New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh approaches his first training camp in charge of a team with a mindset that the bumps in the road will help shape his club in 2021.
The first-time head coach enters camp with clear eyes, not sugarcoating the fact that the Jets might struggle in his first season at the helm. Given that his starting quarterback, Zach Wilson, is a rookie, there are major question marks in his secondary, and across the roster, Saleh’s Jets could be in for a rough rebuild.
Saleh told Albert Breer of The MMQB that it’s how his players respond when faced with adversity this year that he’s most excited to see.
“Everything’s been awesome,” Saleh said. “Call it the greatest honeymoon in the world, if you want. It’s been great. But I’m genuinely excited for adversity. Because a lot of different things are going to pop up. There are coaches that are going to find out about themselves. There’s the scouts and the GM, there’s myself, the players, the training staff. Everybody’s going to find out a little more about themselves when adversity hits.
“I think that’s when teams have their greatest amount of growth — it’s through adversity. And so with training camp, that’s what I’m most excited for. I wanna see how people respond.”
Coaches often note that how a player and team respond to adversity tells more about their makeup than victories.
In his four years in San Francisco, Saleh experienced the highs and lows of the team-building roller-coaster. From narrowly losing Kyle Shanahan’s first nine games in charge to making the Super Bowl just two years later to having injuries ravage the team last season, it was a whirlwind in San Francisco. In 2018, the 49ers lost starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 3 and went 4-12 before turning it around in 2019 to win the NFC.
In Saleh’s mind, seeing how players responded to adversity set the stage for greatness.
“Jimmy gets hurt the third game of the year and we don’t have nearly the season we felt like we should’ve,” Saleh said. “Everyone’s screaming for changes, everyone wants heads to roll-the media, the external forces came on strong. And to Kyle’s credit, he stayed strong. He stayed strong with players, he stayed strong with coaches, he stayed strong with the entire organization. And that offseason, you saw the players respond exactly the way you wanted them to respond, and that led to the 2019 season.
“I really believe it stemmed from ’18, it stemmed from all that adversity, it stemmed from guys’ knowing that they’re capable of so much more. Through injury-ravaged seasons, they were still able to compete, and be right at the doorstep.”
Now it’s Saleh’s job to steer a team through whatever adversity arrives.
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