SANTA CLARA — Three hours before every 49ers game, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh runs the stadium stairs. He runs up and down, up and down the concrete steps and around the entire field. And as he goes, he takes a leap of faith into the absurd and unknown.
“I visualize the entire game,” Saleh said. “I visualize every call I’m going to make. I visualize the calls the other team will make. I try to visualize my adjustments and their adjustments. This calms me and keeps me sane.”
Saleh sees what isn’t there. He is a knight of faith, as Soren Kierkegaard would say.
“There are two types of people in the world,” Saleh explained. “There are those who need to see something happen before they actually believe it can happen. And then there are those who live in faith, and those are the ones who see things happen before they ever have a chance to happen. And those are the people who, in my opinion, have a greater chance of maximizing who they are, because there’s no cap to what they’re capable of.”
So far this season, things have worked out exactly how Saleh envisioned. The 49ers are 8-0 and his defense has allowed a microscopic 12.8 points per game. Quite a turnaround from 2018, when the 49ers went 4-12 and Saleh’s defense gave up a whopping 27.2 points per game.
No one could have foreseen such a drastic turnaround for the defense. His faith has been rewarded.
Saleh has made his vision come true, and he has become someone many consider the NFL’s best defensive coordinator by staying true to his principles.
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