Robert Saleh New York Jets
(courtesy IG: @49ers)

The New York Jets have named Robert Saleh the 22nd head coach in franchise history. There was no better fit for the role.

New York Jets fans were never satisfied by the Adam Gase hiring. Something never clicked between the coach, the fanbase and the players. And, apparently, the organization as well.

So when the New York Jets fired Gase, rumors began to swirl that the Jets were on the lookout for an alpha-dog head coach.

They wanted a CEO-type who could run the whole team. Basically, they wanted the opposite of Gase, who put his entire focus into running the Jets offense and left everything else to his staff.

That’s exactly what they got in Robert Saleh.

Still, many fans were hoping that the Jets would land the next great offensive mind. They wanted someone who could develop a quarterback, whether that’s Sam Darnold or someone they draft.

Arthur Smith was a hot name in connection to the job even before Gase was fired, and he was a finalist. Joe Brady was interviewed, as was Eric Bieniemy. However, the Jets never felt the pressure to add an offensive mind.

The Jets ran a wide-open head coaching search with coaches from both sides of the ball. Eventually, the Jets and their fans fell in love with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. With good reason, he’s exactly what the Jets need right now. As I said in my initial profile on Saleh, he’s the complete opposite of Adam Gase. He’s the opposite in scheme, culture, and teaching.

This is a new era in Jets history. Everyone involved hopes that Saleh and Joe Douglas are about to bring a culture change to the embattled franchise.

Culture Fit

Joe Douglas has been about as big on culture as anyone can be since taking over as the Jets’ general manager. It’s the first thing he brings up in every press conference and he backs it up in his player evaluations.

Douglas drafted only one player who wasn’t a senior in the 2020 NFL Draft, Mekhi Becton. He only drafted two players who weren’t team captain, Becton and Denzel Mims.

Building the right culture is important to Douglas. Coming from the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles he saw how a Super Bowl champion was built. What he took from that time learning is that the right locker room structure and organizational culture can change everything.

So, when Gase was fired Douglas searching for someone who fit the culture he was trying to build. He found that guy in Robert Saleh.

Saleh is a fiery personality who is known for his ability to connect with his players. His players absolutely love playing for him. In fact, as soon as he was hired guys like Richard Sherman and Robbie Gould immediately sent out tweets congratulating both Saleh and the Jets on the hire.

That’s a stark contrast to Gase, who was driven out of Miami after ruining relationships with players. Jarvis Landry had nothing good to say about his time with Gase in Miami. Under Gase, the New York Jets left nothing but angry players behind. Quincy Enunwa was upset with the franchise. Kelechi Osemele blamed them for making him play through an injury. Luke Falk actually sued the team for how he was treated.

There’s no more clear vision of how the culture under Saleh will be different than Gase, then listening to Saleh talk about how he’s going to build his staff.

It also shouldn’t be dismissed that Saleh has just become the first Muslim-American head coach in NFL history. When coaches break barriers like that it immediately grabs the respect of players.

If all goes well then Saleh is about to change the culture in New York for the better. That’s exactly what Joe Douglas wanted.

Scheme Fit

Defensive Scheme

Robert Saleh is going to bring a Seattle Seahawks-like 4-3 defense to the New York Jets. Saleh spent the majority of his coaching career under Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley, so that’s informed his scheming. That means he’ll be playing a lot of 4-3 base looks with cover 3 press zone coverage. That’s the base of his defense.

It’s an entirely different look from Gregg William’s single-high safety look. Instead of playing zone and leaving Marcus Maye over the top, Saleh will leave both safeties high and drop another cornerback into deep zone coverage. The best fit for the Jets in that role would be Brian Poole. He excelled in a similar role under Williams during his time with the Jets.

Unfortunately for the Jets, both Marcus Maye and Brian Poole are free agents. It’s possible the Jets re-sign one or both of them. That said, it’s no guarantee that either one will come back.

There will be a few players who love the change in scheme. Notably, Bryce Hall, Quinnen Williams, and John Franklin-Myers are perfect fits.

Bryce Hall excelled as a press zone corner at Virginia during his college career. So, he’ll be happy to hear that he’ll get to play that role on a regular basis in 2021.

Meanwhile, Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers make up one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing interior line duo in the NFL. Only Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers and Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt combined for more pressures in 2020. That’s great news for Saleh who got the most out of Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in San Francisco. Expect Quinnen and JFM to be a huge part of the Jets turnaround under Saleh.

Offensive Scheme

Saleh is expected to bring Mike LaFleur with him as his offensive coordinator. LaFleur is a Kyle Shanahan disciple through and through. He was with him in Cleveland, followed him to Atlanta, and then again to San Francisco. He’s coached under Shanahan for his entire coaching career.

Now he’s striking out on his own with Saleh. That means the Jets are going to be running some variation of the Shanahan offense. It’s not clear how different LaFleur’s version of the offense will be, but one thing that’s clear is that he’s going to want receivers who excel with YAC.

As 49ers passing game coordinator LaFleur built that offense on short passes and YAC. The 49ers specifically targeted receivers like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk for their YAC ability. The idea is pretty simple, get the ball into the hands of your playmakers and let them make plays.

The issue is the Jets don’t really have receivers who fit that mold right now. Mims is more of a vertical threat than a YAC receiver. Jamison Crowder is a strong YAC receiver, but he’s due $11 million in 2021 and could be a cap casualty as a result.

One receiver to keep an eye on in the 2021 NFL Draft is Rondale Moore. The Purdue product gained 70.2% of all his total yardage in college from YAC. His ability in open space combined with his world-class athleticism makes him a perfect fit for the Shanahan scheme.

At quarterback, it’s impossible to know what the Jets are going to do. Sam Darnold may be the best fit for the Shanahan offense that the Jets can realistically target this offseason. Zach Wilson’s biggest issue at BYU was his short passing game. Meanwhile, Justin Fields may be too raw for the Jets to trust at #2.

It’s hard to know what exactly the New York Jets offense is going to look like in 2021, but one thing is for sure. The Jets are going to be running a modern NFL offense. Not the antiquated scheme that Gase was running.

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