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The NY Jets must be careful when commenting on best players

Quinnen Williams, NY Jets, Snaps, Jeff Ulbrich, Comments
Quinnen Williams, New York Jets, Getty Images

This is not the first time in recent years that a Jets coaching staff has created a potential rift with a defensive star

No one in the New York Jets organization wants to see a Jamal Adams 2.0 situation.

But defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich may have steered the Jets closer to one with his comments about Quinnen Williams.

Asked about Williams’s relative lack of snaps considering how well he’s been playing this year, Ulbrich replied, “There are these critical moments in games, ‘Why is Quinnen not out there?’, and you look to the side and he’s gasping for air.”

Williams was bound to take notice. He appeared to acknowledge Ulbrich’s comments on Thursday evening by retweeting the following video of Robert Saleh‘s comments from this offseason, which was originally posted over a month ago. In it, Saleh says Williams is in the “best shape of his life”.

Retweeting the old post was a subtle way for Williams to publicly respond to the comments made by Ulbrich.

Getting their best defensive player angry is hardly what the Jets want to be doing right now. Their defense is embattled enough as it is, ranking dead-last in DVOA and blowing coverages left and right.

Meanwhile, No. 95 has put together a terrific start to the season, earning an 88.5 pass rush grade from Pro Football Focus (third among IDL) while beating double teams at the second-best rate for defensive tackles, behind only All-World DT Aaron Donald.

Granted, it’s important to note that Ulbrich did throw a lot of praise in Quinnen’s direction when answering the question about his snap count.

“He plays at such a high clip and he goes so hard that, sometimes more is less, or more isn’t necessarily as good,” Ulbrich said. “Because now you’re not seeing the speed, the explosiveness, all the special stuff from an athletic standpoint that he brings.”

Still, the overall wording of the answer was poor. It sent the wrong message to the fanbase and possibly to Williams as well.

A few years ago, the Jets had another top-10 pick whom they picked fights with. Jamal Adams was driven out of town with the lack of an extension offer. The All-Pro safety made his anger at Joe Douglas known: “Why would Joe come out and say, ‘We want to make Jamal a Jet for life?’ Why would you say that and then not even give me an offer?… Don’t B.S. me. I’m a straightforward guy. You don’t have to B.S. me, because I’m going to keep it honest.”

It’s well-known by now that Douglas does not value safeties enough to pay them significant dollars, and the Adams trade to Seattle appears to be working out very well for the Jets so far. The picks they obtained from that trade have turned into Alijah Vera-Tucker and Garrett Wilson, two players who seem to be part of the Jets’ young core for years to come.

But making your best defensive player feel unwelcome is never the way to go. There is a chance Ulbrich may have just done that with his words. Going forward, the Jets must be careful about how they speak out their best players to the media.

It’s too early to say that this will become an issue. It could blow over with a Jets win on Sunday and a strong defensive performance like the defensive line had in Week 1 against the Ravens. Maybe Ulbrich will quietly give Williams more snaps as offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has with Garrett Wilson, but that does not appear to be imminent. The seeds of disgruntlement are apparent.

Ulbrich’s hot seat due to the defense’s early struggles has just gotten hotter. But this is not coming only from Ulbrich: Robert Saleh is a defensive coach, and he signs off on Ulbrich’s game plan, including his personnel rotation. Saleh deserves criticism for this situation, as well.

Quinnen is due for contract discussions following this season, and you can bet that he may not be overly eager to play on the fifth-year option next year. If the Jets continue to limit his snaps and therefore his cumulative statistics, they stand to begin a war with one of their most important players.

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Richard Hausig
1 year ago

Salah was right, its bush league BS. What he doesn’t seem to understand is its his coaching staff that’s bush league. These are the loose threads that start to fray before the whole thing unwinds. Two weeks ago he was taking receipts, whatever that means, and now this on top of the comments by DJ Reed tell you they are on the way to losing the room. If we get a Salah Special this Sunday, down early and never really in the game, that sound you are going to hear is the first nail going in the coffin. I’ll say the same thing I always do, I like Salah and root for him. But my team is my team and this, so far, is no better than Gase. You are what your record says you are.

Jim G
1 year ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

I agree partially with what you both are saying. First of all, the Jets have a talented team on paper. With how little these players play in preseason, it is hard to see how good they are until they match up against other players. Let’s be candid: so far we are lucky to be 1-2.

Second, football isn’t played in a vacuum. Other teams get the chance to improve also. Did Miami improve by adding Tyreek Hill? Of course. Did the Bills improve? Probably. Did Miami improve more than the Bills? Probably. Did Miami improve enough to overtake the Bills? Probably not. So the Jets having more talent helps, but only if the Jets improved more than other teams and the players play up to their ability.

Third, you cannot discount the success Saleh had in SF working with a coach who essentially outsourced the defense to Saleh. But it is a valid question whether the schemes the Jets are running are the right schemes for the talent the team possesses.

Fourth, I am not an expert on this, but I have to believe lack of communication in the secondary is on the players, not the coaches. If DJ Reed complained about the assignments or game plan, fine, blame the coaches. But I saw a video clip from Ray Lewis showing how a secondary’s failure to communicate cased a breakdown to allow a game winning touchdown in what was a near hopeless situation. Ray Lewis said “these guys should be communicating, they should be talking to each other, and they’re not.”

Fifth, nothing will ever be worse than under Gase. Even Kotite was not worse. Gase gave the Jets no hope of a victory. Instead, we were relying on other teams to overlook the Jets to eek out victories.

Where I agree is that the system is not working. If the Jets were competitive in games and lost, that can be attributed to young players who don’t know how to close a game. But being not competitive in games on a recurring basis is not acceptable.

1 year ago

Time for the coaches to be accountable, the fans have been patient for long enough. They should not confuse kindness for weakness! Just extend THIS season!