When games are lost, jobs are lost. That’s what puts the pressure on. And no two jobs in football are as hard to fight for as starting quarterback and head coach.
The Jets are a popular pick to jump the bar that’s been set for them – they have a good GM, a culture-building coach, and great young talent all at the same time for the first time in decades. But those are just expectations, and expectations aren’t always met.
If they’re not met, someone’s getting fired. Joe Douglas’ drafts have his seat in the office protected, so it would be Zach Wilson or Robert Saleh to go.
Who would go first? There are arguments for both.
The case for Zach Wilson
Quarterbacks are developing their game and reaching their ceiling faster than ever before. People like Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Kyler Murray have sped up the clock in terms of how fast you need to contribute before you need to move on. And while Zach Wilson had flashes of greatness, there’s still a substantial gap between him and many of the top quarterbacks in his conference. If he doesn’t start to approach a realm at least adjacent to that – nobody’s asking him to win a Superbowl – then the Jets’ lack of confidence to compete could signal a lack of confidence in Wilson.
Rebuilding in the AFC doesn’t look like an easy task for the foreseeable future. The conference is as top-heavy as ever, and playing catch-up could be repetitive and exhausting.
It doesn’t help that this upcoming draft class is a heavy quarterback class with names like Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, and Kyle Van Dyke. With many good options on the table, the draft night could be a stressful one should the Jets find themselves in the top seven again. The added sense of urgency could further magnify any upside that these prospects may have uncovered over Wilson in the six months to come in college football.
The case for Robert Saleh
Here’s the reality: young offensive coaches are winning more than ever in the NFL, and hiring practices reflect that. Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur, and Kliff Kingsbury have already laid their claims. Nathaniel Hackett, Mike McDaniel, Kevin O’Connell, and Brian Daboll look to lay theirs. As the league’s direction moves more into creating rules that favor the offensive side of the ball, people like Mike Zimmer, Vic Fangio, Brian Flores, Pete Carroll, Mike Tomlin, and Ron Rivera come under the hot seat more and more frequently.
Robert Saleh could begin to slip into that territory if Zach Wilson flourishes but they still can’t put wins on the board.
In addition, Zach Wilson is Joe Douglas’ prize possession as the first starting quarterback he’s ever selected in the draft. With the success he’s had, he could feel like his drafting success could be the methodical solution to eventually putting Wilson in the position we all think he can be in. If that were the case, Saleh would likely be seen as a limited contributor to the momentum the Jets would be having, and they would seek a coach that had a background more tailored to Wilson’s skill set.