Call it an overreaction Monday, or a rant by a die hard emotional, frustrated Jets fan, but the season has gotten off to a disappointingly familiar start, marked by yet another loss to their perennial rivals, the New England Patriots. To throw salt in the wound, it extends an agonizing streak of 15 consecutive defeats versus the Pats. While it’s abundantly clear that quarterback Zach Wilson is not the franchise savior many had hoped for, it’s important to resist the urge to solely scapegoat the quarterback position.
In truth, the Jets’ struggles run much deeper than the quarterback, with issues that extend beyond the playing field. Head coach Robert Saleh, known for his intense and motivational demeanor, has thus far failed to translate his passion into on-field success. As the third-year head coach’s repeated mistakes pile up, it raises questions about whether he possesses the fortitude and ability required to lead an NFL team to sustained success.
Zach Wilson’s SQUANDERED OPPORTUNITies
Let’s start with the obvious; Zach Wilson. I feel like I don’t have to go into as much depth on this issue because it’s very well documented on CBS every week during the games as well as the Quarterback almost always facing the most scrutiny considering its the most polarizing position in all of sports.
One of the most critical factors in evaluating a young quarterback’s potential is their ability to progress. Unfortunately, Wilson has left most fans and analysts underwhelmed in this regard. I myself have given him every benefit of the doubt but even I’m very close to the end of the road when it comes to defending him.
Comparing his third season to his rookie year, there’s a sense of déjà vu. Many of the same problems that plagued him thus far still persist. His decision-making under pressure, his inability to see the field, and just the inexplicable interceptions where there is no receiver in site.
While it’s true that the offensive line hasn’t provided Wilson with ideal protection, he has yet to show the football IQ to adapt and learn from past mistakes and it raises doubts not only about being a capable back up in the league, but about his future in the league at all.
Great quarterbacks often shine even in adverse situations, and are able to elevate everyone around them. So far, Wilson has yet to demonstrate this crucial quality. For me, the biggest frustration with Zach Wilson is that he clearly posses the talent to be a franchise Quarterback. He checks every box and too be honest, I think he’s been handled very poorly by the organization, specifically the head coach, since his arrival.
Inactivating him last season and letting your team wear T-shirts with the back up QBs face on it, especially a guy in Mike White who you let walk right onto your divisional rivals team this off season, was the absolute worst thing Robert Saleh could have done for his young QBs confidence.
Wilson hasn’t lived up to and the expectation of being the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft and so far has definitely played poorly, sure. He’s also showed you moments of greatness and some WOW throws. He also hasn’t had a great line in front of him for protection consistently.
Most importantly, they should not have brought in a rookie offensive coordinator in Mike Lafluer who had never called a play at the NFL level before as Wilson’s first OC, another mistake by Saleh throwing his best friend Matt Laflleur’s little brother a bone instead of doing right by his potential franchise QB. If if he doesn’t turn it around in New York, I think a clean slate with an offensive minded coach will do him right and salvage his career.
Robert Saleh should not be given a pass
Robert Saleh was brought in with much fanfare as the head coach to turn the Jets’ franchise around. However, as we take a closer look at his track record, some concerns arise. Saleh’s career coaching record of 11-25 is far from impressive, and while it’s important to consider the Jets’ rebuilding phase, one cannot ignore the lack of significant improvement.
One of Saleh’s calling cards was his defensive expertise, but the Jets’ defense has not lived up to the hype. Hold on; let me explain. Yes, they’ve had their moments and some games they’ve played good enough to win and still lost because of a putrid offensive game plan and execution (see yesterday).
But if you look past the surface level box scores, they rank 29th in the NFL in takeaways over the last two seasons, a critical metric that often separates wins from loses and contenders from pretenders. Additionally, their 3rd-down defense has been nearly abysmal, consistently near the bottom of the league. Not being able to get your defense off the field tires them out and will not give you ideal field position. When his defensive schemes do not work, he is stubborn in his ways by refusing to make in game adjustments.
Another concerning aspect of the Jets’ performance during Saleh’s tenure is their discipline, or lack thereof. The team has consistently been one of the most penalized in the league, averaging 101.5 per year, near the tops in that span. Penalties not only hurt the team’s chances on the field but also reflect on coaching.
His handling of players and situations has also not been the best. There have been multiple occasions of coaches and players getting caught on camera arguing so intensely, that they have to be physically separated. That is not the precedent and culture you want to build.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that Saleh struggles to compete with the top coaching talents in the NFL. While his energy and motivational style are commendable, they have not been enough to elevate the Jets to a Super Bowl contending level. He tends to deflect blame after every loss and not take responsibility for his or his players shortcomings.
Call it early season panic but I’ve seen this movie one to many times before as the New York Jets are at a crossroads once again. Zach Wilson’s inability to progress and adapt, combined with the questions surrounding head coach Robert Saleh’s effectiveness, cast a shadow of doubt on the team’s future. I think he’s a fine defensive coordinator and will be again in the league, but so far I have not seen enough to believe he’s a Super Bowl caliber head coach, regardless of who the Quarterback is.
The last six games of the 2022 season when the Jets had a realistic chance at the playoffs, they went 0-6 and looked unprepared and out game planned in all of those match ups. That was when I internally threw the towel in on Robert Saleh as a potential long term coach. He didn’t even have Zach Wilson to scapegoat as Mike White was the QB for half of those games and the team was mopped up and down the field every game in all aspects.
With the playoffs on the line, he showed me everything I needed to know, as they were some of the worst coached games I’d ever seen. Saleh seems to be all bark and no bite and his hesitation to pull Wilson this year could very well be the end of the road for him in New York.
In defense (no pun intended) of Robert, coaching in the NFL is not easy task I can imagine. He does have unbelievable passion and guys play hard for him. The defense , like Wilson, has shown moments of greatness itself. Consistancy is whats been missing in Robert Saleh’s tenure. I want to give credit where credit is due however, he has yet to show me he can coach with the best of them and I think that’s a fair assessment through almost 40 games.
I think he’ll be safe because if the Aaron Rodgers injury, but he has to win some more football games and prove to the fans he is the alpha guy we see pumped up on the sidelines and he backs it up. Trust me , I’m rooting hard for both of these hard working individuals.
Year 3 into this regime, fans and management alike must consider whether the current trajectory is genuinely leading the franchise towards success. The General Manager Joe Douglas has big decisions to make as the Jets have a long road ahead.
Douglas seems to be getting a pass solely based off his 2021 draft class which was one of the better ones the league has seen. But the decisions he makes on Wilson and Saleh will determine if he will be on the hot seat as well. These critical decisions about their quarterback and coaching staff must be made to ensure a brighter future for this historically snake bitten franchise.
Frank’s Final Take
If it were me, I would cut ties with both of them and clean house. Lincoln Riley, the current head coach at USC, is a young, innovative offensive minded coach. He’ll be an NFL coach at some point and if I’m Woody Johnson, I’m throwing the kitchen sink at him to try and lure him out of the college ranks.
The only silver lining to Aaron Rodgers being hurt is that the Jets get their 1st round pick back that they gave up to the Packers based off the fact that Rodgers will not be playing a certain percentage of snaps this year.
They must use that pick to bring in a top QB prospect in a very deep class next year in the 2024 NFL Draft. My personal favorite is Bo Nix from Oregon. The beautiful part is that if Rodgers comes back, they can sit the young man behind him for a year to learn.
They need an offensive minded coach so they don’t waste the talents of budding superstars like Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, who at this rate will probably walk in free agency if things don’t change quick.
I hope I look back at this article and say “hey I was wrong about Saleh and Wilson was a late bloomer” as I’m the type of fan who would rather swallow my pride and admit I was wrong if the team succeeds, then to be the one with my chest puffed out to say “I told you so”.
But I don’t have much hope for either of them as almost 40 games into their tenure , the writing is on the wall for both Zach Wilson and Robert Saleh.