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Robert Saleh was a bit of a surprise name when it was announced back in February that he would become San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan's defensive coordinator. Saleh wasn't even the 49ers' first or second choice. Those honors belong to Gus Bradley, now with the Los Angeles Chargers, and Vic Fangio, who the Chicago Bears would not allow out of his contract to rejoin his former team.

Saleh was an unexpected hire because many felt that Shanahan, who was entering his first season as a head coach, could benefit from an experienced coordinator managing his defense. Saleh spent the previous three seasons as the linebackers coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Saleh was confident he was the man for the job. Whatever he said to Shanahan and the 49ers during his interview must have impressed because with two games remaining in the 2017 season, it looks like Saleh is here to stay.

Upon Saleh's hiring, there was some talk that he may merely be a placeholder until someone like Fangio became available. Of course, most of that discussion died down when it was announced that the 49ers would be installing a defense very different from Chicago's.

San Francisco has already started to put players in place that fit Saleh's scheme, so changing things up now would not make much sense. At this point, continuity is far more critical and the 49ers defense has made great strides over the course of the season.

Shanahan sat down with NBC Sports Bay Area earlier this week for an interview which aired on Saturday. He discussed Saleh and the job he has done with the 49ers this season.

"I think Robert has done a great job," Shanahan told Matt Maiocco. "It's his first year as a coordinator, and I know he's waited for this time for a while. He's been everything I hoped for and more. He's very smart with how he's run our scheme. I've been excited with our scheme.

"He's really worked through a lot of things this year with moving people around with the injuries we've had and trying to find the best spots for guys. I think it's not a coincidence this last month or so we've had the most consistent play with the same people out there. If you look through our first 10 weeks, it seemed like a new lineup almost every week.

"And the more guys can play together, the more you can run the same coverages, the same fronts, the same blitzes every week-in and week-out, and that's when you can start improving."

Shanahan was asked if Saleh would return to the same role with the 49ers next season.

"There's no doubt about that," he answered. "Robert has been great. I think he's gotten better throughout the year, and I think he'll be even better next year. Robert has a great future ahead of him. And I feel very fortunate that he's the coordinator for the Niners."


The topics of the 49ers defense, Saleh, and his future were discussed by Al Sacco and Zain Naqvi during the latest "No Huddle" podcast, which you can listen to below.



Shanahan discussed what the 49ers could learn from the Jaguars, who run a similar defense and are ranked first in points allowed and against the pass. He also shared what it will take for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to find success against the talented defense.


Shanahan evaluated the rookie seasons of first-round selections Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster.


Finally, Shanahan describes the emotions heading into the 49ers' final home game of the season and what the Levi's Stadium crowd does for the team.


All videos courtesy of @NBCS49ers on Twitter.