FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Robert Saleh has made quite an impression on Jets’ players in his first training camp as an NFL head coach.
Saleh is known for his passion and intensity on the sideline as the 49ers defensive coordinator. He was often shown pumping his fist and hugging his players when his defense made a big stop.
He hasn’t displayed that side publicly since becoming head coach of the Jets. But Saleh has said enough to them privately and in team meetings to inspire them.
"He’s what I would call a leader of men," Jets center Connor McGovern said after Monday’s practice. "He doesn’t think that Xs and Os win football games. He knows players win football games. He’s the kind of guy that’s going to motivate everybody. He makes it simple enough where we can play fast and play incredibly effective but not so simple that it’s easy to beat.
"He’s a head coach that I’ve always wanted to play for."
This was a stark and welcome change from the past regime. Saleh replaced Adam Gase after last year’s dismal 2-14 season.
A former offensive coordinator who was considered a quarterback guru, Gase never developed former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold into a franchise QB, ran one of the worst offenses in team history and spent little time with the defense. Gase left that up to former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Saleh oversees the entire team and has set a standard for everyone wearing a Jets’ uniform. He said he wants his team to "play fast and play physical."
The Jets easily have bought in to what Saleh is preaching. It’s led to excitement and anticipation — in and out of the building — at what this team can accomplish when the regular season starts.
"I mean in the nicest way possible," McGovern said, "the Jets’ previous head coaches have been gurus. They’ve been Xs and Os guys. We’re going to beat you with the better scheme. Saleh says we’re going to beat you because we work harder, play with higher effort."
Veteran linebacker C.J. Mosley said Saleh has created an atmosphere of "controlled chaos." Mosley also said that Saleh and his coaching staff — many of them are in their positions for the first time as well — have their attention because their systems work.
Saleh led the 49ers defense that reached the Super Bowl two seasons ago. He was a defensive assistant on the Seahawks team that won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season.
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has worked on staffs in Atlanta and San Francisco that made Super Bowls. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, in his first full season in that position after being an interim for Atlanta last year, coached on the Falcons’ Super Bowl team.
"One of the most exciting things is the offense and defensive side of the ball we have coordinators that have gotten to the championship, to the Super Bowl," Mosley said. "Coming into the system, that gets you a little excited, like ‘OK, this has been proven to work.’
"We have to do our job on the field and off the field to make sure we’re doing the right thing, looking at the right keys, and learning the right techniques to put us in the best position."
Saleh can see the players are following the lead of the coaches and trying to play up to the standard he is setting. He said that Monday’s practice was their "fastest non-padded practice" that they’ve had.
"The standard at which we operate, the style at which we operate, those are what’s most important," Saleh said. "We can talk about scheme and all that stuff. You can have the greatest scheme in the world but if you’re not operating to a standard it’s not going to work anyway.
"This whole training camp and every training camp from now until forever is always going to be about establishing and maintaining that standard. Scheme will take care of itself. But if you can have the standard of getting better every day and that focus every moment and owning every moment that have, you trust that it will work out."