What Robert Saleh is thinking as Jets decide on Zach Wilson


Eric Mangini has been in Robert Saleh’s chair. Literally.

Mangini was the Jets head coach when the team moved into its Florham Park headquarters and was the first occupant of the coach’s first-floor office there. Mangini also has had to make some tough decisions about his starting quarterback as a head coach, both with the Jets and then with the Browns.

“I don’t envy Robert at all,” Mangini, now an analyst for FS1, said Tuesday. “It’s a hard thing to do. It’s hard in any market. It’s really hard in the New York market.”

Saleh must decide whether to stick with Zach Wilson as his starting quarterback or switch to either Mike White or Joe Flacco. Mangini believes Saleh should make a switch, but knows as well as anyone how hard it is to make a change at quarterback.

Jets head coach Eric Mangini on the sidelines during a game against the St. Louis Rams on November 9, 2008.
Former Jets head coach Eric Mangini said of making a quarterback change, “It’s hard in any market. It’s really hard in the New York market.”
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“It’s really difficult,” said Mangini, who coaches the Jets from 2006-08. “I think this actually might be more difficult because you’ve invested such a high draft pick in the quarterback and everybody wants to make it work. It’s not like anybody is going into this hoping that Zach fails. Everybody is going into it hoping Zach is successful. But when you reach this point in the season and the situation is where it is right now, you do have to take a step back and say, ‘OK, maybe it’s a time for a change.’ ”

Mangini said he thought the Jets might make the switch after the team’s first loss to the Patriots when Wilson threw three interceptions in a 22-17 loss. But Saleh stuck by Wilson, and did not open the door to making a chance until Monday, the day after a dispiriting 10-3 loss to those same Patriots in a game in which Wilson threw for 77 yards and the Jets gained just 2 total yards in the second half.

“When you look at it, especially with a young guy, it doesn’t have to be gaudy stats that jump out at you,” Mangini said. “It doesn’t have to be obvious things, but you’ve got to see progress. I don’t know what you point to, at this point, either from a head coaching standpoint, a GM standpoint or an owner standpoint or a locker-room standpoint and say, ‘OK, he’s making progress.’”

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick shake hands on the field after the Jets lost to the Patriots 10-3.
Eric Mangini watched Patriots coach Bill Belichick (right) make one of the most famed quarterback choices in NFL history. Now it’s Jets coach Robert Saleh’s turn.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Like most people, Mangini was not a fan of Wilson’s performance in his postgame press conference when he said he did not feel like he let down the defense, which allowed just a field goal.

Mangini said Saleh now must face a room full of players and make sure he does not lose credibility if he keeps playing Wilson.

“’You’ve said to us that you’re going to play the best players,’” Mangini said of what players will be thinking. “’You’ve said to us that accountability is important and performance is important. Well, then, show us that it’s important.’ I think that’s where I’m sure [Saleh] is.”

Mangini said every quarterback change was tough. He went from Chad Pennington to Kellen Clemens during the 2007 season and then cut Pennington in 2008 when the team traded for Brett Favre, which was a decision made by those above Mangini.

Jets quarterback Chad Pennington #10 at practice in August 2008.
The Jets cut quarterback Chad Pennington prior to the 2008 season.
Neil Miller

“I think the hardest thing emotionally was probably having to cut Chad,” Mangini said. “He was such a good guy, and had performed well and I thought the team was going in the right direction. We made the decision to try to take a jump, which for a while it worked.”

Mangini also reflected on a decision not to change quarterbacks that he regrets. With the Jets in playoff contention late in 2008, Favre suffered an arm injury, but kept playing. At the time, Favre was in the middle of what would be an NFL-record streak of 297 consecutive games played. Mangini said ending that streak weighed on his decision.

“When Brett was banged up and wasn’t playing as well, I probably should have put Kellen in for some of those games, but how do you break the longest streak in the NFL?” Mangini said. “In retrospect, you probably try something different.”

Mangini also witnessed one of the greatest quarterback debates in NFL history as a young assistant coach with the Patriots when Bill Belichick decided to stick with Tom Brady after Drew Bledsoe returned from injury in 2001. The decision led to the Patriots’ first Super Bowl title.

New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre runs off the field after a loss to the Miami Dolphins on December 28, 2008.
Brett Favre’s consecutive games played streak factored into the Jets’ decision to continue to play him as he struggled down the stretch in 2008.
Anthony J. Causi

“One thing that I respect incredibly about Bill Belichick is he does have an ability to make the hardest of decisions, and he can make those unemotional decisions and he’s not going to really care what anybody thinks,” Mangini said. “He’s going to go with what his gut says. He cut the most famous quarterback [Bernie Kosar] in Cleveland Browns history, which you talk about backlash. But sometimes it takes that willingness to take a chance, to go out on a limb, to move forward.”

Saleh is now staring at that limb. One wrong step and it could break.

Scouting the Island

The Jets are honoring Darrelle Revis on Sunday, adding him to their Ring of Honor at halftime. Mangini was the Jets head coach in 2007 when the team traded up to draft Revis.

Mangini recalled the draft evaluation of Revis, one of the best cornerbacks to ever play.

“I spent the early part of my coaching career with defensive backs, and there are certain things that you look for,” Mangini said. “There are the physical characteristics: height, weight, speed. There are the things you look for on tape: Can he play the deep ball? Can he play man-to-man? Can he tackle? It was check, check, check. Then we had our core characteristics, which you heard me talk about a million times, the intangibles, and those were check, check, check. Outside of maybe elite ball skills, like a Ty Law or a guy who can generate a ton of interceptions, maybe on that one the check wasn’t written in with as thick an ink, but he still had abilities there to get the ball out.

Eric Mangini talks with Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes during workouts at the New York Jets practice facility in Florham Park, N.J., October 6, 2008.
Eric Mangini talks with Darrelle Revis (24) and Kerry Rhodes (25) during a Jets practice in 2008.
Jeff Zelevansky

“Going through that whole process and having every box checked off, and then I got a chance to meet him and I got a chance to meet his mom and to spend time with him and see what kind of person he was and the family that he came from. It was us then trying to figure out: How do we get him? We set up the trade the night before with Carolina, saying, ‘If our guy is here, we want to trade,’ and then we just held our breath.”

The Jets moved up 11 spots to get Revis, and he became a superstar with the team.

All three of the Jets’ Ring of Honor nominees were drafted by the duo of Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. They built the foundation for the 2009 and 2010 playoff teams in those drafts and with some of their other player acquisitions. As Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Revis are honored, the achievements of Mangini and Tannenbaum during that time should also be remembered.

Stat’s so

Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets runs the ball for a first down during the first quarter against the New England Patriots on November 20, 2022.
Zach Wilson joined unhappy Jets company during his outing against the Patriots on Sunday.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Zach Wilson’s 77-yard passing day in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots was one of the worst passing performances in franchise history. Here is a look at the fewest passing yards by a Jets quarterback in a game with at least 22 pass attempts:

Al Woodall: 20 yards (4-of-24, 0 TD, 0 INT)
Oct. 10, 1971, at Patriots, L, 20-0

Browing Nagle: 77 yards (9-of-24, 0 TD, 2 INT)
Nov. 22, 1992, at Patriots, L, 24-3

Richard Todd: 77 yards (10-of-27, 0 TD, 2 INT)
Dec. 14, 1980, vs. Saints, L, 21-20

Zach Wilson: 77 yards (9-of-22, 0 TD, 0 INT)
Nov. 20, 2022, at Patriots, L, 10-3

Boomer Esiason: 82 yards (10-of-23, 0 TD, 0 INT)
Dec. 24, 1994, at Oilers, L, 24-10

Sam Darnold: 86 yards (11-of-32, 0 TD, 4 INT)
Oct. 21, 2019, vs. Patriots, L, 33-0

Ken O’Brien: 87 yards (8-of-23, 0 TD, 0 INT)
Nov. 4, 1990, vs. Cowboys, W, 24-9

Al Dorow: 90 yards (8-of-24, 0 TD, 3 INT)
Dec. 17, 1961, at Texans, L, 35-24

Al Woodall: 91 yards (10-of-24, 1 TD, 2 INT)
Dec. 13, 1970, at Dolphins, L, 16-10

Marty Domres: 93 yards (14-of-24 1 TD, 0 INT)
Nov. 6, 1977, vs. Dolphins, L, 14-10

Source: Stathead

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