What Do We Know About Head Coach Robert Saleh?

Any serious football fanatic knows the name, Robert Saleh. He is currently the head coach for none other than the New York Jets. Before he joined the beloved New York heroes, he spent a lot of time working with different football sides and perfecting his coaching technique in the hopes that one day he would meet his perfect match. It’s clear that he was placing the right bet when he signed on with the Jets! There is a lot to know about a man like Saleh, and all of it has made him who he is today. Let’s take a closer look at Robert Saleh’s life right from the beginning.

Early days

Robert Saleh was born in Dearborn, Michigan, on January 31st, 1979. Dearborn is where Robert spent his entire childhood and adolescence and where he attended Fordson High School. When he graduated in 1997, he decided to take a path very different from that one that he follows today. Saleh elected to try his hand at finance at Northern Michigan University. He was also a starter for the Northern Michigan Wildcats football team for all four years that he was there. Saleh earned all-conference colors as a tight end; he clearly harbored a passion for football for many years before pursuing it professionally.

A life-changing moment for Saleh, and certainly his family, came in the form of the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11. His brother David, an employee hard at work in the North Tower on the day of the attacks, witnessed the horror that began to unfold with the initial plane’s impact into the South Tower. Despite the fact that North Tower employees had been instructed to return to work and that there was no immediate danger to them, David knew he had to get out. He had made it as low as the 24th floor by the time the second plane flew into his own tower, 50 floors above his head. David’s miraculous escape from the North tower was the event that finally pushed Robert Saleh to take a chance on his passion for football coaching. He realized then that life is fleeting and fragile, and we have to go after what we want.

While we know him as a coach, Saleh is also a father to four sons and two daughters and a devoted husband to his wife, Sanaa. When he was hired by the New York Jets, Saleh made history as the first Muslim head coach in the NFL. Saleh is very close to Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and was even the best man at his wedding! La Fleur and Saleh became good friends while they were both working as graduate assistants in Central Michigan.

Career in coaching

As with all great men who have great careers, Robert Saleh had to pay his dues before he could make it in the big leagues. His very first taste of coaching came when he started working as a defensive assistant at Michigan State University in 2003. He would go on to work at Central Michigan University and the University of Georgia as well, before 2006.  

His first lucky break (although, is it really luck if you’ve worked as hard as he has?) came when he was hired as an intern for the Houston Texans. He would work well in the position and went on to be hired by Gary Kubiak as a defensive quality controller in 2006, working under defensive coordinator Richard Smith. It wasn’t long before his promise became even more apparent to those he worked with, and in 2009 Saleh was finally promoted to Assistant Linebackers Coach.

He would stay with the Texans for a further two years, then move on to the Seattle Seahawks in 2011. He was hired, once again, as defensive quality control under Pete Caroll. His three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks were prosperous- he was part of the staff and team that took the Denver Broncos to the 2013 Super Bowl. The match is still spoken of in hushed tones to this day and is referred to as the Legion of Boom.

Recent career highlights

Preferring to go out while he was on top, Saleh moved to the Jacksonville Jaguars after the Seattle Seahawks’ 2013 win, this time as Linebackers Coach. He would spend four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars under coach Gus Bradley.  

The next stop in Saleh’s career would be the San Francisco 49ers. He made his move from the Jaguars in 2017 and was named the 49ers defensive coordinator. He spent quite a bit of time with the 49ers and helped their numbers dramatically. He assisted in leading the team to a 13-3 record and to a Superbowl.

It was only this year, in January, that Saleh signed on with the Jets as their head coach for the next five years and hopefully beyond. He may have lost his debut game as head coach (to the Carolina Panthers, 14-19), but he redeemed himself soon after with a 27-24 win against the Tennessee Titans.

The future

As previously mentioned, Saleh is locked into a five-year contract with the Jets. Football coaches sign such long-term contracts because it’s necessary for players and coaches to be on the same page, to take the time to really get to know each other, to understand how the other thinks and what motivates them. Since the synergy between himself, the rest of the staff, and the team is already evident, we don’t see Saleh wanting to go anywhere any time soon. Why give up a good thing if it’s working for the whole team? His career trajectory is still headed for the stars, and we wish him nothing but the best for a prosperous future. We’ll be keeping our eye on him to see how he and the Jets fare in the current season.