The first big name of this year’s crop of coaching candidates is off the board.
One day after the Eagles interviewed Robert Saleh for their head-coaching vacancy, the New York Jets hired him.
Saleh, the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator for the last four seasons, was a finalist for the Jets job and had two interviews with the team before Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie flew him down to interview with the team late Wednesday night. The Jets announced the hire Thursday night.
Lurie also flew Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith in for an interview, and is expected to bring in Patriots inside linebacker coach Jerod Mayo on Friday.
Saleh, 41, has been one of the most sought-after coaching candidates this cycle because of the 49ers’ defensive success during his tenure as the group’s leader. He’s reportedly going to bring 49ers passing-game coordinator Mike LaFleur with him to New York, giving him an innovative leader for the Jets’ offense.
The Eagles have typically hired offensive-minded coaches during Lurie’s tenure, but the owner said earlier this week he wasn’t putting too much stock in which side of the ball Doug Pederson’s replacement favored.
“You can hire somebody really steeped in offense, or you’ve seen great offenses coached by head coaches coming from the defensive side,” Lurie said during a Monday news conference. “I don’t think there’s any predilection for one over the other, but I do think somebody that is constantly curious of where the league is headed and what you need to do to have really good units and again, without a really good elite offense, I tend to err on that side. But not that side of the ball for head coach. Doesn’t matter.”
With Saleh off the board, it’s even more likely the Eagles stick with an offensive-minded coach. If they do, Smith is one of the top candidates available. The 38-year-old spent the last two seasons as the Titans’ offensive coordinator and has been instrumental in resurrecting Ryan Tannehill’s career.
Tannehill had 192 play-action dropbacks in Smith’s scheme last season, which was the fourth highest in the league. Derrick Henry’s been the NFL leader in rushing yards in each of the last two seasons, surpassing the 2,000-yard mark this year. The Titans offense has been one of the best in the league under Smith, ranking fourth in defense-adjusted value over average, Football Outsider’s offensive efficiency stat, last season and sixth the year before.
Smith had also interviewed twice for the Jets opening and has been interviewed by nearly every team with a vacancy so far. There are five open jobs left after Saleh joined the Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars announced an agreement with former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
Mayo has flown a little more under the radar than Smith. The former Patriots linebacker has been New England’s inside linebacker coach for just two seasons, his only coaching experience. He’s expected to meet with the team Friday morning.
Mayo, 34, played eight years in the league with the Patriots, making one All-Pro team and two Pro Bowls. The Eagles are the only organization to interview him so far, but he could be more open to staff input from Lurie and Eagles’ general manager Howie Roseman because of his inexperience as a coach.
Staff writer Jeff McLane contributed to this report.