New York Jets coach Robert Saleh, one day removed from perhaps the most bitter loss of his 27-game head coaching career, did absolutely fabulous work on Monday.
Faced with a team perhaps on the verge of turning on its young quarterback Zach Wilson, Saleh walked everyone off that terrible precipice. He told players and reporters he’s considering his options before announcing the starting quarterback against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
“We’re keeping everything on the table the next couple of days,” Saleh told reporters.
Asked if he was committed to Wilson the coach answered, “Not right now, not until I’m done evaluating everything.”
That, by the way, is a significant change from last season when Saleh repeatedly said Wilson is the team’s starting quarterback. It’s even a departure from a sentiment Saleh expressed after Sunday’s loss.
But, well, stuff changed.
“I can give you the whole explanation in terms of being on the plane ride and watching the tape and you see some things and writing down notes,” Saleh said. “It’s just me taking a step back … Just take a deep breath and say, ‘You know what? Everything needs to be evaluated’
“When you put up 100 yards of offense, I don’t care how good New England is and they are good, it’s unacceptable. It’s not NFL football. And so everything is being talked about.”
Robert Saleh Could Be Stopping A Jets Divide
And what does that accomplish?
A lot. Immediately.
The burning embers of division that threatened to turn into flames and burn this the team down are now doused.
An underperforming quarterback, who seems maddeningly entitled, is now aware he’s facing accountability.
The rest of the locker room that seemed frustrated after the loss doesn’t turn that frustration on the coaching staff. Because everyone sees Wilson is not being allowed to escape scrutiny or accountability.
And perhaps most important …
Wilson, selected No. 2 overall in the 2021 draft and obviously still in the team’s plans, also doesn’t have the floor so abruptly swept from under him in one day. If he is eventually benched, he cannot say he was caught by surprise.
Saleh accomplished all of this.
Saleh Making Zach Wilson Accountable
He addressed a handful of problems without really making a tangible move. He spoke of considering a move. And that, for the time being, was good enough.
Saleh ultimately instigated zero change. At least not yet. But he seemed to solve problems anyway.
That, at the very least, bought the coach perhaps enough time to keep a simmering situation from boiling over.
Now, this is where I grant you, the issue is not totally resolved.
The Jets will indeed pick a starting quarterback by the start of Wednesday’s practice. It will probably happen even before that.
And, frankly, it should not surprise if Saleh benches Wilson.
But it how Saleh handled the situation gives him a so-called out if he decides to keep Wilson as the starter.
“There’s an evaluation process to make sure we’re doing what’s best for the organization,” Saleh said. “That’s every position. Quarterback position, receiver position, all of them. Offense, defense and special teams.”
Yes, there goes the idea that coaches allow Wilson entitlement, in case you missed it.
Jets Saleh Doesn’t Have A Lot Behind Wilson
So Saleh can now keep Wilson in the lineup because he can make the case the youngster is not just starting based on his draft status. He’s starting because a deep dive into the situation led to the conclusion.
And, make no mistake, benching Wilson is no long-term solution.
Backup Mike White is not the answer. Hasn’t been in the past and probably won’t be in the future. Wilson has a higher ceiling.
And lest anyone forget, the Jets were 1-2 with Flacco as the starter and he was awful in a 27-12 loss to Cincinnati in his last start.
So as bad as Wilson has been, the options are limited.
Now let’s address some QB reputation rebuilding because Saleh did some of that on Monday: He spoke of how Wilson, who seemed unaccountable Sunday, merely needs to improve his press conference skills because unaccountable is not how he really feels.
“Can he be a little bit better in front of you guys when he’s up here on the podium because when you’re standing up here it’s our job to take bullets and own it? Yeah, of course he can,” Saleh said.
“But I don’t think it’s indicative of how he feels about his team or teammates. I don’t think he is naïve to the fact that offense wasn’t played to the best of their ability.”
This is something. After Saleh threatened a sword, he also presented a shield for his quarterback.