Robert Saleh is the next head coach of the New York Jets. The hiring was announced last night by the team. Saleh replaces Adam Gase after an unsuccessful two year tenure.
From the start the relationship between the Jets and Gase seemed destined for failure. The fanbase almost universally hated it from the start. After the Jets blew a 16 point lead in Gase’s first game as head coach and started 1-7, the relationship seemed over. It was a matter of time. Gase lasted another year and a half. Even with a 6-2 finish in his first season, most of the fanbase never lost its skepticism.
Almost any replacement would have Jets fans excited. What else can we take away from this hire right now.
You will never see a bigger disparity in fan reaction for two press conferences than there will be between Saleh’s introductory presser and Gase’s from two years ago.
Let’s get this out of the way. Introductory press conferences are meaningless. Coaches offer a broad outline of their plan. They speak in a lot of cliches. They talk about the wins that will come. Almost every coach wins their introductory press conference.
Adam Gase was one of the exceptions. Gase managed to not have fans excited after his introduction. People focused on his strange eye movements during the event. Was this fair? Of course not. The Jets lost games the last two years because of their talent level and Gase’s shortcomings. If the team had been more successful, Gase’s eyes would have been endearing. People would have talked about his intensity level.
Still when combined with the team’s lack of performance, Gase’s introduction will be remembered by many Jets fans as a sign of the doom awaiting the franchise.
If nothing else, Saleh knows how to get people fired up. After six years of Adam Gase and Todd Bowles, fans are going to be very excited once Saleh lays out of vision.
The process seemed a lot better this time.
One of the things that bothered me most about the Gase hire was how poor the hiring process seemed to be.
It’s one thing to make an unpopular hire. On its own, it doesn’t mean a whole lot if media and fans don’t immediately embrace a new coach. Much of the hype around coaching candidates is generated around superficial things that don’t really impact job performance. Many of the best coaching hires were criticized at the time they were made.
When the Jets hired Adam Gase it didn’t feel like they honestly believed they had uncovered an underrated coach. Based on reports, it didn’t even sound like he was their first choice. It seemed like they made a bunch of ridiculous demands that drove away any potential hire who had credibility. The only kind of person who would accept them was somebody like Gase who wanted to be a head coach but had no other options.
Two years ago people asked which of the candidates I preferred to Gase. The answer was almost all of them, but that kind of missed the point. I was underwhelmed by the list of people the Jets interview. A novice owner advised by a bad general manager put together an amateurish search.
This time around seemed very different. None of us are in the building so we can’t say for sure. From afar it just felt like the Jets were functioning like a normal professional football team for the first time in forever. Joe Douglas ran the search. The candidates seemed like viable prospects. The Jets didn’t rush, but they also were not frozen by indecision. They narrowed their list down to their top choices, brought them in for a second interview, and made a decision.
The Saleh Era may or may not be successful. If things don’t work out, I doubt this process will live in infamy the way Jed Hughes, Charley Casserly, or forcing Gregg Williams as the defensive coordinator have in recent Jets lore.
Joe Douglas goes outside his network.
In the NFL people tend to hire people they know. It is a league where relationships matter a lot.
It can be a double edged sword.
On the one hand, there’s an advantage to hiring somebody you know well. It offers a broader understanding of the person’s strengths and weaknesses, and preexisting level of trust often exists.
However, you also frequently see friends hire friends in the NFL. Sometimes decision makers overlook the flaws of their acquaintances.
Joe Douglas has a wide network, but he hired a coach with whom he had no obvious pre-existing relationship. This isn’t inherently good or bad, but I am happy to see he’s open-minded. At the very least, he made the move he thought was best. You won’t have to wonder how much friendship played a role in it.
The early rumors of Saleh’s coaching staff are promising.
Most coaches in the NFL have a background on one side of the ball. That leads to natural questions about how they will approach the other side if they ever land a head coaching job.
Saleh faces far less questions about offense than your typical defensive coordinator. This is because he works with a number of smart, innovative, young offensive coaches. Mike LaFleur is ready to be an offensive coordinator, and it sounds like Saleh is going to bring him over.
A few days ago there were also rumors that Saleh was targeting his former boss, Gus Bradley, as defensive coordinator. That won’t be happening. Bradley accepted a job with the Raiders. Still, if Saleh wanted Bradley I like his mindset.
Bradley would have come with some degree of stature as a former head coach. I like it when a first-time head coach brings in former head coaches for his staff. They can be good sounding boards and offer advice on pitfalls that come from running the show. Beyond that, targeting a big name defensive coordinator might suggest that Saleh wants to delegate the defense. Rather than serving as a glorified defensive coordinator with the head coach title, he could focus on the big picture aspects of running the team.
I’m not say Saleh would necessarily deserve criticism if he hires a less experienced defensive coordinator and eventually takes a more hands on role. I just like his mindset making his first target a bigger name.
Patience will be a virtue.
Jets fans are excited by this hire. We will spend the offseason excited about the team’s future. It’s what we do. All of this will build up and create immediate expectations that will likely be too high.
This team is just at the start of its build. There are enormous talent and cultural issues that need to be fixed. This will take time. The team has resources to make strides this offseason, but the job likely won’t be completed.
Saleh was just part of a rebuild in San Francisco. At the time he arrived with Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were one of the worst teams in the NFL and had a dysfunctional, toxic culture. It took time to build, three years to be exact. During the build many got impatient and called for Saleh’s firing.
This will be important to remember if the Jets don’t have the immediate success many are hoping for.