The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of three teams officially requesting an interview with Robert Saleh, the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator, according to John Lynch, general manager of the 49ers.
Lynch said the Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions all requested an interview with Saleh. Each team has a head coach opening, with Atlanta and Detroit sacking their coaches during the season and the Jaguars sacking Doug Marrone on Monday.
The Jaguars sacked Marrone after more than four years after a 1:15 win in 2020, the worst record in the league and the worst record in a season the Jaguars have ever had. The 2020 failures were compounded during a 15-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history.
Could Saleh be his replacement? It seems that he will at least have a chance to defend his case. Jacksonville has been identified by many as a team likely to hire an offensively minded head coach as it holds number 1 overall (and eventually Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence). However, Saleh is a logical option if the Jaguars are aiming for a defensive coach too.
Saleh has been a hot name in the coaching ranks for two years. The coordinator led the 49ers defensively into an elite year in 2019, with the 49ers finishing second overall in the defensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders.
In 2019, the 49ers’ defense ranked sixth in forced turnover (27), second in overall defense (281.8 yards per game), first in pass defense (169.2 yards per game) and in the NFL fourth place for sacks (48).
The 49ers took a step back in 2020, switching from a Super Bowl appearance to a final spot on NFC West. Even so, the 49ers have been completely ravaged by injuries, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Nevertheless, the 49ers ended the season in 6th place in the defensive DVOA.
Saleh also has connections with Jacksonville. The 41-year-old coach was Jacksonville’s linebacker coach for three seasons (2014-2016) and served under Gus Bradley. He was named Defensive Coordinator for the 49ers in 2017.
As a result, Saleh knows how the Jaguars are organized and likely has an idea of how the franchise works, although a lot has certainly changed since Saleh was last with the Jaguars.
Jaguar owner Shad Khan said Monday that the team would “ideally” hire their head coach and general manager at around the same time, despite a broad search for candidates on both fronts.
“First of all, I think we don’t do this that often with timing. So we’re going to take the time to make sure we’ve really looked at a number of candidates far and wide, “said Khan.
“So I really can’t give you the timing unless, if it’s right, of course we’ll share it with you. Now, in our search for general managers, we’ve interviewed people who were available. But there are a number of them that are not available due to league rules and today we are going to submit our request to interview some of them, so this process is really going to be parallel and for sure we will, ‘I’ll keep you [updated] whenever we have something that is worthwhile. “