In today’s NFL, there are a handful of coaches considered the best in the league. Most of us can agree that the top of the list consists of Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs), Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers), Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams), and Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers).
These coaches have had undeniable success, boasting a combined win-loss record of 435-247 (64% win percentage), 31 playoff appearances, eight Super Bowl appearances, and four Super Bowl victories.
When compared to Robert Saleh’s dismal win-loss record of 18-33 with zero playoff appearances, my argument to retain Saleh as head coach seems moot from the jump. But there are a few similarities between these coaches and Saleh that cannot be denied.
Of the top four coaches I mentioned, three of them are considered offensive gurus. In the years they won their respective Super Bowls, they had some of the best coordinators that the game had to offer on their staff.
Reid with the Chiefs had Steve Spagnuolo as his defensive coordinator, who won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2008 by helping defeat the then-undefeated New England Patriots.
Kyle Shanahan had Robert Saleh as his defensive coordinator when they reached the Super Bowl in 2020, and they held Patrick Mahomes to a QBR of 63.5.
The Los Angeles Rams had Wade Phillips. Phillips is considered by some to be a top-five defensive coordinator of all time. Phillips' lone Super Bowl victory in 2016 was also the last time a defensive player won MVP in Von Miller.
Mike Tomlin is the only defensive-minded head coach of the four, and he boasts an incredible 17 straight winning seasons streak but has seen little success in the postseason in recent years.
His lone Super Bowl win and last Super Bowl appearance came in 2009 and 2010 respectively, with Bruce Arians as his offensive coordinator. Arians went on to win a Super Bowl with the GOAT Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, but he also had success at the highest level with a win percentage of 62.4% as a head coach.
Why Robert Saleh's staff is more to blame for NY Jets failures
Now let’s circle back to Robert Saleh. Saleh is one of the best defensive minds in the game today. He took over a Jets defense in 2021 that ranked 26th in points allowed the year before.
Since his first year as head coach, the Jets continue to rise in defensive rankings and young players are becoming ascending stars in the league. He has helped develop Quinnen Williams, Quincy Williams, and Sauce Gardner into All-Pro players, and the ascent of players like Quincy Williams and Bryce Huff are reasons to be excited about the future.
Unfortunately for us Jets fans, this has not translated to wins. But look at all the best head coaches outlined above; they all had top-tier opposite-side-of-the-ball coordinators in their most successful years. And this is truly where the Jets have failed.
Robert Saleh and management have made bad decisions regarding the offensive side of the ball. Mike LaFleur was young and unproven, and his best days are in front of him.
We all know Nathaniel Hackett’s history. But to recap, he had success with a mediocre quarterback in Blake Bortles which was followed up by success with one of the most talented quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers. And of course, the debacle in Denver is well documented.
That Bortles season was in 2017, which saw offensive schemes heavily reliant on the run game and play action. While that type of system can still work today, you still need a star QB to make plays and most importantly a top-of-the-league offensive line. The Jets had neither and they hoped Aaron Rodgers would fix everything.
With a quarterback like Rodgers, much of your offense is determined by what he sees pre-snap and the audibles he makes before the snap. As reported by The Athletic's Dianna Russini and Zack Rosenblatt, Hackett seemed to have no offensive adjustments throughout the entire season once Rodgers got hurt.
Nathaniel Hackett revives nightmares of Adam Gase
The offensive coordinator calls in the formation and play, but the final outcome is largely dependent on the player under center. The Rodgers-Hackett relationship is eerily similar to the Peyton Manning-Adam Gase relationship. Let’s go back to 2019 when the Jets fell victim to a similar trap.
Gase was hired for the success he had with Manning and the Denver Broncos. He followed up that success with a couple of mediocre years in Miami, ending his tenure with an overall losing record.
It was reported by ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that Manning called up Christopher Johnson and personally recommended Gase for the head coach role. Gase led the Jets to rock bottom, finishing his tenure with an abysmal record of 9-23.
Gase’s only real success in his career came when he was coaching Manning, who was a quarterback known to call his own plays and make audibles at the line. This is exactly where the Jets are now with Rodgers and Hackett.
Hackett without Rodgers is ugly, as we saw in Denver and with the Jets this season. Hackett is back because Rodgers lasted only four snaps; we still don’t know exactly what this pair is capable of.
As Jets fans, we can only hope they mimic the same success that Manning-Gase had in 2013 when Manning broke records and led his team to the Super Bowl.
Robert Saleh deserves another chance, just for the improvement the defense has seen in the past three years. The player development is undisputable and really makes the future exciting.
But unless he pairs himself with an offensive coordinator who is at the top of the league, his days as the Jets head coach are numbered.