The Jets’ historically bad defense has lit up stadium scoreboards throughout the NFL. What it hasn’t done is dim Robert Saleh’s optimism or belief that things will flip dramatically for this franchise.
"This thing is going to turn, and when it does, it’s going to be freakin’ awesome," Saleh said on a Zoom call Monday.
The Jets are not just a player or two away, and they certainly haven’t been a play or two away in most games this season. Yet Saleh promised Jets fans that brighter days are coming less than 24 hours after another dark one for the franchise.
On Sunday, the Jets were embarrassed by the Bills, 45-17, in a game that in all likelihood ended Mike White’s feel-good story. The only way he starts this week is if Zach Wilson’s sprained right knee keeps him out again.
Amazingly, the quarterback situation is not the Jets’ biggest concern. It’s the defense. Saleh’s defense, which by all accounts and expectations was supposed to be a strength, has become the Jets’ biggest weakness.
The Jets allowed 45 points in each of the last two games and gave up an average of 43.8 in their last four.
According to ESPN, the Jets are the first team since the 1966 Giants to give up at least 45 points three times in four games. Saleh called those three "stinkers." The 1,890 yards of offense allowed are the most the Jets have yielded in any four-game stretch in franchise history.
"If we don’t find ways to get better on defense," Saleh said, "it will be ugly."
Too late. It already is.
The Jets (2-7) have been beaten by at least two touchdowns five times. Their last three defeats have been by 41, 15 and 28 points, respectively.
This is another rebuilding year for the Jets. It was expected that they would experience some growing pains, more so on offense. But the lack of fight and pride shown on defense has been alarming and doesn’t reflect well on Saleh, who made his name on that side of the ball.
"I’m just as frustrated as everybody else," he said. "My promise to Jets fans is this thing’s going to flip. The support is always warranted. The criticism is always warranted, and you reap what you sow.
"This thing’s going to flip. I know in my heart this thing’s going to flip. Sometimes you go through struggles to see glory. I know that’s going to be one of those things we’re going to experience."
When? That’s the question Jets fans have been asking for many years. The Jets haven’t reached the playoffs since the 2010 season and are 47 games under .500 in that time.
After a 2-14 finish last season, none of the Jets’ hierarchy from owner Woody Johnson to general manager Joe Douglas to Saleh publicly said this team would make the playoffs. They knew Wilson and the rest of the young players needed time to grow and develop. But the fact that the Jets aren’t competitive in most games has been disturbing.
"It’s always going to be trying, especially when you lose in this league," Saleh said. "Everybody wants to hit the panic button, everybody wants to fire everybody, everybody wants to cut everybody. Everybody’s got an opinion. It’s deserved. At the same time, when you win, everyone thinks that they got it turned around."
Although the season appears over, there are eight games to go. The focus will be on developing Wilson so the Jets can make the big jump next year that everyone has been waiting for, but they also need their defense to show up.
"We got eight games to embrace an opportunity to go attack the schedule and finish strong," Saleh said. "The foundation of the entire organization’s future starts tomorrow. It’s something that we all got to attack."