Robert Saleh‘s Jets announced five new hires and one key retention on Thursday afternoon. Here’s what they bring to the table.
On Thursday afternoon, the Jets announced the addition of five new coaches to Robert Saleh’s staff in addition to the retention of a key member from last year’s staff.
Additionally, Coach Saleh has added five more coaches to his staff.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) February 11, 2021
OFFICIAL: We've retained Brant Boyer as special teams coordinator.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) February 11, 2021
Brant Boyer is returning for his sixth season as the Jets’ special teams coordinator. In addition, the Jets announced the hiring of assistant coaches Michael Ghobrial (special teams assistant), Marquand Manuel (defensive backs/safeties), Jake Moreland (assistant offensive line), Tony Oden (senior defensive assistant/cornerbacks), and Mike Rutenberg (linebackers).
Let’s dig into some of the key numbers behind all six of those hires.
Brant Boyer (Special Teams Coordinator)
Boyer took over as the Jets’ special teams coordinator in 2016. He took on a tough job, inheriting a unit that was a disaster in the 2015 season as it ranked 25th in DVOA and contributed to multiple losses in a season where the Jets were one win away from a playoff berth. The Jets allowed a punt return touchdown to Darren Sproles in a one-score loss to the Eagles, dealt with a kickoff return fumble by Devin Smith that was scooped for a touchdown in a one-score loss to the Bills (Week 10), and suffered from horrid punting in one-score losses to the Patriots and Bills (Week 17).
In particular, the 2015 Jets struggled with covering punts, allowing the third-most yards per punt return (12.7) and giving up two punt return touchdowns.
So, Boyer had a big mess to clean up.
Things did not start out swimmingly for Boyer in New York. The Jets ranked 32nd in special teams DVOA in 2016. Their punting unit got even worse, dropping from a league-worst -17.9% DVOA to a league-worst -21.1%.
Boyer got another crack at it in 2017 and made minor progress as the Jets rose to 25th in special teams DVOA. The Jets continued to stick by him despite the measly results, and in 2018, he finally delivered.
In 2018, the Jets ranked No. 1 in DVOA, fielding the league’s best kickoff return and punt return units while ranking fourth in kickoff coverage and fourth in field goal/extra point kicking (all according to DVOA). Kicker Jason Myers and kickoff/punt returner Andre Roberts enjoyed remarkable seasons on their way to Pro Bowl berths. Myers hit 91.7% of his field goals while Roberts scored two return touchdowns (one kickoff and one punt) in addition to ranking second among qualifiers in both yards per punt return (14.1) and yards per kickoff return (29.4).
Boyer kept the train chugging in 2019 with a No. 4 DVOA ranking despite losing both Myers and Roberts in free agency. According to DVOA, the Jets had the NFL’s best kickoff coverage unit, fourth-best punting unit, and fourth-best punt returning unit. Braxton Berrios ranked second among qualifiers in yards per punt return (11.4), Lachlan Edwards spearheaded an efficient unit that rarely gave up any big plays (only two 20+ yard returns allowed), and the Jets allowed the third-fewest yards per kickoff return (19.3). If you exclude field goal/extra point DVOA – as the Jets sputtered in that department thanks to Kaare Vedvik and Sam Ficken (31st in both FG% and XP%) – the Jets had the NFL’s best special teams DVOA across the other four facets.
The 2020 season marked a fall back to Earth for the god of special teams. Boyer’s group tumbled to 29th in DVOA. The punting unit again became a major issue, ranking third-worst in the NFL with a -12.8% DVOA. Rookie Braden Mann had a shaky season, but the coverage unit in front of him was far more abysmal, as the Jets ranked sixth-worst with 11.7 yards per punt return despite a handful of amazing tackles from Mann that saved dozens upon dozens of yards and multiple touchdowns.
Placekicking was an issue as Sergio Castillo and Sam Ficken led the Jets to 26th in field goal percentage (75.0%) and last place in extra point percentage (83.3%).
The Jets also received very little energy from their return units. Berrios dipped to 8.6 yards per return (placing the Jets 20th as a team) and could not pick up a return of more than 18 yards. The kickoff returners combined for 19.8 yards per attempt, ranking 28th in the league.
Boyer’s Jets career has been a mixed bag, but his elite production from 2018-19 warrants him at least one more year even after a troublesome 2020 season.
Tony Oden (Senior Defensive Assistant/Cornerbacks)
- Secondary/Cornerbacks – 49ers (2020)
- Safeties – Dolphins (2019)
- Defensive Backs – Dolphins (2018)
- Cornerbacks – Lions (2014-17)
- Defensive Backs – Buccaneers (2013)
- Defensive Backs – Jaguars (2012)
- Secondary – Saints (2011)
- Assistant Secondary – Saints (2006-10)
- Defensive Assistant – Texans (2004-05)
- Defensive Backs – Eastern Michigan (2003)
- Safeties – East Carolina (2002)
- Secondary – East Carolina (2001)
- Outside Linebackers – East Carolina (2000)
- Head JV Coach – Army (1999)
- Defensive Backs Coach – Army (1998)
- Graduate Assistant – Boston College (1997)
- Assistant Defensive Backs – Millersville University of Pennsylvania (1996)
Starting his coaching career at the ripe age of 23 years old in 1996, Oden is still only 47 despite the endless list of jobs above.
Following Robert Saleh from San Francisco after one season with the 49ers, Oden did a great job as the 49ers’ secondary and cornerbacks coach in 2020. San Francisco saw a bevy of success stories in the back end of its defense.
Jason Verrett enjoyed a career resurgence. After playing only six games over the last four seasons, Verrett came out in 2020 and posted the eighth-best overall grade among cornerbacks at PFF (77.6). Ahkello Witherspoon posted an 80.2 overall PFF grade that ranked fifth-best at the position. Jimmie Ward had the 13th-best grade among safeties (73.5). K’Waun Williams posted a 66.2 grade and allowed the fewest yards per cover snap out of the slot among qualifiers (0.80). Veteran Dontae Johnson allowed just 0.87 yards per cover snap overall, ranking at the 85th percentile among qualifiers.
Altogether, the 49ers posted the third-best team-wide coverage grade at PFF in the NFL (81.4).
Back in 2013, Oden was Tampa Bay’s defensive backs coach in Darrelle Revis‘ only season with the Buccaneers. Coming off of an ACL injury at 28 years old, Revis had a great season under Oden as his average of 0.72 yards allowed per cover snap ranked third-best among qualifiers.
Oden helped eventual three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay find his footing in the league. A 2013 second-round pick out of Mississippi State, Slay had a bad rookie season in which he deflected only five passes (still a career-low) and allowed a 118.1 passer rating (still a career-high). Oden came in as Detroit’s cornerbacks coach in 2014, a role he held until 2017. Over that span, Slay took off. In his first season under Oden in 2014, Slay became a star, allowing 7.0 yards per target and a 79.6 passer rating while tying for sixth in the NFL with 17 passes defended – all at only 23 years old. Slay went on to lead the NFL with 69 passes defended over his four seasons under Oden from 2014-17.
Slay isn’t the only superstar cornerback that made his big leap under Oden. Xavien Howard can say the same.
Howard elevated to a new level when Oden came in as Miami’s defensive backs coach in 2018. After posting a mediocre 64.8 PFF grade in 2017 (74th of 104 qualifiers), Howard leaped to an elite 77.3 in 2018 (18th of 101). Despite missing four games, he led the NFL with seven interceptions, making his first Pro Bowl in the process.
Oden’s resume is about as good as it gets for an assistant coach.
Jake Moreland (Assistant Offensive Line)
- Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends – Western Michigan (2020)
- Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line – Western Michigan (2018-19)
- Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line – Western Michigan (2017)
- Wide Receivers – Air Force (2016)
- Offensive Tackles/Tight Ends – Syracuse (2015)
- Tight Ends – Air Force (2012-14)
- Tight Ends/Assistant Offensive Line – Western Michigan (2005-11)
- Special Teams Coordinator – Saint Joseph’s (IN) (2004)
- Tight Ends – Elmhurst (2003)