After leading the league’s worst defense in points allowed in 2021, Robert Saleh has no room for error going into his second year as head coach
When the New York Jets announced the hiring of San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as their next head coach, fans and pundits were ecstatic. For the first time, a Jets hire was universally loved. Before Saleh had coached his first preseason game, he was drawing comparisons to another coach who went from DC of a great team to head coach of the Jets – Rex Ryan.
Saleh was coined as a player’s coach; one who could get the best out of the players on his side of the ball. The trash talk wasn’t there, but the vibe around the team felt similar to that of the Ryan-led Jets.
It was a change that Jets fans needed. After two years of Adam Gase, the memes and the ineptitude had brought fans to their breaking point. To this day, you won’t find anyone who expected Gase to lead the Jets to success after his free fall in Miami.
Turn the page to the hiring of Robert Saleh.
Saleh was the favorite for the Jets position from the get-go. It was the hire to take the Jets from the 2-14 mess of 2020 to respectability.
As it turned out, things weren’t as night and day as some had hoped.
New York finished the 2021 campaign going 4-13 on the back of a rookie quarterback and head coach. The struggles of Zach Wilson and the offense were to be expected. What wasn’t expected was the ineptitude of the defense.
The first, and most striking thing that was noticed was how poorly the Jets run defense had become. Pro Football Focus graded the Jets’ run defense as third-worst in the NFL. For the first time since 2006, the Jets had a run defense outside of the top 15 in PFF’s ranking.
The strength of the team – even in their worst years – became a glaring hole overnight. That ineptitude by the front seven was mirrored by the unit as a whole.
The Jets defense would allow the most points per game to opposing offenses of any NFL team in Saleh’s first season (29.6). Saleh joined Jim Schwartz as the only other defensive-minded coach in NFL history to accomplish that feat in their first year as head coach.
Going into his second season, Saleh doesn’t have the luxury to see his defense play that poorly again.
Through free agency and the NFL draft, general manager Joe Douglas added numerous elite pieces to the defense. This was highlighted by the acquisitions of cornerbacks D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner. Safety Jordan Whitehead was also added through free agency, along with Jermaine Johnson through the draft.
The talent acquired can’t be doubted. However, the coaching up to this point has left more to be desired.
PFF has already ranked Saleh as the worst head coach in the NFL. It won’t help that the Jets have what is considered to be the 6th-hardest schedule in the NFL going into the 2022 season.
Despite that, Saleh shouldn’t be afforded excuses if his unit fails to meet expectations yet again. While Mike LaFleur‘s struggles were to be expected, Saleh’s were not.
If the team – and defense – finds itself at the bottom of the barrel yet again, don’t be surprised to see Robert Saleh on the coaching hot seat after the 2022 season.