FLORHAM PARK — The relationship between a head coach and general manager is extremely important to maintaining consistency in a franchise. For the New York Jets, that relationship may never be stronger than it is in the 2023 off-season.
With the addition of Aaron Rodgers and several top veterans, Gang Green has heightened expectations heading into the 2023-24 season. It’s those veterans mixed in with a young core of talent that has made New York a favorite to compete for a crowded AFC crown.
“It’s improved greatly. There was so much youth playing over the last few years and all that youth creates depth and competition. It all helps…to add all the veterans, there’s a really good balance,” Saleh said Saturday afternoon.
As part of the rebuilding process, the Jets have been one of the youngest teams in the NFL over the last couple of seasons. That has since changed thanks to the acquisition of Rodgers and improved free-agent signings by general manager Joe Douglas. Because of their offseason, the approach to the 2023 NFL Draft allowed the Jets to maintain their own philosophy while building on current team strengths.
“Joe D (Douglas) is awesome out there…in the first two years (in the draft) the best available was the biggest need. This year, the best available may have not been a need but we’re not going to stop from that principle. It’s really cool because you don’t have to rely on a rookie and let him develop,” Saleh explained.
Saleh and Douglas’ relationship has been a major focus throughout the 2023 offseason. Both were name-dropped by Aaron Rodgers as the reason he wanted to come to New York in the first place. Before the news even broke to the public, Douglas and Saleh shared a hug after finding out the trade with Green Bay was completed and a four-time NFL MVP would be a member of the Jets.
“I’ve been happy. I knew Joe was going to get it done and it was just a matter of time,” Saleh said on the day the trade was made official. “In Joe we trust.”
But even after the deal that landed Rodgers, Douglas’ relationship with Saleh was shown most apparent during the 2023 NFL Draft. Both men share a similar dream on how to build winning programs in the NFL and it starts with the trenches, and strong quarterback play. New York’s most recent draft strategy may have been similar to years past, but the need to have their seven drafted players chip in right away isn’t necessary. Gang Green returns the reigning offensive and defensive Rookie of the Year along with several standouts of a historic 2022 class.
This new class will be able to develop at their own pace while providing strong depth to a team full of win-now players. That alone is something that few organizations in the league have. And in Saleh’s mind, it should lead to wins.
“The foundation is there, we got to stack up wins and keep that thing going. It’s much different.”
It’s been over a decade since the Jets were in the playoffs. The first two years of the Rober Saleh-Joe Douglas era have been about building a culture that would instill discipline in a franchise that had been short of it for several years.
Now, the next step of that process is to win.