Robert Saleh emerged as a head coaching candidate this offseason thanks to the success of the San Francisco 49ers defense. He did not end up getting a job, but will remain a top candidate next year after his 49ers shut down the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
In fact, his candidacy was likely rejuvenated because he proved exactly how ruthless he can be, even with an ally on the other sideline.
LaFleur quickly rose up the coaching ranks and got his first head coaching job this year with the Packers. But even with Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones on offense, he was totally outmatched against Saleh.
The 49ers defense held the Packers offense scoreless in the first half. Jones finished the entire game with only 56 rushing yards, and Rodgers had three turnovers in a brutal offensive showing. Getting the upper-hand over his best man after missing out on a head coaching opportunity of his own had to give Saleh a sense of heightened joy. Clearly, he was entirely focused on eliminating his opponent, emotional ties be damned.
The 49ers are stacked with talent on defense, but Rodgers is one of the most intelligent quarterbacks of this era, and he looked like he had never seen a professional defense before. He looked confused all game, and made uncharacteristic mistakes, which put his team in a huge hole early.
Perhaps Saleh knows some of LaFleur's tendencies and used his knowledge to send his friend home, while he instead packs for the Super Bowl. It wasn't a close game. It was an evisceration, one which will likely force the Packers to reevaluate the way they function this offseason.
No hard feelings.