The Cleveland Browns named Kevin Stefanski their latest head coach. The news excited more than just Rust Belt locals.
Over in California, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan grinned at the news. Not because he’s thrilled for a franchise he used to work for, but rather the news meant Shanny would have his defensive coordinator Robert Saleh back in 2020.
"I was pumped," Shanahan said Monday, via the team’s official transcript. "I heard it on my way into work, so I was extremely excited. I definitely have some empathy for Saleh. I know anyone who goes through that process and stuff, we’re all competitive, and you want to win and you want to get that opportunity and stuff, but for Saleh, every year we keep him we’ll be very fortunate. Saleh’s going to be a head coach in this league. Could’ve been one this year. Most likely he’ll be one next year. But he’s going to have the right opportunity come around for him. It’s just a matter of time. I’m just very happy that we’re going to be able to have him going into next year."
Saleh appeared to be one of the finalists for the Browns job, but Cleveland elected to go with the offensive-minded Stefanski over a DC who led the No. 2 ranked defense in DVOA for 2019. The Browns chose the offensive coordinator that Saleh’s players manhandled in the Divisional Round on Saturday.
Shanahan noted it would have "been very hard" to replace Saleh had he gotten the Browns gig. Not only do the Niners not have to worry about that for another year, but they also won’t have a potential distraction hovering.
"There’s definitely guys on our staff who I’ve got a lot of confidence in and stuff, but it’s always in the back of your head, but I’ve got a lot of other stuff on my mind right now that they’re definitely in front of that, so that was something that I kind of put in a box and tied it up and put it away," Shanahan said. "I thought we would deal with that when the season ended. Now I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it. Maybe we’ll talk next year about that."
Shanahan not having to worry about losing Saleh is part of the equation. San Francisco should also avoid potentially having to replace assistants he’d have taken to Ohio.
"He knows me well enough to know how I am, but I’m definitely excited he didn’t get it and that’s not just for selfish reasons because I care a lot about this organization too," Shanahan said. "So, it definitely helps me, but it helps this whole organization and I think it will help Saleh in the long run. Like I said, he’s going to be a head coach, he just needs the right opportunity and he’s going to keep getting better and better too."
With only five head coaching openings, the musical chairs stopped this year with Saleh still standing in San Francisco. Those who passed on the DC made their own choices for their own reasons. Whether they turn out right or wrong, Shanahan will gladly reap the rewards of those decisions for another year.
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