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Saleh speaks as a Jet for first time, overwhelmingly fills staff with former 49ers

Still from Jets’ press conference

Robert Saleh wore green on Thursday. Not figuratively; the man really went all-out in a St. Patrick’s Day-esque gettup for his first official day on the job as head coach of the New York Jets.

Not much of what Saleh said in his introductory press conference was revelatory, nor was it expected to be. But Saleh provided the confidence, professionalism and the deep care for players that has defined his coaching style. He’ll provide an adult in an organization that is trying to put the shockingly inept Adam Gase era in the rearview.

He recognized that, much like when Kyle Shanahan took over the 49ers, it’s not going to be an immediate success.

“It will take time, but everything we do will be designed to win championships in the future,” Saleh said.

He spoke glowingly of Sam Darnold’s arm talent, but said it was premature, without staff having been finalized and long discussions yet to be had, to say he would be the team’s starting quarterback.

Saleh said he’s contacted every player on the Jets’ roster already, typifying his approach.

“I believe that coaches and players are in this thing together,” Saleh said. “The investment coaches put into players should be equivalent to the investment you put in your children… It becomes personal.”

The Jets announced Saleh’s staff following the conclusion of the presser. It includes three coaches from last year, two from two years ago, an old offensive coordinator from the Steve Mariucci era and a longtime 49ers linebacker.

Saleh’s staff includes the following former 49ers:

  • Mike Lafleur: Passing game coordinator, 49ers —> Offensive coordinator (playcaller), New York Jets
  • Jeff Ulbrich: Linebacker, 49ers (2000-09) —> Defensive coordinator (playcaller), New York Jets
    • Coached with Saleh in 2011 with the Seattle Seahawks
    • Coached with Lafleur from 2015-16 with the Atlanta Falcons
  • John Benton: Offensive line coach, 49ers —> Offensive line coach/run game coordinator, New York Jets
  • Aaron Whitecotton: Assistant defensive line coach, 49ers —> Defensive line coach, New York Jets
  • Miles Austin: Offensive quality control, 49ers (2019) —> Wide receivers coach, New York Jets
  • Jon “Taylor” Embree: Offensive quality control, 49ers (2017-19), son of TE coach Jon Embree —> Running backs coach, New York Jets
  • Greg Knapp: Offensive coordinator, 49ers (2001-03)
    • Coached with Saleh in Houston in 2010
    • Coached with Ulbrich in Atlanta from 2018-20

Perhaps the most notable part of Saleh’s press conference is the fact that Ulbrich will handle playcalling duties on defense, not Saleh.

“[I’ve] got the utmost respect and confidence in Jeff Ulbrich to be able to do that,” Saleh said.

One other wrinkle in Saleh’s tenure is that Woody Johnson, who served as President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, and who was in charge of the Jets when the team hired Adam Gase, is currently returning to the United States. He divested himself temporarily from the Jets, putting his brother, Christopher, who some fans of the team preferred, in charge. Woody Johnson will take over as chairman, with Christopher Johnson as vice chairman.


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