The New York Jets’ coaching staff needs a shake-up
When an NFL team goes from 7-4 to 7-9, standing pat is not an option. People need to be held accountable. Failing to make changes in light of such a massive downfall is equivalent to telling your organization that failure is acceptable. It establishes a standard of complacency.
Here are two Jets coaches Saleh should consider parting with.
Offensive line coach John Benton
John Benton seemed like a great hire as part of Saleh’s initial staff entering the 2021 season. Benton coached the 49ers’ offensive for four seasons from 2017 to 2020, helping that unit become one of the NFL’s best.
Unfortunately, none of that success has translated to the Jets. New York’s offensive line has been a complete mess throughout Benton’s two seasons.
Yes, injuries have played a role in that, but the issue that cannot be ignored here is the offensive line’s severe lack of communication. Benton’s unit seems to constantly struggle with communication in both the pass game and the run game, even when the lineup is filled with veteran players. Throughout the Jets’ five-game losing streak, their line has been mostly comprised of veterans who have played in this scheme before, and yet, everybody looks lost.
When the Jets call outside zone plays in the run game, it seems like players often don’t know whether they should chip at the first level before climbing to the second level or ignore the first level and go straight to the second level. Two linemen who are next to one another will often not be on the same page in this regard, and it causes defenders to run through untouched. Communication is so crucial in outside-zone running. You have to know what your buddy is going to do. The Jets just seem to be winging it out there.
In pass protection, free runners at the quarterback are a common sight. We often see two linemen blocking the same man while someone runs into the backfield untouched.
Another issue is snap timing. I see so many instances of the Jets’ blockers losing reps because they are late off the snap.
The Jets need to acquire better talent up front, and they also just need better luck with injuries. Still, this unit underperformed in 2022, even when considering how banged-up it was. I don’t see how you can watch this unit play football without being skeptical of how it is coached.
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Quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese
Someone must be held accountable for the failed development of Zach Wilson. While his failure is not entirely to blame on coaching, it certainly deserves part of the blame.
I think the Jets should stick with Mike LaFleur as their offensive coordinator. In terms of his play-calling on gameday, he has shown me enough to where I think he deserves one more year to show what he can do with a solid veteran quarterback running his plays. Poor execution has made LaFleur look like a much worse play-caller than I believe he truly is.
This leads us to quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese.
Calabrese, who is only 32 years old, was a puzzling hire in the first place. Knowing they had a No. 2 overall pick coming into the building at quarterback, the Jets hired a quarterbacks coach with this resume:
- Oviedo HS (2013) – Quarterbacks coach
- UCF (2014–2015) – Graduate assistant
- Wagner (2016) – Running backs coach
- Wagner (2017–2018) – Offensive coordinator & quarterbacks coach
- Denver Broncos (2019–2020) – Offensive quality control coach
That’s not to write off Calabrese as a good football coach just because of his resume. Maybe he has a tremendous reputation and crushed his interview. The Jets may have thought they found a diamond in the rough despite his lack of experience.
In hindsight, though, it probably was not the best call to entrust Calabrese with Wilson’s future.
An important part of this conversation that rarely gets discussed is the tragic loss of Greg Knapp, who was hired as the Jets’ passing game coordinator in 2021. Knapp, who had spent most of the past decade as a quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan, was really supposed to be the primary voice in Wilson’s ear, not Calabrese.
The Jets should have made a stronger effort to replace Knapp rather than sticking with Calabrese. Now that two years have gone by, it seems likely that Calabrese is in over his head and cannot provide the tutelage Wilson needs.
Wilson was transitioning from the comfortable environment of empty stadiums in his home state during the COVID year to the pressure of the dreaded New York media market. As a 31-year-old who had only spent two years in the NFL, those coming as a quality control coach for the abysmal Broncos, what could Calabrese possibly have offered Wilson to help him navigate these treacherous waters?
In their respective roles, Calabrese is just as much of a youngster as Wilson. If the Jets are going to help Wilson turn his career around, as Saleh claims the team wants to, they need a new quarterbacks coach. Maybe Calabrese can stick around in a different capacity, but they need someone new at this position.