Jets HC Robert Saleh Open to Veteran Reunion: ‘The Door Is Not Closed Here’

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh at training camp on July 29, 2021.

The New York Jets decided to move on from polarizing former starter Greg Van Roten on May 6 after claiming Nate Herbig from the Philadelphia Eagles. As a Long Island native and childhood fan of the team who was benched in 2021 and criticized often, few recent NYJ athletes have experienced the highs and lows of NYC fandom like ‘GVR’ has.

Despite his hot-and-cold standing with the fanbase, Van Roten appeared to take on a leadership role in the locker room as the union player representative during the pandemic and the organizer of offseason outings at New York Islanders games.

Some will point to his brutally honest comments about Zach Wilson to refute this, but head coach Robert Saleh’s thoughts on the veteran’s release tell a different story.

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Saleh Open to Bringing Back Van Roten

During his rookie minicamp press conference on May 7, reporters asked Coach Saleh to comment on the decision to cut Van Roten.

“GVR is phenomenal, phenomenal man,” Saleh began before opening the door to a return. “Really appreciated time with him and it’s not over, just talking with Joe, we’d love to have him back as the offseason goes… GVR has a place in this league and there [are] opportunities — starting opportunities at a few places — just talking with Joe, thought maybe, give him that opportunity to see if he can get somewhere to compete for a starting job and all that but at the same time, the door is not closed here. We would love to have Greg back.”

It was a telling quote from Saleh which confirmed that despite public opinion at times, GVR was considered a veteran leader on this team. Providing the guard with the early release allows him a chance to latch on somewhere else, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see that happen sooner than later.

Beat reporter Connor Hughes of The Athletic noted: “If [Van Roten] has [a] chance to go and start, [the Jets] wanted to give him that. Sounds like, if he can’t find that, the Jets will bring him back.”

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Lifelong ‘Dream Come True’ Could Be Over

During episode 3 of the 2021 season of “One Jets Drive,” GVR was featured throughout. The NYJ documentary team referred to the offensive lineman’s homecoming as a “dream come true.”

“I grew up 25 minutes away from here,” Van Roten told viewers, “so, just down the road [in Long Island] and I was probably the same as I am now as a kid, just bigger [now].” The long-time NFL veteran was born in Rockville Centre and went to high school at Chaminade in Mineola.

“I’m home,” GVR concluded in the documentary.

Unfortunately, barring some sort of reunion down the line, the lifelong dream was cut short after two seasons and 30 appearances. Van Roten started 23 of those outings, finishing with mixed results.

Pro Football Focus charged the Jets’ right guard with six sacks and 61 quarterback pressures allowed over his tenure with the franchise. After struggling more as a run blocker in year one, GVR actually turned things around and put together the best run-blocking campaign of his career in 2021 according to PFF, at a 75.0 score.

His greatest performance came in the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets ran for 273 yards on the ground that day, which ended up finishing the 2021 season as the top single-game rushing total in the NFL.

This effort came after Van Roten was benched for Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and was a nice bounceback for the veteran blocker.

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