FLORHAM PARK, NJ – New York Jets coach Robert Saleh, responding to harsh criticism from one of his predecessors, responded to former Jets coach and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan on Monday.
Ryan criticized Saleh in a morning interview on ESPN Radio’s DiPietro & Rothenberg, questioning his coaching ability and saying he feels insulted when comparisons are made between him and Saleh because of his defensive background.
Several hours later, Saleh returned to Ryan.
“I never met Rex. I never had a conversation with Rex,” Saleh said in his weekly ad on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio. “I don’t even know him except for the people who know him throughout the league.
“Obviously, if it’s that personal to him, he knows where to find me.”
Saleh was not finished. When asked if he was surprised by Ryan’s comments, he said, “No, I’m not surprised. He always has something to say.”
The freshman coach is under fire because the Jets are 2-7 with a historically poor defense. Defense is the last in the main statistical categories. The Jets have allowed 175 points in the past four games, the second-highest total in a four-game span since the merger in 1970.
Ryan, who coached the Jets from 2009 to 2014, criticized Saleh earlier in the season after a landslide loss to the New England Patriots. On Monday, she went after him again.
“This guy is supposed to be a defensive guru,” Ryan said. “I take it personally. All I heard was that this guy looks a lot like me, but without the bad parts. Some of the bad parts you need, because this team doesn’t want to play with any fucking hearts. That’s what that disappoints me.
“Never compare this Robert Saleh guy to me. Statistically, they were a top defense once (in the San Francisco 49ers). Four out of five times they were last in their division. They’re going to be the last to die again, so he’s going to get used to that. To me, I’m a little pissed off about that when I heard that his background is very similar to yours. No, it’s not. No, it’s not. “
Before Saleh’s response on the radio, his brother, David Saleh, shot a tweet, attacking Ryan.
“Rex Ryan took care of a good [Eric] Mangini’s list. He won with him the first two years and lost with his own roster every year after, “he tweeted.” The only person making comparisons is you in an effort to remain relevant … “
Ryan was 46-50 in six years with the Jets, reaching the playoffs in his first two seasons. His defense ranked 11th in yards allowed in any of his seasons. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, Ryan’s second year.
Despite adversity, Saleh vowed to turn the Jets around.
“I’m just as frustrated as everyone else and my promise to Jets fans is that this is going to change,” he told reporters on a Zoom call. “Support is always justified. Criticism is always justified. You reap what you sow, right? This is going to turn around. I know in my heart it’s going to turn around.
“This thing is going to change, and when it does, it will be amazing.”