Talent and schemes

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Some might agree with this theory, some might not.

Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said during a Jets documentary called, “Flight 2022”:

“[Robert Saleh’s] whole thing is relationships,” LaFleur said. “That is something I’ve learned from him. Schemes are great and having great players is great, but having those relationships and building that with those guys is really what really gets those guys to the next level.”

Interesting perspective.

Saleh does a great job of connecting with players. He’s a top-shelf motivator. His players consistently play very, very hard for him. Anybody who believes any part of the Jets’ 4-13 record last year was related to effort, is misguided.

In some ways, Saleh is the perfect modern-day coach. Players are wired differently these days. The days of hard-line coaches like Vince Lombardi and Bill Parcells are over. Yelling at players really doesn’t work very well.

Saleh yells a lot, but not in a way that embarrasses players. He yells at officials and he yells positive motivation to his players as a group, and as individuals, but doesn’t dress them down individually, or embarrass them, which generally doesn’t work that well anymore.

So he does a great job connecting with players, making them feel like they all matter, and does get them to play very hard.

But some might disagree with the premise that relationships take precedent over talent and strategy.

Because last year, the Jets played very, very hard for Saleh, but their talent and schemes clearly needed to improve coming off that 4-13 campaign.

So the 2022 season might be one that could lead some to disagree with the quote to a degree.

Schemes are great and players are great, and probably just as important as relationships.

The opposite side of the ball from LaFleur, the Jets’ defense, is a perfect example.

Last season, they lacked the requisite talent at certain positions to be highly successful as a unit, and too often opposing quarterbacks made it took too easy throwing against them.

They finished 32nd in the league defensively.

And Saleh made his bones as a defensive coach.

The relationships were fine. The players loved playing for Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich on the defensive side of the ball, but in some games, like the 54-13 loss at New England, and 45-30 loss at Indianapolis, defensive talent and scheme issues were on display. Sometimes the looks were perhaps too simple making them easy to dissect for opposing quarterbacks.

Games like this, it just looked too easy for the opposing offense, almost like a 7-on-7 practice drill.

So this off-season, the Jets’ brass rolled up their sleeves and made a concerted effort to improve the talent on defense.

In the first round, they addressed two of their biggest needs, adding a #1 cornerback (Sauce Gardner) and dynamic edge-rusher (Jermaine Johnson).

They added some much-needed defensive line depth, so when they roll with their backups, which they do often, there won’t be the precipitous dropoff they had last year when the second team took the field. An underrated signing is DT Solomon Thomas, who will give them a DT who can come in for Quinnen Williams without a big dropoff.

Also Saleh and LaFleur worked hard on schematics.

So some might argue with the premise that relationships take precedent over talent and scheme.

But it’s certainly hard to argue that Saleh does a wonderful job connecting with players.

June 21, 2022

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Dan Leberfeld
Dan Leberfeldhttps://www.jetsconfidential.com
Publisher of Jets Confidential Magazine. Call 1-800-932-4557 (M-F, 12-4) to subscribe. Co-host of Press Coverage every Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio from 11-2.

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