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Robert Saleh had a message for the Jets players on Thursday: it will be pedal to the metal around his team.
“Get used to the mantra: all gas, no brake,” Saleh said during his introductory news conference over Zoom. “When we talk about all gas and no brake, we’re not talking about effort on the field. We’re talking about the process which we do things. We’re talking about the way we prepare, the way we wake up every single morning, the way we rehab, the way we communicate, the way we speak to one another.”
Saleh, 41, spoke about his vision for the Jets a week after agreeing to become the team’s new head coach. He did not pound the table or guarantee Lombardi trophies, but delivered a clear message of what he expects and how he expects to achieve it. There won’t be any memes mocking him after this press conference.
“We have a lot of work to do, but make no mistake that our goal is to win championships,” Saleh said.
The Jets hired Saleh after interviewing at least nine candidates. The team spoke with him virtually first and then had him in for an in-person interview a few days later in New Jersey. Team brass had heard glowing reviews of Saleh before meeting with him and then was impressed when they spoke to him.
“When we met with Robert, I was struck by his presence,” team CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson said. “He displayed an ability to engage with us in a virtual interview. He also clearly communicated a vision of this team that aligns with ours. When we met in person, it validated everything we believed following our initial meeting. Robert has shown through his journey here that he is a leader, one that will engage the entire team and will partner with [general manager] Joe [Douglas] to continue building the culture of a winning organization.
“His character and passion are what this team needs.”
Saleh takes over a team that has been one of the worst in the NFL in recent years. The Jets have the longest playoff drought in the NFL at 10 seasons. They have had five straight losing years. The team went 2-14 in 2020. Now, Saleh will be the latest coach to try to turn the Jets into winners.
“It will take time, but everything we do is going to be designed to win championships in the future,” said Saleh, who spent the past four seasons as 49ers defensive coordinator. “When we talk about all gas, no brake and that mentality, waking up in the morning, putting your foot to the pedal and having that mindset, again go to bed better than you woke up. That’s the mindset we’re going to have and we’re very confident that’s going to lead to championships.”
Douglas said Saleh checked all the boxes for the Jets, who emphasized leadership in this search. It sounds like the Jets checked a lot of boxes for Saleh, as well. Saleh, a Michigan native, interviewed with six of the seven teams that had job openings in this cycle. But he said he felt a real connection with Johnson, Douglas and team president Hymie Elhai when they met.
“It just felt like home,” Saleh said. “It felt like I was back home talking to my high school friends. It’s home.”
Saleh was inspired to go into coaching after his brother, David, escaped the South Tower on 9/11. Saleh realized he could not wait to chase his dream of coaching. He sees a greater meaning to him now becoming the coach of the Jets.
“I’m supposed to be here and I believe that,” Saleh said. “God does things for a reason and I believe this is one of them.”
In order to be a leader of the entire team, Saleh will not call the defensive plays. He will leave that to defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who comes to the Jets from the Falcons. Adam Gase was often criticized for being too focused on the offense. Saleh believes not calling plays will free him up for other duties.
“To be able to have that focus on all aspects of a game, maintaining our vision and maintaining the standard at which we play is kind of the role I see a head coach taking,” Saleh said.
Saleh said he has reached out to every Jets player via text message and heard back from some of them in texts and calls, and he has met a few who were receiving medical treatment at the Jets’ headquarters.
He emphasized how integral his relationships with players will be.
“I believe that the investment coaches put into players has to be the equivalent of the investment you put into your children,” said Saleh, the father of six with another child on the way. “You’ve got to invest everything you have in your heart and in your soul into those players because they’re relying on you to help them be their absolute best so they can showcase their skills on Sunday.”
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