49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is shown during an NFL...

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is shown during an NFL game against Cardinals, in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sept. 13, 2020. Credit: AP/Tony Avelar

In the immediate aftermath of a decision that we knew was coming for months, Christopher Johnson pointed to the most important attribute in the coach who would succeed Adam Gase after a calamitous two-year run.

"I don’t much like the term ‘CEO,’ but it does describe what we’re looking for," Johnson said. "We want a head coach that coaches the entire team and his staff. This is a coach for the entire team. That’s very important to us looking forward."

Late Thursday, the Jets’ CEO got his CEO: Robert Saleh.

The former 49ers defensive coordinator, universally praised by his players and fellow coaches in San Francisco, becomes the Jets’ 20th head coach.

He’s the right man at the right time for a team that is desperate for leadership, stability and, most of all, progress after years of losing. It has been a decade since Rex Ryan last got this team to the playoffs, and while Saleh can’t be expected to instantly transform this team into a contender, he can be the one to turn this team around.

At last.

Saleh is a smart defensive coach who was instrumental in getting the 49ers to the Super Bowl last season and who fielded a top-10 defense in total yards in 2020 despite myriad injuries. He’s a demanding presence who gets the most out of his players. He has a self-assuredness and charisma that undoubtedly appealed to Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas, who spearheaded the search.

Saleh is a leader of men, a coach with vision who will get his players to buy in from the first day they meet him. That’s the reputation he has built during a career that took him from an assistant with the Texans to Pete Carroll’s Seahawks to the Jaguars and finally to the 49ers, where he worked under Kyle Shanahan to earn well-deserved plaudits from all who have worked under him.

"It’s week after week, and he never makes an excuse," 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said of Saleh in December. "We’re still top-5 defense in almost every category. To have the injuries we’ve had, week after week, the setbacks, we’ve got guys who can’t practice. He’s making great plans week in and week out, and we’re making it happen."

Sherman added: "I expect him to be a head coach next year because of what he’s able to do."

That day has come, and that team is the Jets.

Saleh will be the kind of overarching presence the Jets need after Gase’s failed two-year run that ended with his 2-14 nightmare in 2020.

Gase was supposed to be the guy to turn Sam Darnold around with his supposedly brilliant offensive mind. But Darnold regressed significantly during Gase’s tenure, and the coach had nothing to do with a defense that was overseen by Gregg Williams until his ouster after the ill-fated cover-zero blitz call in the final seconds against the Raiders.

Saleh is the kind of personality who will have no issue in coaching the entire team — the CEO role, as the Jets’ CEO described — and he’ll do so because that’s how he operates.

It remains to be seen which direction the Jets will go at quarterback. Perhaps Saleh will be swayed to trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, who helped San Francisco reach the Super Bowl after the 2019 season. Perhaps he’s seen enough in Darnold to keep him and surround him with more talent. Perhaps he’ll look to the draft, where Justin Fields, Mac Jones, Zach Wilson or Trey Lance will be available after Jacksonville almost certainly takes Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick.

Saleh is expected to bring with him 49ers offensive assistant Mike LaFleur, the younger brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, who just might win a Super Bowl in his second season in Green Bay.

It’s the right kind of coaching combination to serve this team well in the years ahead. And with more smart draft selections and free-agent acquisitions by Douglas, who has plenty of cap money to spend and two first-round picks in each of the next two drafts, this can be a successful and long-lasting partnership.

The Jets have yet to play a game in the 2021 season, but they’ve already got their first — and most important — win of the year.

That win is Saleh.