The Jets (Finally) Got It Right

Stephen Russo explains why the Jets got this coaching decision right.

For the better part of a decade, the New York Jets have been swimming in the sewers of ineptitude. They have consistently had the look and perception of dysfunction. They have taken repeated half-measured attempts at digging themselves out, only to find themselves deeper in the hole of mediocrity that we are all so desperate to climb out of. And now, after the 2020 season, the Jets are proud owners of the longest playoff drought in the NFL. And as the offseason officially begins (which is typically a Jets’ fans Super Bowl), I ask you to put everything on hold for just a brief moment. Forget the Deshaun Watson drama. Don’t worry about Zach Wilson or Justin Fields. Forget Darnold and if he’ll stay or how much he will get us in return if traded.

For once, just hit the pause button, and soak this moment in… because the Jets got this right.

You read that correctly – they got this right. And the “this” I am referring to is not only the hiring of Robert Saleh but the process to get there.

As Jets fans, we need to celebrate every win. We have wallowed in the aforementioned pits of despair along with this team for the last 10 years, and we need every win we can get! Let’s take a look at the steps that got us here, and why we need to take a minute to appreciate it.

The first reason is Christopher Johnson. Now, say what you want about CJ. I am not saying that he is perfect, because he’s not. He will forever be remembered by letting a quality coach leave his building only to get duped by an eleventh-hour phone call from Peyton Manning. To make matters worse, he doubled down on his bet on Gase not once, but twice! Once at midseason of 2019 after a 1-7 start, and the other after a horrendous start to 2020. BUT here is what I will say – one of the most important qualities that you can have as a human, worker, anything, is to be self-aware. Christopher Johnson is self-aware. He has recognized his mistakes, admitted them, and course corrected. The first proof of that is Mike Maccagnan, who was so good at General Managing with the Jets that no team in the NFL has hired him since, in any capacity. Johnson took the road less traveled by firing Maccagnan when he did – in June, following him running the entire free agency period and draft. It was an unpopular time to make such a move, but, it’s never the wrong time to make the right decision. And, that decision brought the Jets Joe Douglas, a widely respected and well thought of GM Candidate around the league. Next, he fired Gase. Now, this seemed inevitable, but remember that Gase was HIS hand-picked coach, thus why he publicly backed him twice in the midst of the worst two season stretch in 25 years. Now, move to the coaching search. The post-Bowles coaching search was one that Johnson, admittedly, had a very heavy hand in… and look where that got us. So, what did he do with the 2020 search? He took a back seat. Every single Jets fan and beat reporter was begging for Johnson to let the football guy (Douglas) make the football decision – and he did. Sure, did he have a say in it? Yes, he’s signing the checks, he should. But was he leading the charge? Absolutely not. This hire was Douglas’, and rightfully so. Lastly, the reporting structure. Now, I would argue that this would not be a big deal, or even a deal at all, had the Jets had any success in the past decade. However, when you’re averaging 6 wins a year for a decade, you deserve to be put under a microscope. Rather than continuing on with the strange and unsuccessful approach of having the HC and GM both independently report directly to the owner, they now have a more traditional structure. The new coach, Saleh, reports into Douglas who now reports into the owner.

Joe Douglas’ search for the Jets next Head Coach was about as good as can be expected. The Jets’ GM, with ties across the league and particularly in Philadelphia and Baltimore, truly did cast a wide net and operated a flawless, open-minded search. He didn’t allow the Doug Pederson firing to impede the progress that he and his staff had already made in the search, and he didn’t simply stick in his comfort zone and go back to his Baltimore well to hire a guy like Wink Martindale. In fact, he didn’t even interview him! No, Douglas led a wide-open search that yielded him the best candidate on the open market by many people’s standards, and he ended up hiring a person whom he’d never met to be in lockstep with him as they lead this franchise into (hopefully) their next stage: winning football. Douglas stuck to his methodical process, per the usual, and continued his search even after the Saleh interview, going as far as letting him out of the building. As the Jets fanbase shouted a collective “NOT AGAIN!” into the abyss, Douglas stuck to his guns, continued down his laid-out path and ultimately still got his guy.

Robert Saleh, with clear ties to Detroit and Jacksonville, operated his search for his first head coaching gig in the same manner as Douglas: with an open mind. He allowed himself a clean slate to approach his search for the right organizational fit, and enabled himself to be wowed (yes, WOWED) by the Jets organization. He left the interview saying that when the Jets call, that’s where he’s going. Saleh clearly connected with Douglas, who share a vision and a plan for this team and how they will move forward. Saleh has moved quickly to bring a staff with him that the fanbase can actually be excited about. It is a solid mix of young and veteran coaches, and certainly people that come from different backgrounds that can all offer differing viewpoints on how to get things done… progress! The staff hired is so good that the Jets beat even started hitting the panic button on Saleh’s offensive staff already, suggesting they should have hired someone other than Saleh because new OC Mike LaFleur will be gone in two years for a Head Coach opportunity anyway and how will the offense ever recover? I can confidently speak for EVERY single Jets fan when I say that if the Jets have an offense that’s good enough to get an OC hired to be a Head Coach elsewhere, we will gladly sign up.

Two years ago, the Jets let Matt Rhule walk out the door because Maccagnan couldn’t pick his offensive staff and then quickly pivoted to Adam Gase bringing Dowell Loggains along with him to handle their prized possession: Sam Darnold. We all know how that turned out. They have since hired Joe Douglas who led this coaching search and openly said he would never force a staff on any candidate. They landed on Saleh, an intense coach that is beloved by any player who has every come in contact with him (a beautiful change of pace from his predecessor). Douglas’ now clear plan for 2020 as an evaluative year has paid dividends, and the organization is in a fortunate situation following a 2-14 season (Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes aside). The Jets find themselves with the #2 overall pick in a QB rich draft, they have a litany of draft picks and potentially more after a Darnold trade, and that is combined with a boatload of salary cap space in an offseason where many other teams find themselves in the red.

Breathe this moment in, Jets fans. We finally got this right. It was a long road to get here, and we are still at the starting line. But the moves to get to this point have been the right ones, and the building blocks are here for future, sustained success. The way the Jets have handled their operation recently is commendable, smart, and self-reflective – the way that it should be.

Now let’s go win some football games.

All Gas. No Brakes.