We recently looked ahead to how Zach Wilson’s 2022 season might play out, based on how other quarterbacks in Jets history have fared in their second season.
Let’s continue on this theme by looking at Robert Saleh as he enters his second season as the Jets head coach. How does he compare to other Jets head coaches as they entered their own second season?
Short Term Appointments
There were 20 head coaches hired by the Jets before Saleh. However, eight of these didn’t even last two years.
In addition, while Adam Gase and Rich Kotite made it to the end of their second season, it was obvious by midseason they were dead men walking and on their way out at the end of the year.
Also, the first ever coach in franchise history was Sammy Baugh, who was relieved of his duties at the end of his two seasons as head coach.
This was a bizarre situation where - despite two 7-7 seasons - the owner (Harry Wismer) decided that Baugh should be replaced and hand-picked Bulldog Turner to take over. Baugh decided that he didn’t want to leave and showed up the following year despite the team not telling him the location of training camp. After he went through the motions as an assistant special teams coach for a short while, Baugh was eventually relieved of his duties and was to be paid in full, although he claims he never was.
Of the other eight that didn’t make it through their next year, Ken Shipp and Mike Holovack were just interim coaches. The other six: Turner, Charley Winner, Lou Holtz, Pete Carroll, Al Groh and, of course, Bill Belichick.
It would take a shocking turn of events for Saleh not to make it to the end of his second season. Even if the Jets have a bad year, he can probably throw someone under the bus to extend his term at least into 2023. Hopefully this won’t even be a consideration.
These hires were obviously all either temporary hires or complete disasters for one reason or another. Hopefully these aren’t the former coaches we need to be comparing Saleh to. Then again, if he ends up having a career like Carroll or Belichick, nobody will be complaining - as long as he doesn’t leave first.
Of course, not every coach the Jets have ever hired was in their first role with the Jets. It seems senseless to compare the second season for Saleh with the same for a guy like Bill Parcells, who had tons of experience by that time. Weeb Ewbank also had plenty of experience when he first became the Jets’ head coach.
Otherwise, Gase and Kotite had coached another team for a few years before coming to the Jets too - and Todd Bowles had a few games of experience but only on an interim basis.
The Jets have had some coaching hires in the past who immediately had some success, especially in recent regimes. They therefore weren’t really facing the same situation as Saleh as they headed into year two. Saleh is coming off a 4-13 season and hoping the team will be considerably better in his second year.
The previous five coaching hires all had at least seven wins in their first year with four - Bowles, Rex Ryan, Herm Edwards and Eric Mangini posting winning records. Ryan, Edwards and Mangini all made the playoffs too. Prior to that, Parcells had a winning record but missed the postseason.
Each of these obviously didn’t work out over the longer term and, to some extent, could have been seen to benefit from the team built by the previous coach. This wasn’t really the case for Saleh, though, as he took over from Gase.
Potential Measuring Sticks
There are three former Jets coaches whose early career path was more closely comparable to Saleh’s so far.
Walt Michaels, Joe Walton and Bruce Coslet were all first time head coaches, hired in their forties, much like Saleh was. Also, in each case, they had a rough first year.
The Jets finished in last place in the AFC East in Walton’s first year, although they did win seven games. In year two, they finished third, although they again only won seven games, so there was no actual improvement in the final win total. They were a more competitive team from the start though, blowing a good chance to make the postseason though, having won six of their first eight. Walton got the Jets to the postseason in year three and four.
Coslet’s first season saw the Jets go 6-10, although the one-win Patriots were behind them in the AFC East cellar. While the team only won eight games the next year, they could have won a handful more if not for late game collapses - and they did make the wildcard.
Michaels was perhaps the closest comparison to Saleh as his Jets went 3-11 in his first season. His year two improvement was also the most significant, as the Jets went 8-8 in his second season. He didn’t make the postseason until year five though, so if Saleh followed this path exactly would he even last that long?
Of those former Jets coaches that got off to a slow start like Saleh has, they tend to fall into two distinct groups. Either it was very obvious early on that they were out of their depth and so they were gone very quickly, or they made solid progress in year two and were in the postseason soon after.
There seems to be more confidence than trepidation about how Saleh has fared so far, which we can hopefully take to be a sign he’s more likely to land in that second group.
If the Jets can make progress towards being a playoff team this year - or even actually make it in a loaded AFC - confidence will be high that Saleh can prove to be one of the most successful coaches in franchise history.