Robert Saleh has so many phrases he uses when letting his players know the standard and culture he wants.
The first-year Jets coach said he could "recite a million," but his two go-to ones are "All Gas, No Brake" and "Go to bed better than when you woke up."
The Jets are following Saleh’s lead and trying to meet those goals and standards every day. It’s a good start for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2010 season and is coming off a miserable 2-14 campaign.
But the Jets have some ways to go before they end the NFL’s longest current playoff drought, and no one in the organization is making that an edict.
"Nice try," general manager Joe Douglas said.
Douglas has assembled the youngest team in the NFL. The Jets have placed the offense in the hands of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. He is one of the 21 first or second-year players that make up nearly 40% of the Jets’ roster.
The young kids will have to grow before the Jets can show they're a playoff contender.
"We embrace the urgency at which everybody wants to win," Saleh said. "But at the same time that can’t affect your decision making for the long haul of the goal of winning championships for extended periods of time.
"That urgency in the past has led to spurts of success and lengths of failure. We’re trying to get that reversed, to where we have long, long runs of success."
The Jets’ history is littered with broken promises, broken dreams and broken hearts. In the 52 seasons since playing in and winning their only Super Bowl, the Jets have made the playoffs just 13 times.
But everyone in the organization believes there are good things coming and that they’re finally constructing a team the right way.
Douglas has been methodical in his approach and has positioned the Jets to make moves in free agency and trades for the right player. The consensus inside and outside of the Jets’ building is Saleh is the right man to be leading the team.
The passionate ex-49ers defensive coordinator has rejuvenated and breathed life back into the franchise after Adam Gase’s two-year tenure sucked the air out of it.
Saleh is fired up for the challenge and believes positive change is coming for the Jets.
"I just believe that we’re going to build this thing the right way," Saleh told Newsday. "When everybody is on the same page and everybody has a common goal and people are doing things without agenda and all the focus is on doing everything that we can to help the players get better, you can’t help but feel like the organization is going the direction which is common with teams that win championships.
"I believe in all my heart we’re going to get there one day."
Almost all new
The Jets had to purge after one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
The head coach, offensive coordinator (Mike LaFleur), defensive coordinator (Jeff Ulbrich) and all their position coaches are new. The Jets have 25 new players; 26 if you include linebacker C.J. Mosley’s return after opting out last year.
Both systems are new. LaFleur brought in the West Coast offense with the outside zone blocking scheme. Saleh runs a 4-3 front, meant to disrupt quarterbacks.
The QB and the offense
Wilson, the 22-year-old boyish-faced, strong-armed No. 2 pick from BYU, replaces Sam Darnold and is a major reason for optimism. The Jets have been extremely impressed and elated with Wilson’s work on and off the field. He devours film and is curious about every aspect of the offense and the defenses he will be facing. But the Jets don’t want to put everything on Wilson’s shoulders.
LaFleur will lean on the run game behind a beefed-up offensive line that added veteran tackle Morgan Moses and rookie guard Alijah Vera Tucker. The Jets likely will use a running back-by-committee approach with veteran Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, rookie Michael Carter and second-year pro La’Mical Perine.
This system, which features pre-snap movement, screen passes and jet sweeps, should take some heat off of Wilson and open up the play-action game.
The Jets have vastly improved at receiver. They signed a No. 1 receiver in Corey Davis and also added Keelan Cole. They drafted the exciting, versatile rookie Elijah Moore, who can be a swiss army knife in this offense.
Saleh and the 4-3
His aggressive, attacking defense is proven: the 49ers wreaked havoc on quarterbacks and offenses. But losing new edge rusher Carl Lawson for the season to a ruptured Achilles definitely hurt.
Saleh knows how to adjust.
The Jets will use a rotation up front with Shaq Lawson, John Franklin-Myers and Bryce Huff on the edge and Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi and Sheldon Rankins on the interior.
Veterans Mosley and safeties Marcus Maye and LaMarcus Joyner will be asked to do the heavy lifting in the back seven while a number of young players get their feet soaked.
The Jets could start two rookies at linebacker (Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen) and are extremely inexperienced at cornerback. Bryce Hall, a fifth-round pick last year, leads a group with four rookies and two second-year players.
Speaking of youth . . .
Wilson, Vera-Tucker, Michael Carter, and Moore are the rookies expected to play prominent roles on offense. On defense, it’s Sherwood, Nasirildeen, and corners Brandin Echols, Isaiah Dunn and nickelback Michael Carter II.
The Jets are expecting growing pains.
"There’s going to be some mistakes," right guard Greg Van Roten said. "There’s definitely a learning curve."
Rankins, who played for a Super Bowl contender in New Orleans, said the Jets need time.
"We’re going to compete. That’s the one thing I can guarantee you," he said. "You’re never going to turn a game on and say they look like they’re not in it. Young quarterback, young playmakers all over the place, pretty much everybody’s new to all of this. It’ll take some time. It’ll work itself out."
Fast and physical
No matter what, Saleh wants his team to "play fast and play physical." If they do that, it will cover up for some of their expected mistakes. Saleh is preaching patience, but not that much.
"Teams have gone the direction we have and have had success," Saleh said. "But with rookies and a young team, there’s going to be growth cause there’s going to be so many, "A-ha" moments. But what you’ll see is a group of young men that play their absolute tails off. They’ll run, they’ll hit and they’ll be excited to play this game."
It’s a start.