But now, Saleh is on to bigger, better, and much-deserving things as a first-year head coach for the New York Jets after spending the last four years in Santa Clara.
Shanahan and Saleh aren’t that different from each other.
In fact, Saleh pulled a “Shanahan” during one of his first offseason practices with the team as he waited in the huddle with the players like he’s used to for the head coach to speak––forgetting that he was the head coach for a second.
“The horn blew for practice to be over,” Saleh detailed during a post-practice press conference. “I started to take my normal spot behind the huddle to listen to the head coach speak, and I was like, ‘Oh shoot! That’s me!’ ”
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What Saleh Has Learned From Shanahan
While Saleh finally climbed the ladder, he’s not taking for granted who helped get him there (Shanahan) and what he’s learned.
“Everyone wants to have the next offensive guru,” Saleh told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. “I think what people lose with all these guys is their leadership skills. There’s a difference between being able to call plays and actually lead a football team, period. And that’s with any coach. And I think where Kyle separates himself from all of them, is his ability to lead and establish a style of play and a standard.”
The Niners, who were plagued with injuries and COVID-19 last season, struggled to win only six games last season but Shanahan kept a positive attitude and so did his players.
“When you watch that team, watch the Niners, even last year, when you turn on the tape, there are common denominators that you see over and over again,” Saleh continued, “you see the work, the effort, the attention to detail, the energy. It explodes off the tape, and it starts at the top with Kyle.”
Saleh Is Ready to Face Adversity
Saleh is set to take flight with a Jets team that will have a rookie quarterback with second-overall pick Zach Wilson front and center, leaving critics doubting the 2021 team.
However, after years of ups and downs in San Francisco with a shaky roster and QB, Saleh is ready to take on whatever is thrown his way.
Saleh was there when Shanahan lost his first nine games as a head coach, but also by his side two years later during their trip to the Super Bowl. And before that, he watched Jimmy Garoppolo get hurt at the beginning of the season which resulted in a 4-12 record. But also saw a huge turnaround in 2019 with an NFC Championship win.
In those “trying times,” Saleh watched first-hand how Shanahan handled the adversity and took notes.
“Jimmy gets hurt the third game of the year and we don’t have nearly the season we felt like we should’ve,” Saleh said. “Everyone’s screaming for changes, everyone wants heads to roll-the media, the external forces came on strong. And to Kyle’s credit, he stayed strong. He stayed strong with players, he stayed strong with coaches, he stayed strong with the entire organization. And that offseason, you saw the players respond exactly the way you wanted them to respond, and that led to the 2019 season.
“I really believe it stemmed from ’18, it stemmed from all that adversity, it stemmed from guys’ knowing that they’re capable of so much more. Through injury-ravaged seasons, they were still able to compete, and be right at the doorstep.”
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