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Fire Joe Douglas or Robert Saleh? For NY Jets, it’s all or nothing

Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh, NY Jets, HC
Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets should make a joint decision about Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh

At the end of the 2012 season, the New York Jets made a critical mistake. They could be on the cusp of repeating it.

At the time, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan were both on the hot seat. The Jets were coming off a miserable 6-10 season, seemingly a low point after back-to-back AFC Championship appearances followed by a competitive 2011 season.

Rather than letting both Tannenbaum and Ryan go, Woody Johnson chose to fire the former and keep the latter. The Jets ended up with a lame-duck coach working together with a general manager who did not hire him. Ryan endured two turbulent seasons with John Idzik before the pair were fired together.

2023 version

Right now, Robert Saleh is under the microscope after the Jets’ 30-0 debacle against the Dolphins. The team was lifeless, and many players referred to the fact that they had been both out-coached and out-hearted. That speaks poorly to their leader. Even many previous Saleh defenders are now calling for his job.

The issue is that this gives Joe Douglas a free pass. This is faulty for multiple reasons. First of all, the demise of the Jets’ 2023 season was orchestrated primarily by Douglas. He did not fix many of the team’s key areas of weakness. Injuries and retirement notwithstanding, the team’s receiving corps and offensive line were both heavily suspect before the season began. That falls on the general manager.

Realistically, Douglas has never put together an adequate offensive line in his four offseasons with the Jets. He had only one season with a reasonable receiving corps (2022) — and that was because Garrett Wilson arrived ahead of schedule.

If the Jets are going to fire Saleh, Douglas should go with him, as Paul Esden Jr., also known as BoyGreen, posited when I joined him on his podcast. The team cannot scapegoat the head coach for the general manager’s deficiencies.

What they should do

At this point, Douglas has had four offseasons to mold the Jets’ roster to his preference. As talent-poor as the Jets were when Douglas took over, he’s not the first general manager to inherit a cesspool. When that same GM has a .281 win percentage over his first four years with the team, how can they justify giving him a fifth?

Meanwhile, Saleh’s record is hardly better at 16-32 (.333). Sometimes head coaches will get that one more season even behind three poor ones. Still, the way the team has fallen apart down the stretch places scrutiny on his leadership.

On a note that is not Saleh’s fault, the Jets need a play-caller other than Nathaniel Hackett. The easiest way to accomplish that while placating Aaron Rodgers is to hire an offensive-minded head coach to call the plays, just like the setup Hackett had with Matt LaFleur in Green Bay. Ben Johnson of the Lions would be an ideal target for the Jets.

My preference is that the Jets fire both Douglas and Saleh.

What they will do

What is most likely to happen is that the Jets will not fire either Douglas or Saleh but will instead find others to take the fall. Unfortunately, the team is stuck with Hackett, who has proven that Sean Payton was 100% right about him. Ideally, they would bring in a co-offensive coordinator to call the plays, but that is highly unlikely.

Short of those personnel changes, the Jets should go scorched earth on their scouts. Rumors abound that assistant general manager Rex Hogan could be on his way out. Although that seems like scapegoating, Hogan “oversees the college and pro scouting departments, while working directly on personnel decisions and evaluations,” per the Jets’ website. Douglas has the final decisions on personnel, but if his right-hand man led him astray in free agency and the draft, it’s fair to cut bait.

Furthermore, the Jets’ offensive line coach and offensive line coordinator should be let go. When the Jets hired Keith Carter for the offensive line, there were concerns about Taylor Lewan’s comments that Carter worked his veterans too hard in Tennessee. The injury bug that plagued Titans center Ben Jones in 2022 certainly seemed to carry over to the Jets in 2023 (although it is difficult to determine causation because the Jets had similar injury issues along the line in 2022).

Meanwhile, Todd Downing, the Jets’ passing game coordinator, was not all that inspiring before he joined the Jets. The teams he came from had mediocre passing offenses under him. This might seem like a scapegoat move, but the design of the Jets’ passing game is in shambles.

2024 mandate

If Douglas didn’t get the message heading into 2023, he and Saleh must have it indelibly etched on their minds this offseason: fix the offensive line, or else. No more pick swapping to lose the chance to draft a top tackle or picking a developmental edge rusher in the first round.

Along with that mandate comes true player evaluation rather than kowtowing to Rodgers’ preferences. Acquiring David Bakhtiari, whose injury history rivals those of the Jets’ offensive linemen, does not count (as mentioned by a commenter on one of my articles). Nor does bringing back Billy Turner for another season. Cutting Laken Tomlinson with a post-June 1 designation should be on the agenda, thereby freeing up $13.9 million in cap space.

The receiver room also needs an upgrade, but trying to acquire Davante Adams at the expense of their offensive line is not wise. Mike Evans is a better option at this point, primarily because he will be a free agent. Michael Pittman or Tee Higgins would be other names to pursue if they do hit the market.

Will Douglas do this if he gets another year? I don’t think so. That’s one of the main reasons I think the Jets should fire him; his ability to manage his resources is highly suspect at this point.

These decisions could make or break the Jets’ 2024 season before it even starts. If Douglas and Saleh are granted one more year, they’d better not fumble.

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6 months ago

Hahaha, Woody will never fire either JD or Saleh. With AR, it’s the three amigos or bust for ’24. Four amigos, including Hackett. I never thought we’d have a worse OC than Hackett, then his son took over in ’23. Wow, he was bad. Woody knows nothing about football, that is apparent and until he either sells the team or stumbles upon some generational coach or GM, we’re stuck in the mud. A perennial laughingstock of the league.

Robert Papalia
6 months ago

I think Rodgers is a con man.The Jets will go no where in 2024 because Rodgers is calling the shots. And therefore Saleh and Douglas will be back. But the stupid Jets fans will not see through this and will fool themselves into believing the Jets will go to the Super Bowl. Wake me up when the parade starts.

6 months ago

The Jets really have one option with regards to JD and Saleh and that’s to run it back one more year with a mandate. They can’t replace either because no decent GM would take a job forced to keep a head coach and the same for a new head coach with the GM on the clock. I also don’t think Woody would blow the whole thing up without seeing Rodgers complete one pass after what it took to get him. Now I think anyone under Saleh is at risk but again who would take a job with the HC on a one year mandate. So I think Woody’s in a pickle that BTW he created to keep the status quo with maybe a few changes and run it back next year with hopefully a better oline, another receiver and a legit backup QB.

6 months ago

I feel as though the main problems are the de facto GMs Woody and Rodgers. The former quite probably pushed for the latter who was given too much power the moment he walked in.

I’d drop Hackett and all of Rodgers’ cronies and let JD do the job he was hired to do without any interference, including deciding what to do at HC. Like all GMs he isn’t going to get it right all the time. It’s a people business and people are unpredictable. Left to his own devices JD will get it right more often than not. Let’s not forget how bad some of his predessors were and acknowledge that if we made a change it wouldn’t necessarily be for the better.

Harlan Lachman
Harlan Lachman
6 months ago

From your fingers to a well deserved XMass present for long suffering Jet Fans. Firing Douglas is job one. If the new GM wants to keep Saleh, he should be forced to extend his contract (ensuring he really, really wants to keep Saleh). Frankly, I don’t care about appeasing Rodgers. Getting him was a mistake. Even if it works, it works for one year. Get a GM who can evaluate talent and value, including player, coaching, and scouting talent. Then let’s see what happens.