How the upcoming 2021 season will shape up for the New York Jets is uncertain, but with a new head coach and franchise quarterback hopeful, the Jets are back in slightly familiar territory.
The Jets’ hiring of Robert Saleh in January to replace his fired predecessor, Adam Gase, and the selection of quarterback Zach Wilson from BYU with the No. 2 overall pick in this past April’s NFL Draft, is similar to the Jets hiring Gase in January 2019, nine months after drafting Sam Darnold with the No. 3 pick to be their franchise QB. Neither worked out.
Saleh, 42, who won his first preseason game on Saturday night, 12-7 against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, takes his initial road trip as the Jets’ head coach when his team faces the Green Bay Packers on Saturday. The former Northern Michigan University tight end is the Jets’ twentieth head coach since the franchise was established in 1962.
“It was a really cool experience,” expressed Saleh of his debut. He also thought Wilson showed promise in his first pro start. The rookie went 6-for-9 for 63-yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in two series.
“We have so much confidence in the young man,” Saleh said. “You want him to stack up as many good days as possible, but there’s still youth… There are going to be a lot of opportunities for him to grow.”
This is Saleh’s first job as a head coach since he began his coaching career as a defensive assistant at Michigan State in 2002. He began his NFL coaching journey as a defensive intern with the Houston Texans in 2005. The Dearborn, Michigan native was the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator from 2017 to 2020 before being hired by the Jets.
Saleh has been to two Super Bowls as a coach, and won one ring. He was a defensive quality control coach for the Seattle Seahawks when they earned a 43-8 Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in 2014 and came up short in Super Bowl LIV in 2020 when the 49ers lost 31-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It was clear to us that Robert was the right person to help us move forward,” said Jets co-owner and vice-chairmen Christopher Johnson after he and Jets executives, including general manager Joe Douglas, conducted a thorough coaching search.
“We spoke to some tremendous coaches,” co-signed Douglas, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us. His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years.” But the Jets’ 9-23 record over the past two seasons doesn’t indicate they have made progress.
“We all know there is a lot of work to get done,” said Douglas, but we have a tremendous opportunity to improve and are thrilled to have Coach Saleh lead this team going forward.”