robert saleh joe flacco jets
The Record

We may not know much about winning football in this town. But we are experts in the art of head coaches committing career arson. And Robert Saleh started playing with the matches on Monday.

First, he informed the world the Ravens did not beat his team. No, the Jets just lost the game. Never mind the relentless Baltimore pass rush that hammered Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson’s 213 pass yards and three touchdowns. Those were minor details. If not for a few self-inflicted miscues, it would have been 24-9 the other way at MetLife Stadium.

Then Saleh delivered the true chestnut of the day-after Zoom call with the local media (which he then doubled down on during an audience with ESPN Radio New York’s Michael Kay).

“We’re all taking receipts on all the people who continually mock and say that we ain’t going to do anything,” he said. “I’m taking receipts. And I’m going to be more than happy to share them with all y’all when it’s all said and done.”

Is Saleh also fielding phone calls from pending free agents who want to express their burning desire to be Jets in his free time?


We kid. But not completely. Because Saleh’s job has suddenly begun to seem too big for him. Just like with Joe Judge. And Adam Gase. And Ben McAdoo. They arrived with promise, flashed potential and then melted down in spectacular fashion.

What has to terrify the Jets right now: It feels like Saleh has begun tracing their collective footsteps of failure over the last week. It’s not just these cheeky press conference comments, although Judge taught us you can talk yourself out of a job. It’s another putrid loss and a perpetually-incompetent offense. A glaring lack of discipline, organization and preparation. The sloppy lies about Zach Wilson’s injury status earlier in the week.

You even start to look back. Early warning signs suddenly seemed obvious when the end game became clear for Gase, Judge and McAdoo. Oversized suits, bulging eyes, monotonous messaging, temper tantrums about the Eagles tanking. Now recall that unauthorized state police escort to the Knicks playoff game. Or the foot-in-mouth moments during the Mike White craze last fall.

(Note: Pat Shurmur did not blow himself up. He was just a lousy coach and an awful hire. The only people who thought he would win anything with the Giants were him, his family, John Mara and Dave Gettleman. And even a few of those folks probably had doubts.)

Saleh is a likable guy with a strong resume and captivating personal story. You want to believe he is the guy and the Jets have gotten it right. To his credit, Saleh has done some good things here. And has been dealt with challenges out of his control. But the same was said for Gase, Judge and McAdoo.

There were valid arguments to give them each a third season. But all were quickly disregarded given the generally shambolic nature of their tenures. If Saleh thinks Wilson’s injury and losing Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown on the offensive line should guarantee him 2023, think again. Fair or not, Saleh does not get to start the history of the Jets with his first day on the job. He carries the burden of the NFL’s longest playoff drought and years of dumpster fire football. If Saleh is not up to it, they will give the next guy with the improved roster general manager Joe Douglas has built.

Coaching a football team in New York City is not for the faint of heart. We would argue only five men in the last 30-plus years have been capable: Tom Coughlin, Jim Fassel, Herm Edwards, Bill Parcells and Rex Ryan. And only Parcells got to leave anywhere close to the top. We cannot rule Saleh out yet. But we certainly would not wager on it.

If you want to be charitable, you will chalk up this latest silly episode with Saleh as nothing more than a coach trying to stand up for his player and redirect the heat. But there is a fine line between defense and delusion, and it sure feels like Saleh crossed over it. Plus his other foibles, both recent and not as much. A Jets season that began with refreshing optimism seems ready to go up in flames. And the coach is inexplicably straining for the fuse.

James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JamesKratch.

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.