On Sunday, February 7, Robert Saleh was sitting on his couch watching the biggest sporting event on the planet the Super Bowl.
That’s been a familiar position for the New York Jets and their fans since they haven’t appeared in the big game in over 52 years. If they ever want to go back they can’t keep making the same mistakes over and over and expecting different results.
Saleh was hired by Gang Green late on January 14 and was just getting his feet wet in his new role. Despite being on the job for less than a month, the former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator learned a very valuable lesson from watching Super Bowl 55 that he has already taken to his new team:
“Joe Douglas and I share the same belief, obviously it starts with the quarterback but in order to protect the quarterback it starts in the trenches both offensively and defensively,” Saleh said to Rich Eisen. “You saw what happened to Kansas City when they lost half of their O-Line to injury. Patrick Mahomes, as great as he is, had no chance. So Zach Wilson can be as great of a quarterback as anyone in football, but we’ll never know unless we can protect him.”
A Valuable Lesson Indeed
Many believed the Chiefs were the team of destiny led by Patrick Mahomes heading into the championship game. Yet those lofty expectations were met with a harsh reality when Kansas City got smacked 31-9 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The former league MVP was hit 10 times, was sacked (three), and never looked comfortable throughout the game.
Mahomes is the face of the NFL and arguably one of the most talented quarterback prospects we’ve ever seen, yet it didn’t matter in the Super Bowl. When the Chiefs’ offensive line fell apart due to a myriad of injuries heading into the game, Super Man turned into Clark Kent.
Jets Made a Bold Move In the 2021 NFL Draft
This takes us back to the Jets on draft day on Thursday, April 29. With the second overall choice, Gang Green took Zach Wilson quarterback out of BYU.
Then the team saw a certain player slipping down the board, so they were aggressive in trading up from 23 to 14 in the first round to go get him. That player was Alijah Vera-Tucker, a talented offensive lineman out of USC.
Among the fan base, the move was met with excitement and celebration. Prior to the Joe Douglas regime, the Jets hadn’t taken an offensive lineman in the first round since 2006, when they did it twice with D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.
Now in back-to-back years, Douglas has invested more than any of his recent predecessors in the trenches. In 2020, Douglas’ first draft pick as the general manager, he took offensive tackle, Mekhi Becton, out of Louisville with the No. 11 pick. He followed that up with the selection of AVT just a year later.
Although not everyone was a fan of the Jets trading up for an interior offensive lineman in the first round.
Seth Walder of ESPN was one of the harshest critics of the trade citing the team “overpaid” for him.
While technically Walder is right, according to the NFL Draft Value Chart the Jets did pay more than what was required.
Although that’s the thing the analytics and charts can’t quantify, it’s not always black and white.
Douglas considered AVT a “top 10 player on his board” at a critical position of need. When he had the opportunity to move up to get a player of that magnitude he didn’t hesitate.
“Alijah Vera-Tucker was super high on our board and Joe had a phenomenal plan on how he was going to attack it,” Saleh said on The Rich Eisen Show. “AVT made it to a spot that we didn’t think was going to happen (No. 14) and Douglas didn’t blink, he got on the phone and made the move he had to make.”
The Jets just had the best seat in the house to watch the critically acclaimed film, how not to develop your young quarterback starring Sam Darnold:
- Terrible offensive line
- Questionable skill position players
- Arguably the worst coaching staff in the NFL
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Jets have improved the coaching staff this offseason. Wilson has more weapons right now than Darnold ever had.
Some may view trading up in the first round for a guard as overkill. Jets fans view it as a necessary evil to protect their franchise investment.