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Robert Saleh's '10 Lessons of Coaching' and Sustaining Defensive Success

Back in June, members of the 49ers front office and coaching staff participated in the third annual Quarterback Coaching Summit organized by the NFL in partnership with the Black College Football Hall of Fame. The two-day event held virtually, aimed to build coaching and personnel development pipelines and strengthen diversity across the league.

Twenty-two teams participated in the summit that featured sessions, panel discussions and networking opportunities led by NFL owners, current and former NFL and college football coaches. Robert Saleh and 49ers vice president of player personnel Martin Mayhew joined more than 30 coaches and presenters to discuss varying topics including building a coaching staff, creating a winning culture and other best practices for career advancement.

Saleh held a presentation on his "10 Lessons of Coaching" to help minority coaches to climb the professional ladder. His list was highlighted on the NFL's social accounts:

  1. Ignore the noise, trust your process.
  2. Do what you love and love what you do with enthusiasm and passion.
  3. This profession (coaching) is hard! Dominate the things you have control over.
  4. Ready vs. prepared, there's a difference. Prepare for everything.
  5. The three most dangerous words: "I got it." You must approach each day with humility to get better.
  6. The NFL is a precision league. Every detail matters.
  7. Stay true to yourself, be authentic.
  8. Relationships matter, seek accountability.
  9. Put together the right team, create an identity.
  10. Invest in your team, make everybody around you better.

Saleh discussed several points from his lessons of coaching during the 49ers eight-part State of the Franchise series. The then-defensive coordinator highlighted the importance of stability and continuity heading into 2020 and how the team must keep their foot on the gas to supplant last season's success.

"The three most dangerous words in this league are 'I got it' and to assume that you have it," Saleh said in correlation to his fifth point on the list. "The challenge is to have humility and to focus on getting better every single day, and take the knowledge that you've gained over the last three years and try to find a way to apply it to Year 4 so we can try to get back to where we were."

After inheriting a unit that sat at the bottom of the league in points and yards allowed per game, Saleh helped evolve San Francisco into a Top 5 defense over the last two seasons. Notably, the defensive coordinator helped lead San Francisco's top-ranked passing defense and No. 2 ranked total defense during the 49ers 2019 Super Bowl run. Equally as impressive, the 49ers finished their ensuing season fourth in passing yards allowed, fifth in total yards allowed, seventh in rushing yards allowed and fourth in rushing scores allowed despite dealing with a flood of injuries in 2020.

Since 2017 when Saleh became the 49ers defensive coordinator, the unit allowed the third-fewest passing yards per game in the NFL, per

Since the close of the 2019 season, Saleh inserted his name as one of the top head coaching candidates in the league. He was a finalist for the Cleveland Browns head coaching vacancy last offseason, now occupied by former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. This year, out of the seven head coach openings around the league, Saleh's name was in the mix for at least six of those vacancies.

"When you've got coaching staff who knows what they're doing and also are connected and invested in the players, all guys want to do is be coached the right way and they want you to care about them. And Saleh does that as good as anyone," head coach Kyle Shanahan said earlier this month. "I was very happy with what he did throughout the whole year. I will be very surprised if we don't lose him. I don't know what's wrong with people if they don't hire him. I mean, he's as good as you can get and knows more about football, all three phases. And he's going to hire the best staff. He knows about players and he also knows how to deal with people. So, I hope everyone's not very smart and doesn't hire him so I can keep him. But, I'm expecting not to have him."

On Thursday, the New York Jets announced they agreed in principle for Saleh to become their 20th head coach in franchise history. He is set to take over a Jets team whose defense ranked 26th in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed and takeaways.

With his own goal of helping minority coaches to climb the professional ladder, Saleh will now add to Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins and Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team as the fourth minority head coach in the NFL.