Shortly after firing Adam Gase, a few days after the conclusion of the regular season, Jets general manager Joe Douglas gave a sneak peak as to how he was planning to conduct New York's head coaching search.
"I’m going to stick to what I know," Douglas said. "That’s attacking it like I would a draft, almost like you’re drafting a coach."
If this head coaching search was a draft, then Douglas secured the best player available.
New York reeled in one of the hottest candidates on the head coaching market, hiring Robert Saleh, a rising star coveted by practically every organization seeking to fill their own head coaching vacancy.
Over the last four years, Saleh blossomed as the 49ers defensive coordinator. He transformed San Francisco into one of the best defensive units in the league, proving he's worthy of his first head coaching gig in the NFL.
Saleh wasn't necessarily a leading candidate in the eyes of Douglas and his team when this process began. After all, New York interviewed a total of nine candidates in their first round, each bringing their own set of qualifications to the table.
When they met Saleh over Zoom one week ago, however, that quickly changed. Clearly the defensive coordinator hit that first interview out of the park considering the fact that he was flown across the country days later to meet with New York in person. It's no coincidence Saleh was the first candidate to be brought in to the Jets' facility in New Jersey. Actions speak loader than words.
The Jets were familiar with Saleh's intensity on the sideline. They understood the improvements San Francisco made under his tutelage over the last few years. To hear his plan for how he would lead this team back to contention, and who he would bring along on his staff to make it happen, the search quickly transitioned into locking up their top target.
Arthur Smith, the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, was the only other candidate to meet with the Jets in person. After that meeting, they knew Saleh was the man for the job and wasted no time coming to an agreement.
Douglas and New York's owner Christopher Johnson explained earlier in the process that they were looking to find a coach that could run the entire team. You know, like a CEO. Saleh may be a defensive-minded coach, but the Jets made the right call with this hire due to his ability to lead. Certainly doesn't hurt that Saleh is bringing along Mike LaFleur—San Francisco's passing game coordinator—to be his offensive coordinator as well.
Saleh is the type of head coach you want to play for, someone who can rile up the troops and inject a culture of winning into an organization. With a young roster in New York, and more contributing rookies to come over the next few years due to the Jets' surplus of draft capital, Saleh can mold this franchise into his vision. The vision that Douglas and Johnson are evidently on board with.
That might take some time. An organization that's been losing for a decade and is coming off one of their worst campaigns in franchise history won't become a winner overnight. Nonetheless, Douglas and his team believe that Saleh, the 20th head coach in franchise history, will be the candidate that can bring Gang Green back to relevance, back to respectability and back to contention.
It's impossible to know what will happen next. In this results-driven business, Saleh will only be considered a successful hire if the Jets can begin to turn things around and win football games this fall. Patience will be a necessity for anxious Jets fans as the offseason is only just beginning.
For New York to seal the deal with Saleh before ever having a chance to meet with candidates like Eric Bieniemy, Brian Daboll and more, it shows how much both parties wanted to get this done. Now, it's time to get to work.