The New York Jets will roll into Cleveland on Sunday with their second-year head coach Robert Saleh. The name Saleh should sound very familiar to Browns fans because Saleh was once a finalist to be the Cleveland Browns’ head coach.
Back in the winter of 2020, it was believed that San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski were two of the finalists to be the head man in Cleveland.
Saleh led the 49er’s defense on an incredible season, and his name was up for many head coaching jobs around the league. Stefanski also led the Vikings to a great offensive season and helped bring the team to the playoffs.
Stefanski vs Saleh On And Off The Field
Stefanski and Saleh would match up in the 2020 divisional round, Saleh and the 49ers would move on, and Stefanski and the Vikings would go home. Stefanski wouldn’t be in Minnesota for much longer. Less than 24 hours after the Minnesota Vikings were eliminated from the playoffs, Stefanski was named Cleveland Browns’ head coach. Many people wondered if Saleh was the one to lose that game, would he have been named head coach the following morning?
The rule in the NFL is you can’t take over as a head coach until you are eliminated from the playoffs. It seems like the Browns didn’t want to wait until February when Saleh would become available, and they wanted Stefanski in as soon as possible to get that horrible 2019 season out of the building.
The timing of everything seemed a little weird, and it did seem like the Browns wanted whoever lost that game to be named head coach and be in Cleveland right away.
Saleh and the 49ers ended up going to the super bowl and losing to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Saleh didn’t get a head coaching job that offseason. Saleh would have to wait a year to be a head coach and found his home in New York in charge of the Jets.
Did The Cleveland Browns Get It Right?
The Cleveland Browns picked the right head coach that winter of 2020. Stefanski would go on to win coach of the year and help coach the Browns to the divisional round, where they fell to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Stefanski didn’t have a great 2021 season, which led to some dramatic roster changes, but it seems like he will be in Cleveland for a while if something wrong doesn’t happen.
As for Saleh, he was kind of behind the ball already when he took the New York Jets job. He took over a roster with minimal talent and a rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson. He went 4-13 in 2021 and is already on the hot seat coming into the 2022 season. The Jets fell to the Baltimore Ravens last week, so Saleh is trying to find his first win this week in Cleveland.
We will never know if Saleh would have done just as good a job as Stefanski did in the 2020 season or if he would struggle like he’s doing with the Jets right now, but the good news is Stefanski is the man in Cleveland, and there are more playoff runs to be had.
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