Zach Wilson, Rob Calabrese, NY Jets, QB Coach
Zach Wilson, Rob Calabrese, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets’ new-look coaching staff features a new leader in the QB room

The New York Jets made a number of changes to their coaching staff after a disastrous finish to the 2022 season, specifically on the offensive side of the football.

One of the offensive assistant coaches who managed to stick around was Rob Calabrese, who has served as the team’s quarterbacks coach since 2021. However, despite the retention of Calabrese, the Jets will still have a new “main voice” in the quarterback room, according to head coach Robert Saleh.

That main voice will be Todd Downing, who was hired as the Jets’ passing game coordinator. Saleh cited Downing’s work with Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, and current Jets free agent target Derek Carr as reasons Downing is the right man to lead New York’s signal-callers.

This seems to be a step in the right direction for the Jets, whose offensive coaching staff seemed a little thin over the past couple of years – especially at the quarterback position.

After the tragic passing of Greg Knapp in 2021, who was the team’s senior offensive assistant and poised to be their primary quarterback whisperer, the Jets never filled his role. Rookie offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and rookie quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese were left as the only men tasked with developing Zach Wilson, and, clearly, that challenge was too much for the two young coaches to handle on their own.

This was a particularly daunting setup for LaFleur. He already had plenty of pressure on his plate as a first-time offensive coordinator, but also had to double as the “main voice” in the quarterback room over the past two years. There were times when the Jets would defend the setup by claiming they did not want too many voices in Wilson’s ear, but in hindsight, it was clear the Jets did not have a strong enough coaching staff around him.

Now, the Jets have a nice hierarchy in place, one that is not too crowded and not too thin. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett can focus on the entire offense and does not have the added pressure of being the quarterbacks’ main tutor.

Downing is the passing game coordinator and primary quarterback whisperer, which is a role he’s ready for thanks to his experience. He’ll be the man who likely spends the most time talking to the quarterbacks in the meeting rooms, breaking down film, and discussing gameplans.

Finally, Calabrese can slide down into a comfortable role as the secondary quarterback whisperer, which is a better fit for his experience level. He can focus on working with the quarterbacks one-on-one at times when Downing is working with the entire offense.

Downing is known as a strong quarterbacks coach. He worked with Derek Carr as the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach from 2015 to 2016, helping Carr shake off a weak 2014 rookie season and develop into a player who earned six MVP votes in his third season. After 2016, Downing was quoted as saying “it’s almost eerie sometimes how [Carr] and I can finish each other’s sentences.”

As the Bills’ quarterbacks coach in 2014, Downing helped a 32-year-old Kyle Orton enjoy arguably the best season of his career, going 7-5 with 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a career-high 87.8 passer rating despite not joining the team until late August.

Downing also worked as Matthew Stafford’s quarterbacks coach in Detroit from 2012 to 2013. Prior to that, Downing was an assistant quarterbacks coach for Stafford from 2010 to 2011.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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