Jets coaching and front office future clouded after 8th straight losing season

Jets coaching concerns continue
Dec 17, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh reacts from the sideline against the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Reports out of  1 Jets Drive have been consistent that head coach Robert Saleh, general manager Joe Douglas, and their staff will be safe from any retribution failings of the 2023 season. 

Sunday was certainly a way for the narrative to change drastically the other way though. 

In New York’s 30-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday afternoon, the Jets not only became eliminated from playoff contention for the 13th straight year but showed that very little has changed in the three years since Douglas and Saleh took over together. The offense, on their 11th different offensive line combination and fourth quarterback, recorded just 103 total yards. The defense, a calling card for Saleh, was the same undisciplined unit that struggled to get stops when they needed them. 

Jets blown out by Dolphins
Dec 17, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb (2) forces New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) to fumble the ball while being sacked during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

All of that culminates in one of the ugliest losses of the Saleh era – and brings in the question if it truly is worth bringing everyone back for another season despite the potential assurances from Hall-of-Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. 

“It’s disappointing,” Saleh said after the Jets loss. “Starting from the first series of the year, all the way to now, it’s just been a constant battle. I do appreciate the heck out of our guys. We still got three games left to finish strong. As bad as we feel now, we have to remember we felt pretty good last week, too. We got a good Washington team coming in that’s going to be licking their chops, so we got to go and take care of business and get ourselves ready to play that one.”

One of the biggest reasons why retaining both coach and general manager though has been the improved locker room presence that has been built over the years. After the days of Adam Gase, Saleh has built a connected room that plays for each other and doesn’t point fingers. 

Jets struggles are those of their own making
New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh looks at the scoreboard during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Every man has his breaking point though. The question now becomes if a loss like last Sunday is the final straw to fracture a locker room doing everything in its power to stay together. 

According to some, that fracture has officially begun to show. 

After Sunday’s loss confirmed the team’s eighth straight season with a losing record, wide receiver Allen Lazard made it clear that there were plenty of reasons for the Jets’ demise to the Dolphins. 

“They out-schemed us, out-efforted us,” Lazard stated. “They played a better football game than we did today.”

Lazard’s comments about the scheme were a microcosm of what everyone could see while watching – the Jets looked unprepared to handle the losses along the offensive line or the adjustments made by Miami on defense. That recipe led to Sunday’s blowout debacle. 

Probably worst of all was that Lazard wasn’t the only player to call out the scheme that the team placed on the field. 

“I think they (Miami) have a lot of pieces in their favor that make it easier to scheme,” Garrett Wilson explained. “Tyreek (Hill) goes down, they put (Jaylen) Waddle in there and he goes for 150. And that’s, that’s the ball I grew up loving. But that’s not how it’s going to be. I gotta figure out how to be better, run better routes, be better in the meeting rooms, figure out how I can be involved early.”

When you have an Offensive Rookie of the Year on your team and you struggle to get him the ball – with little weapons behind him – that’s more of a problem on the coaching staff not being able to get their best players the ball. 

That can’t happen in the modern era of football either. 

“You put together the best plan possible,” Saleh explained. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. But overall, just
from coaching to execution, all of it on the offensive side, just wasn’t good enough today.”

Sunday’s offensive deficiencies highlight the lack of competitiveness on that side of the ball in the Saleh era. The 103 yards were the fourth fewest in franchise history with three of the five coming under this coaching regime. Despite the clear concerns that brings, the bigger picture is that it has little to do with the coaching staff and more to do with the players assembled. 

No one blamed the Jets for not making the playoffs without Rodgers. Any time a four-time NFL MVP is lost for the year, chances are that team won’t be very good. The real issue is that the Jets front office had a chance to mitigate the quarterback’s loss and chose not to. 

Jets GM
Aug 26, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas (left) and New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen (right) talk before a game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports© Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Douglas’ inaction through several key moments this season is the biggest reason why the Jets are where they are right now. When Corey Davis retired abruptly before the season began, Douglas chose not to bring in another quality veteran receiver to make up for that loss. They did not acquire an offensive lineman or quarterback at the deadline even though it was the two biggest needs on a team sitting at 4-3 on the year. 

Inaction from a front office can sink any season. That’s exactly what happened to the Jets in 2023. When that inaction happens, there’s little a coaching staff can do schematically to save what little is left. So while the locker room tries to stay together, and the team turns their sights to 2024, the big question now will be what happens to Saleh and Douglas. 

If the locker room doesn’t fracture and plays hard in the final three games of the season, it’s fair to assume everyone will be back next year. If more performances like Sunday happen, previous reports that everyone is safe could likely change drastically over the coming weeks. 

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