The Jets announced Thursday night that they had reached an agreement in principle with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to become their new head coach. The move marks a return to the mindset the franchise has held for the better part of a quarter-century.
Saleh is succeeding Adam Gase, who was fired after the Jets’ Week 17 loss to the Patriots. The Jets finished 2-14 in 2020 after losing their first 13 games. Gase was 9-23 in two seasons with the team.
New York is getting one of the hottest coaching prospects in the NFL, a coordinator who led a Super Bowl-caliber unit two years ago and a group that was fifth in total defense this year despite multiple injuries to key players.
It’s also returning to its recent philosophy of going with a defensive mind as its head coach. Todd Bowles, Rex Ryan, Eric Mangini, Herm Edwards, Al Groh, Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells all hailed from that side of the ball, with Gase breaking the string. The Jets were 24th in total defense, 28th against the pass and 26th in scoring defense this season under coordinators Gregg Williams and Frank Bush.
The Jets are also following the pack when it comes to coaches in their division: Belichick, the Bills’ Sean McDermott and the Dolphins’ Brian Flores all have defensive backgrounds.
But New York is bucking a trend, as well, by not hiring a young offensive hotshot: think Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, Kevin Stefanski, Kliff Kingsbury, Matt Rhule and Zac Taylor.
And Saleh is inheriting the worst offense in the NFL (32nd in yards and scoring in 2020), which makes his choice of offensive coordinator crucial. There’s also the likelihood that he will go with a new quarterback in 2021 over incumbent Sam Darnold. New York will pick second in the NFL Draft in April; it could turn to Ohio State’s Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson if it wants to start over at the position.