Jets’ Robert Saleh Credits Super Bowl Champ With Bold Coaching Strategy

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh practices what he preaches, a relentless pursuit of improvement.

After a miracle comeback in Week 2, many around the league believe the New York Jets will fall back on their losing ways against the Cincinnati Bengals — who are desperate for a win after starting out 0-2.

You’ll never see head coach Robert Saleh doubt his team’s chances, however, no matter the odds or the opponent. The Jets have already had a few unlikely victories since he took over in 2021 — the Tennessee Titans in Week 4 last year, the Cleveland Browns last week, and of course, the Bengals last Halloween. They also went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but fell short on a last-second touchdown pass.

For Saleh and a very young — but talented — Jets roster, it’s about “closing that gap” and becoming a consistent NFL force to be reckoned with. The NYJ HC believes that shift is more attainable behind a youth movement and he credited that mindset to Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.

Robert Saleh Attempting Pete Carroll Model in NY

The Jets currently have 10 players drafted in the past two years that are making significant contributions on either side of the football — 11 once quarterback Zach Wilson returns from injury. During his press conference on September 23, Saleh talked about why he has so much faith and trust in these youngsters.

“It was learned in Seattle with Pete [Carroll],” Saleh began, “even if you go all the way back to his USC days, he played a very very young group of guys, all freshmen and sophomores, and then they became the juggernaut that they became. When we got to Seattle, it was just — play the young guys — with the objective being that veterans don’t make mistakes but they’re not nearly as explosive as the young guys. Young guys make tons of mistakes [and] they’re not as smart as the old guys [but they are more explosive]. So how do you get young explosive players to think and play like old guys? Well, you gotta play ’em.”

It’s a bold strategy from Saleh and a risky one as well. Sure, when it all works out you have a perennial Super Bowl contender, like Carroll’s Seahawks team was from 2012-2020. If it doesn’t, you’ll be looking for a new job in the yellow pages.

Year one was closer to the latter but Saleh is confident that this youth movement is close to turning the corner.

“It’s why I stand up here every day and talk to you guys about — just [knowing] it’s going to work. You see the flashes, you see the talent, now can we get that talent to be consistently great,” Saleh voiced. He’s willing to bet the house that the Jets organization can.

Next Stop: ‘Unstoppable Explosiveness’

Saleh continued on during the presser, painting a magical picture of the future — straight out of every Jets fan’s fantasies. To the coach, it’s more than just a dream, it’s the only option.

“That’s the gap we’re trying to close,” he continued, “the unbelievable flash plays that we all see they’re capable of versus the backbreaking [mistakes] that derail some of the things we’re trying to get done. When the gap closes, that’s where it becomes unstoppable explosiveness, and that’s what we’re relentlessly working for.”

You can already see some of the similarities between Saleh’s Jets and Carroll’s Seahawks, both structurally and on a more superficial level — like trusting in a franchise quarterback named Wilson. More important than that coincidental note is the fact that this defensive core is shaping up to be one of the better units in the league.

There are still a few weak spots to round out, but a cornerback crew made up of Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed Jr., Michael Carter II, Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols just has the feel of a potential new age “Legion of Boom.” Especially when you add safety Jordan Whitehead to the mix.

On the pass-rushing side, Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers profile as your Cliff Avril or your Michael Bennett and Quinnen Williams could be something that Seattle never had — a game-wrecking defensive tackle. Granted, the Jets are missing Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright at linebacker, but there’s still time to fill in the gaps.

On offense, you could argue that the Jets have a better cast of playmakers than that 2013 championship roster in Seattle. The Seahawks’ top wide receiver at the time, Golden Tate, finished with 898 receiving yards and their starting tight end (Zach Miller) had less than 400.

Seattle did have a tough 1,000-yard rusher in Marshawn Lynch but the Jets have Breece Hall and Michael Carter, who should end up forming a stronger one-two punch.

As always, the key is the quarterback position. Russell Wilson was a magician in his prime — he made things happen and was as clutch as they come. Zach Wilson must become the same thing for the Jets, or at the very least, an upgrade on backups like Joe Flacco and Mike White.

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