Ron Middleton will take over for Robert Saleh on an interim basis after the latter tested positive for COVID-19.
With COVID-19 ravaging the NFL, it was only a matter of time until it found its way to Florham Park, NJ. It officially has, as early Wednesday, head coach Robert Saleh tested positive for the virus.
With only 45 minutes to spare before the noon walkthrough, coach Saleh called a staff meeting to inform everyone that he had tested positive. During that same meeting, the Jets named Middleton as the interim head coach.
Middleton has a long history as both a player and a coach in both college and professional football. At 56 years old, this is the first time in his career that he will be a head coach at any level.
In 1983, Middleton would suit up for the Auburn Tigers football team. Middleton grew up in Atmore, AL, which is roughly two and half hours away from the university he would end up attending.
Middleton played three seasons at tight end for the Tigers before entering the NFL in 1986. An undrafted free agent, he was able to work his way onto the Atlanta Falcons roster as the third tight end.
After two seasons with Atlanta, Middleton spent time with the Washington Football Team, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, and the then-San Diego Chargers. In 1991, he started 12 games for the Super Bowl-winning Washington Football Team.
Retiring after the 1995 season, Middleton quickly found himself back in the sport, this time as a coach.
Middleton made his way back home to Alabama in 1997, where he would start his coaching career at Troy University. He spent two seasons with the Trojans, where he coached the tight ends and worked with the offensive tackles.
"There's a good plan in place… I'm not reinventing the wheel here. I'm trying to keep the ship steered in the right direction."
– Ron Middleton pic.twitter.com/Y71QjgcH1x
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) December 22, 2021
Over that same span, he earned his master’s degree in sports and fitness management from Troy.
By 1999, Middleton was at Ole Miss where he spent the next five years of his coaching career. Working his way up the ranks, he started off as the tight ends coach and finished his tenure with the Rebels as the running backs coach and special teams coordinator.
While with Ole Miss in 2003, he took an internship through the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In 2004, Middleton accepted a full-time job with Tampa Bay as the tight ends coach and assistant special teams coach. He would spend the next three years there before going heading back to Alabama once again.
This time, he would join first-year Alabama head coach, Nick Saban, as his tight ends coach and special teams coordinator in 2007.
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Middleton would leave for an assistant head coaching position at Duke in 2008, but nonetheless, he became one of the first coaches snagged off the Saban coaching tree at the University of Alabama.
Middleton left Duke in 2013 for Jacksonville, where he found continuity in his career for eight seasons under two different head coaches, Gus Bradley and Doug Marrone.
Marrone and his coaching staff were let go after the 2020 season, and Middleton eventually found himself in New York with first-year head coach Robert Saleh.
After over 20 years of coaching and 11 seasons in the NFL ranks, Middleton finally finds himself leading a team.
Though Saleh may find his way back for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, there’s a similar chance that Middleton takes on his former team a day after Christmas. What better a gift than that of revenge?