The NY Jets have a positive history with first-year coaches and first-year turnarounds. Could Robert Saleh be the next in line to follow suit?
When it comes to the Jets, the term 'positive history' seems like a foreign concept. But if you are a longtime Jets fan, you have seen this movie before.
And it wouldn't be off-script to see Robert Saleh leading the Jets to the playoffs in year one of his head coaching career — as far-fetched as that may sound to some.
You don't have to dig too far in the team's archives to find instances where the green and white have exceeded expectations in year one of a new coaching regime or even with a rookie head coach and quarterback at the helm.
Can Robert Saleh duplicate the early success of previous NY Jets head coaches?
See Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez in 2009 getting to the AFC Championship Game together.
In 1996, the NY Jets were 1-15. A year later, the legendary Bill Parcells arrived and turned around the Jets losing culture for years to come by winning nine games and nearly taking Gang Green to the playoffs before getting them to an AFC Championship Game in 1998.
It wasn't only Bill Parcells and Rex Ryan who had immediate success upon taking leadership of the NY Jets.
From 1997 to the present day, six Jets head coaches have experienced winning seasons or made the playoffs in their first year — Bill Parcells (9-7), Al Groh (9-7), Herman Edwards (10-6), Eric Mangini (10-6), Rex Ryan (9-7), and Todd Bowles (10-6).
Some of the head coaches during that run greatly exceeded expectations from the year prior.
Eric Mangini, a rookie head coach, took over a last-place four-win Jets team, won 10 games in 2006, and got the Jets into the playoffs. As a result, Mangini received the infamous "Man Genius" label with a cameo on the legendary TV series, The Sopranos.
Todd Bowles, a rookie head coach, won 10 games in his first year — the year prior, the team had only four wins.
Although most of these first-time head coaches had varying levels of success in their first year on the job with the Jets, like Bowles and Mangini, they were ultimately unable to sustain it over the long haul.
The hope with the Jets faithful is that Robert Saleh will build a winning culture that stands the test of time. Saleh doesn't necessarily need to turn things around dramatically in year one for his tenure to be a success.
However, the fact is that recent Jets history shows that a first-year head coach can make an impact immediately.
As a matter of fact, the recent history of successful first-year head coaches extends beyond the NY Jets.
In the last 10 NFL seasons, from 2011-2020, 12 different first-time head coaches have made the playoffs.
In the last four seasons alone, Sean McVay (2017), Sean McDermott (2017), Frank Reich (2018), Matt Nagy (2018), Matt LaFleur (2019), and Kevin Stefanski (2020) all made the playoffs in year one as rookie head coaches.
Each one of these first-time head coaches inherited different situations. But there are two names on this list that stand out and correlate to Robert Saleh and the Jets.
In the case of Sean McDermott and Kevin Stefanski, they took over the reins with the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, respectively. Both franchises were down in the dumps for years, poorly run, and each had extended playoff droughts.
It took the Bills nearly two decades, from 1999-2017, to finally make the playoffs. In 2020, Buffalo won their first playoff game since 1995.
For the first time in 18 years, the Cleveland Browns ended their long playoff drought last season — only three seasons removed from the misery of going 0-16.
Not only have McDermott and Stefanski brought their franchises out of the darkness and into the light, but both of their teams are well-positioned to be contenders for a long time.
Much of this can be attributed to them finding and developing franchise quarterbacks in Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Still, the leadership traits of McDermott and Stefanski can't be overlooked.
It took a while, but the bottom line is that the Bills and Browns have finally got it right and they have built their teams the right way. It all started with getting the right person in the high chair.
The NY Jets are now in the position where the Browns and Bills were. Ultimately, Gang Green would love to get to where those franchises currently reside.
Robert Saleh has inherited a team coming off a two-win season last year, and the Jets now own the longest playoff drought in the NFL, having gone 10 consecutive seasons without making the playoffs.
The likelihood that they fail to do so in 2021 will tie the franchise's longest postseason drought set over 11 seasons from 1970-1980.
But the recent success of McDermott and Stefanski is proof that success can come early for new head coaches who take over franchises that have hit rock bottom.
Anyone who has closely followed the Jets this offseason would be hard-pressed to deny the positive vibes coming out of Florham Park. The person who is responsible for the newfound hope and optimism is Robert Saleh.
Everything about the franchise feels different from what has been a long period of lifelessness. And the feeling is that the positive vibes created by Saleh will eventually transfer to the field and produce positive results.
NY Jets fans hope that Robert Saleh can do the same thing for Gang Green that coaches like Sean McDermott and Kevin Stefanski have done for their franchises.
It may not come immediately in 2021, but then again, it might.