The Jets announced Thursday night that they had reached an agreement in principle with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to become their new head coach. The move marks a return to the mindset the franchise has held for the better part of a quarter-century.
Saleh, 41, is succeeding Adam Gase, who was fired after the Jets’ Week 17 loss to the Patriots. The Jets finished 2-14 in 2020 after losing their first 13 games. Gase was 9-23 in two seasons with the team.
New York is getting one of the hottest coaching prospects in the NFL, a coordinator who led a Super Bowl-caliber unit two years ago and a group that was fifth in total defense this year despite multiple injuries to key players.
It’s also returning to its recent philosophy of going with a defensive mind as its head coach. Todd Bowles, Rex Ryan, Eric Mangini, Herm Edwards, Al Groh, Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells all hailed from that side of the ball, with Gase breaking the string. The individual coaching records show a mixed bag of results:
The Jets were 24th in total defense, 28th against the pass and 26th in scoring defense this season under coordinators Gregg Williams and Frank Bush.
They’re also following the pack when it comes to coaches in their division: Belichick, the Bills’ Sean McDermott and the Dolphins’ Brian Flores all have defensive backgrounds.
But New York is bucking a trend, as well, by not hiring a young offensive hotshot: think Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, Kevin Stefanski, Kliff Kingsbury, Matt Rhule and Zac Taylor. On the other hand, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday night that 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur — brother of Matt and all of 34 years old — is expected to become Saleh’s offensive coordinator with the Jets.
The OC choice is crucial because Saleh is inheriting the worst offense in the NFL (32nd in yards and scoring in 2020). There’s the likelihood that Saleh may want to go with a new quarterback in 2021 in place of incumbent Sam Darnold. New York will pick second in the NFL Draft in April; it could turn to Ohio State’s Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson if it wants to start over at the position.