The Jets became the second team to hire a head coach this evening, bringing in Robert Saleh.
Saleh, 41, had been the defensive coordinator of the Sa Francisco 49ers the past four seasons. He began to receive praise for his work during the 2019 season, becoming one of the best units in the league as the team made it to the Super Bowl.
He was a finalist for the Browns head coaching opening last offseason before the team decided to go with Kevin Stefanski.
This season the 49ers faced a myriad of injuries, including star pass rusher Nick Bosa. Despite the many losses, the team allowed the 5th fewest yards in the NFL, with arguably more credit being given to Saleh than the season prior.
NFL teams had seen more than enough, as Saleh was a red hot candidate for head coaching openings. He interviewed with six of the seven teams with openings, included the Jets twice. Ultimately it was the team that saw him twice that decided he was the right fit.
Saleh has been called an energizer type of coach, similar to Rex Ryan, the head coach of the Jets the last time the team made the playoffs in 2010. That might be true, but it should not be seen as a negative. His players love him, and if this past season has shown anything, he can coach up a group facing adversity. Even as the 49ers faced a Super Bowl hangover, endless injuries and having to play in Arizona, they never quit.
Saleh will be tasked with righting the path for a team that might be at the worst point of any in the league (although the have some competition from Houston). There is hope in the form of the second overall pick in the NFL Draft, and it will be up to Saleh and GM Joe Douglas to decide if they should stick with Sam Darnold or pick a QB like Zach Wilson or Justin Fields. Still, the Jets organization has been in flux since the final years of Rex Ryan’s tenure. GM after GM, coach after coach, each ending worse than the last.
In order for this group to have any chance, they need stability and a unified vision; Saleh and Douglass must work well together.
Saleh is a great leader, and clearly a talented coordinator. He witnessed first hand in San Francisco it takes time to build a team from the ground up, as the Jets are not in that different of a spot as the 49ers were when they hired Kyle Shanahan four years ago. He’ll need to take to take that experience to heart now, as he is the one leading the way, and not just an assistant.
That experience will be invaluable, and makes Saleh a unique fit for this job. If the Jets solve the QB position in the coming months and find the right offensive coordinator (reports indicate Saleh is bringing 49ers pass-game coordinator Mike LaFleur as his OC), things could get on the right path.
This team needs a complete makeover. I would argue Saleh was one of the best candidates that was available to lead the Jets moving forward given where they are. For his sake, lets hope that feeling is correct.
Image above from Sports Illustrated
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