What NY Jets HC Robert Saleh says vs. what he means
Saleh, like every NFL coach and player, has undergone extensive media training
How does an NFL coach sleep? First, he lies on one side, and then he lies on the other side.
NFL coaches lie to the media. Sometimes, they do it subtly, but other times it’s so obvious that my four-year-old can spot it. (Is this true or false? “It’s the truth,” claims the four-year-old with chocolate on her chin.)
McDaniels said benching Carr isn’t indicative of a decision on his future, but we can be real.
#Raiders wouldn’t do that if they brought Carr back next year. His career in the Silver and Black is almost certainly over.
— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) December 28, 2022
Jets coach Robert Saleh is no different. He is a player coach and rarely sells his boys to the media. Therefore, he will lie, mince words, or simply tell outright lies to protect his players.
In the New York market, it’s hard to criticize Saleh for this approach. His calm demeanor is very perfect for the center of attention. He keeps his emotions in check when answering pesky reporters who ask questions designed to trip him up. At the same time, it provides enough quotes and insights to keep writers busy.
However, it appears that a Saleh translator is necessary for both the Jets beat and the fan base. Taking what Saleh says is nonsense.
Injuries are reported
NFL head coaches always lie about injuries. The reason is simple: why give an advantage to the opponent?
However, Saleh takes this to a whole different level at times.
Zach Wilson: “There’s a chance Zach starts Week 1.”
When Saleh says something is possible, it means it won’t happen. At this point, it’s close to automatic. It’s like a parent saying “maybe.”
After Zach Wilson suffered a torn meniscus and bone bruise in the first week of the preseason, it was reported that the injury would keep him out 2-4 weeks. Some media outlets listed the timeline as more than 4-6 weeks. Either way, the regular season opener was just over four weeks to the day Wilson injured his knee.
As it turned out, Wilson returned to action in Week 4 against the Steelers, which was seven weeks after the injury.
Saleh knew all along that Wilson wouldn’t play in Week 1, but he tried to dance around it. It was a largely transparent playmaking tactic so as not to give the Ravens an advantage in knowing which QB to prepare for. As it turned out, Joe Flacco didn’t give them any problems, and Wilson probably wouldn’t have been much better.
Mike White: “We’re preparing like we’ve got him on Sunday.”
A day after Mike White left the Jets-Bills game with a crushing rib injury, Saleh was asked about the injury in no uncertain terms. ESPN’s Rich Cimini asked point-blank if White had a rib fracture.
Saleh’s answer: “I will not go into details. I know what they saw was good enough for him to get back on the plane and he went through all that stuff.”
Cimini went on to ask if Saleh expected Bardhi to be available next week against the Lions, to which the coach replied: “We are preparing as if we have him on Sunday.”
Later in the week, Mike White made a very similar statement. When asked if there was any doubt in his mind that he would play against the Lions, White said: “No. Not at all. As I said on Monday, I’m preparing as such and if anything changes, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Somehow, the media and betting lines took that White line as confirmation that he would play, even though Saleh had said virtually the same thing on Monday and repeated it earlier in the day. If you read between the lines, even then, you could see that there was no certainty in what was being said.
Sure enough, the next morning, Saleh announced that White was not cleared for contact and Zach Wilson would start. White admitted that his belief from the day before had been a strange dream. 10 different doctors refused to clear White for action because of the risk of a punctured lung.
All this song and dance wasn’t fooling anyone, at least according to Dan Campbell. The Lions coach, who had praised Mike White’s toughness in his press conference Wednesday, said after Wilson’s announcement that his team was prepared for Wilson to be the QB throughout.
Quinnen Williams and Corey Davis: “They have a chance to play Sunday.”
This returns after Zach Wilson’s injury. When Saleh says a player has a chance to play, they just never do. Corey Davis did not clear concussion protocol before the Lions game, and it was abundantly clear Wednesday that he would not. Saleh continued with Quinnen Williams all the way until 11:30 a.m. on game day, even as Tanzel Smart was lifted from the practice squad.
At this point, it’s a pretty well-established Jets rule that if a player doesn’t practice on Thursday, he won’t play in the game on Sunday.
On the players’ performance Zach Wilson: “It’s not all about the quarterback.” “We still believe in Zach Wilson.”
What exactly do you expect Saleh to say in this situation? That the Jets have waived Zach Wilson and will cut him after the season?
The reality is that Saleh is a players coach and will jump to avoid public criticism of his players. He sees what we all see on the field. However, he also knows the Jets need whatever trade leverage they can hold for Wilson. There is no upside to throwing him under the bus at this point.
Zach Wilson: “We’re taking Zach to the no. 2. Zach has done a great job. … [The timing of it is] coincidence, more than anything.”
Uh-huh, coach. Zach Wilson’s rise to the no. 2 QB behind Mike White before finding out White was out against the Lions was simply because Wilson had made progress. To believe that would be like believing what comes out of a politician’s mouth.
The Jets elevated Zach Wilson over Joe Flacco because Flacco managed to lose the game for them on four snaps in the Bills game. Old Man Joe has now been sacked at the highest rate in the NFL, three times the league average rate. The Jets really had no choice in the matter.
As further evidence of this, look at what’s happening now: Wilson was so bad that the Jets had no choice but to insert Flacco as the backup and pray that Mike White stays healthy. Last week, they opted to go with Chris Streveler instead of Flacco, despite how much Saleh gave the media a song and dance about wanting Streveler’s running ability.
Knocking down hypotheses
If you’ve tried ChatGPT recently, you know it’s quite a tricky task to get a back-end answer to a question after the AI tool knocks it down.
Saleh is as bitten as ChatGPT when it comes to hypothetical questions, no matter how valid they may be. Occasionally, he calls something hypothetical when it’s not simply to avoid an answer.
All this is the coach’s words. It’s one of the ways in which Saleh is well-equipped to handle New York’s relentless media.
Identifying the truth
There’s no real way to know what Robert Saleh is really thinking, especially since his decision-making and priorities have been unclear at times this year. However, here are some rules of thumb.
Whatever Saleh says about injuries is likely untrue, by default. If Saleh compliments a beleaguered player, it’s the persona of the players’ coach that speaks, not his true faith. When Saleh discusses the current rationale of football, he usually tells the truth. This includes his in-game decision-making and personnel choices (eg, explaining that he chose not to call a timeout at the end of the Lions game to avoid a review in the booth of a generous seat and that Bam Knight rose above James Robinson because of Knight’s one-cut, vertical running style). Don’t listen to what the beat writers say Saleh said; watch the press conference for yourself. I was amazed at what was left out in the 140-character tweets of Saleh’s comments compared to the actual video of the oppressor.
The New York media wants a paradox of a head coach: a guy who will stay calm and cool under pressure but give them the information they want to hear and who will protect his players but will blame them publicly. Robert Saleh has chosen the diplomatic approach, which involves a whole load of ills.
The trick is not to believe everything that comes out of his mouth.