Jets' Robert Saleh: 'I Don't Think There's Risk' Building Around Rookie QB

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIApril 23, 2021

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 26: Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh of the San Francisco 49ers directs players during the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 26, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The New York Jets are undergoing a significant rebuild and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, who is widely expected to go second overall to Gang Green in the 2021 NFL draft, should be the centerpiece of that effort.

On Thursday, Jets first-year head coach Robert Saleh spoke with reporters during his pre-draft press conference, and Ralph Vacchiano of SNY asked about the "risk" of him installing a new system and constructing a new culture with a first-year signal-caller in the mix.

"I don't think there's risk. It still comes down to having a good football team and building a good roster around everybody. There's players here that are talented, there's rookies that are talented. The expectation is that they're 1 of 53 when it's all said and done and they've all got to perform their best to create a great football team.

"So as far as pressure is concerned, there's no pressure on me. There's always pressure. There's always pressure to put together the best football team we possibly can regardless of who's playing. I'm very comfortable with every decision that's made and it's our job to put him in the best position to be successful. And not just the quarterback, but every single player that takes the field."

There isn't much pressure on the Jets to immediately turn around the team, which stands as the only NFL franchise to miss the playoffs each of the past 10 years.

General manager Joe Douglas has stocked up on draft picks (11 in 2021, for example) to hopefully turn the Jets around, and the team is looking to continue adding talent around its eventual signal-caller.

In addition, there may not be too much risk with both a quarterback and coach entering a new team at the same time, as they'll likely have a longer shelf life to make things work.

There's more of a risk when a rookie quarterback is brought to a team who might have a coach potentially on the hot seat.

That was the case for Sam Darnold, who the Jets took No. 3 overall in 2018. He played one year under head coach Todd Bowles, who was fired after the season. Darnold then had to adjust under new head coach Adam Gase. That did not work either with the team winning just nine games in two years.

At any rate, Saleh should have some time to implement his vision, at least, so that could help Wilson's development.

Adding a rookie quarterback with a high draft pick under a first-year head coach wouldn't be unprecedented either.

The Arizona Cardinals took Kyler Murray soon after head coach Kliff Kingsbury joined the team. The same went for the 2016 Philadelphia Eagles (quarterback Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson) and the 2012 Indianapolis Colts (signal-caller Andrew Luck and head coach Chuck Pagano). Mixed results have ensued for all three groups, with the Cardinals group still going strong, but each duo found some level of success along the way.

The rookie quarterback/coach pairing likely won't be the only time it happens this year, with the Jacksonville Jaguars almost certainly taking Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the first season of the Urban Meyer era.

Time will tell how it all works out, but for now, all signs point to Wilson being the first Jets quarterback playing for Saleh.


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