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Robert Saleh reflects on his four seasons with 49ers

The defensive coordinator had a lot of praise for what Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have built in San Francisco.

Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

In what could be his final media availability as the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, Robert Saleh touched on various subjects, including potentially becoming a head coach.

The 41-year-old is wrapping up his fourth year with the team and has done a tremendous job with a defensive unit that has been decimated by injuries. The Niners have been without their two best pass rushers — Nick Bosa and Dee Ford — for virtually the entire season. The secondary was missing several key players throughout the year, but Saleh has helped the defense remain strong.

Despite missing so much high-end talent, the unit ranks fifth in total yards per game, which is just one of the reasons why Saleh is getting hyped as a head coaching candidate for next season.

The defensive coordinator reflected on his four years with the team and praised the culture head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have built.

“When I look at the leadership John and Kyle provided here, it’s been eye-opening in terms of the way organizations is run,” Saleh said. “What those two have done, not only from a collaboration standpoint, but from a vision standpoint, in terms of getting everybody on the same page and creating a mindset within an organization where we just all have such a great appreciation for one another.”

On top of the injuries, the 49ers were forced to move their operations to Arizona after Santa Clara County tightened its COVID-19 restrictions. The team has been based out of Arizona for more than a month, and Saleh says it’s a testament to Shanahan and Lynch that everyone has stuck together.

“I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can handle it like we have because we actually like hanging out with each other,” Saleh said. “There’s not a lot of teams that actually like one another and I think that this team has built a genuine appreciation for each other.”

Saleh has been linked to the Detroit Lions, who fired head coach Matt Patricia earlier in the season. The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans have openings, while the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers could also move on from their current head coaches once the season is over.

If Saleh does move on this offseason, he will take a lot of lessons from Shanahan with him on how to build a winning culture.

“Kyle Shanahan is an unbelievable leader with regards to tying an organization together with one vision. There is a toughness, there’s a mindset. We’re a team that will stand in the middle of a ring with anybody, and punch, and punch, and punch, until the final bell rings.

That’s because of the mindset that he brings day in and day out. The mindset of the players that they bring day in and day out. It’s the mindset of the person in charge. That creates an atmosphere in which players compete, players fight for one another and have a genuine love for one another. That’s what this building represents.”

Where do you think Saleh ends up next season? Do you think there is a chance he will return as the defensive coordinator?