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The Jets landed their head coach with the hiring of Robert Saleh on Thursday night.
Saleh has a big task ahead of him, along with general manager Joe Douglas. There is a lot of good feelings around the Jets after the Saleh hire, but this is still a team that just went 2-14, has a huge question mark at quarterback and a roster with more needs than a newborn.
This won’t be news for Saleh, who did his homework on the Jets just like they did on him. He knows what he is getting into and he clearly thinks the Jets job is a good one because he likely would have had other offers had he waited.
The to-do list is long for Saleh and Douglas. Here’s the areas that have to be worked on first:
Hire a staff
Coaching staffs are underrated. Media and fans focus on the head coach in these hires and usually a coordinator, but it goes much deeper than that. A bad coaching staff can sink a good head coach. One of the biggest issues for Todd Bowles when he was with the Jets was his coaching staff. Rex Ryan had a great coaching staff early in his tenure then began losing key pieces and the replacements did not work out.
We know Saleh wants to bring Mike LaFleur with him from San Francisco to be his offensive coordinator. LaFleur is highly thought of around the NFL and will bring the Kyle Shanahan offense with him, so that move should get high marks. Beyond LaFleur, though, there have not been any whispers of who else is coming with him.
The key hire to me after offensive coordinator is offensive line coach. The Jets desperately need a good one. Douglas has said he wants to build up the offensive line and those young players are going to need good coaching. Bill Callahan did wonders under Eric Mangini and Ryan with the Jets line. Recently, the coaching in that room has not been good.
It is not yet known whether Saleh will be the defensive play-caller. Even if he’s not, he’ll surely have a big hand in the defensive game plan each week. The Jets want him to coach the entire team and not focus on one side of the ball, but his defensive expertise helped him get this job.
One of the things the Jets liked about Saleh is he has been around the NFL for 16 years. Some of the other candidates have much less NFL experience. Saleh knows people. He should be able to put together a good staff.
What to do with Sam?
With the head-coaching decision out of the way, the Sam Darnold decision now looms large over the organization. Do the Jets stick with Darnold for another year or take a quarterback with the No. 2 pick in the draft?
Surely, Saleh has given the team some opinions on this topic during the interview process, but the Jets have not made a decision yet. Douglas and Saleh will weigh the options and figure out which direction to go in. The Jets need to evaluate college quarterbacks, figure out what they could get in a trade for Darnold and weigh all of the factors before making a franchise-altering decision.
Evaluate their own
Saleh must dig deep into the roster before the team’s leadership starts thinking about free agency and the draft. Roster decisions will ultimately be Douglas’, but the GM has said he wants the head coach to be his partner, so the two will work closely on them.
The Jets’ roster problems are well documented and won’t be fixed overnight. The team is projected to have $70 million in salary cap space by Over the Cap. They have 19 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.
Their top free agent is safety Marcus Maye. Douglas said after the season that bringing back Maye is a priority. It should be. He was the team MVP and is one of the few good players the previous regime drafted. After Maye, the Jets must decide whether players like Jordan Jenkins, Brian Poole, Neville Hewitt, Tarell Basham and Breshad Perriman are worth re-signing.
Saleh got the job. Now, he has to get to work.
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