49ers fans can relax: Robert Saleh not headed to Browns

The 49ers' defensive coordinator was a finalist for Cleveland's head coaching job, but the Browns reportedly will hire Kevin Stefanski

  • SANTA CLARA, CA – JANUARY 11: San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh welcomes Nick Bosa (97) back to the sideline after the rookie lineman had the wind knocked out of him in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – January 8 – San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh (left) and general manager John Lynch watch practice, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, at the team’s practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA, CA – JANUARY 11: San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh greets Nick Bosa (97) back to the sideline after the rookie lineman was slow to get up following a sack of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – January 8 – San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh (right) watches practice with head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, at the team’s practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 17: San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh reacts to a play against the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – January 8 – San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh watches practice, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, at the team’s practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 17: San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh celebrates a turnover against the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 17: San Francisco 49ers’ Joe Staley (74) walks off he field with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh heads off the field following their 36-26 win over the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 17: San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh celebrates a turnover against the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

  • SANTA CLARA, CA – SEPTEMBER 22: San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh cheers towards the end of their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

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After another dominating showing by the 49ers defense in the NFC playoffs on Saturday, fans of the Red and Gold had to be a little nervous the performance had pushed Robert Saleh to the top of the Cleveland Browns’ head coaching search.

The fiery defensive coordinator’s stock certainly is soaring, but he’s not going anywhere. At least not to Cleveland.

The Browns are going with, interestingly enough, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to be their new head coach, according to multiple reports. That’s the same offense that was shut down by Saleh’s group in the 49ers’ 27-10 playoff win a day earlier.

After the game, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked if he had just seen his top defensive coach, well, coach his way out of the organization.

‘No. I mean, hopefully they’re not making their decision just off that game,” Shanahan said. “He’s done a good job all year. But, I hope I didn’t. We’ll see how that plays out.”

The 40-year-old Saleh, the 49ers’ third-year DC, interviewed with the Browns during their two-week search and was one of at least eight candidates. According to AP, Saleh and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels were the other finalists.

Cleveland is the last of five teams to fill a head coaching vacancy. A formal announcement isn’t expected until later this week.

The Stefanski-Saleh showdown was witnessed first hand by the Browns search committee, led by former A’s assistant general manager Paul DePodesta, who now serves as the Browns’  chief strategy officer.

Veteran 49ers defensive back Richard Sherman tweeted his surprise at the announcement.

Stefanski, 37, figured to get a long look. He was a finalist a year ago (and reportedly DePodesta’s top choice) to Freddie Kitchens, who was fired after a 6-10 season that began with Super Bowl projections.

 

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