Seahawks' defensive coordinator.

The 49ers will technically play a 4-3 defense, but Shanahan explained there are certain elements of the 3-4 built into the scheme.

“It’s a 4-3, which I think all of that is such semantics, to tell you the truth,” Shanahan said. “Seattle has a linebacker on the ball every single play. So does Atlanta. That’s five guys on the line of scrimmage. Whether you call it a 4-3 or a 3-4, for the most part, we call it a 4-3, just to tell you guys the way I look at it, as a coach.

“Can your halfback block that Sam linebacker on the ball? And that just depends how big he is. And if he’s a big guy and he’s Ahmad Brooks, then call it a 3-4. If he’s a smaller guy like K.J. Wright, who’s not that small, but you’re going to put your back on him, then call it a 4-3. There’s really no difference. It’s the same kind of fronts.

“In a 3-4, sometimes they one-gap, sometimes they two-gap. But we plan on having a linebacker on the ball. That’s five guys on the line of scrimmage. Depending on how our personnel plays out, I’ll have a better answer for what you want to call it.”

T.O. 'not actively seeking' NFL return, expounds on Hall of Fame decision


T.O. 'not actively seeking' NFL return, expounds on Hall of Fame decision

Terrell Owens still is showing off the kind of spectacular shape he is in, even at 44 years old. Just look at his social media pages, and you'll see T.O. working out with today's NFL stars and running a blazing 40-yard dash. 

Even though he's about to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is Owens looking to make a comeback? 

On Tuesday, Canada-based agent Jason Staroszik told TSN and ESPN that T.O. "100 percent" wants to play football again. On Wednesday at the ESPYS, the former 49ers wide receiver clarified his comments. 

Owens says he isn't "actively seeking to get into the NFL," but he did say he would entertain other opportunities with football, including the CFL. 

"I know that I do have the ability to play," Owens said, via ESPN.com. "I know everybody sees the shape that I'm in. There's a lot of athletes that play their prospective sports, but there are few guys that defy the odds. I think I'm one of those guys.

"It's unfortunate that I haven't been able to continue my career, but again, I'm not actively seeking to get into the NFL; but again, if there's an opportunity for me to play, then yeah, I will entertain that, as well as the CFL."

The hot topic with Owens lately has been his decision to not attend the Hall of Fame ceremony. Instead of being in Canton, Ohio next month, Owens will make his own speech at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"It's always unfortunate, and people have a lot to say when someone does something different, but what I'm doing is not wrong," he said.

Owens said he has been working every day on his acceptance speech. As far as what went into his decision to not attend the ceremony, Owens looked to legendary basketball coach John Wooden. 

"For me, I think, overall, everybody's obviously wondering what went into my decision," Owens said. "I think John Wooden said it best: 'Be more concerned about your character than your reputation.' I think what the noise is right now is more about my reputation than my actual character.

"They're making the narrative more so about me offending the Hall of Famers, and that has nothing to do with it. I respect all of those Hall of Famers that have gone in before me and going in with me and after me. It has nothing to do with those Hall of Famers."

Greg Cosell believes this 49ers player is poised for a breakout season


Greg Cosell believes this 49ers player is poised for a breakout season

With the 146th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected ...

George Kittle.

The tight end from Iowa had a solid rookie season, racking up 43 catches for 515 yards and two touchdowns.

On the latest episode of the 49ers Insider Podcast with Matt Maiocco, NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell was talking about Kyle Shanahan and Rams head coach Sean McVay. And then, unsolicited, Cosell pivoted the conversation to Kittle.

"You know, I think one player we should mention who I really liked coming out of college -- and I know he fought some injuries last year, but I think that he has a chance to be a really meaningul part of this offense -- and that's George Kittle," Cosell said. "I think George Kittle is a really good tight end who can do a lot of things.

"He can line up and be a really good blocking tight end -- and obviously we know that Kyle's offense does start with the run game. I think he's more athletic than people probably give him credit for.

"I remember studying him coming out of Iowa and looking at some of his combine measureables -- some were superior to those of OJ Howard from Alabama, and I think people would be surprised by that.

"In this offense, he might not catch 80 balls, but he might average 14, 15 yards a catch, and for a tight end, that's pretty darn good."

Kittle had his best game in the season finale, making four catches for 100 yards at the Rams.