Robert Saleh Wants Jets to Form ‘Shifting, Organic Identity’

New York Jets exit the tunnel

Getty The New York Jets take the field at MetLife Stadium on October 11, 2020.

Culture. Identity. These are terms we hear a lot when discussing NFL franchises.

The legendary teams have it. The struggling teams don’t seem to understand how to create or sustain it. New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh understands how to form it.

“The identity of the team is going to happen organically, and if you try to force-feed an identity just because of what you want it to be as an individual I think sometimes you kind of counteract what you are trying to get done,” Saleh told Jets media on June 17, 2021.

This mentality is a total 180 from recent Jets coaches like Adam Gase, Todd Bowles, and even the hard-nosed defensive-minded Rex Ryan. They all wanted players that would conform to their system, while Saleh would prefer his staff adapts based on the strengths of its roster.

To drive this point home, he references a couple of the greatest NFL head coaches of all time, Don Shula and Bill Belichick.

We have also heard echoes of this mindset from Saleh’s coaches. Mike LaFleur said he wanted to “fit” his offense to his players when he first addressed the media.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich told the media his system would be based around two core principles, “simplicity and player’s first.

Offensive line coach John Benton even discussed how this rushing attack is designed to help his blockers “attack the defense.

Saleh runs a famous 4-3 defensive scheme. LaFleur uses a well-known Shanahan-styled west coast offense. The head coach isn’t saying his team won’t have a playbook in place, he’s saying that they will form a “shifting” identity that’s known for overcoming whatever adversity they face.

A team like that would be very challenging to gameplan against. Saleh seems to agree, stating that he believes the Jets are “built in the way that the identity is going to be something that we’re all excited to watch on Sunday.”

Jets Will Develop the Youth

The identity may not form until the Jets face adversity (according to Saleh), but we have found that Joe Douglas and his head coach have a few core principles that they are willing to live and die on.

One that has been debated by many fans all spring has been the unwavering commitment to the youth. It has become adamantly clear that this front office would prefer to develop their draft picks rather than sign up a bunch of veterans, like Jets administrations of years past.

There have been a few areas on the roster where we have seen this in particular, like the cornerback room. Saleh has fielded questions on this group many times over the course of the last month or so, and he did again at the end of minicamp.

When asked if there was any possibility the Jets might still “add a body” a corner, Saleh noted that most players in the NFL have a “minimal” difference in talent (outside of the Aaron Donalds of the league). He believes that the only things keeping a rookie or second-year prospect from becoming a starter are “opportunity and reps.”

When the reporters persisted, he told them a really cool lesson that he learned during his time in Seattle: “Pete Carroll once said you can’t be afraid to play young guys. They’re hell on wheels and they’re fun to watch because it can go either way. Mentally there are so many things that they can learn. There’s going to be ups and downs, that’s part of youth, but if you coach and you invest and as a player, you reciprocate and invest back… that’s where you become an explosive team in a hurry.”

Another young room that the Jets have been steadfast in keeping that way is the quarterback room. Fans have been screaming for a veteran backup all offseason, but Saleh and Douglas are determined to give James Morgan and Mike White a real shot to earn the job.

Saleh finished by saying this: “You can’t as a football coach be afraid to go through those bumps because, [at] the end of the road, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It might be a freight train or it’s actual light but it don’t matter we’re going through that tunnel and you just gotta go.”

Jets Will Build the Trenches

Another Douglas-Saleh philosophy is to build the trenches, meaning the offensive and defensive line. We already know that the Jets have done this at great length the past two offseasons, so let me just show you the depth of this list.

How’s that for building the trenches? By the way, I didn’t even include most of the undrafted free agents Douglas brought in on both sides of the line of scrimmage in 2021.

I also didn’t include Morgan Moses, who is rumored to be close to signing with Gang Green according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Jets Will Target High-Character Personnel

The third pillar of the new Jets culture that I’ve noticed dives into the character of the people that Douglas has added to this organization.

Saleh and his GM won’t just bring in a veteran, they will only do so if that veteran also displays leadership qualities. They won’t just draft athletes with talent, they’ll draft prospects that are dedicated to growth and understanding. They won’t just hire any old coaches, they’ll hire experience that lives and breathes to teach this game.

“Adversity will be the cement that creates and solidifies everything that’s been built,” Saleh reiterated to the media towards the end of the press conference.

He continued on to say: “It’s cool that there’s a positive outlook, it’s exciting that there’s a positive outlook, but we haven’t even scratched the surface yet in terms of what the overall outlook of this organization will be for not only this year but the years to come.”

Buckle up Jets fans.

Do you like the idea of a shifting identity? Reach us on Facebook @HeavyOnJets, or Twitter @obermuller_nyj and @BoyGreen25.

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