FLORHAM PARK — There are not many coaches in the NFL that would survive three years of a 15-31 record. The New York Jets and head coach Robert Saleh might just be the lone exception though.
With injuries to their Hall-of-Fame quarterback and along the offensive line, many analysts and fans seemingly are prepared to give Saleh’s staff another year as he tries to end the Jets 13-year 13-year-long playoff drought. Should his staff and organization stay the same for another season though will depend on the final five weeks of the NFL season though.
At 4-8, the Jets’ slim playoff hopes are all but destroyed. They have gone through four different quarterbacks for the second straight year, and have struggled to find any sort of identity in 2023. How the team finishes out the final few games could determine if the team will be cleaning house, or giving the current regime one more chance.
The biggest factors at play will be the product on the field, and the mindset off it. New York won’t be favored in many of their final games – their inept offense being a big reason why. So long as the team remains competitive in games though, it’s easy to chalk up the 2023 season to being lost due to injuries – not the head coach.
Perhaps that’s why Saleh chose to play his best quarterback left when he turned back to Zach Wilson leading up to their Week 14 contest against the Houston Texans.
“We always believed he was the best quarterback in terms of giving us a chance to win,” New York’s coach explained. “You know, Tim (Boyle) and Trevor (Siemian), trying to spark the offense and all that and those two are very talented quarterbacks, don’t get me wrong, but in my opinion, Zach gives us the best chance to win.”
If the Jets can find a way to end their five-game winning streak or even pull off a couple of wins late in the year, it would go a long way to excusing the season as a lost cause without a four-time NFL MVP.
There’s another part to discussing the Saleh-Jets tenure and it has nothing to do with the product on the field.
It’s about what happens off it.
If the locker room stays together and remains tight-knit, there’s a good chance, despite the lack of success in 2023, that the group will pull for Saleh’s regime to remain. The closer the team is during a lost year, the better it is for a player’s coach to stay for another year.
The more distractions that come up though, the less likely it seems that the regime has any control over what the players are doing.
In that regard, this week has been anything but smooth for New York. Whether it was anonymous sources outing Wilson for being reluctant to play (a report Wilson vehemently denied), Rodgers openly criticizing the organization for their anonymous leaks, or a WFAN host misquoting the head coach, the argument that Saleh has control and command of the locker room took a hit leading into Week 14.
In regards to Rodgers, Saleh made it clear that he “always appreciates Aaron’s thoughts and comments,” but that “We’ll handle all that stuff internally.”
Rodgers’ comments pale in comparison to being misquoted by a radio host who you happen to be good friends with though.
When Joe Benigno of WFAN openly stated through text messages with the head coach that Saleh openly did NOT like Wilson, it was a huge slap in the face for a locker room and coach who is perceived as a player-first person. Benigno later retracted his statement saying he misread what New York’s head honcho was saying, but it had already left a mess at the foot of 1 Jets Drive.
“As far as Joe B’s concerned, I’m just going to keep all that with myself and just move on from it,” Saleh said Wednesday. “I like Joe B. It is what it is, but just moving on.”
How the Jets look in the final few weeks of the 2023 season could determine if owner Woody Johnson decides to clean house or stay with the current regime. That means New York will need to show they are locked in both on and off the field.
Anything else could cost Saleh and to an extent Joe Douglas their jobs.