With the New York Jets, hope perennially springs eternal, only for it to dissipate midway through the NFL season.
The same pattern has unfolded this year for Gang Green, who were supposed to be revitalized by talented young players and a coaching staff not led by Adam Gase.
Instead, the Jets find themselves at 3-9, and in a familiar place; the cellar of the AFC East.
New head coach Robert Saleh had been a hot candidate on the hiring circuit in the past couple of offseasons.
He served as the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers for four years before being hired in the Big Apple.
Even though there are still five more games on the Jets’ schedule, there’s already a strong case to be made that Saleh should not be brought back for a second season in New York.
Saleh’s bread and butter was made on the defensive side of the football.
Rightfully so, the perception around the 42-year-old coach was that he was one of the best defensive minds in the NFL.
His 49ers defenses were among the most effective in the league in the last three seasons.
This was punctuated by a special 2019 season for San Francisco, where they were top five in a plethora of categories, including yards allowed, points allowed, rushing yards allowed, and rushing touchdowns conceded.
Saleh’s defenses in San Francisco were absolutely loaded with talent at all three levels, and at this point in time, it’s fair to wonder whether the guys on the field had more to do with that success than their coordinator.
The Jets need a talent infusion all over their roster, but the hope for fans was that Saleh would make up for that by motivating and scheming on a high level.
"There's a lot of things to look forward to, but it still comes down to – we've got five games left too." pic.twitter.com/yT6VUV3frb
— New York Jets (@nyjets) December 8, 2021
Of course, it’s usually not a coach’s fault when a cornerstone player goes down with an injury.
Starting quarterback Zach Wilson suffered a PCL injury in a 54-13 defeat to the New England Patriots, and ended up missing four weeks of action.
During that time, the fan base and the media fell in love with reserve quarterback Mike White, who was being billed as an unheralded savior after one impressive performance against the Cincinnati Bengals.
While Saleh is new to the organization and to the New York market, he should have understood that taking this job meant pacifying an impatient (perhaps rightfully so) fan base.
Hitching his wagon to the team’s second overall pick in last year’s draft in a definitive way would’ve quieted the chatter before anything had a chance to develop.
Lack Of Experience At The Top
While every head coach starts as a rookie leader at some point, things don’t figure to get much better for Saleh from a competitive standpoint in the next couple of years.
There’s reason to think he will improve in future seasons at the helm, but he’s in a very difficult division with formidable opposite numbers.
The Patriots are led by Bill Belichick, lauded as the greatest coach in NFL history.
The Buffalo Bills’ Sean McDermott has done an impressive job in the last few years building up a young roster into a contender.
The Miami Dolphins have Brian Flores, who seems to be a coach that players play hard for even during long spells of adversity.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) December 6, 2021
There’s an argument to made that the Jets should bring in a more experienced coach to do battle with the other stalwarts in the AFC East.