Tuesday's NFL: Jets 'the right place' for Dearborn's Robert Saleh

Associated Press

Robert Saleh left no doubt for the New York Jets that he was their guy. And he knew this is exactly where he wanted to be.

The team officially announced Tuesday they hired the former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator as their head coach after agreeing to terms last Thursday. 

Robert Saleh, the New York Jets' new head coach, has families in neighborhoods all across the country celebrating the first known Muslim American to hold that position in NFL history.

“Throughout the interview process, it became clear that this is the right place to call home,” Saleh said in a statement issued by the team. 

Saleh, a 41-year-old Dearborn native who also interviewed with the Lions, is the first Muslim American coach in NFL history. One of nine candidates interviewed by New York, he was the first to get an in-person meeting last Tuesday at the team’s facility in Florham Park, New Jersey. He left without a deal and the Jets later spoke in person to then-Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith — who was later hired by Atlanta.

But Saleh had left a strong impression on chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, team president Hymie Elhai and general manager Joe Douglas.

“After a thorough process and meeting with a number of talented coaches, it was clear to us that Robert was the right person to help us move forward,” Johnson said in a statement. “He is a collaborative leader with proven success in the NFL. In addition to his work as a coach on this level, his passion and knowledge of the game along with his vision for establishing an identity for this team sold me.”

The team is to formally introduce Saleh at 2 p.m. Thursday in a Zoom news conference.

Falcons tout diversity in hire

The Falcons have named Terry Fontenot the team’s first Black general manager, and team owner Arthur Blank said it’s the kind of hire that will eventually also create more opportunities for NFL minority coaches.

Fontenot, 40, joins Atlanta following 18 seasons with NFC South rival New Orleans. 

Fontenot joins the Lions’ Brad Holmes as newly hired Black GMs in the league. Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he anticipates the league will hire more minority head coaches and GMs in the future, if not this year.

“In my opinion, I think the diversity of the pool of candidates for both the general managers and the head coaches this year was excellent and I also think for coordinators,” Blank said. “I think what you’ll see there were a number of coordinators that were diverse candidates that I think will probably not get opportunities this year, but will definitely be getting opportunities in the future.”

Super nod for female official 

Sarah Thomas will cap her sixth NFL season by becoming the first female to officiate the Super Bowl in NFL history.

Thomas, a down judge, is part of the officiating crew announced by the NFL. 

“Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official,” said Troy Vincent, Sr., the NFL’s executive vice resident of football operations. “Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor.”

Alternate combine offered

A South Florida-based performance facility founded by former star wide receiver Brandon Marshall will try to help fill the void left by the NFL not allowing in-person workouts for the scouting combine because of the coronavirus pandemic.

House of Athlete announced the performance facility will be hosting its own combine for players preparing for this year’s draft. Up to 50 will have the chance from March 3-5 to show their skills for NFL teams, an event expected to be broadcast live.

The NFL told its teams Monday that the league won’t allow in-person workouts due to health and safety precautions because of COVID-19 concerns. 

Extra point

Three-time Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram has been released by the Ravens, who was used as a starter for the first seven games this season before dropping deep on the depth chart.