San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh conducted Round 2 of his head-coaching interview on Saturday. He presented his case on national television for 2 hours, 49 minutes.
The Cleveland Browns, apparently, were not watching -- or did not care.
Saleh's defense crushed the Minnesota offense. Yet, on Sunday morning, the Browns reportedly opted to hire Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as their next head coach.
Immediately following the 49ers' 27-10 beatdown of the Vikings, coach Kyle Shanahan was asked if he felt like the team's dominating defensive performance increased the chances he would lose Saleh from his coaching staff.
"Hopefully, they're not making their decision just off that game," Shanahan said of the Browns. "He's done a good job all year. But I hope I didn't. We'll see how that plays out. I was pumped with the defense."
The news of Stefanski's hiring came as a shock to 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, who has endorsed Saleh for the head-coaching position with the Browns. Sherman reacted with disgust on Twitter:
"Wow just wow...... just W....O....W.... guess I should have expected it"
Wow just wow...... just W....O....W.... guess I should have expected it https://t.co/NqY7s1GxP5— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) January 12, 2020
Saleh's defense held Stefanski's offense to 147 total yards, setting a 49ers playoff record. It was the fewest yards allowed in an NFL playoff game since Jan. 3, 2015, when Carolina held Arizona to 78 net yards.
On Saturday, Sherman said there was no doubt in his mind that Saleh earned the opportunity to be a head coach. The Browns position was the only job interview Saleh got, and it was the last job opening in the NFL. Saleh interviewed with the Browns last weekend while the 49ers had a bye week as the playoffs opened.
"I heard a lot of people and read a lot of media reports talking about this game would decide the Cleveland Browns coaching position between their offensive coordinator and Saleh," Sherman said. "If that's the way they want to decide it, I think Saleh put on a great performance and he deserves consideration."
The Browns appeared determined to hire an offensive-minded head coach to help mold quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Stefanski becomes the third head coach for Mayfield in three seasons, following Hue Jackson and Freddie Kitches. Both Jackson and Kitchens are offensive coaches.
Saleh's defensive background might have been viewed as a negative, but according to sources, Saleh laid out a detailed plan in his session with Browns ownership and management.
Saleh pointed out that many of the NFL's top teams have created continuity on offense with head coaches who do not have backgrounds on offense. Among those coaches who have made it work with great success are Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin.
Saleh expressed that the key to sustained success, according to someone with knowledge of Saleh's plan, was to develop the coaches who develop the players. The system should be able to continue to succeed even if a team's top offensive coach moves into a head-coaching position.
Meanwhile, Sherman expressed skepticism about the NFL's hiring processes when it comes to minority coaching candidates. Saleh is Arab American.
"Obviously, there hasn't been a lot of hires of coaches of color, or minority coaches," Sherman said. "You never know. But I think he deserves a spot. He's done everything he can to put himself in a position for it."
Despite apparently being shut out on this NFL coaching cycle, Saleh's performance this season calling the shots for the 49ers' defense would seem to place him near the top of the list of candidates for future years.
"We have faith in coach and whatever he calls we are going to go out there and execute and make plays happen," 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander said. "He is legendary, he is going to be one of the best to do it."
How Browns not hiring Robert Saleh affects 49ers, NFL coaching market originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area