Troubling Loss Puts Saleh in Spotlight

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

(Photo credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The Jets talked about the dawn of a new day throughout the offseason and training camp. They touted youth, talent and character as reasons why they will be better than people think. They meant well. After all, they couldn’t be any worse from what we saw in recent years.

Then, they played games that counted. The Baltimore Ravens exposed them as the Same Old Jets that Jets fans hated for the last 11 years. The home team played like losers in their 24-9 season-opening loss at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

The Jets offense was hideous all day. The defense played the part of giving the Jets a chance to win until everything fell apart in the third quarter. The coaching left so much to be desired.

It was one thing to lose, but it was another thing to play awful to start the season. The Jets played like they weren’t prepared. This wasn’t the usual season-opening loss fans would shrug off.

All of this reflects poorly on Jets second-year head coach Robert Saleh.

Jets fans know their team is going to stink this year. They would accept it only if this team is on the upward and being coached properly. More games like Sunday, and Jets fans are going to get antsy. They have been patient year after year with nothing to show for it. They need a return for this year. They earned it.

Right now, this is a hard sell to the fans. Yesterday offered reminders of last year’s team. Not many big plays on offense. Six penalties. The defense struggled to get a stop in the second half. The offensive line got manhandled. The quarterback stunk. A missed field goal and a missed extra point. Lousy coaching all around.

Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

The Jets offense started off so poorly. In the team’s first six drives of the game, it was punt, punt, interception, punt, missed field goal and punt. Greg Zuerlein finally kicked a field goal to get the Jets on the scoreboard to finish out the first half.

Once Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Devin Duvernay (his second touchdown of the game) in the third quarter that extended the Baltimore Ravens’ lead to 17-3, it was the dagger. Everyone knew the Jets were not going to come back on this day with the running game offering nothing and Jets quarterback Joe Flacco struggling to move the offense.

Shoot, one can make a case that Jackson’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Duvernay for the first touchdown of the game with 3:45 left in the second quarter, giving the Ravens a 10-0 lead would be the dagger.

With the Ravens leading 10-3 to the Jets at halftime, it was incumbent on Saleh to come up with answers. He never really did, and that’s troubling. A good head coach always comes up with one.

He should have had Mike White ready to throw with Flacco stumbling in the first half, which included him having a 6.9 passing rating in the first quarter. Fans chanted White’s name in the middle of the third quarter after the Jets quarterback continued to struggle.

White definitely should have been out there in this game. I don’t know if he was going to make a difference with that awful offensive line, but the Jets would have nothing to lose at this point, especially with White throwing the ball much faster. Flacco wasn’t the solution. It’s on Saleh to come up with a desperate move just to get this team going and give the team a chance. He never did.

The guess here is the Jets head coach did not want to answer questions about a quarterback controversy to start the season if White played well enough. That’s just a bad look. It should be about winning.

It was just a bad day all around. This is deflating for a team that needed this win in the worst way just to feel good about themselves. The Jets needed a win to validate their claim that they are better than people think. It was a requirement to put on a competent outing at the bare minimum. Instead, this team raised more questions.

After the game, the Jets players said it was one game. Saleh mentioned he was proud of the fight his team showed out there. Whatever.

The fans understandably are in no mood to be lectured by the Jets on how to approach their team. 11 years of bad football have them run out of patience. For Pete’s sake, Ravens fans outdrew Jets fans at MetLife Stadium. There were plenty of seats available when the game started.

It would have been nice if the Jets would show some anger and be fed up with this.

Saleh is not in danger of losing his job. However, if he has plenty of games like this, Jets owner Woody Johnson will be frustrated enough to fire his head coach. He fired Eric Mangini once after the Jets lost to the Miami Dolphins in the final game of the season, costing them the playoffs. He certainly can do it again. He has to be as frustrated as the fans if there is no progress.

Week 2 might as well be the Jets’ must-win game of the season. Saleh needs this game more than anyone to show he can be the guy taking the team to Point B.

A game like this still has them at Point A.

Some can even say point nowhere.

This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6

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