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Report: Eagles set to interview 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh [UPDATE]

The search for Doug Pederson’s replacement is underway.

Pittsburgh Steelers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

UPDATE: John Clark reports Robert Saleh will be traveling to interview with the Eagles this evening (Wednesday, January 21) in South Florida, where Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman are currently located.


It hasn’t taken long for the Philadelphia Eagles to get started on their search for a new head coach. They’ve reportedly already reached out to Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. And now we’re hearing that they’ve submitted an interview request with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

Wait. A coach with a defensive background?! Surely the offensively-inclined Eagles won’t hire one of those, right?

Well, not necessarily. Jeffrey Lurie left the door open for that possibility in his Monday press conference (bold emphasis mine):

“[...] You brought up offense. I think there’s a couple ways to skin that cat. You can hire somebody really steeped in offense or you’ve seen great offenses coached by head coaches coming from the defensive side. I don’t think there’s any predilection for one over the other, but I do think somebody that is constantly curious of where the league is headed and what you need to do to have really good units and again, without a really good elite offense, I tend to err on that side. But not that side of the ball for head coach. Doesn’t matter.

One can also recall that the Eagles were set to hire Gus Bradley in 2013 before Chip Kelly decided to change his mind about leaving Oregon.

Saleh is one of the most popular candidates in this hiring cycle. The 41-year-old has reportedly interviewed with the New York Jets (twice), the Detroit Lions, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Los Angeles Chargers thus far. And the Eagles will potentially be joining that list.

Here’s how the 49ers have ranked in DVOA since Saleh was hired in 2017:

2017 — 26th
2018 — 24th
2019 — 2nd
2020 — 6th

As you can see, the first two years weren’t great but it’s important to note the 49ers ranked bottom five in defensive spending during those seasons. They were top five in 2019 and 16th in 2020. Saleh’s performance last season might’ve been his most impressive considering the 49ers fielded a strong defense despite dealing with a lot of key absences (Nick Bosa hurt, Richard Sherman hurt, DeForest Buckner traded, etc.).

Saleh is also known for his fiery personality and intense demeanor (see: this article’s top photo and this YouTube video that the NFL stubbornly won’t allow to be embedded here). Lurie cited “leadership” being a key attribute in the Eagles’ next hire and maybe Saleh will really impress them. Of course, it seems like Saleh will have a number of options to pick from.

Given the Eagles’ appreciation for offense, Saleh will need to have a strong plan for that side of the ball. Maybe Philly hopes to pair him with, say, someone like Graham Harrell as the offensive coordinator. Or 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur:

The Eagles will likely interview other candidates but now we at least know that Saleh is one of the top candidates to be Pederson’s replacement.


Should the Eagles hire Robert Saleh?

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