Throughout the Browns' search for a new head coach, ClevelandBrowns.com will break down the candidates as they go through the interview process with the team. We continue with a look at Robert Saleh, the current defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers.
1) Saleh was a tight end at Division II Northern Michigan University and began his climb up the coaching ladder as a defensive assistant with Michigan State, Central Michigan and Georgia from 2002-05. It was in 2005 when he made the jump to the NFL as a defensive intern with the Houston Texans and remained with the team until 2010, serving in various defensive roles with the team. He took the internship just a few weeks into his GA role with Georgia. According to an SI.com profile, upon asking then Bulldogs coach Mark Richt for his blessing to leave, Richt responded "Are you crazy? You're thinking about that? Get your stuff and get outta here. Don't worry about us, buddy. Everybody dreams about going to that." He aided a pair of AP Defensive Rookie of the Year performances by DeMarco Ryans (2006) and Bryan Cushing (2009). In 2009, Ryans and Cushing were the only teammates to rank among the league's top-10 tacklers.
2) The aforementioned SI.com article written details Saleh's inspiration to chase his coaching dream. Saleh's brother, David, fortunately escaped with his life during the September 11 attacks. Working for Comerica Bank at the time, Robert was watching the New England Patriots begin their dynasty and realizing the fragility of life due to 9/11. He thought his purpose was to be in football, not financing golf courses. "I have to be on the football field," Robert told David in a phone call. Realizing playing wasn't in question, Robert said he wanted to coach, and the climb began from there.
3) Saleh was a defensive quality control coach with the Seattle Seahawks and the famous "Legion of Boom" unit that helped them win a Super Bowl in 2013, Saleh's last season with the team. Saleh aided in the development of linebackers K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith.
4) After three seasons in Jacksonville with the Jaguars from 2014-16, Saleh joined Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. The 49ers' 13 wins this year is their most since 2011 when they reached the NFC championship game. Back in November, NBC Sports' Peter King hopped on 95.7FM The Game out of San Francisco to break down Saleh's potential opportunities after the 49ers season comes to a close. "There's two things about this," King told the station. "No. 1, he enters the offseason, clearly, as the darling of everybody out there in terms of who's going to get the first shot. So he'll get a lot of interviews. He's a very impressive guy. I think he's probably going to get a job anyway." He's also a very emotional guy too. Saleh provided some entertainment during one of San Francisco's games against Seattle earlier this season.
San Francisco's defense has been exceptional this season, leading the league in pass yards allowed per game (169.2) and ranking in the top-10 in yards allowed per game (281.8), takeaways (27) and points allowed per game (19.4).
5) Saleh is paving the way for Arab Americans in football. He grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, according to a profile from the San Francisco Chronicle. "We come from a very close-knit community," said Brian Mosallam, a Dearborn native and close friend of the Salehs who helped Robert get into coaching. "It's a very insular community where we are always around family. So what Robert did was very different. Our kids don't go away and live in eight cities in six years."