As a New York Jets fan, it’s never easy being optimistic.
If you go back to June or July of 2021 though, Jets optimism may have been at an all-time high. Since then we’ve seen key injuries, persistent problems on the offensive line, and poor quarterback play from the latest savior of the franchise.
I understand why fans believe this is the same old mess, but I’m here to assure you that it’s not. The main reason for this gut feeling is head coach Robert Saleh.
From day one, Saleh told reporters that his players would face adversity and they’ve faced plenty. Whether it was the death of a beloved coach or the loss of an integral piece, the Green & White have seen it all in a few short months.
The Jets HC has also told fans that 2021 will be a rollercoaster ride filled with highs and lows. Gang Green isn’t just starting a rookie quarterback, they’re utilizing six or seven rookies for a significant portion of their snap share — and most of them have exceeded expectations so far.
As Coach Saleh explained, the mantra ‘All Gas No Brake’ doesn’t mean the franchise is going to turn everything around instantaneously, it represents “finding ways to go to bed better than you woke up.” In other words, it’s a relentless mindset to learn and improve.
If anything, Saleh’s definition of that expression speaks to his latest words of wisdom towards rookie Zach Wilson.
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Saleh Offers an Alternative Line of Thinking
Most people would immediately freak over the fact that Wilson has thrown five interceptions in two games, but not Saleh. He’s as cool as a cucumber and his recent quotes may help explain why.
First of all, the Jets HC has stressed that the number two overall pick must be willing to operate in more of a “boring” style. In the NFL, you can’t always throw the home-run ball, especially as a rookie, and Saleh has been reminding Wilson that it’s okay to check down once in a while or let your playmakers run after the catch.
The BYU product got a little too obsessed with the deep strike in Week 2 and it became a pick-fest in a hurry as the New England Patriots goated him into some overzealous behavior.
On September 22, Coach Saleh reiterated this by saying; “when you look at [Patrick] Mahomes and [Aaron] Rodgers, everyone celebrates how they’re off schedule and all the haymakers, the wow plays, but what gets lost in translation is their ability to just play boring football.” He added that Wilson will learn that there are times where he has to “get the defense playing aggressive” by being boring, which forces them up.
Otherwise, the top coaches and defenders will pick up on your tendencies as a quarterback and make you pay. According to Saleh though, there are positive lessons that you can take from those moments too.
“For Zach, it’s been a good thing that he’s gotten three of the best defenses in football to start the season,” Saleh said before rephrasing slightly. “It’s not a good thing, I should say, but at the same time, he’s going to learn a lot from it.”
I’m not sure I would consider Carolina one of the top defensive units in the league but New England and Denver certainly could be. Wilson played decently against the Panthers, especially in the second half, but what if Week 3 looks more like the home opener? The Broncos field a stout secondary and the game is in Denver, so it’s possible things actually get worse before they get better.
Do not despair if they do, Jets fans. Like Saleh stated, these are all learning experiences that will make Wilson a better quarterback long-term. We all know that the film junkie carries that ‘All Gas No Brake’ mentality into everything that he does. Understand that he carries it into losses more so than wins.
After all, that ability to rebound from failure is what turns the great athletes into legendary ones. It’s also the New York way to dust yourself off and try again, something we can all get behind.
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Denver May Be Wilson’s Greatest Challenge so Far
I said it in this week’s Heavy on Jets roundtable discussion, Week 3 might be the rookie’s greatest challenge yet. I’d actually say it’s gotten progressively harder on him defensively from Carolina, to New England, to Denver — although after Week 3 it gets much easier against porous defenses like Tennessee and Atlanta.
The major difference with the Broncos is that there’s less pressure. One, it’s not a division game against a famous head coach like Bill Belichick that you psych yourself out over. Two, it’s on the road, which could actually mean less pressure after an early mistake.
Saleh discussed the upcoming trial in Denver. “Yeah, the altitude is always a deal, their fanbase is always rabid, they’re 2-0. I’ve got so much respect for [head coach Vic Fangio], I was a [quality control coach] for the man, way back, many many years ago. They’ve done a great job, they’re year three in there with [Fangio] and they’ve got the pieces built together. Teddy Bridgewater does a fantastic job on offense, their back-end is very very talented and obviously, Von Miller [is there] rushing the passer so it’s all in place and their 2-0 start is not a fluke.”
The Jets HC referred to Fangio as a defensive “savant” and the Denver HC has a track record that speaks for itself. His Chicago Bears defense was the number one unit in the NFL in 2018.
“Denver is another one of those great defenses [and] great schemes,” Saleh concluded, “it’s going to be a great challenge for [Wilson].”