With the hiring of Robert Saleh as the new Jets head coach in January, the Jets front office signaled its belief in a continuing trend in the NFL – great coordinators can make great head coaches.
Saleh’s hiring from the San Francisco 49ers over to the Jets is a story that has become all too familiar throughout the NFL coaching ranks and the jury will no doubt be out and waiting to see how the Jets will fare during the 2021 season.
Robert Saleh does bring a very impressive coaching resume to the Jets organization and his hiring does seem like a step in the right direction for a team that has become comfortable sitting at the bottom of the AFC East. Saleh played TE at Northern Michigan during his college days and then quickly moved through the college coaching ranks into the NFL.
A stop in Houston as a defensive quality control analyst led him to be hired by the Seahawks and become a part of the “Legion of Boom” under head coach Pete Carroll and then DC Gus Bradley, where Saleh learned the defensive schemes that would later pay dividends in San Francisco. As the DC with the 49’ers, Saleh developed an ever-flexible 4-3 defensive strategy that utilized the talent that he had available and he proved his worth as a defensive play-caller.
The true question remaining is whether or not Robert Saleh can translate his defensive success as a coordinator into a successful stop as a head coach with the Jets.
As mentioned earlier, there is a continued trend in the NFL to promote successful coordinators into head coaching positions. While this practice does not necessarily mean automatic success or failure for newly-promoted coordinators, there have been mixed results recently with this growing trend. Working off of Bill Belichick’s coaching tree, numerous recent coordinators have had limited winning percentages when promoted to an NFL head coaching position. Matt Patricia, the long time DC in New England for Bill Belichick, ended up with a disastrous inaugural stint as the HC of the Detroit Lions and posted a 13-29-1 record and was chased out of Detroit in midseason last year (and Patricia has returned back to work for his old HC in an undisclosed analyst role.)
Also coming out of the Patriots coaching tree under Belichick, both Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels had failed HC stints with Mangini making stops with the Jets and Browns and McDaniels bolstering an 11-17 record with the Broncos before returning to New England to resume offensive play-calling duties. However, a recent success coming off of the Belichick coaching tree has been current Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.
During the 2019 season, Flores posted a 5-11 record and went 5-4 after starting the season with a disastrous 0-7. In 2020, Flores showed that he is a legitimate head coach by posting a 10-6 record and barely missing the playoffs.
The biggest challenge for Robert Saleh is for him to prove to fans, players, and the Jets front office that he is the right hire at the right time for this organization.
The Jets have spiraled into one of the cellar-dweller franchises in the NFL and if Saleh can improve on a horrible 2-14 season and show progress quickly, his hiring will prove to be a prudent move much in the same vein as the Brian Flores hiring in Miami. However, Saleh will have a mountain to climb in order to pull the Jets out of the bottom of the AFC East.
Bringing a staff of 11 new coaches Saleh has worked with before in other NFL stops will enable him to transition into more of a comprehensive, game-altering type of change that the Jets will surely need in order to be remotely competitive in this upcoming season.
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