Arthur Smith, Brian Daboll, Robert Saleh
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The New York Jets’ coaching search, similar to every team with an opening, has been impacted by the pandemic and it must be remembered.

Robby Sabo

Willem Dafoe’s character in Oliver Stone’s Platoon didn’t make it out alive. Obviously. Sgt. Elias’s death wasn’t exactly … subtle. Neither is Twitter, the land where New York Jets fans often commiserate.

Are you the type that craves a worthwhile challenge from time to time? Pull a Sgt. Elias. Tweet something provocative about the Jets’ head-coaching search. Before you know it, you’ll be running for your life. Just watch out for friendly fire (fellow Jets fans), those pesky land mines (other NFL fans) and camouflaged enemies (fake accounts).

Better yet, ask Jets fans how they feel about the Robert Saleh situation. You might just encounter Sgt. Elias’s true enemy: Jake Taylor (I mean Sgt. Barnes, played by Tom Berenger).


Saleh, 41, left the building without a done deal. With haunting memories of January 2019 fresh in the mind, fans fear the worst. Maybe it’s a contractual issue, some ponder. Perhaps ownership screwed up again, others wonder. It’s possible the Jets forced another assistant coach on the new candidate, forcing him to rebuff their advances (see Matt Rhule’s comments shortly after the Adam Gase hire).

While any of those things can be a reason for Saleh’s exit and eventual trek to interview with the Philadelphia Eagles, something is strangely flying under the radar.

This is no normal coaching search. Every team’s hiring process should take longer.

Remember, the world is still in pandemic mode. The NFL is obviously still in pandemic mode. Each of the Jets’ initial nine interviews took place virtually. The last one, New Orleans Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn, just happened a couple of days ago (Monday).

Considering none of these candidates are meeting in-person for the first interview, it would be surprising to see a team make such a swift decision.

Joe Douglas and Christopher Johnson stated it from the outset: They anticipated a serious process. Many candidates would be included as the organization would “cast a very wide net,” as Douglas explained last Tuesday on a Zoom call with reporters.

New York Jets head-coaching candidate tracker
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Making all the sense in the world, why would anybody expect anything different? Besides, this hire is critical to Douglas’s future. This decision can literally make or break his general manager NFL career. To think he’d be comfortable hiring a head coach after meeting with just one man in-person is a tough thought.

Consider the dates as well. None of the seven teams needing head coaches have officially filled that spot. It’s Jan. 13, 2021, which is 10 days past Week 17 (Jan. 3). A year ago, five teams filled vacancies. By this date a year ago, all five vacancies had already been filled.

The Washington Football Team hired Ron Rivera on Dec. 31, 2019, the Dallas Cowboys tabbed Mike McCarthy on Jan. 7, the Carolina Panthers plucked Matt Rhule from college on Jan. 7, the New York Giants named Joe Judge on Jan. 8, and the Cleveland Browns snagged Kevin Stefanski on Jan. 12, 2020.

Week 17 of the 2019 season was played on Dec. 29, which means the first hire happened just two days after the season and the last came 14 days after the regular-season ended. But the bulk of the hires happened nine and 10 days after the season concluded.

That’s where we already are this time around and not one hire has been made. There’s no question the pandemic is slowing things down.

Ensuring that a particular candidate can’t leave the building isn’t as easy as it previously was. Although Jets fans hear “second interview,” in essence, it’s really the first old-school football interview. How much could truly translate over Zoom? How comfortable could a general manager or owner feel from that lone meeting? It’s more likely that every team is viewing the initial interview as an introduction to the real in-person dance.

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In that case, Saleh leaving Florham Park, NJ in order to interview with the Eagles is simply a matter of logistics. It was planned all along as part of a “first round” of interviews.

Ten days in and no team has made a decision. There hasn’t even been a concrete report to speak of. When thinking about how the NFL and the Jets handled the pandemic this past season—completely professionally and thoroughly—it stands to reason that caution would carry over into an organization’s head-coaching search.

It’s very possible the New York Jets and Robert Saleh knew the planned itinerary the moment he arrived in Northern New Jersey. It’s possible this was part of the plan all along. Nothing in any of these other coaching searches suggests otherwise.

There’s also the issue of the candidates still playing football. Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll cannot be had at the moment. Virtually, sure, a Zoom interview can be conducted (and was). But could any front office feel comfortable in a monumental hire via Zoom only? No chance.

Considering what happened two years ago, Jets fans have every right to be worried. Turning Jets Twitter into the second coming of Platoon is another scenario altogether. Allow the process to play out and understand this is not your father’s head-coaching search.

At the very least, realize how understated and under the radar the pandemic has flown as it concerns the New York Jets head-coaching search.

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