Robert Saleh made it very clear that it’s a new day for the Jets and how they do things.
The energetic first-time head coach detailed how he will get the players to play hard for him and also laid out what’s expected from everyone in the organization.
"Get used to the mantra ‘All Gas, No Brake,’ " Saleh said during his introductory Zoom news conference on Thursday.
He said that doesn’t necessarily refer to the effort on the field. To him, it means the Jets will have a way they’re going to do everything, and everyone who is involved in making the players better (and, by extension, the team better) will follow his vision and plan.
The Jets wanted someone very different from Adam Gase, who was fired after a 2-14 season. They wanted a leader who would change the culture. They got him in former 49ers defensive coordinator Saleh, who is focused on making sure the Jets do everything they can to not only end their 10-year playoff drought but hoist some Vince Lombardi trophies.
"We challenge everybody to really judge us moving forward," Saleh said. "It will take time, but everything we do is going to be designed to win championships in the future. When we talk about ‘all gas, no brake,’ waking up in the morning and put your foot to the pedal and having that mindset, go to bed better than when you woke up. That’s the mindset we’re going to have. We’re very confident it’s going to lead to championships."
Coaches always talk about winning championships when they’re first hired. That’s the goal. But Saleh, 41, certainly has infused hope into long-suffering Jets fans. He also did that with the decision-makers in this coaching search.
General manager Joe Douglas said Saleh’s plan to create an identity and path to get there were "very impressive." Jets CEO Christopher Johnson was "struck" by Saleh’s presence and the vision he articulated in their initial Zoom interview. Those feelings were confirmed when Saleh came to the Jets’ offices for an in-person interview.
"We knew we had someone special coming into the building," Johnson said. "We knew we had our coach once he was in the building. The connection with Joe, the sheer vision . . . This is going to be a special place going forward."
Whether it includes Sam Darnold remains to be seen. Saleh wasn’t ready to commit to Darnold as his starting quarterback on Thursday, but in reality, he couldn’t.
The Jets have the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft, which they could use on a quarterback. They also could be in play for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson if he seeks a trade. Saleh spoke highly of Darnold’s arm strength, smarts and toughness, but he said he’s just started evaluating the roster.
"To give you that answer right now would not be fair," Saleh said. "There are a lot of discussions I need to have. To give you that answer right now would be premature."
Whoever is on the roster can believe they will be taken care of because Saleh believes that’s the way you get the most out of players. He said he makes it personal and the players respond. He did that in San Francisco, where he led top-5 overall defenses the past two years.
Saleh believes players want to know that coaches care about their well-being and that they can be helped to maximize their talents and earning potential. He said the goal for everyone in the organization is "to make sure we do everything we can to connect to their well- being and to help them make plays on Sunday so they can get paid as much as possible."
"I believe that the investment that coaches put into players has to be the equivalent of the investment you put in your children," said Saleh, who has six children and another on the way. "You have to invest everything you have in your heart and in your soul into those players because they’re relying on you to help them be their absolute best so they can showcase their skills on Sunday.
"When players feel that investment and they feel that you’re giving them everything you have, they can’t help but reciprocate and invest back in you. When you get that investment reciprocated, it becomes personal. When it becomes personal, it becomes very, very, very special.
"That’s the environment that we’re trying to create here where everyone in the organization is investing in one another."
It’s a new day for the Jets.