Jets HC Robert Saleh: Schedule ‘Will Be Baptism by Fire’

Robert Saleh

Getty Robert Saleh barking out play calls for his defense.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh was blunt when describing the 2021 NFL schedule release for his team.

Saleh joined Rich Eisen on The Rich Eisen Show Thursday morning to talk about a variety of topics including his initial thoughts on the Jets schedule dropping:

“We’ve got a very young team and it’s going to be baptism by fire. We’re going to throw them out there and hit the road running. It’s going to be fun watching these young men grow together.”

Jets 2021 Schedule Presents Some Challenges

One of the biggest challenges for this young Jets team will be taking their act on the road.

Through the first eight weeks of the 2021 NFL schedule, Gang Green will be playing on the opponent’s soil five times.

The good news is six of those first seven foes didn’t make the playoffs in 2020. Tennessee is the only exception to that equation and the Titans were one-and-done against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Schedule Won’t Be the Only Baptism by Fire

Gang Green is coming off of one of their worst years in franchise history (2-14). That disappointing result forced a lot of change on 1 Jets Drive, featuring a reset button at the highest levels of the organization.

Adam Gase was relieved of his head coaching duties after just two seasons at the helm. He was hired to be a quarterback whisperer and the only thing he whispered was lackluster play calls.

The quarterback he was hired to develop, Sam Darnold, was also jettisoned this offseason. Darnold was traded in exchange for three draft selections: 2021 sixth-rounder, 2022 second-rounder, and a 2022 fourth-round pick. He never developed into what he was supposed to become.

Part of that was on the terrible coaching staff, part of it was on Darnold not being able to read defenses, another part was the pathetic supporting cast, and of course, the former USC star couldn’t cut down on the turnovers.

With Darnold and Gase erased from the picture, the Jets added some new pieces to the mix.

Saleh was hired to bring his energy, stability, and defensive prowess to the green and white. A CEO-type head coach that could oversee the entire operation. In late April, he was paired with a brand new quarterback fresh out of the box in Zach Wilson formerly of BYU.

Things will heat up right out of the gate when the Jets open up their season against their former quarterback in a new uniform on the Carolina Panthers.

Although this baptism by fire extends far beyond the 2021 NFL schedule. It will be a harsh introduction for Saleh as a head coach and Wilson as an NFL quarterback.

The Jets have been terrible offensively. Over the last two seasons, they finished 32nd in total offense out of 32 teams, per ESPN Stats and Info. In 2020 the Jets averaged a measly 15 points per game (last in the NFL) and over the last three years, they’ve averaged 20 points per game. Simply not good enough.

Hopefully, everyone can learn quickly with live bullets flying around. The offense has been unbearable to watch and it’s time for change we can all believe in.

Baptism by fire is a great phrase. Fire can both destroy and create, depending on how you use it.

Heading into 2021, the Jets have more firepower than they’ve had in over a decade. That should put the former BYU passer in a great position to excel where others have failed.

Although being the starting quarterback of the Jets comes with inherent risks and pressures.

Wilson is going from Utah to the big apple. Leading into the 2021 NFL draft it was one of the biggest criticisms of Wilson, how will he handle the market, the pressure, and the environment?

“Zach Wilson has prepared for this his whole life,” Saleh said to Rich Eisen. “I know it’s not the stage that New York is but BYU is Utah. The amount of attention, media scrutiny, and all the eyes on that program it’s real. They live, breathe, and love BYU Football in Utah. He’s been in the eye of the storm for a very long time.”

Folks don’t realize the media presence that exists down there at Brigham Young. There’s a long lineage of successful Cougar quarterbacks, but make no mistake about it, none of us know how Wilson will handle the heat. There’s nothing in your life that could possibly prepare you for that.

If that wasn’t enough, Wilson is also set to replace Darnold. The former USC star was taken with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and was supposed to be the guy. He never became it.

The Jets franchise has been starving for a quarterback since ‘Broadway’ Joe Namath. There have been moments historically with guys like Ken O’Brien, Chad Pennington, and even Mark Sanchez. But fans aren’t looking for moments, they’re looking for answers. Everyone in that building hopes they finally found it.

Saleh brings a burning passion, a desire to win, and a refreshing energy to the building. Plus any coach following Gase will have a longer honeymoon than normal, but make no mistake about it, Jets fans are sick of rebuilds and waiting.

They’ve gone five years without a winning record and a decade without a postseason appearance. If Saleh doesn’t bring wins to the green and white, the next fire he’s going to see is from fans carrying torches and pitchforks.

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