NY Jets Robert Saleh has complete faith in the team’s plan, but must show progress – NorthJersey.com

Posted: November 28, 2021 at 10:06 pm

HOUSTON Robert Saleh didnt exactly end up in the easiest landing spot for a first- time head coach when he took the New York Jets job back in January.

OK, thats like saying Mark Sanchez probably wishes that one play against the Patriots back in 2012 had worked out a little differently. Saleh could have scoured the earth for a more challenging entry into the top level of his profession and he might have never found it.

He joined a franchise that over the past decade has been defined by its spectacular failures above all else. (Its unfortunate and unfair to Sanchez, who just happened to have the most spectacular of the many that have come before and since.)

Saleh inherited a roster that is in the middle of such a deep rebuild that it was devoid of proven talent and depth at many key positions and that was before a devastating run of injuries.

And he was tasked with navigating all of that in the biggest media market on the planet, while trying to please a passionate fan base that also happens to be extremely angry and impatient for obvious reasons.

Saleh, of course, didnt get to where he is by believing a massive challenge cant be overcome. From the very beginning, Saleh has been waging a quiet war against that riptide of negativity with his relentless optimism and consistent message of hope for his players and fans.

Back in April, when asked how he felt about free agents saying they wanted to sign with the Jets because of him, Saleh even said three words that previously were treated like Voldemorts name at 1 Jets Drive.

You can always beat the narrative of same old Jets, Saleh said. But its not.

Salehs point was unmistakable and valid: What happened in the past has nothing with what happens right now and every day moving forward, unless you let it.

And then the regular season started.

To his credit, Saleh remains as optimistic as ever. Earlier this month, immediately after the Jets gave up 175 points in a four-game stretch only one NFL team has allowed more since 1970 Saleh made a promise to Jets fans.

Im frustrated, Saleh said. But I am not lost in the big picture in that this thing is going to turn, and when it does, its going to be freakin awesome.

But Saleh has not been able to hide that frustration, especially in the immediate aftermath of the losses. We saw some anger and heard a few bad words after the 41- point point loss to the Patriots, understandably.

Saleh looked downtrodden after the lopsided losses to the Colts and Bills. And he was clearly annoyed after his team threw away a winnable game last week against the Dolphins.

No one should fault him for that because of his previous positivity. Its exactly how a coach should look and talk after losses like those. But its a jarring contrast from what we saw for all these months, so its fair to wonder if maybe this challenge is a little harder than he expected?

No, Saleh said when asked that directly this week. Its the same thing, like knock on wood, Ive been very fortunate in my NFL career. This is the fifth team that weve attempted to rebuild.

The Texans went 2-14 in 2005, when Saleh started his pro coaching career as a defensive intern. He left in 2010 and Houston won the division the next two years and made the playoffs in four of the next six.

The Jaguars lost 37 of 48 games with Saleh as their linebackers coach from 2014-16. They went to the AFC Championship game the next year.

And the 49ers went 6-10 and 4-12 in Salehs first two years as defensive coordinator before they finished 13-3 and went to the Super Bowl in year three.

But the most meaningful turnaround came in Seattle. In 2011 he joined the Seahawks as a defensive quality control coach and they went 7-9, finishing under .500 for the fourth straight season. Saleh won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks two years later. Of course, Russell Wilson had a lot to do with that. Further hammering home the point player is more important to the Jets future than rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.

So when Saleh says that none of this is a surprise and that this is what it should feel like, even though its not easy, its actually believable.

In all those cases, the key part of the plan was the same: the teams were loaded with young players who had to learn some really tough lessons before becoming key contributors to the turnaround.

He sees the same thing happening on the Jets roster.

This is exactly what it looks like and were not the only ones, Saleh said. You look at Arizona, theyre in year three and doing a heck of a job.

But he also seemed to hint that going through those kinds of struggles in this particular situation is more of a challenge.

I started joking around with somebody that one year in New York is like [aging in] dog years, Saleh said. It is euphoria or disaster, there is no in between. We embrace the expectation. We want to win. Even now, were trying to win football games and were trying to teach this young group and these young men how to win these games.

Salehs main message to Jets fans is that this rebuild is different than the ones before, because general manager Joe Douglas didnt hit the panic button this offseason. So instead of having overpaid veterans on the field which might have helped the Jets look more respectable, theyre developing young players and evaluating which ones can be a part of their future.

I respect the heck out of the urgency from the fans and the wanting to flip this thing, Saleh said. But in fairness, this is the first time this fan base is actually experiencing something like this. Usually its been a quick fix, followed by a scramble. This is an actual plan.

Saleh is right on that point. But that wont make the next seven weeks any easier if the Jets dont show some progress.

Andy Vasquezis the Jetsbeat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Jets analysis, news, trades and more, pleasesubscribe todayanddownload our app.

Email:vasqueza@northjersey.com

Twitter:@andy_vasquez

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NY Jets Robert Saleh has complete faith in the team's plan, but must show progress - NorthJersey.com

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