Jets owner: Coach Saleh, GM Douglas to return

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Jets coach Robert Saleh received a public vote of confidence from his boss and, a few hours later, a huge save from his kicker.

Despite three straight losing seasons as a tandem, Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas will return for the 2024 season, owner Woody Johnson told the New York Post on Sunday. Essentially, Johnson is giving them a mulligan because of Aaron Rodgers‘ season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1.

Saleh wasn’t thought to be in serious danger of losing his job, but Johnson’s declaration eliminates any doubt as the Jets — 30-28 winners over the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium — finish out their 13th consecutive season out of the playoffs.

“Obviously, I can sit here and give you reasons why I think I’m the right coach,” said Saleh, adding that he will use the offseason to reflect on ways he can improve himself and the team. He said the goal is to “make sure we’re attacking it in a way that gets us toward the goal that we all believe we can get to, which is a championship.”

Johnson’s pregame endorsement was almost undermined by an epic collapse. The Jets blew a 27-7 halftime lead, fell behind by a point with 4:52 to play and needed a 54-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein with five seconds left to pull out a stressful victory.

When Saleh and Douglas evaluate the roster, they might want to re-sign Zuerlein, 35, who has made 30 of 31 field goals. In a season of inconsistency and upheaval for the Jets (6-9), especially at quarterback, he’s their most reliable player.

“It was almost as if there was no chance that he was going to miss that ball,” Saleh said of Zuerlein’s winner.

Thanks to Zuerlein, Saleh (17-32) avoided what would’ve been an embarrassing defeat. His players took Johnson’s announcement in stride, saying they never thought their coach’s status was up in the air.

“Man, I didn’t even know that was news,” said wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who caught nine passes for 76 yards. “We feel like we’re close. We’ve got to figure it out as far as us playing, but, yeah, that was never a doubt. We’ll be here next year and we’re going to be ready to rock.”

Linebacker and captain C.J. Mosley said of Saleh: “His message doesn’t change. I believe in him. The veterans on this team believe in him.”

Johnson’s vote of confidence came five days after Rodgers, who wields considerable influence within the organization, delivered strong endorsements for Douglas, Saleh and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett during his weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show.” Saleh knew Johnson’s intentions before Rodgers’ comments, a source said.

“My decision is to keep them,” Johnson told the New York Post, referring specifically to Saleh and Douglas. “I think we’ve had some very positive moves. The culture of the team is a lot better. The defense is better. The offense needs a few pieces.”

Johnson said he wants to “keep the continuity going with Aaron and the team we’ve got. Like I said a year ago, we need a quarterback. We had a quarterback for four plays. Since then, we haven’t been able to replace him. If we have a good quarterback, it makes everybody’s job easier. It makes the line better, the receivers better.”

Given Rodgers’ strong public support for Douglas and Saleh, it would’ve been cumbersome for Johnson to make sweeping changes at the top of organization. Rodgers, 40, said he wants to play at least two more seasons, putting ownership in the position of having to keep the quarterback happy.

At the same time, Johnson has been understanding and supportive behind the scenes, sources said. He’s not happy with the results, they said, but he never has given any indication that jobs are on the line. The Jets fancied themselves as Super Bowl contenders before the Rodgers injury. With a healthy Rodgers in 2024, they expect to be in the same position.

Not having a reliable backup contributed to the team’s demise. The Jets have started four different quarterbacks, turning to Trevor Siemian on Sunday because Zach Wilson was in the concussion protocol. Siemian was up and down, completing 27 of 49 passes for 217 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.

Siemian leaned heavily on running back Breece Hall, who was targeted 16 times and finished with career-high 12 catches for 96 yards. He finished with 191 yards from scrimmage.

“Obviously, a lot of things have happened to us this year,” tight end Tyler Conklin said. “It’s not an excuse to lose, but I like to think from the culture standpoint — in the way we do things — to be together for another year, that’s our best opportunity next year to get to the playoffs and do what we need to do.”

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