FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Robert Saleh’s first two games as an NFL head coach haven’t gone exactly how he hoped or planned. He’s getting advice on what he should do from everyone - even his mother.
"She’ll probably kill me," Saleh said before the Jets practiced on Wednesday. "God bless my mother. Broken English. Doesn’t even know how many yards it takes to get a first down, and she was coaching me up on what we should tell our receivers."
Such is life as a head coach, especially when your team is 0-2 and gets booed in their first home game. Saleh doesn’t even remember what his mother told him.
"I was a little upset at the time so I’m not sure I took it all in, even though I should have" he said. "I’m pretty sure it was something about the…. yeah, I don’t even remember."
"She’s great," Saleh added. "Mothers are supposed to be your greatest fans, right?"
The MetLife Stadium fans weren’t booing Saleh. He’s brought energy and excitement to the Jets’ fan base. They were frustrated because it was their first game back since 2019 and they saw prized rookie quarterback Zach Wilson throw four interceptions and lead no touchdown drives Sunday against the Patriots.
The fans are looking for progress, not the same old, well, you know.
That’s what Saleh is supposed to represent – a sign of positive change. He’s a passionate leader who proved as a defensive coordinator with the 49ers that he can game-plan extremely well and get the most out of his players.
The Jets are one of the NFL’s youngest teams. Player development will be critical to their success this season and beyond. Saleh’s development will be as well.
This is his first time running an entire team. Saleh admits he leans toward the defense when it comes to game planning because that’s his strength. But he also spends time with the offense and coordinator Mike LaFleur to give input and make sure they’re in a good place.
Saleh also meets with his game management coach Matt Burke all the time to discuss things that have happened or make sure they are covered for any situation that arises.
In games, Saleh hasn’t done much that really was head scratching.
"Just revisiting with Burke and having our conversations after the game review and all that, there’s stuff that I could’ve done better," Saleh said. "There’s things that we feel good about and there’s things that we’ve learned off of. It’s going to be a constant learning process.
Second-year receiver Denzel Mims hardly playing in Week 1 and being inactive last week has raised eyebrows and drawn the fans’ ire.
Saleh threw a challenge flag in the New England game when the Jets came up with a fumble. But the play couldn’t be challenged because the officials said forward progress had stopped.
Some were bothered by the Jets kicking a field goal down 22-3 in the fourth quarter to New England instead of going for it. Saleh’s thinking was to make it a two-score game and go from there. Saleh certainly could have been more aggressive there.
"I haven’t had anything hard, either," Saleh said. "I don’t think I’ve gotten the chance to challenge, tried to on the second play of the game. I think so far, it’s been good. But I know that there’s going to be greater challenges ahead."
Growing pains, like the one Wilson displayed last week, are expected. The Jets started three rookies on offense and two on defense against New England. Those numbers could increase this week in Denver with rookie running back Michael Carter and nickel corner Michael Carter II coming off strong games.
This is just the start of a long process, and the optimistic Saleh is not discouraged, nor does he mind hearing advice – even from Mom.
"Everybody’s got an opinion," he said. "But you know what, I had an opinion too. You take it with a grain of salt, but I’m not afraid to absorb all the information because you never know what you might find. All of it is worth something."