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San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is expected to be a hot head-coaching candidate this offseason which could be bad news for the 49ers.
The San Francisco 49ers have seen their defense completely transformed this season under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. And as a result, Saleh will likely be at the forefront of head coach rumors this offseason.
Saleh has risen to stardom this season on the heels of his eccentric pre-game rituals and bombastic in-game energy. It also certainly hasn’t hurt matters that his defense is currently among the NFL’s most elite.
Some may even say the 49ers have the best defense in the NFL today — an idea that is difficult to dispute.
Either way, Saleh’s rise to fame has seemingly come overnight and in the unlikeliest of ways. Entering the 2019 season, the 40-year-old defensive coordinator was arguably the most scrutinized member of the 49ers coaching staff.
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The 49ers originally hired him back in 2017 under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan but failed to find much success in his first two seasons in San Francisco. In fact, his defenses’ performances were so underwhelming that many believed that he was coaching for his job this season.
Saleh’s defense in 2017 ranked 26th in the NFL in terms of total DVOA, per Football Outsiders — a numerical value given to each positional unit. It was understandable though given that the defense he had inherited was devoid of much talent.
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Things improved slightly in 2018 with his defense climbing to 23rd in the NFL but it was clear that there was still work to be done. But there was reason to be optimistic about the defense going into 2019.
However, nobody could have predicted the meteoric leap the 49ers defense would take this season.
Through 12 games, the 49ers defense ranks third in total DVOA and first in the NFL in total defense. The 49ers have the No. 1 pass defense by a considerable margin and only the Carolina Panthers have amassed more sacks on the year.
It’s been an incredible turnaround for Saleh’s defense helped by the acquisition of some key players in the offseason. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Kwon Alexander have all helped transform the 49ers defense but much of the credit must go to the returning talent.