Robert Saleh’s first official words as Jets head coach: ‘No shortcuts’

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The Jets made it official Tuesday afternoon, announcing the hiring of Robert Saleh as their new head coach.

The team agreed to a deal in principle with Saleh last Thursday but the move was not official until he signed his contract Tuesday. He is scheduled to meet the media virtually at 2 p.m. on Thursday for his introductory press conference.

The team issued statements from Saleh, team CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas on Tuesday.

“There are no shortcuts to success,” Saleh said, “and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all.

“To Jets Fans, your passion and commitment are priceless. I understand your expectations and embrace them. We have a lot of work to do and can’t do it without your support.”

Saleh replaces Adam Gase, who went 9-23 in two years and was extremely unpopular with the fan base. Saleh’s hiring has been received positively by the fans, who are excited to see what the former 49ers defensive coordinator can do. 

The Jets hired Saleh after interviewing at least nine candidates. They conducted second interviews with Saleh and former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who landed the Falcons’ head-coaching job. The interviews were conducted by Johnson, Douglas and team president Hymie Elhai. 

“After a thorough process and meeting with a number of talented coaches, it was clear to us that Robert was the right person to help us move forward,” Johnson said. “He is a collaborative leader with proven success in the NFL. In addition to his work as a coach on this level, his passion and knowledge of the game along with his vision for establishing an identity for this team sold me.

“It was also clear that he will partner with Joe to help foster and develop the winning culture we are striving to establish. For us as a group, we were impressed with the way he commanded the space and his ability to communicate his vision throughout the process.”

The Jets emphasized finding a leader in this process over strictly offensive or defensive coaching acumen. The 41-year-old Saleh is known for his high energy on the sidelines and for being highly thought of by his players.

“We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us,” Douglas said. “His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years.”

Saleh and Douglas have a tough task ahead of them. The Jets went 2-14 last year and have had five straight losing seasons. The team has one of the worst rosters in the NFL and a huge decision to make at quarterback. On the plus side, Douglas is armed with assets to improve the team quickly with good decisions. The Jets are projected to have more than $70 million in salary cap space and they have nine draft picks in each of the next two drafts, including two first-round picks in each year. 

“Coach Saleh’s energy, knowledge and focus are contagious and will serve our team well as we continue to develop our culture, our foundation, and move this organization in the right direction,” Douglas said. ” I am excited to work closely with him to build this team into the winner that our fans deserve and will be proud of.”

Saleh was one of the hottest coaches in this hiring cycle. He interviewed with six of the seven teams that had openings. Saleh built the 49ers defense into one of the best in the league. 

“Throughout the interview process, it became clear that this is the right place to call home,” Saleh said. “The passion Christopher, Joe and Hymie have for this team is evident and I look forward to partnering with them to bring us where we want to be.”

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