BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Here’s hoping Jets head coach Robert Saleh enjoyed his honeymoon in his first season at the helm. It gets hard and worse from here. Now expectations get higher and he gets judged on merit after getting a mulligan for overseeing this team in his rookie season.
The Jets completed Saleh’s first season by going 4-13 after a 27-10 season finale loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Highmark Stadium. Saleh achieved the team’s objective by having young players such as Michael Carter and Zach Wilson develop as NFL players and having his team make progress such as playing teams tough after the bye week, which they should have won some games, and actually scoring and leading in the first quarter in recent games.
The trick is to translate progress into wins next season. This means turning playoff games as spoilers into playing it to win it. This means going from four wins to eight or even more. This doesn’t mean playoffs or bust, but tangible improvements have to be a must for Saleh’s second season to be a success.
A loss like Sunday can’t be tolerated moving forward. The time is now to grow up.
The Jets have two first-round draft picks to select, and they got several more, including two second-round draft picks. They will have $60 million to spend on this free agency. They must win the offseason to set a tone for next season. This is where the hard work starts.
For Wilson to take the next step as an NFL quarterback, the Jets need to get the offseason right by giving him a couple of wide receivers along with a couple of offensive linemen. They also need to address the defense, which was terrible all season long.
They are a 4-13 team for a reason, so they need to get it right this offseason to continue to maintain momentum heading to the offseason.
Free agency can be tricky. Most times it does not work as the Giants can tell you in recent years. But for the Jets, they need to make it work if they are going to take the next step. It’s on Douglas to find the right mix and it’s on Saleh to put it all together heading to next season.
The Jets must take advantage of the draft picks they received from the Jamal Adams trade by getting it right. They can’t whiff on this one if they want to make it count. Teams build well based on getting it right with so many picks they received in a trade. That’s the quickest way to a turnaround.
They also need to make sure they find the right kicker that is reliable after not having one since they foolishly decided to let Jason Myers bolt to Seattle without offering him a deal. They need to value that position for them to win games.
A good offseason does not guarantee anything, but it gives the Jets a chance and some hope heading to training camp.
From there, the Jets need to figure out how to win rather than just being competitive. This means the defense needs more playmakers that can be difference makers. It just can’t be Wilson and the offense doing most of the work. To me, the Jets lost many of these games mainly because their defense couldn’t stop anyone and they did not have a defensive player like Darrelle Revis who could make a difference in a game. The Jets couldn’t count on anyone to get a big stop when they needed it the most.
If we are going to see a tangible improvement from the Jets next season, it has to come from the defense.
Coaching must be better moving forward. I am not going to say Saleh did a great job or if he is the right man. Here’s what I will say about him: His team did not quit after the bye, and he developed players such as Wilson and Carter. But that can only go so far. It’s about winning games. His coaching can go a long way into translating moral victories into real victories next season.
Saleh’s strength was coaching defense, and there was no defense to the Jets atrocious 32nd-ranked defense this season. Yes, he did not have much to work with, but it’s his job next season to get it right when Jets general manager Joe Douglas gives him better players to work with on defense.
He’s going to have to learn how to be even-keel at times. I felt he was over the top with his emotions at times, and he needs to stop whining to the refs when things don’t go the Jets’ way. He has to learn how to lead in tough times.
This year served as a learning experience for him. Now, it’s time for him to apply what he learned next season.
Everything comes down to Wilson. He was okay in his rookie season. He improved late in the season by going through a stretch of not throwing an interception in five straight games. His throws improved as the season went on. But now, he has to take the next step. Winning games. Being a difference-maker in a tight spot. Knowing how to handle tough situations. He can’t implode the way Sam Darnold did in his time here.
How Wilson grows up will go a long way for the Jets.
This season might as well have been easy since there were no expectations.
Now, everything gets real.
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