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Robert Saleh among most talked-about head coaching candidates

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Saleh will be going through the interview circuit this offseason early and often

San Francisco 49ers v Washington Redskins Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

With success comes reward. The 49ers are playing at a historic pace on defense. Some of their numbers through six games:

Fielding a defense where you have 11 good players certainly helps, but Robert Saleh deserves all kinds of credit, as does his staff.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network recently wrote an article to find the next young, up-and-coming coach who may get an NFL job sooner than later. This was the third year Pelissero has done this, and six names from his previous lists have been hired. Here are the criteria:

The age cutoff is in the early 40s, and the person can’t have been a full-time NFL head coach before. Here’s a shortlist of names to remember, based on dozens of recent conversations with NFL executives, coaches, players and others close to the search process.

Saleh was the first coach on the list. Here’s what was said about the 49ers, defensive coordinator:

His jacked-up sideline reactions have gone viral during the 49ers’ 6-0 start. But there’s a lot more to Saleh, 40, who has re-envisioned the Cover 3 scheme he learned under Pete Carroll in Seattle and later Gus Bradley in Jacksonville, implementing Wide 9 principles, split-safety defenses and creative third-down looks and blitzes. Saleh is charismatic. Players love and believe in him. He’ll need to hire the right offensive coordinator, but all the tools are there.

Saleh may be a year away. Teams might want Saleh to show he can keep up this type of success for more than a full season, assuming the 49ers keep their dominance up. Funny how coaches look better when you surround them with talent and a staff that knows what they’re doing.

Saleh is honest, open, and a player’s coach. The issue when talking about the hiring process is that some people confuse being a good play-caller with being a good coach. Kyle Shanahan: Excellent play-caller. Excellent coach. Hue Jackson: Excellent play-caller. Terrible coach. You have to be able to manage your team, deal with a lot more than preparing for what the opposing team is going to do. The problem is that there is no way to know if somebody is ready until they’re under fire. In Cincinnati, you see Zac Taylor look out of his depth. In Green Bay, you’re seeing Matt LaFleur benefit from a Hall of Fame quarterback and an uber-talented defense. The situation certainly matters, as well.

Saleh is genuine. He means well. If he does get a coaching job, I know he’ll connect with the players and surround himself with a strong staff. Again, this is likely premature, but it’s nice to see Saleh be rewarded for success. Just don’t take any of the Niners assistants with you, please, and thanks.