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Mike White was a distraction from a horrific NY Jets coaching truth

Robert Saleh
Robert Saleh, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Jets coaching has been as bad as it could possibly get.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—Quarterback rules all—not only in the National Football League but in all of sport as well.

It’s the glamour position of all fancy posts, the individual most responsible for wins and losses, the man who receives either too much of the credit or entirely too much of the blame.

Well, that’s not exactly true, as a man named LeBron James and a league referred to as the NBA clearly squashes such an idea. But in any event, you get the gist.

Unfortunately, on this day, another gist showed up with bare knuckles ready for action.

Mike White‘s magic came to an abrupt end at MetLife Stadium Sunday in the New York Jets’ 45-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills, which puts an immediate end to the dreamers’ once-a-century story hopes.

Although the film will reflect an adequate (a C- grade as opposed to an F) first-half effort—against a suffocating best-in-the-NFL-land defense that didn’t allow anything downfield—White’s final F grade is supported by four interceptions. While it should put to bed any faux quarterback controversy in the Jets ether, the next and much more critical topic is just brewing.

What is going on with this coaching staff?

The negative side-effect that White’s emergence created was that of a distraction from the real issue that is the Jets’ complete and utter lack of awareness and accountability.

There was nothing ever wrong in starting White with Zach Wilson still not officially 100 percent. There is, however, everything wrong is how coaching basics are falling short in many areas of the game.

Folks, this team employs at least some talent defensively. No, we’re not staring at the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers here, but names such as Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, C.J. Mosley, John Franklin-Myers and Bryce Hall combine as five quality defenders. (Sheldon Rankins and Michael Carter II are also fine substitutes.)

A unit with such names shouldn’t allow 40-plus points three times over its last four games (and 30-plus points in each of the last four).

There’s no question that injuries are yet again a huge deal in Florham Park.

Joe Douglas’s prized free-agent acquisition, Carl Lawson, went down in the summer. Vinny Curry followed suit. First-round talent Jarrad Davis just recently returned, as has Ashtyn Davis. But that simply isn’t an excuse for some of the things Jets fans are seeing.

Buffalo didn’t rush the ball much in the first half, Devin Singletary’s 18 yards on two carries led the team. Job well done, right? Well, not exactly.

Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll came out in the third quarter with a plan that destroyed every bit of defensive integrity the Jets had remaining at 17-3.

Allen first connected with Stefon Diggs (who else?) in a one-on-one situation against Javelin Guidry. Yet again, Jeff Ulbrich’s defense showed single-high pre-snap and didn’t alter anything post-snap.

After a couple of positive rushes, the Bills hit the Jets with an Emmanuel Sanders end-around that went for a huge gain down the right sideline.

What is Bryce Hall doing? What is Jarrod Wilson doing? Time and again, Jets defenders are trying to play hero ball instead of taking care of one’s individual responsibility.

The read here for Wilson (responsible for the wide receiver who crack-blocks the Jets’ play-side defensive end) is to peek in on the Bills’ right guard while keeping an eye on his man, the No. 2 weapon, the wide receiver.

Once the crack-block happens, that should alert him that something is coming to that side’s edge. It’s as simple as that. Instead of attempting to replace the edge player who was taken out, he peeks his nose into an area he has no business venturing.

Hall, a kid who doesn’t deserve the negative spotlight for his solid season efforts, must replace edge run support as that side’s defensive back. Once his first read, Diggs, turns inside in a sealing motion, he should also understand that something edge is coming. Instead, he also drops too low.

Sure, the guards pulled in the opposite direction for a bit of illusion, but if the Jets defenders are keying in on their specific reads, this play is shut down. To make matters worse, Buffalo followed that up with a quick-hitting Isaiah McKenzie jet-motion run that went for a touchdown.

Saleh could only throw his hands up after the game.

“We’re in there talking about trying to do things the right way and try to see where we can help our guys out,” Saleh told the media after the horrendous loss. “Obviously, it’s not good enough. It always starts with me. We have eight games left and we have to figure it out.”

Credit Saleh for placing the blame on his shoulders—while also not trying to talk his way out of the situation—but something is amiss here.

Jets defenders are not properly reacting to individual reads. And beyond that, team sloppiness often rules the moment.

Down 10-0 early in the second quarter, the Jets found themselves on the Buffalo 45-yard line while facing a fourth and 1. Saleh decided to go for it.

A delay of game penalty forced them to punt the ball.

On the next possession, the Jets offense contributed to the sloppiness during live action.

Near the end of the first half, the Jets offense had things rolling just a bit. White found Corey Davis on an inn-cut in. The quarterback climbed the pocket nicely and delivered a nicely placed ball.

Davis fumbled.

Has a Jet been benched this year under Saleh? I’d venture to guess that Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells wouldn’t hesitate to bench a guy of Davis’s stature after a fumble—no less a guy who just came back and is suddenly in sync with the team’s offensive struggles upon his return. (Forget whether benching Davis would have been the right call there, and instead realize that it’s not even a possibility under this staff’s direction.)

Instead of a 10-6 or even 10-10 ball game, Buffalo responded by driving the field to put up seven. They did so via a Diggs fade with Javelin Guidry in coverage.

Why is Guidry, a slot corner by trade and a kid who replaced the injured Brandin Echols, on Diggs in this situation?

As great of a question as that may be, Saleh’s answer shouldn’t shock anybody, which leads us into our next Jets coaching ill …


Saleh and Ulbrich don’t believe in a matching secondary. In other words, if Deion Sanders were on the roster, he’d play either left cornerback or right cornerback—a system that’s been entrenched in San Francisco (and Seattle before that) for quite some time.

“We’re not a team that matches,” Saleh said. “Diggs was lining up in certain spots, and to start chasing a player when that is not your style, there are a lot of different things that go into play when you start doing that—trying to travel and figure out from an alignment standpoint. It sounds simple, but we’re not just a man coverage team, so if you’re trying to match only when you’re in man, you’re going to get caught up.”

The Jets rarely played 2-deep in this one, partly due to the fact they were coming off a horrific run-stopping effort in Indianapolis. That, combined with the Bills’ freedom to get Diggs away from Hall, allowed for plenty of separation downfield.

Ten days ago, the highlighted demons came upfront in how the Jets’ front-seven handled the Colts rushing attack. On Sunday, Buffalo made sure everything the Jets did defensively was showcased.

Poor individual responsibility and a lack of discipline and accountability? Check.

Sloppiness by way of penalties and poor clock management? Check.

Stubbornness in how this coaching staff does things in spite of the personnel? Check.

Even Saleh’s extremely aggressive 4-3 one-gap scheme is routinely taken advantage of by opposing offensive coordinators. When Josh McDaniels wanted to use the front’s aggressiveness against them, he did so with ease up in Foxborough.

Perhaps a two-gap look thrown in there a time or two could help?

In reference to not matching Hall up with Diggs, Saleh said that “it’s not something that we do.”

Maybe they should. Or, perhaps a little discipline could go a long way in the grand scheme of things.

Mr. Robert Saleh, the man who furiously entered with an “All Gas, No Brake” mentality, is now just several horrid weeks away from earning a new attached motto the likes of which admirers cannot help but shiver at when pondering.

After the blowout against the New England Patriots up north, Saleh provided reasoning for why he’s not a “screaming head coach,” part of which referenced “family.”

“These are grown men. They are. In this league, I refuse to believe otherwise (and) these men play their tails off,” Saleh said. “They go to work and they have a lot of pride.”

Granting the benefit of the doubt in a professional regard is admirable. Realizing that a football locker room resembles that of a family is factual (unless Buddy Ryan is involved, of course). But when these same family members are not taking care of their own business in an individual way that leads to team success, the greater good, a fracture in the on-field operation has occurred.

The New York Jets aren’t an undisciplined team in the traditional sense; they’re simply undisciplined as it relates to football strategy. It’s something that should lead to difficult one-on-one encounters and highly-emotional decisions—at least at a much more rapid rate than what’s currently transpiring.

Even the most harmonic family unit needs the leader to set the appropriate accountability-tone when things aren’t operating at standard guidelines.

It’s about time Robert Saleh starts applying some pressure. It’s about time the New York Jets start playing selflessly.

The Mike White story is over. No more distraction from the issue that’s plaguing this team more than any other: discipline and accountability.

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Jets 4322
2 years ago

It was 17-3 when Davis fumbled and then the Bills kneeled to go to halftime. Bad fumble for sure, as maybe they could have cut into that lead with another good play or two — but it wasn’t the game breaker you implied it to be at 10-3 with the Bills then capitalizing off the turnover with a TD. They took a knee.

Maybe you should be benched for sloppy reporting.

Richard Hausig
2 years ago

There are a lot of factors here, as the article notes, and we need better players. But these results, scorewise, are way out of line and speak to coaching.  

Im not putting Mac Jones in the HoF but.. NE coaches um up better than anyone and I believe that if they had Wilson and Jones was a Jet the results would be reversed. Bellicheck and his coaches have no equal and we can see that with Jones. I fault JD for  planning to develop Wilson with this bad a roster. if the QB is elite he can overcome whats around him. Joe Burrow… But there aren’t a lot of elite QBs, Guys develop into elite QBs but only when the team around them is also good, like Allen. To expect a first year staff to do that is a lot to ask, IMO. I DONT THINK WILSON SUCKS but hes not elite, hes talented, and those are two different measures.

Salah will improve, year 1 is tough. But the smart move was to trade the pick for a fortune and build the roster out. If you miss on that pick WHEN you could have altered the franchise by trading it, its over for both the HC and GM. JD had to know that so my only hope now is that hes right. But, as Mr. Sabo surely knows, the odds on Wilson becoming the guy are much longer today then when he was drafted. A QB gets 50 games, if hes lucky, to make it. We are now 20% thru that and we are going backwards. They need to hold Wilson to one metric, run the team with competence. Dont be a hero, limit the off schedule stuff and show your teammates you can run the team. Or he will lose them too and seal his fait.   

2 years ago

I agree with all of this. I just want to know how this has happened. This seems FAR from the Robert Saleh we were presented when the hire was first made.

I get the injuries (which I’d like to see a breakdown of all the 32 NFL teams to see if the Jets are truly the most injured), the lack of talent, and even the overwhelming youth and rookie starters. But, this was not who Robert Saleh was at the beginning of the year.

JetsXFactor had articles about the initial hire of Saleh and what he promised to bring along with Douglas’s philosophy of roster construction. None of that has happened (from Saleh’s end mostly). Could you guys do research and compare the Saleh from the initial hire to now? Something just doesn’t add up here. I’m not saying Saleh couldn’t be a bust but he was the hottest head coach on the market at the time and he looked to have all the attributes every team was looking for. Now, he’s crashing down hard and is rightly criticized in the national spotlight.

Also, if you guys have the opportunity, I’d love to hear more the idea of building a roster slowly through the draft as opposed to free agent spending and trading. Watching the Rams basically give up their draft to acquire big-name and high-priced players seems to be working out for them. The Patriots with their massive free agent spending looks to be working (so far of course). I get the benefit of building through a draft but why does that matter if other teams can just ignore the cap or manipulate it in clever ways?

2 years ago
Reply to  MasterWu77

You couldn’t be more right about it not being the “Robert Saleh we were presented” nor saw as a coach. I see Todd Bowles, meaning a coach who thinks he needs to change who he is now that he sits in the “big chair.” I see no passion, I see no heart, and he seems to be playing the role of “calm, cool, collected coach” at the podium and for the cameras. He’s gone too far to the “other side” of who he really is, and it is troubling. Make no mistake this defense is talent deprived, they really aren’t good. They only have two real NFL playmakers but that doesn’t mean the team should play without passion. They play without heart and it’s a problem. I think Saleh needs to look in the mirror and ask himself: “am I really coaching this team being me?”

Also, I agree with the slow and steady route being a problem, yes the team had ZERO talent when Douglas took over but his first draft looks horrible. The entire class hinges on Becton, still a huge question mark, but other than Hall, who appears to be a 2/3 CB at best, and Mann who might someday be a good punter the class is a wash. The idea of “building through the draft” is ESPNquierer junk they say to get people to dredge through their coverage of the draft. It’s impossible to hit on enough draft picks to build solely through the draft. The Jets need NFL players, not draft picks or “Money to spend.” Good teams don’t have all the capital, they actually have good players. Time to get some good players in here, not promising players.

2 years ago

What you wrote here is what scares me most. Although, I do think the talent is more to blame than what you are assigning (more on that in a sec) the huge red flag for me is that in two games this season where the Jets had “extra time” to prepare they were horrid. This coaching staff is overwhelmed. I do think the offensive side has a legit reason with the loss of Knapp, who was supposed to be coach and mentor to the QB AND the OC, but Ulbrich is over his head. I also mentioned in training camp that everyone who loved the “scheme” was going to be asking questions when it was all scheme and no game adjustments. This staff is using the entire season as a scrimmage to install their base principals and while that is PART of the process, the other piece is teaching your players how to execute a game plan. It was no surprise to me that Saleh said they don’t switch corners, it’s what they do. (remember the debates about how Revis was better than Richard Sherman because Revis “traveled”).

As for the roster, it’s been 9 games and we can start calling it the way it is: while Hall is enjoying somewhat of a “good” season, we can no longer be “pleasantly surprised” with the secondary. Hall gives up 8-10 slants like it’s his job. He either can’t press cover or they don’t think he can, either way it’s a problem. The secondary can’t be doing better than we thought if they are giving up points at a historic rate. Personally, I’ve seen enough of Jarrad Davis to know he’s not good which is why he didn’t play at Detroit and Ashtyn Davis hasn’t been good at all, in fact he’s a bust at this point. The DL is what we thought it was without Lawson, some very good players with one superstar talent that needs complimentary speed to help them out. That speed is on IR, so yes, I agree they should be better, but now that teams are, you know, game planning against them, their shortcomings are showing. When I look at the defense as a whole I see some very “nice players” and some young talent that can fill out a roster but outside of Mosely and Q they have no playmakers. No, upper level talent that can change games, and as a matter of fact other than Mosely the entire LB and Safety group is barely NFL caliber talent. That’s no way to win in the NFL.

Two side notes: I’m not sure benching players like Corey Davis is the answer but pondering your suggestion. And….LeBron never gets the blame, when his teams lose he “doesn’t has the talent around him.”