Sports Illustrated had some kind words for Robert Saleh, but they still don’t believe an immediate playoff trip is likely.
Second place isn’t ideal, but the New York Jets haven’t been there in a while, so they’ll happily settle there.
The runner-up spot is where new head coach Robert Saleh landed on Sports Illustrated’s power rankings of the seven new bosses set to make their debuts this September. SI’s list, curated by Conor Orr, places Saleh behind only Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers.
According to Orr, Saleh’s case was bolstered by obtaining an equally strong staff, particularly bringing his former San Francisco compatriots Mike LaFleur (offensive coordinator) and John Benton (offensive line coach/run game coordinator). Orr also complements general manager Joe Douglas‘ free agent acquisitions that fit into Saleh’s defensive schemes (i.e. Carl Lawson/Jarrad Davis).
“Saleh’s biggest coup was securing Mike LaFleur and John Benton, peeling them away from Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco,” Orr says. “While the overall setup isn’t perfect (ideally a head coach and G.M. are brought in together), Joe Douglas has been aggressive in his quest to fit players to Saleh’s defensive scheme and the offense LaFleur and Benton are planning to run.”
Under the list’s “Staff Strength” metric, Saleh is the only new head coach to earn a perfect 10 and one of three overall, joining Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians (6th on the veterans’ list) and fellow AFC East leader Sean McDermott in Buffalo (11th).
Alas for Jets fans, the new staff doesn’t warrant the Jets increased playoff hopes at this time. He places the Jets at 10 percent, behind the 80 percent probability for Staley’s Chargers, 30 percent for Arthur Smith’s Atlanta Falcons, and 25 percent for Urban Meyer in Jacksonville. Orr instead proposes a more modest goal for Saleh and Co.: resemble what Brian Flores and his staff have done in Miami.
“In the near term, Saleh will be judged on his ability to get the Jets from a team that gets frequently steamrolled to something resembling the Dolphins over the last two years.”
To Orr’s point, the Dolphins appeared to be in dire straits when Flores arrived in 2019. But Miami played competitive football during his first season at the helm (a 5-11 season that saw victories in five of the last nine contests) and later took home 10 wins last year, their best output since 2016.
On the veteran list, Bill Belichick earned the top ranking, though Orr admits that he is trending downward after his New England Patriots had a losing record for the first time since 2000. Belichick finishes just ahead of Andy Reid, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, and Sean Payton.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags