The New York Jets took a much-needed bye week after their disappointing effort in London that dropped the franchise to 1-4 through their first five games.
Now the long 12-game trek remains, and head coach Robert Saleh knows that some things will have to change if his team wants to rebound and make a run in the second half. He addressed the media on those adjustments on October 18.
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Saleh Discusses Bye Week Corrections
When Saleh held his typical Monday morning press conference after the bye, there was one major question at the tip of every beat reporter’s tongue — the Jets have been punched in the mouth a few times, now what can they do to get back up and turn this plane around?
ESPN’s Rich Cimini asked it (in his own words) and the head coach responded: “I thought offensively, Mike [LaFleur] and his staff did a really good job digging in deep in terms of what the offense is having success at, what we’re not having success at, what the quarterback is having success at versus what he’s not having success at, the splits of first-quarter versus second, third and fourth quarter just to see what [it is] that he looks most comfortable doing.”
Coach Saleh noted that Zach Wilson was involved in some of those conversations, which is a positive sign. I’ll keep bringing this up until I see it happen in games, but the first thing LaFleur said about his offense after being hired was that it would fit the skill set of the players, not the other way around. So far, we have not seen that occur but the coaching staff’s humility could be a sign that change is on the way.
The Jets HC continued: “Then obviously on my end in regards to scheduling and just [seeing] if we can change some things up that are subtle but who knows. Feel really good about the soundness of the things that we’ll be doing over the course of the week. The one thing that I thought was very important was that we didn’t just make things up and do things just to do things. So with regards to your answer, I’m going to keep a lot of it private Rich, if that’s okay, but we do feel good about the soundness of the decisions that we are going to make moving forward and it’s not just a grab-bag to try and throw junk at the wall hoping that it sticks.”
The failure under Saleh has not been absolute — as it felt under Adam Gase in 2020. There have been takeaways that provide hope, whether it’s a spectacular throw from Wilson or a rookie’s emergence. In terms of coaching, I’ve been impressed by the team’s resilience late in games, they never quit and that trait will be key as the season gets into the dog days.
Based on that, you don’t necessarily want the staff to blow everything up and start fresh but you do want to see some corrections being made. Why is it that the offense always starts slow? Why isn’t a 2020 second-round draft pick on the field when he’s outplaying teammates that are? How come the defense seems to lose focus on third-and-long?
Those burning questions must be answered, and it’s part of the head coach’s job description to address them. Saleh described the adjustments as “subtle” a couple of times during this interview, but let’s hope they’re apparent enough that they don’t go unnoticed.
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Core Foundation Doesn’t Need Changing
As we mentioned above, it feels like Saleh’s core principles are on the money but the end result has still been lacking. The head coach had an interesting analogy to explain why this could be.
He stated: “I’ll do the old golfer’s analogy; you go out to the driving range and you hit a ball and you hit three good ones and then you miss one and [you say] let me try to change something. And then you change something and you hit another one, couple of good ones, and then you miss some, ah let me try to change it, change it, change it and next thing you know [your swing is] all over the place when really all you needed to do was stick to the foundation that you built off of, make perfect swings and trust that once in a while it’s going to go haywire but if you stay true, it will continue to improve. So as it pertains to technique, fundamentals, all that stuff, I’m a stickler on that one. Those are your core foundations, those are your core principles that you just can’t let go of.”
Saleh then hinted that a smaller adjustment might be to “scale back some and give [their] guys a chance to go play,” but added that there has to be a balance between keeping the opposition “off-balance” and allowing your team to feel comfortable.
This hit the nail on the head because Jeff Ulbrich’s defense has looked comfortable in his system, while LaFleur’s men have often seemed confused and unprepared. In other words, no one cares if you’re an offensive genius if you’re unable to translate that secret code to your players.
That’s what makes a great coach at the end of the day. It’s not the playcalling or the creativity as much as it is communication and teaching. LaFleur has to get better at the latter, even if that means scaling back and dumbing things down.
If he’s unwilling to grasp this concept, he’ll end up becoming the next Gase — and that’s an honor that no man should strive for in New York.