NY Jets head coach Robert Saleh has long been lauded for his defensive ideology and ability to maximize the talents of players on that side of the ball. However, he's never exactly been referred to as a QB guru.
One former NFL quarterback decided to take the criticism to the next level, though. 15-year NFL veteran Alex Smith criticized Saleh's inability to develop young quarterbacks, more specifically Zach Wilson, during a recent appearance on SiriusXM's NFL Radio channel.
Smith insisted that Wilson's failures in New York can be directly attributed to Saleh's own shortcomings as it pertains to developing quarterbacks. The three-time Pro Bowler also took shots at former Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, suggesting that he wasn't ready for his role.
Smith reflected on his own experiences playing under offensive-minded and defensive-minded head coaches before the direct criticism of Saleh began.
"Robert Saleh, you’re a great defensive mind and coordinator, but, like, you have no idea how to develop a quarterback. The coordinator you hired never called plays. So, that’s a completely different animal. And as much as you think you’re prepared to handle that development of a young kid, you’re just not."- Alex Smith
Are Robert Saleh and the NY Jets to blame for Zach Wilson's shortcomings?
It should be noted that Smith has long been a defender of Wilson, likely due to his own personal relationship with the third-year quarterback. Smith notably attended the University of Utah, not too far from Wilson's BYU. He's very much in the same vein as someone like Steve Young.
That said, there might be some truth to what Smith is saying. The track record of defensive-minded head coaches developing young quarterbacks isn't nearly as strong as the track record with offensive-minded coaches.
This isn't to say that the Jets shouldn't have hired Saleh when they did, but it's fair to suggest that the front office didn't do everything they could to place Wilson in an ideal situation.
Pairing a defensive-minded head coach with a young, first-time offensive play-caller was a bold strategy, and it was made even more tricky by the team's plan to start Wilson immediately.
General manager Joe Douglas has since lamented the fact that the Jets forced Wilson into a starting role early in his career, insisting that, in hindsight, the team probably should have had a capable veteran to shoulder some of the load.
Of course, Wilson isn't absent of blame — far from it. The former second-overall pick has been an unmitigated disaster through two years with the Jets. His extreme shortcomings can't be entirely chalked up to his environment.
Thankfully, Robert Saleh isn't being tasked with developing the Jets' newest quarterback. Perhaps Saleh will get the opportunity to help assist the growth and maturation of another young QB in the future, but for now, his job is very different.