How many of you rolled your eyes when you read the title? You’re welcome. The San Francisco 49ers are undefeated through three weeks, thanks in large part to their stingy defense. Having a bunch of good players helps, but we haven’t given enough credit to the coaching staff. Robert Saleh, Kris Kocurek, DeMeco Ryans, and Joe Woods have all made a significant impact in their own way. Woods brought scheme and versatility, Ryans has the leadership, Kocurek is a teacher with unmatched energy, and Saleh ties it all together.
Connor Orr of Sports Illustrated recently put together a list of coordinators that could be hot commodities and possible head coaches for 2020. The first coach he mentioned? The 49ers defensive coordinator. Here’s his blurb on Saleh:
Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
Saleh is energetic and young, and he comes from a great coaching tree. The 49ers are 3-0, second in total defense and are top 10 in both sacks and interceptions at a time when the interception is declining generally. Does he have tremendous talent up front? Yes, but the simplistic beauty of his defense allows good players to move fast and keep up with well-schemed offenses.
I love how the defense has performed through three games, but holy cow has things changed to start the season. Media tends to do this, though. A year ago, shoot, a month ago, many fans wondered if Saleh would be the scapegoat had the 49ers struggled this season.
It’s still early. A lot could change from now until the end of the regular season. As Orr mentions, simplistic beauty has worked. When I watch the 49ers get pressure with four players and lock up receivers on the backend, it’s reminiscent of some of the fast-flowing Gus Bradley defenses, the coaching tree Saleh comes from. We’re not quite there yet to call Saleh a candidate, but we’ve come a long ways from Heat-O-Meters wondering if he should be fire. We should acknowledge that he’s done an excellent job with the 49ers roster and putting players in a position to succeed.