Jets' Robert Saleh Says It's 'Very Humbling' to Be NFL's 1st Muslim Head Coach

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2021

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh looks on prior to an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Jennifer Stewart)
Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

Robert Saleh is proud to be the first Muslim head coach in NFL history after being hired by the New York Jets.

"It is a very humbling experience," he told reporters Thursday. "An NFL locker room is the ultimate melting pot. To be part of that is special and humbling." 

The Dearborn, Michigan native has spent the past four years as the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, helping the unit rank in the top five in yards allowed in each of the last two seasons.

The 49ers ranked dead last in the NFL in both yards and points allowed in 2016, the year before Saleh took over. The immediate transformation, plus his success in 2020 despite numerous injuries, helped him become one of the more respected coordinators in the league.

Even with his qualifications, becoming the first Muslim head coach is a significant step for the league.

Saleh said Thursday it is a source of pride for his hometown, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.

According to Khaled A. Beydoun of The Undefeated, Saleh attended Fordson High School, which has a 95 percent Arab student body.

The 41-year-old now has a tough job ahead of him with the Jets, who have gone 10 years without a playoff appearance and finished with the second-worst record in the NFL at 2-14 in 2020.