The New York Jets finally moved away from the two disastrous years of the Adam Gase era, in which the Jets went 9-23. This period also saw the departure of Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell and a disgusted and disappointed Jets fanbase, as the Jets have not made the playoffs since 2011, when they beat the Colts, Patriots and lost to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.
So how did the Jets do with the hiring of San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh as head coach? Will he be able to turn the Jets franchise around? Let’s take a closer look at the recent Jets hires.
Head Coach – Robert Saleh
The Jets interviewed several candidates for their head coaching position, including Titans Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith (who was hired by the Atlanta Falcons), Rams Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley (who was hired by the Los Angeles Chargers), Bills Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll, former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy, among others.
What is notable to me is that the Jets did not interview former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who has ties to General Manager Joe Douglas from their time with the Eagles. Pederson, like Mike McCarthy two years ago when the Jets were last looking for a head coach, was the best retread head coach available. While many Jets fans may not like hearing this, I think Pederson should have been interviewed and given top consideration for the position.
The other coordinator who the Jets could have hired was Eric Bieniemy. The media has been building up Bieniemy for the past two seasons, due to his work in Kansas City learning under Andy Reid and helping to develop quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It is still amazing that Bieniemy was not hired by any team this past offseason and one could argue that the Jets should have hired an offensive-minded head coach to develop whomever replaces Sam Darnold at quarterback.
Saleh has the energy of Rex Ryan and will pump some much needed energy into the Jets fanbase who have had to watch the emotionless Todd Bowles and Adam Gase on the sidelines for many years now. The fact that so many of his players in San Francisco, including Richard Sherman, have given glowing testimonials about Saleh and his leadership, shows that he should have the respect of the Jets players in the locker room – something that Adam Gase never had as coach of the Jets. It is also noteworthy to mention that Deshaun Watson seems to have the Jets on his list (some reports have the Jets as his number one landing spot, if the Texans trade him) due to having Saleh as head coach. Watson wanted Saleh to get an interview in Houston which he never got.
It will take a few seasons for the Jets to develop under Saleh, but it seems like Bieniemy was the offensive help the Jets needed, in addition to a proven head coach (minus last season) in Doug Pederson.
Offensive Coordinator – Mike LaFleur
This seems to be a good hire by the Jets as LaFleur has ties to Saleh as he was the passing game coordinator the past few seasons for the 49ers. He is the brother of Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur (hopefully he makes better game day decisions than his brother did in the NFC Championship Game).
He comes from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree and is a young coach who seems to be someone who will develop Deshaun Watson or Zach Wilson, if the Jets draft a quarterback in the first round with their second pick in the draft.
Some other good hires on the offensive side of the ball are former NFL receiver Miles Austin as the receivers coach and veteran coach Gregg Knapp as the passing game coordinator.
The only uncertainty will be how the Jets offense will be under LaFleur in his first stint as an offensive coordinator and if it would have been beneficial for the Jets to have Doug Pederson or another retread head coach running the offense or defense.
The good news is that the offense will be better coached under LaFleur and will hopefully develop whichever quarterback is under center for the Jets next season.
Defensive Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich
Ulbrich is a veteran coach with seven years coaching experience, most recently acting as the Interim Defensive Coordinator of the Falcons, after head coach Dan Quinn was fired midseason.
I do not know what to make of this hire. I think the Jets got it better with the coaches hired on offense, compared to defense. While Saleh has the obvious coaching experience on the defensive side of the ball, he will need to devote his time to also fixing the offensive mess that the Jets currently find themselves in.
I would have liked Saleh to try to get Demeco Ryans, who was one of his defensive assistants on the 49ers to come to the Jets, as he was able to do with LaFleur. Ryans was promoted to Saleh’s old coordinator position on the Niners, but felt he would have been a better fit to coach the defense.
Another retread head coach, Dan Quinn, who was a head coach finalist with Todd Bowles years ago with the Jets and has New Jersey ties, would have been the best defensive coordinator the Jets could have gotten. Unfortunately the Cowboys hired him at the end of the season when the Jets still did not have a head coach in place. Quinn, to me, was the best Defensive Coordinator available.
Special Teams Coordinator Brant Boyer
Boyer has been the Special Teams Coordinator for several seasons now and for several head coaches of the Jets. He seems to be a players coach that is well-respected and it is good that Saleh kept him on the staff, since he is familiar with how the team has been run in recent seasons.
Boyer needs to focus and get a more reliable kicker after Pro Bowl kicker Jason Meyers signed with the Seahawks several years ago.
Robert Saleh definitely will be a breath of fresh air on the Jets sidelines next year. His ultimate success will be in hopefully replacing Sam Darnold with either Deshaun Watson or drafting Zach Wilson in the draft.
There is hope for the Jets to improve with Saleh and if more focus is spent on the offense, including getting a new quarterback and decent receivers, the Jets may eventually be able to compete in the AFC East.