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.
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”.
#Jets HC Robert Saleh says DL Quinnen Williams (@QuinnenWilliams) is in the ‘best shape of his life’ + ‘the expectation is do your best but we’re really excited because we think his best is going to be pretty damn good this year’ 😤: 🎥 @nyjets #TakeFlight #JetsCamp @AlabamaFTBL pic.twitter.com/MqigL1Wcxi
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) August 25, 2022
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.
Double team rate at defensive tackle (x) by pass rush win rate at defensive tackle (y), updated through Week 3.
-Even after a bit of a down week, Aaron Donald is still aaaaallllll alone.
-Curious to see if that larger second tier continues. Has been small group in past. pic.twitter.com/egic9D4yLi
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) September 29, 2022
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.