FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When Robert Saleh was introduced as head coach, he promised to win “championships” for the New York Jets. It was intentionally plural, a hint of arrogance that was accepted by a fan base that had endured two years of Adam Gase (9-23).
Now that Saleh has been squirted out, you wonder what’s going through the man’s mind.
His “Welcome to the Jets” moment came Sunday with a stinky noncompetitive for all ages: a 54-13 loss to the New England Patriots. At 1-5, they are showing all the signs that a team is going in the wrong direction.
All gas, no GPS.
The way things are going, you wonder when Saleh will win another game, let alone a championship. The Jets are the worst team in the AFC and would be the worst in the entire NFL if it weren’t for the Detroit Lions (0-7).
This is what happens when you hand over a young squad to a rookie head coach and a rookie offensive coordinator. The Jets are worse than we think, and that says something because they looked like a five-win team from the start.
Does this mean that Saleh is doomed, like many of his predecessors? No. This is where perspective is needed.
As bad as Sunday seemed, there was an element of perfect storm at work. Basically, the Jets played with three rookie quarterbacks – Zach Wilson, injury replacement Mike White and first-time middle linebacker Jamien Sherwood – and they were no match for Bill Belichick’s giant brain.
Let’s not forget the injury factor. Some of the Jets’ best players have missed multiple games through injuries: defensive end Carl Lawson, tackle Mekhi Becton, wide receiver Jamison Crowder, linebacker Jarrad Davis and safety Marcus Maye.
That’s a tough deal on a roster that’s already short on talent. From a macro perspective, it’s too early to panic with Saleh, who should be judged on how the team progresses through the second half of the season.
That said, there was no excuse to lose to the Patriots without Tom Brady by 41 points, especially after a bye week. This performance was an embarrassment to Rich, and we’re talking about Rich Kotite, the last Jets coach to hang himself from the 50s. That was a 52-14 loss in 1995.
“I always look inward,” said Saleh, a nice guy who seems to have no answers. “I always look at myself first, I look in the mirror, I see what we can do. Are we chasing something? I always look inward. I’m going to challenge everyone to look inward.”
Let’s be fair: Saleh inherited a list of suspects, depleted by all those bad drafts from the previous regime. The Jets decided to go into full rebuild mode, building the youngest roster in the league. You knew there would be growing pains, but you also expected to see flashes of light in the dark.
Where the light is?
The defense outperformed for three weeks, giving some hope, but the good vibes are gone. In the past three games, the Jets have allowed 430, 450 and 551 total yards, respectively. The 551s were the most allowed by the Jets since the 1998 opener against the San Francisco 49ers (557), which had future American Football Hall of Famer Steve Young as quarterback. Saleh & Co. were outscored by staff from the Atlanta Falcons and Patriots in the last two games.
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The Jets offense? Do not ask. They can’t score early in games, which is due to training and inexperience at the quarterback position. After a triple and out in the first drive, they actually showed a pulse, but couldn’t score in the first quarter, again. That makes six games in a row. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is struggling, showing his lack of experience.
They have been outscored in the first quarter, 44-0.
They have been outscored in the first half, 106-20.
And now they won’t have Wilson for two to four weeks after an MRI on Monday confirmed a sprained PCL, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Its off season misstep, By not adding a veteran endorsement, you are about to bite them into the rear.
Look, the Jets are at a talent disadvantage every time they come onto the field. How many front-line players do they really have? Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is the only one, rival scouts will tell you. How many current holders are locks to return next year in the same role? Probably only seven or eight.
They need another good draft and another good free agent loot to be taken seriously, but that doesn’t mean they should be knocked out by 41 points, their most uneven loss since 2010. A smart, well-trained team pushes on superior opponents. in the last quarter, and maybe steal a game here and there.
The Jets are not that team yet. They did it against the Tennessee Titans in Week 4, when the Titans didn’t have star receivers AJ Brown and Julio Jones. That was the only moment for the Jets, who are desperately lagging behind and spending the entire second half flailing.
Belichick, who despises the Jets and happily raised the score, must have enjoyed a good laugh Sunday night. At the top of his post-game press conference, he noted how his players were “ready to play.” Translation: Jets players weren’t. And he was right, and that falls on Saleh.
The biggest insult occurred at halftime, when former Patriots star Richard Seymour trolled the Jets in a speech for his induction into the team’s Hall of Fame. Speaking to the crowd, Seymour said he was given the choice of the weekend he wanted to be honored. He chose “our homecoming game against the Jets.”
There will be more “homecoming” games in the foreseeable future because, yes, it will get worse before it gets better. The jury is still out on Saleh, but one thing is clear: his championship dream is as distant as Mars.