Robert Saleh

AFC East Notes: Jets, Chubb, Hines

The Jets pulled off an upset win over the Bills today, despite the absence of wideout Corey Davis. The 2021 free agent signing ranks second on the team with 351 receiving yards, but has been unavailable since suffering a knee injury in Week 7.

That has allowed Denzel Mims to occupy a roster spot on gamedays, something which had yet to take place prior to the injury. The 2020 second-rounder saw a drastic drop in his playing time last year compared to his rookie campaign, which fueled a summer trade request. In the build-up to this year’s deadline, the possibility of a deal sending him out of New York remained, but nothing took place, perhaps as a reflection of his situation beginning to change.

Head coach Robert Saleh indicated that “something switched” recently with respect to Mims’ attitude and approach (Twitter link via SNY’s Connor Hughes). As a result, Saleh added that there is a strong possibility the Baylor alum will remain active for games even after Davis returns.

Here are some other notes from around the AFC East:

  • While the Jets were without Davis on offense, a notable member of their defense was back in action this afternoon. Edge rusher Jermaine Johnson returned after a three-game absence, something which was expected to take place today, per Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post. Part of New York’s vaunted 2022 rookie class, the first-rounder recorded a sack in the win over the Bills, bringing his total to 2.5 on the year. The Jets’ decision to trade away Jacob Martin will likely open the door to a larger role for Johnson moving forward.
  • More details have emerged regarding the Bradley Chubb extension he signed upon being acquired by the Dolphins. As detailed by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the new pact includes a fully guaranteed salary of $19.4MM next season. In March of 2023, his 2024 compensation will also become fully guaranteed. Overall, the Pro Bowler is in line for a steady base salary throughout the life of the deal; likewise, his cap hit is scheduled to remain very consistent, ranging from $22.2MM next year to $23.2MM in 2027, the final year of the deal.
  • The Bills were among the teams making notable additions on Tuesday, trading for running back Nyheim Hines. The veteran is known as an effective pass-catcher out of the backfield, but also for his special teams contributions. To no surprise, then, PFT’s Michael David Smith noted before today’s game that the ex-Colt was expected to serve as Buffalo’s punt returner. Indeed, Hines accounted for his new team’s only punt return, taking over that role from rookie Khalil Shakir.

Jets Committed To Zach Wilson As Starting Quarterback

Zach Wilson has been the subject of plenty of scrutiny in his young NFL career, and especially so following his performance yesterday. The second-year Jets quarterback played a large role in the team’s loss to the Patriots in Week 8, but his starting role is safe going forward.

Head coach Robert Saleh confirmed when speaking to the media on Monday that the team did not at any point contemplate benching the 2021 second overall pick during the loss (Twitter link via Connor Hughes of SNY.tv). Wilson completed less than half of passes (20 of 41) and threw three interceptions, leaving plenty of blame squarely on his shoulders for the team’s four-game winning streak coming to an end.

Overall, the 23-year-old has not been seen as the catalyst of the Jets’ offense, one which ranks mid-pack in most major categories. In other words, the second-year jump many had expected him to take (along the development curve of most young signal-callers) has yet to take place. That carries added significance in the wake of recent developments affecting the team’s offense.

The season-ending injuries suffered by running back Breece Hall and offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker have put a major dent in New York’s ground game. As a result, a larger burden of the unit’s success will now rest on Wilson’s development as a passer. How large of a step forward he takes will be a major storyline for the remainder of the season.

Regardless of the progress (or lack thereof) the team sees in the BYU alum, though, a QB change will not be forthcoming, Saleh insisted. The one exception to that commitment, of course, would be an injury, something Wilson already has a history with. He missed four games as a rookie, then the first three contests of the 2022 campaign due to a preseason knee injury which required arthroscopic surgery. Veteran Joe Flacco would be next in line to fill in for Wilson in the event he were to miss further time.

At 5-3, the Jets’ season could still very well end in a playoff berth. Even if the team falls short of that feat, though, valuable evaluation of their franchise QB will take place throughout the second half of the campaign.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

The NFL experienced a busy offseason on the coaching front. A whopping 10 teams changed coaches during the 2022 offseason, with the Buccaneers’ late-March switch pushing the number into double digits.

Fourteen of the league’s 32 head coaches were hired in the past two offseasons, illustrating the increased pressure the NFL’s sideline leaders face in today’s game. Two of the coaches replaced this year left on their own. Sean Payton vacated his spot in second on the longest-tenured HCs list by stepping down from his 16-year Saints post in February, while Bruce Arians has repeatedly insisted his Bucs exit was about giving his defensive coordinator a chance with a strong roster and not a Tom Brady post-retirement power play.

While Bill Belichick has been the league’s longest-tenured HC for many years, Payton’s exit moved Mike Tomlin up to No. 2. Mike Zimmer‘s firing after nine seasons moved Frank Reich into the top 10. Reich’s HC opportunity only came about because Josh McDaniels spurned the Colts in 2018, but Indianapolis’ backup plan has led the team to two playoff brackets and has signed an extension. Reich’s seat is hotter in 2022, however, after a January collapse. Linked to numerous HC jobs over the past several offseasons, McDaniels finally took another swing after his Broncos tenure ended quickly.

As 2022’s training camps approach, here are the NFL’s longest-tenured HCs:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2024
  3. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  4. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010; extended through 2025
  5. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2025
  6. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2025
  7. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2023
  8. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2025
  9. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018; signed extension in February 2022
  10. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018; extended through 2026
  11. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019; extended through 2027
  12. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  13. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  14. Ron Rivera (Washington Football Team): January 1, 2020
  15. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  16. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  17. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020
  18. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  19. Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons): January 15, 2021
  20. Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers): January 17, 2021
  21. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021
  22. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  23. Nathaniel Hackett (Denver Broncos): January 27, 2022
  24. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  25. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  26. Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  27. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  28. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  29. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  30. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  31. Lovie Smith (Houston Texans): February 7, 2022
  32. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022

AFC Rumors: Jaguars, Williams, Van Roten, Leonard, Browns, Griffin III

After the Jaguars fired former head coach Urban Meyer, it became public that Jacksonville had no intentions of paying Meyer the remaining money on his contract, as he was being fired for cause. There was speculation at the time that the parties may follow existing precedents and negotiate a settlement in order to avoid a legal situation.

According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation informed the columnist that, to date, the two sides have been unable to strike a settlement agreement.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC, starting with a rumor out of South Beach:

  • The Dolphins should have plenty of options for their offensive line configuration, but it most likely hinges on what they do with interior offensive lineman Connor Williams. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Miami isn’t quite sure what to do with Williams, working him at center and left guard over the past three weeks. The good news, is that it gives them plenty of options. With Terron Armstead solidified at left tackle and Robert Hunt solidly at right guard, Williams could fit at either position. If you put Williams at left guard, the team would likely have Michael Deiter start at center and leave Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson to compete for the starting right tackle job. If you start Williams at center, Eichenberg can slide in to the left guard job and Jackson can man the right tackle position.
  • The Jets recently released guard Greg Van Roten. According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, head coach Robert Saleh claimed that they released Van Roten because they believe he has the potential to start for other teams in the league. His release is meant to allow him to find those teams that would provide him a starting opportunity. Saleh was quoted saying they’d “love to have him back,” if he fails to find such opportunities.
  • Colts linebacker Darius Leonard had ankle surgery in June last year before the season. The surgery helped him to get healthy for the season, where he played every game but one and was named a first-team All-Pro for the third time in his career. While the ankle is still ailing him, Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star reported that Leonard says the ankle is better now than it was at this point last year. This is an encouraging sign for Leonard and a scary message for the other teams in the AFC South. Leonard has been named to an All-Pro team every year of his career while being nagged by his ankle ailment. A healthy Leonard is a dangerous weapon for opposing teams to have to game-plan against.
  • With the return of free agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry seeming less and less likely, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com believes the Browns will be able to push a bit harder now for free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney to return. Cabot points out that drafting UAB pass rusher Alex Wright makes the need to sign Clowney a little less urgent, but also mentions that fellow pass rusher Myles Garrett wants Clowney back, which could help his case. Cabot claims that, if the two parties can’t agree to a new deal, Cleveland will consider former Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes instead.
  • We’ve all seen Rich Eisen of NFL Network run the 40-yard dash for charity. Well, this year, former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, currently an analyst for ESPN, participated and reportedly was clocked at 4.48 seconds. Mike Florio of NBC Sports reports that on Eisen’s show, Griffin made the claim that some teams took notice of his impressive run and reached out to him. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any teams have offered to bring him back to the NFL, but Griffin has publicly stated his desire to return to football in the past, even claiming that his contract with ESPN would allow him to sign with an NFL team if the opportunity presents itself. Griffin last spent time in the league as Lamar Jackson‘s back up on the Ravens. He filled in multiple times leading many to wonder if he still had the ability to lead an NFL offense based on his brief appearances.

Dolphins Hire Mike McDaniel As Head Coach

The Dolphins have announced that they’ve agreed to terms to make 49ers’ offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel their next head coach (Twitter).

McDaniel recently had his second interview with Miami on Friday. Fox Sports Writer Peter Schrager reported that the interview lasted for 10 hours.
McDaniel was one of two candidates to receive a second interview with the Dolphins as Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Kellen Moore interviewed yesterday. With Moore not getting the job, it looks like Dallas will keep both coordinators as Moore has not been mentioned as a contender for the Saints’ or Texans’ jobs and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has informed teams that he is remaining in Dallas.

McDaniel is a longtime Kyle Shanahan-staffer, following Shanahan from Atlanta to San Francisco. Following Mike LaFleur‘s departure to join Robert Saleh on the Jets, McDaniel was promoted to offensive coordinator.

The 2021 NFL season was McDaniel’s first and only year as an offensive coordinator at any level. He first entered the NFL as an intern for the Broncos in 2004. He spent three years as an offensive assistant in Houston before taking the position of running backs coach for Sacramento’s short-lived UFL team. McDaniel re-entered the NFL ranks an an offensive assistant in Washington for two years before getting promoted to wide receivers coach. He spent one season in that position in Washington followed by a season holding the same position in Cleveland before heading to Atlanta to become an offensive assistant under Shanahan.

The 38-year-old’s rise has been meteoric since joining Shanahan. After two years in Atlanta, McDaniel became Shanahan’s run game coordinator in San Francisco for four seasons before finally getting his shot last year at offensive coordinator. McDaniel didn’t call plays for the 49ers, but he did draw up the running plays and coordinate a running game that ranked in the top-10 despite losing Raheem Mostert in Week 1 and missing Elijah Mitchell for 6 games this year.

With Brian Flores‘ lawsuit against the NFL, Dolphins, Giants, and Broncos alleging racial discrimination, much attention will likely be paid to the fact that McDaniel identifies as multiracial, making him the first minority coaching candidate to be hired in this year’s cycle. The 49ers will receive two third-round compensatory picks as a result of the hire.

With Miami securing their man, there are now only two teams remaining who are without a head coach: the Texans and Saints. Keep up with the last remaining coaching searches on our 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.

AFC Notes: Henry, Mayfield, Jets, Steelers

Initially floated last month, the prospect of Derrick Henry coming back for the playoffs is moving closer to reality. Henry returning for the Titans‘ first postseason game is the plan, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes. Once thought to be out for the season, Henry has recovered well enough, per Rapoport, that the Titans would consider bringing him back for Week 18 — should the team need a win to reach the playoffs. Henry has been out since Week 8, when he suffered a Jones fracture in his foot. This would obviously be a tremendous development for the Titans, who have not been the same without the two-time reigning rushing champion. Henry’s 937 rushing yards still rank fifth in the NFL, despite the dominant back having missed the past six games. Henry underwent surgery Nov. 2.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Although Baker Mayfield missed Monday’s game due to a positive COVID-19 test, the Browns quarterback has played through multiple injuries in the previous several weeks. The former No. 1 overall pick will, however, need offseason surgery and will be forced to wear a harness on his injured left shoulder the rest of this season, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Mayfield suffered a fractured shoulder bone in October. While some of Mayfield’s other injuries — of the knee and heel variety — have improved, the shoulder problem is unlikely to be in the rear-view mirror until after his 2022 surgery.
  • The Jets may be without their head coach in Week 16. Robert Saleh tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. Tight ends coach Ron Middleton would step in as acting head coach if Saleh remains sidelined on Sunday, when the Jets face the Jaguars.
  • Mekhi Becton has yet to resume practicing, with Saleh indicating earlier this week he had “no update” on his left tackle. Out with a dislocated kneecap he sustained in Week 1, Becton has yet to resume practicing. The Jets shutting down their left tackle would be wise here, Cimini writes. Two years remain on the 370-pound blocker’s contract, with a 2024 option included, but availability has become a concern for the 2020 first-rounder. Becton missed some time last season, and the Jets have previously levied discipline over his weight.
  • First-year Steelers offensive line coach Adrian Klemm has attracted interest from a high-profile college program. Oregon is pursuing the NFL assistant, ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg tweets. Promoted after two years as the Steelers’ assistant O-line coach, Klemm has only been an NFL assistant for three seasons. He worked as a college staffer previously, ending that run as a UCLA associate head coach. Oregon is assembling a new staff under recently hired HC Dan Lanning.

HC Robert Saleh: Jets Aren’t Planning “Fire Sale”

When the Jets were struggling last year, general manager Joe Douglas was quick to sell off veterans for future picks. While the 2021 version of the team sits at only 1-5, it doesn’t sound like the Jets are planning on selling again this year. While head coach Robert Saleh wasn’t around last season, he told reporters today that he isn’t anticipating a fire sale, per Connor Hughes of The Athletic (via Twitter).

“If it’s something that will help us, great,” Saleh said (via Al Iannazzone of Newsday.com). “If it’s not, great. We’ll stay pat. Forcing things is not Joe’s forte. He’s very deliberate. He communicates with us all the time. I love the way he goes about his business. I love his process. I’m with Joe.”

The Jets have the youngest roster in the NFL, so it’s not like the team has a surplus of veterans that they could sell off for future pieces. Last year, the team traded the likes of Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, and Jordan Willis, but we’re unlikely to see a repeat in 2021.

“If it’s something that’s going to help us awesome,” Saleh said. “But I also know we’re not looking for a fire sale either.”

While Marcus Maye previously made sense as a trade candidate (considering the contentious negotiations this summer), the safety said that he hasn’t requested a trade out of New York. Following Zach Wilson‘s injury, the Jets actually made a move to add to their roster earlier this week when they acquired Joe Flacco from the Eagles.

Jets Owner Endorses GM Joe Douglas, HC Robert Saleh

The Jets hit another low this past Sunday. Not only did they get blown out by their divisional rival, but they also lost rookie quarterback Zach Wilson for the next few weeks. While no one in New York is happy with the team’s 1-5 record, owner Woody Johnson told reporters that he continues to have faith in general manager Joe Douglas and coach Robert Saleh.

“I’ve been around for, this is going on 22 years, with my little absence that I had recently, and this is a good group,” Johnson said (via ESPN’s Rich Cimini). “We will get it right. Last week, you know, [was] frustrating, but now we turn the page and we’re off to the Bengals.”

The Jets have struggled during Douglas’s two-plus seasons in New York, but he’s also put together the league’s youngest roster and has a clear vision for the future. This is Saleh’s first season at the helm, and even if the Jets finish with one of the worst records in the league, there’s practically no chance the team moves on from their head coach.

“Just talking to the leadership — Joe, Robert, and seeing how their plans are put together,” Johnson said. “How they’re deep thinkers, they want to do things like establish a culture and they’re getting the right players in the right positions.

“It’s just a very young team with a young quarterback. He’s 22 years old, he just turned 22. So he’s seeing things for the first time like a lot of the quarterbacks now, a lot of the young quarterbacks. It’s going to take him a little bit of time, but I have a lot of confidence in Zach, too.”

Jets To Stick With Current CBs?

The Jets’ cornerback group is extremely green, but that doesn’t seem to bother new head coach Robert Saleh. In a conference call with reporters, Saleh indicated that the Jets aren’t planning to add an experienced vet to the mix.

The difference between Player A and Player Z is minimal, and the only thing that keeps Player Z from becoming Player A is an opportunity and reps,” Saleh said (via Brian Costello of the New York Post). “Let’s see what happens. Does it always happen? It doesn’t, but unless you’re willing to be bold enough to coach your tail off and to invest as much as you can into these young men and give them the opportunity to be seen, give them the opportunity to get reps, and give them the opportunity to get better, you’ll never know what you might find. So, that’s just the belief and the philosophy of not only our coaching staff but the entire organization, and that’s something we’re committed to.”

Saleh also quoted his old mentor, Pete Carroll: “You can’t be afraid to play young guys.” Saleh must have taken that to heart, because Justin Hardee is the Jets’ only corner with 3+ years of NFL experience, and he’ll mostly be on special teams. As it stands, the Jets project to start Bless Austin and Bryce Hall on the outside with either Javelin Guidry or rookie Michael Carter II on slot duty.

Of course, there’s still a long way to go between now and September. But, for now, it sounds like the Jets won’t be in the mix for veteran corners like Richard Sherman.

Robert Saleh Wants Richard Sherman On Jets

Richard Sherman recently said he’d be open to returning to the Seahawks and Pete Carroll, but he could end up reuniting with a different head coach that he’s familiar with.

New Jets head coach Robert Saleh is interested in reuniting with Sherman in New York, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com is told. Whether or not GM Joe Douglas will sign off on such a move apparently “depends on a few factors.” Cimini notes it could hinge on what the Jets do at cornerback in the draft, which could mesh since we heard a couple of weeks ago Sherman wasn’t planning on signing before the draft.

Cimini also says that Sherman “seemingly would prefer a contending team in the West,” so it’s not clear the interest is entirely mutual. Saleh, of course, was Sherman’s defensive coordinator in San Francisco the past few seasons. Sherman spent a long time as one of the top corners in the league as part of Seattle’s legendary ‘Legion of Boom’ defenses, then signed with the 49ers in 2018.

The Stanford product was limited to only five games this past year and turned 33 last month, but he was still a second-team All-Pro in 2019. He’ll be an interesting gamble for a team, as he’s past his prime and coming off an injury-plagued year, but also played at a very high level not too long ago.

As Cimini cautions there are “a few bridges to cross before anything happens,” but it sounds like there is another very realistic suitor for Sherman on the table.