Jets’ Robert Saleh Blasted by Former Pro Bowler for QB Comments

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh against the Detroit Lions in 2022.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh has been very wishy-washy in his handling of the quarterback battle between Zach Wilson and Mike White.

When Saleh first benched Wilson, he immediately assured media members that the youngster would play again at some point this season. As the weeks went by with the top draft prospect inactive, Saleh reiterated that plan to go back to him eventually over and over.

Then finally, White gets hurt and the decision becomes simple. Still, there is the question of Wilson or White once the latter becomes healthy again, and a recent quote from Saleh on that discussion upset a panel of ex-NFL quarterbacks — namely 2005 No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith.

Ex-QB Rips Jets’ Robert Saleh for Zach Wilson Management

“What we do represent here — and I think [general manager] Joe [Douglas is] on the same page — [is] once you get drafted, it doesn’t matter [what pick you were],” Saleh told reporters on December 19. “I don’t care how much you get paid, I don’t care where you [get] drafted, if you’re better by [even the smallest of margins], you’re going to play. That will never change.”

Saleh explained that he learned this from Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, and the example he provided was Russell Wilson winning the starting quarterback job over Matt Flynn despite the financial investment that the Seahawks had already made in Flynn. That decision obviously worked out very well for Carroll, who won one Super Bowl with Russell Wilson and came close to a second.

Smith didn’t love that public admission from Saleh, and apparently, he hasn’t liked the way the Jets HC has handled this situation from day one.

Ahead of the Monday Night Football broadcast on ESPN, Smith discussed the Jets QB conversation with Hall of Famer Steve Young and fellow top-three draft pick Robert Griffin III — being that all three know what Wilson is going through as former top prospects at quarterback.

“Zach Wilson was always a high ceiling, a bit of a project in the sense that he came out early [and] was incredibly young, and for me, as much as we want to compliment Coach Saleh and what he’s done with this team — the kind of quick turnaround in two years — he deserves just as much criticism for what he’s done in his quarterback room,” Smith argued. “The QB musical chairs weekly, like — ‘You’re the starter this week, you’re the backup, you’re not dressing, no, you start this week, you’re not dressing.’ The lack of consistency, the lack of a plan that has been in place to develop Zach Wilson [is concerning].”

“And then to hear him say that the draft doesn’t matter,” Smith continued, “to me that’s spoken like somebody who hasn’t been drafted No. 2 overall. There is a reality to [being] drafted to the New York market — and this is a fanbase and an organization that is incredibly unique — and to be the No. 2 overall pick and the expectations that come with that to turn around an organization, and then to not have a plan to support this kid to go do that.”

Griffin interjected, clarifying that Smith is saying Saleh has “mismanaged” the Jets quarterback room, to which the Smith replied “yes.” BYU writer Aaron Bagley shared the two video clips from this discussion on Twitter.

Have the Jets Successfully Lifted Zach Wilson Up?

When the Jets first drafted Wilson, they told him that the organization would lift him up over the phone, not the other way around. You could argue that Gang Green has attempted to do this to some extent.

Not only have they built a tremendous defense that has helped Wilson win games, but Douglas has also surrounded him with playmakers like Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Michael Carter, Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, Zonovan Knight and more. The one area this front office has failed is the offensive line, and a lot of that is due to injuries.

At the same time, many have agreed with Smith and the panel above that the New York coaching staff has failed Wilson. After the tragic passing of offensive assistant Greg Knapp, the Jets never brought in a consistent veteran presence — although they did attempt to with hirings like Matt Cavanaugh and John Beck.

For whatever reason, the Jets decided to ditch that plan in 2022 and role with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese. Together, the two younger staff members have a combined age of 67 years old, with just 13 years of NFL coaching experience between them. That’s not good enough.

As Smith stated, Wilson was always a developmental prospect out of BYU. He didn’t necessarily disappoint during his first training camp or preseason, he played as expected, flashing a ton of raw talent mixed with a plethora of fundamental miscues.

From there, one could certainly argue that the Jets coaching staff has continuously botched his progress over and over again based on their lack of scheme adjustments, communication breakdowns, and various pauses in this process — like the recent benching from Saleh.

Part of it is as simple as messaging though. Smith is stating that the Jets have failed Wilson by not supporting him both to the fans and his teammates, and backing the youngster from this point on could go a long way in determining his future with this franchise.

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