Robert Saleh, an avid golfer, surely had no idea he’d be 2-down before he struck his opening shot on the first tee.
Saleh faced a deficit the moment he walked through the door in January as the latest Jets head coach, bearing the burden of the shortcomings of his predecessors and the mounting frustration from Jets fans whose wait for a mere playoff berth has become more exasperating with each empty season.
Until a winner finally is produced, this will remain the plight of every new Jets head coach.
It was a burden Adam Gase faced when he succeeded Todd Bowles and eventually failed to get the job done in two years. It was a burden Bowles faced when he replaced Rex Ryan once Ryan’s act had run its course after six seasons.
Saleh has been around the league as an assistant coach for a while — part of rebuilds in Houston, Seattle, Jacksonville and San Francisco — so it’s not as if he came to the Jets with no idea about what he was getting into.
But he’s quickly finding out that you have to be in it to truly appreciate how high not only the temperature is but the level of angst among Jets fans.
Regardless of the fact that he’s coaching the youngest roster in the league, including a rookie quarterback, and has had a rash of key injuries to an already thread-bare depth chart, Saleh at times has been treated like he’s been here for all the failures of the past 10 years, not someone who’s coached just 10 games.
“I started joking around with somebody that one year in New York is like dog years,’’ Saleh said Monday. “It is euphoria or disaster. There is no in between.’’
There, of course, have been missteps on Saleh’s part. Most recently, his handling of the quarterback situation last week with Mike White and Joe Flacco was clumsy.
Saleh was criticized for the quarterback kerfuffle, and that bent the noses of a few people in the organization out of shape, believing he should have been granted the benefit of the doubt. And perhaps he should have, but human nature is a powerful force, and the Jets’ poor track record over the past decade hasn’t earned them a lot of get-out-of-jail-free cards.
Saleh, by nature, is a bundle of positive energy, and these first few months have tested that positivity.
“With everybody that’s in a new role — especially in this market — there’s going to be a learning curve,’’ former Jets GM and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum told The Post on Tuesday. “One thing about New York is things are magnified — both positively and negatively — and when you’re going through some challenging times, whether fair or unfair, you realize the lens is going to be magnified on you.’’
Fans can bitch and moan all they want as their understandable frustration with the losing mounts, but Saleh isn’t going anywhere. He was brought here to be a part of the solution and, if we’re being fair, he needs more than 10 games to do that.
Since the summer, Saleh has been planting seeds that this was going to be a difficult year because of the youth of the team, warning fans not to expect a lot of wins.
Interestingly, though, a look back at a number of recent head coaches in their first year with the club shows a spike of improvement. Bill Parcells took over a 1-15 team and went 9-7. Eric Mangini took over a 4-12 team and went 10-6. Ryan matched Mangini’s 9-7 record from a year earlier, but got the Jets to the AFC title game. Bowles took over a 4-12 team and went 10-6. Even Gase went 7-9 after taking over a 4-12 team.
Saleh is following Gase’s 2-14 season of a year ago, so he’s still got seven games to improve on that. Like his team, he’s still a work in progress.
“If I was a player, I’d follow this guy anywhere,’’ special teams coach Brant Boyer said. “He’s a guy that players want to follow. I think he’s done an outstanding job of trying to keep the ship [moving] in the right direction.’’
The reality is that it’s difficult for many Jets fans, with their vision clouded by the 61-109 record since the last postseason berth, to see direction with this team at 2-8 and headed for an 11th consecutive season without a playoff berth.
“I think Coach Saleh, one of his superpowers is he’s patient,’’ second-year cornerback Bryce Hall said. “Not winning most of our games this year, has it taken a toll on him? I’m sure it has. But … he fully believes this thing’s going to flip, and I believe that, too. It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when?’ ’’
From Hall’s mouth to God’s green ears.
Credit: Notigroup Newsroom.
[This article may have been written with information from various sources]