Over the past few seasons, New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown has been handed the keys to the franchise, but the team has never been able to win a Super Bowl. The Jets have made a handful of shrewd coaching hires to help the offense evolve, but the quarterback position has been a hot-potato job. In fact, many fans have been clamoring for a Jets head coach since the hiring of Rex Ryan back in 2009.
As if it were not already late enough, the Jets lost another game last weekend. But this time it was not the result of a lack of effort on the field (the Jets were undermanned and outplayed by the Patriots, for the most part). The Jets lost because of a lack of effort and preparation off the field.
The New York Jets have been a wretched team for years, going an NFL-worst 19-61 since the beginning of the century. Then, a few years ago, a young, charismatic coach named Coach Saleh was brought in to revitalize the franchise. Now, after a brilliant start this season, the Jets’ fortunes are on the rise once again.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — When the players’ meetings were done and they had free time during training camp, quarterback Zach Wilson went into Robert Saleh’s office with a question. As the New York Jets soon discovered about their rookie quarterback, he is constantly asking questions. He requested his coach to explain the distinctions between the Jets’ three-deep zone and the way other teams operate it during this visit, which began at 7 p.m.
A 22-year-old who would rather play X’s and O’s than play Xbox. Think about it.
Saleh, who is known for his defensive prowess, dove right in, detailing the intricacies of his favorite Cover 3 system. The topic shifted to Cover 4, and they were soon dissecting different pressure tactics, the first-year coach and the rookie quarterback chatting away late into the night.
Saleh told ESPN, “Then we went into life.” “The discussion proceeded in a million different directions, but it all sprang from his interest, which he expressed by asking questions and piecing together facts.”
Saleh looked at the clock at one point and saw that it had passed 11 o’clock. Their discussion had lasted as long as a football game.
Saleh advised Wilson, “Dude, you need to go back to your room and get some sleep.” Saleh, too, was exhausted and eager to get home.
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The coach and the No. 2 overall draft selection have been working together for five months. If all goes according to plan, they’ll be talking late into the night far into the 2030s.
The Jets are entering a new era, with Saleh and Wilson as the new faces of a club that is weary of getting tossed about. Their duties are among the most difficult in sports. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs in ten years, the longest current drought in the NFL, and have lost several potential coaches and quarterbacks in the process.
The next two guys in line are Saleh and Wilson, who are up against the huge task of attempting to turn a club.
Wilson told ESPN, “It’s difficult, for sure, but I’m happy I have him.” “I feel like he’s a man I can count on, and I hope he can count on me when the going gets difficult so we can get through it together. He, as the head coach, and I, as a player, will learn about any scenario that arises. And with time, we’ll improve.”
In the NFL, the first-year head coach/rookie quarterback dynamic isn’t something that happens every year. There were ten times between 2000 and 2023 when a rookie started in Week 1 for a first-time head coach, the most recent being the Arizona Cardinals in 2019. (Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray). Although Meyer has significant head coaching experience at the collegiate level, the Jacksonville Jaguars are doing it this season with Urban Meyer and 2023 No. 1 overall selection pick Trevor Lawrence.
Immediate success is uncommon; nevertheless, progress is.
According to ESPN Stats & Information data, teams that began the season with a head coach with no head coaching experience and a quarterback with no starting experience have reached the playoffs four times since 1970. All four took place between 2008 and 2012, with John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, Mike Smith and Matt Ryan with the Atlanta Falcons in 2008, Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez with the Jets in 2009, and Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. (2012).
Tedy Bruschi surprises Mike Greenberg by nominating Jets quarterback Zach Wilson for NFL Rookie of the Year.
Seven of the last ten clubs to attempt this coach-quarterback combination experienced an improvement in victories over the previous season, while three saw no change. The Jets were one of the three teams who made it to the AFC Championship Game in 2009.
The secret to succeeding with a rookie quarterback, according to Rex Ryan, who was also on Harbaugh’s staff in 2008, is to protect the guy. He believes this can be accomplished by emphasizing the rushing game and developing game plans centered on defense and special teams. He thinks the current Jets, who are expected to win six games according to Vegas, will “surprise some people.” He praised Wilson’s talent and praised Saleh’s defensive coaching track record.
Ryan described him as “very gifted.” “I believe the Jets nailed it with the quarterback. Time will tell, but I believe this child has a shot. I believe the child has a bright future ahead of him.”
Saleh would have been happy with Sam Darnold, but Wilson’s intellectual approach drew him in. Zoom interviews began throughout the pre-draft process and lasted until training camp. Wilson’s most remarkable moments, according to him, are in the meeting room, when he questions coaches (including defensive coaches), clocks large minutes on his tablet, and watches film on his own using a unique technique. They have to tell him to go home and relax on occasion.
It wasn’t love at first sight for Saleh.
Saleh said, “It was a buildup.” “You watch the video and think to yourself, ‘Wow, this guy is really excellent.’ After that, you watch additional video and think to yourself, “Man, this guy is really excellent.” The ability to use one’s arms is obvious. Then you go to the Zoom meetings and speak to him about movies, and it’s, for want of a better term, ‘Holy s—-!’ ‘Holy cow!’ it’s like. His recollection, dialogue, and knowledge are all amazing.’
“In our view, it was eerie, and you fell in love with it. Then you start chatting to people and having discussions with them. It was incredible to see his ability to go to the sideline and speak about what he observed so he could analyze and correct problems while on the bench. He didn’t have to wait for the phone to ring. In that regard, he has a unique talent.”
Saleh earned his name on the defensive side of the ball, so there’s only so much he can educate Wilson about the position of quarterback. Wilson spends the most of his time with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, but his bond with Saleh is undeniable. Every team’s success is dependent on the coach-quarterback relationship. Wilson believes it’s critical for them to be on the same page when it comes to culture and expectations messaging.
Despite the fact that they won’t have much alone time throughout the season, Saleh believes in an open door policy. He invites players into his office to talk, hear what’s on their thoughts, and get a sense of the team’s pulse. He anticipates many of these meetings with Wilson.
“Those discussions will undoubtedly take place,” Saleh added.
Wilson said, “We share a similar connection. I like coming into his office and chatting about baseball. Because he’s such a brilliant person, they’re always interesting discussions. He’s not the kind to shout at you, but when the time comes, he’ll get you moving. That, I believe, is what he excels at.”
Saleh used a cereal-eating example to explain the art of quarterbacking in one of their first talks. It went something like this: If a quarterback understands the system, he should be able to sit in front of the TV, eat cereal, and read/understand the playbook without having to worry about eating with the spoon. It should happen on its own.
That struck a chord with Wilson. The key now is to ensure that he can play Cap’n Crunch on game day. The first test comes against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Darnold is the Panthers’ quarterback.
Robert Saleh, according to Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson: “He, as the head coach, and I, as a player, will learn about any scenario that arises. And with time, we’ll improve.” Courtesy of Dan Szpakowski Jets of New York
Wilson came with his own method, unlike other rookies who must learn how to learn. He organizes the video cut-ups in a different way than other quarterbacks while studying the opponent. Coaches and players took notice of his unique filtering technique, notably guard Greg Van Roten, who claimed he had never seen it done exactly like that before.
“He’s just a rookie in name,” Van Roten said.
Wilson watches complete games early in the week and then adds additional situational cut-ups as the week goes on, thus overloading himself with data. He eventually simplifies his operations.
“At the end of the week, my thought process is to figure out how I can give myself one or two things that will simplify the game for me and tell me exactly what’s going on by one thing?” Wilson remarked. “You’re sitting here right now, with all day to figure out what’s wrong. You just have a few seconds on the field, and you don’t want to be sitting out there overthinking everything.”
Wilson made no mistakes in two preseason games for the Jets, but growing pains are unavoidable. Saleh is in the same boat. Saleh’s ability to navigate the ups and downs of having a rookie quarterback will have a significant impact on the team, even if he isn’t calling plays for Wilson.
Defensive-minded coaches have a better track record with rookies than offensive-minded coaches, according to recent history. Ryan, Pagano, and Smith were defensive coordinators, while Harbaugh was in charge of special teams. When their quarterbacks were rookies, Ryan, Smith, and Harbaugh had excellent defenses, which they exploited by running more than passing. Pagano was an anomaly, allowing Luck to run the show (627 pass attempts in 2012).
According to all indications, Saleh will prioritize the ground game as well, despite the fact that his defense, which is untested in crucial areas, is nothing near those of the aforementioned teams. It may put a lot of pressure on Wilson, and Saleh will have to deal with it.
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Regardless of strategy, Saleh has re-energized the fan base after the team’s 2-14 season under previous coach Adam Gase. Ryan, who did the same thing when he first arrived in town in 2009, thinks it’s crucial.
“From the moment Saleh walked in, he had them,” Ryan said. “He already has the support of the team and the fans, who want something new. That fight has been won by him.”
Everything has changed since Saleh arrived, from the way players stretch during practice to the atmosphere in the locker room. The phrase “all gas, no brake” is engraved on the glass door at the facility’s entrance. He tries to remain out of positional meetings as much as possible, allowing his coaches to teach. He doesn’t want to meddle, so he uses video technology to observe meetings from his office. Mike Shanahan, a former NFL coach, taught him that.
Jets center Connor McGovern stated, “I mean this in the best manner imaginable.” “The Jets’ prior head coaches were all masterminds. We’re going to defeat you with a better plan than they did with Xs and Os. We’re going to defeat you, according to Saleh, since we work harder and play with more effort. He’s what I’d call a men’s leader. He believes that Xs and Os do not win football games. He is aware that players are the ones who win games.”
The most essential member of his team is a 22-year-old gunslinger with a fanatical work ethic who enjoys talking and asking questions. They have a lot more late nights ahead of them.
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