April 24, 2024

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Saleh: The Jets’ narrative will change when we win football matches

Saleh: The Jets’ narrative will change when we win football matches

ORLANDO, Fla. – A year ago, the New York Jets were the toast of the NFL after trading for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They have quickly gone from “hard knocks” to hard times, and now the current regime faces a potential make-or-break season.

Coach Robert Saleh didn't define it in those words, but he expressed a sense of urgency Monday morning at NFL owners meetings. He said they need to exploit the proverbial regular-season hype to have success in the regular season.

“When you lose, you lose,” Saleh said. “I suck, [GM Joe Douglas] Disgusting, we are all disgusting. It's going with the territory, but the best thing we can do is put our heads down and get to work. All the things that make you feel good in the off-season don't matter. “We have to win football matches, and when we win football matches, all the narratives will change.”

The Jets haven't won in a long time — eight straight losing seasons, to be exact. They range in age from 18 to 33 in three seasons under Saleh, who, along with Douglas, was placed on alert last month by Woody Johnson. The 76-year-old owner, fuming over last season's 7-10 finish, came close to issuing a make-or-break mandate.

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They envisioned themselves as Super Bowl contenders last year, but it all came crashing down when Rodgers suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon on his fourth snap of the season. Saleh knows he no longer cares, but he downplays the hot seat issue.

“He doesn't add [pressure]” he said, declining to say the season would be a failure if they missed the postseason. “The pressure has really been pushed through the roof from year one to nowhere. There is always pressure to win. “Obviously we're all disappointed with the way things went a year ago, but I don't think anyone's confidence has been shaken.”

The Jets made a big splash by signing big-name players like wide receiver Mike Williams and left tackle Tyrone Smith, but that's nothing compared to last year when they dominated NFL headlines by pursuing and ultimately acquiring Rodgers, a four-branch player. Best player of all time. They appeared on the HBO series “Hard Knocks” and enjoyed the attention after initially protesting.

“There was no one to hide it,” Saleh said. “You trade a guy like Aaron Rodgers, I feel like it would look ridiculous if any of us tried to hide from it. But the truth is, winning offseasons doesn't matter. We have to win football games and no matter how much excitement there is around the organization, no matter what… “How excited you are about free agency or the draft, none of that matters.”

The good news is that Rodgers, 40, will be ready to participate in OTA practices in May, according to Saleh. The team renewed its offensive line, which was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness last season. Saleh said Williams, who underwent ACL surgery less than five months ago, has a “long way to go” in rehab, but the hope is to be ready by week one.

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The biggest disappointment of the offseason was watching team captain Bryce Huff get fired as he went to the Philadelphia Eagles. The defensive-minded Saleh seemed affected by the loss of the free agent, saying: “People want to say that all he does is pass rush, but all Mariano Rivera did was close to the ninth round.” The Jets are showing interest in Jadeveon Clowney as a potential replacement.

It wouldn't be the offseason without Rodgers news, and there was a firestorm when presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently revealed that he was considering the quarterback as his running mate. Saleh avoided those questions. He clearly never seriously thought he would lose Rodgers on the campaign trail.

“I think it was viewed a little differently in the political world than it was in our world at least,” Saleh said. He said he had not spoken to Rodgers about it. He said he didn't need that.