MIAMI — Coach Robert Saleh’s most-recited catchphrase has been "all gas, no brake." A new one has been making the rounds, though, and picking up steam.
"This thing is going to flip."
Saleh has said that many times while talking to reporters after Jets losses. He’s also said it to his players in team meetings, assuring them that as bad as it seems now, the situation is going to turn around.
"He’s got an unshakable faith that he is going to turn around the New York Jets and we all believe him," tight end Ryan Griffin said. "He’s got the fire. He’s got the passion for it. We just got to come together as a team and really play well for him."
Many Jets have said similar things, and added that Saleh hasn’t changed since their very first meeting. From the moment he was hired as Jets coach, his message to the players has been clear: He believes without a doubt that the Jets will enjoy a renaissance if they put in the work and follow his lead and blueprint.
The Jets (3-10) will not make the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year. They’ve been outscored by 171 points and their defense is letting teams run all over them. But Saleh has a vision for how this thing is going to flip and he hasn’t wavered or backtracked from it.
"One thing I really appreciate about him is he doesn’t lose sight of the vision," cornerback Bryce Hall said. "He believes wholeheartedly in this program and what it’s going to be. I think that is huge. It’s encouraging as a player, playing under him. Not losing sight of that vision even though the current situation doesn’t look the way you want it to, just not losing heart."
Saleh is the unquestioned face of the franchise and leader of the Jets. He is committed to changing the culture and setting a standard that he believes will result in the Jets competing in Super Bowls.
The players appreciate the trust and belief that Saleh has in them, and they reciprocate it by not wanting to let him down.
The Jets are in a far better place than they were last year under Adam Gase, who didn’t inspire confidence in players or connect with them. He was fired after the Jets went 2-14.
They were considered so dysfunctional last year that some analysts said Trevor Lawrence should stay at Clemson if the Jets got the No. 1 pick. Jacksonville wound up with it and Lawrence has lived through the dysfunction created by Urban Meyer, whom the Jaguars fired Thursday.
No one is saying rookie quarterback Zach Wilson is in a bad environment. Wilson himself said Saleh is "setting the culture up the right way" and not trying to go for a quick fix. Finding players who fit the Jets' systems and developing young players are important aspects of the vision. With 14 rookies or second-year players having started at least two games, the Jets are one of the NFL’s youngest teams.
"You can’t just try and pull from different places and just try and have success for this year," Wilson said. "You need to have the right pieces and let them develop and learn. That’s the foundation he’s setting here.
"He’s done a great job of understanding that we have to have a team that everybody’s bought in on the same thing and we’re all working for the same thing. He’s understanding who should be here and the adjustments that we have to make in the future. It’s cool to have a coach set a good leadership and culture like that because we all know what we’re working for."
This isn’t blind faith from Saleh. He has been a part of several rebuilding situations and is using those experiences to shape his vision and plan with the Jets.
"Messaging, to me, and it’s not to be stubborn, but it doesn’t change," Saleh said. "Obviously, we want to win. But it’s so process-oriented and so focused on the moment. Bring the best version of yourself every day, the results will take care of itself. But at the same time, [it’s about] helping players understand what’s at stake."
In Saleh’s first season as the 49ers' defensive coordinator, they went 2-14. Two years later, they were in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks had a losing record when Saleh was hired as defensive quality control coach and won the Super Bowl two years later.
The Jets have an opportunity to improve quickly. In the 2022 draft, they have two first-round picks in the top 10, two second-round picks and enough money under the salary cap to be very active in free agency. General manager Joe Douglas and his staff have to find the right players to help Saleh flip this thing.
"He says that in every team meeting, that these tides will turn and it’s going to keep taking us to want to do that," center Connor McGovern said. "Once those tides switch, they can switch fast and switch strong. I truly believe those tides are going to turn."
Roster moves. The Jets activated Michael Carter, Tyler Kroft, Chuma Edoga and Bryce Huff from injured reserve and elevated Ronnie Blair, Dan Brown and Vyncint Smith from the practice squad to the active roster. The Jets placed defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi on the reserve/COVID-19 list.They also released offensive lineman Isaiah Williams.