There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the future of San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. There was a lot of speculation last season, too, but it was mostly from fans wondering if Saleh would be retained after the defense's poor performance.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has always expressed support for his defensive coordinator, and there never seemed to be any doubt in his mind that Saleh would return in 2019.

Now, the 49ers defense has transformed from an underperforming unit last year to one of the best in the NFL. Fans and the media are still speculating about Saleh's future, but now, they are wondering how long it will be before the coordinator becomes an NFL head coach.

The 49ers (8-0) and Seahawks (7-2) clash for a crucial NFC West matchup on Monday night at Levi's Stadium. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll is very familiar with Saleh, who was a defensive quality control coach on Carroll's staff from 2011 through 2013.

"There was no question that Robert was going to be a really good ball coach and can be the leader of a defense and all that from the start," Carroll said during a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Thursday. "He's doing a fantastic job."

Carroll was asked if Saleh has the type of qualities necessary to be a head coach.

"Absolutely," Carroll responded. "He's a very bright coach. He's really a first-class individual. He's got really good strength of character. And his leadership qualities are obviously on display now. There's no doubt.

"We've had some really good guys over the years that are in those positions, and he's certainly one of them."

Saleh is in his third season on Shanahan's 49ers staff, and, given the team's success this year, could be moving to the top of several head-coaching-candidate lists.

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