Who is Robert Saleh’s Brother? How Tragedy Led to Saleh’s Coaching Career

On September 11, 2001, David Saleh was working at Morgan Stanley on the 61st floor of the South Tower at the World Trade Center. When he heard an explosion—that was the hijacked airliner crash into the North Tower—he started to make his way down the stairs.

Saleh continued heading down despite an announcement that it was an isolated incident and everyone should return to their desk. As Saleh got more than halfway down, a second hijacked plane crashed into the South Tower. As he got closer to the bottom, he passed firefighters heading up the stairs.

Saleh’s brother, Robert, and his parents were in Michigan, watching the tragedy unfold on television. They had no idea if David was still alive when the towers collapsed. He was able to find a store to call his family and let them know he was alive.

Why Robert Saleh’s career path changed

Robert Saleh, who played tight end at Northern Michigan, was working at a Michigan bank in 2001. After September 11th, he thought about his career and where he wanted his life to go.

Robert called David the day after watching the Patriots defeat the Rams in the Super Bowl the following February. An emotional Robert told his brother that he wanted to follow his dream and be a football coach.

His first step to following his coaching dream was at Michigan State as an offensive assistant in 2002. He became a defensive assistant the following year before coaching a season at Central Michigan in 2004, and he moved to the NFL after spending the 2005 season at Georgia.

Saleh’s NFL Coaching Career

Robert Saleh started his NFL coaching career as an intern with the Houston Texans. He was promoted to defensive assistant for the 2006 season and became the linebackers coach in 2009.

Saleh joined Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks staff as a defensive quality control coach in 2011. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl during the 2013 season. The game was played at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, less than 20 miles west of where the Twin Towers stood. He told the NFL Network it was “a little surreal” to coach a Super Bowl in the New York area.

After three seasons as the Jacksonville Jaguars linebackers coach, Saleh moved on to be the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator. In his last two seasons in the role, the 49ers led the league in passing defense. San Francisco lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

Why Saleh Joining the Jets Was Significant

In January 2021, the New York Jets named Robert Saleh head coach. He became the first Muslim head coach in NFL history. His first game was played the day after the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

When he was named the Jets head coach, Saleh said, “Going through my brother’s experience and the tragedy that he experienced, being able to self-reflect on what I was doing at that moment, and realizing that I had a passion for football, really triggered this whole thing.”

Despite a 4-13 record in his first season, there is a lot of hope and expectation around Saleh’s team this season. The Jets added quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a core of young players on both sides of the ball.

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