With Week 17 in the books, the 2021 offseason has started for the 18 non-playoff teams. The news of Robert Saleh’s interview with the Falcons was broke by Fox’s Jay Glazier and subsequently covered by our own Jake Gordon.
With the NFL regular season ending today, the coaching carousel is about to quickly pick up. @JayGlazer has the latest on which coaches are safe, which ones are on the hot seat, and breaks down the top coaching candidates for 2021: pic.twitter.com/SNSWrLeN2h
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 3, 2021
SportsTalkATL’s Kristopher Shrader has already explored the possibility of Robert Saleh as a head coaching prospect, so be sure to check that out if you have not already. What I will instead talk about is what Saleh’s strengths and weaknesses are, and their effects on the rest of the organization.
Players out-performing expectations
Saleh has long been associated with defenses that find success through schematics, but what is lesser known is his ability to develop under the radar players. Obviously, stars like Joey Bosa need only minor refining, but guys like Emmanuel Moseley, Dre Greenlaw, and Kerry Hyder are not as high-profile, and he has completely elevated their games.
Prior defensive success
Robert Saleh has been apart of many historically great defenses. With Seattle’s Legion of Boom and last year’s 49ers defense, there is no question whether or not he can turn a bad Falcons group into a top ten unit. Without their two top pass rushes Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, San Francisco’s defense continued to play at a high level this season. The 49ers ranked No. 4 against the pass and No. 6 against the run.
It is evident Saleh brings the energy for the entire coaching staff in San Francisco. He emits fire and his personality is welcomed perfectly by the locker room. As a head coach, his impact there could be magnified.
Most head coaches nowadays are younger. Hiring an older head coach can strain the player/coach relationship due to how out of touch coaches like Bill Belichick can be.
This is more of a shot at how fortunate Saleh has been with Kyle Shanahan. He does not necessarily have to know what offense he wants his team to run, but it helps when game-planning and hiring an offensive coordinator. He knows enough to be able to select an offensive coordinator, but it could hurt him when it comes time for in-game adjustments and pre-game preparation.
The Falcons’ defense has some bright spots but is clearly less talented than the 49ers. Players like Deion Jones, Foyesade Oluokon, Mykal Walker, and A.J. Terrell are nice building blocks for Saleh’s 4-3 under.
Overall, Saleh is a better fit than I would have originally thought. He has proven this year that he can scheme an injured defense to an average unit, so he should be able to do so similarly with the Falcons lack of personnel. Consider the fact that the offense is much more stable, assigning Saleh the pressure to improve the defense could work quite well.
With Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, the offense is left in halfway decent shape. So all Saleh would have to do is hire the right offensive coordinator and then simply do what he did in San Francisco — getting the most out of his defensive personnel.