Rex Ryan Sounds off on Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh, Echoing Fans

Rex Ryan

Getty Former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan high fives a fan after a victory as he exits the field on December 22, 2013.

At Heavy on Jets, we still believe in Robert Saleh.

Over the course of the past week, however, I’ve spoken with many Gang Green supporters that are losing faith. This team has shown a lack of passion on offense that is reminiscent of what we witnessed under Adam Gase, and that’s enough to shake even the most loyal of fans.

We’ve also seen a growing number of penalties and miscues, as well as a contagious downtrodden body language that has swept through this Jets locker room. Saleh was supposed to be the man that’s brought in to rally the troops and breathe new life into this franchise, but so far the results have been the same.

When he was first hired, many compared the new coach to an old one, Rex Ryan. The two defensive minds were both known for their fire and vigor. Ryan was also the last man to get the franchise to the playoffs, reaching the AFC championship game in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

After the 0-3 start, Ryan decided to break his silence on Saleh’s performance so far, and he didn’t hold back on his criticism.

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Ryan Comments on Saleh, Jets

The first line from Ryan really resonated with some of the comments I’ve heard from fans this week. “It ain’t just about looking good on the practice field dude,” the ex-Jets HC began, “we need to see results on the game field… that whole team, they flew out there but they weren’t there. I don’t get that.”

Many have echoed this sentiment. Don’t talk about practice going well when the onfield product is terrible, it’s insulting. Ryan then continued into a long rant.

“You only have 17 opportunities, regular-season opportunities, to play. That team ought to have some type of energy, some kind of passion. They hired this guy — I thought he was supposed to be like me? Everybody said that right? He’s a defensive guru. Now his stats never matched mine, ever! Okay, but he’s supposed to have that same energy, same kind of passion. I don’t see it in this team. I’m just telling you the truth, I don’t see it in this team. But it starts with you, he’s right about that. I love what he said, he’s right about that. It starts with him as a coach, it starts with all of his coaches and it’s also the players, everybody has to do better. Alright, so at least we got that, we all know that’s a true statement, but now we got to get it. Remember man, I wanted the Jets to hire this guy — if they weren’t going to hire me — because I bought into it too. You know I’m like, hey this guy, he ought to be good for the Jets, he looks like a tough guy, he looks like he’s going to bring that type of energy and that kind of passion, we just haven’t seen it so far.”

Ryan took a few digs at Saleh, including the one about his defensive statistics being better and the possibility of NYJ offering him the job instead, but the overall sentiment was fair. This coach is supposed to increase the passion and through three weeks, this offense has none.

It’s debatable whether the defense has shown that intensity and heart. I would argue that they have. They kept the Jets in the game in Week 1 when the offense was stagnant and they also kept things competitive in Week 2 despite all the turnovers. There was nothing they could do in Denver, it’s hard to fight for four quarters when your teammates get shut out.

Ryan went 9-7 his first year as head coach, making the postseason as a wildcard. At this pace, it looks unlikely that Saleh will follow in his footsteps in year one.

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Judging Saleh so Far

I know how frustrating this is for fans because I am one, but the only way to fairly judge Saleh so far is by giving him an incomplete. Just watching him in press conferences, you can tell that he’s upset with the effort and the product.

He’s also a principled man that wants to do things the way he thinks they should be done. Up until the regular season, I didn’t hear a single fan say a bad word about him. Everyone was all-in on Saleh. So three weeks in, it’s hard for me to flip the script that quickly, no matter how poorly the team has played.

The Jets are off to a really disappointing start, facing a tough schedule. It happens in football, especially when your roster is filled with rookies. Now I want to see how they react and progress. That’s how I’ll judge Saleh as a leader of men, which is what his players always call him.

On September 27, Saleh told reporters that “it’s three games in and it’s round one of a 15-round fight, so it’s not like our faces are broken or anything, we just have to continue to work and find a way to get better.”

He added later on: “Sometimes you get punched in the mouth, but how you pick yourself up and how you get back to work on Monday and throughout the week and prepare yourself for the next week is all that matters.”

Right now the Jets and Zach Wilson have taken more shots than Rocky Balboa, let’s just hope they are able to get back up.

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