New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh’s optimism in the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ devastating injury might be misplaced for some, but for Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, it’s exactly what the team needs.
The expectations that surrounded the Jets heading into the 2023 season seemingly vanished on Monday night after Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles early in the first quarter.
Despite defeating the Buffalo Bills in overtime, the sentiment after the game was that the Jets’ hopes for reaching the playoffs were all but over.
“I don’t know why people are trying to put an obituary onto our team’s name,” Saleh told the media Tuesday. “Aaron is an unbelievable piece to this whole thing, and we love him, but I think there’s 52 other guys in the locker room plus the 16 practice squad guys that believe that we can do a hell of a lot of good things here.”
He continued, “We’ve worked hard over the last couple of years – players, coaches, scouts and GM – building a pretty cool organization. So, there’s still a lot of faith in the locker room and the things that we can still accomplish here. So, while the outside world can go ahead and write whatever story they want to write, there’s still the true story being written in this building.”
Saleh’s messaging is an approach that Bill Parcells, who similarly lost Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde in the 1999 season opener to a torn Achilles, would likely approve of.
“I think a coach’s challenge is your team has to have hope,” Parcells told the New York Post on Tuesday. “You have to have hope. If the nucleus they built up there, if that was good enough to win, I think you’ll see a highly competitive team.”
Saleh did not hesitate in backing third-year quarterback Zach Wilson, despite his struggles in his first two seasons in New York. He continued that on Wednesday looking ahead to Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.
“It sounds cliché, but it’s next man up. Nobody cares. Nobody cares that you’ve lost a player. At the end of the day, Sunday’s coming, and we’ve got to put our best foot forward and do everything we can to put ourselves in a position to be successful. That’s the harsh part of the business and I think guys understand.”
While the pressure for Wilson to step up will undoubtedly top the headlines, Saleh will also face the challenge of keeping his team focused.
“You are charged with winning games under any circumstances that exist and that’s what you have to try to do,” Parcells told the Post. “You’re coaching them. It’s your job to get your team ready to play to the best of their ability. It’s a player’s job to prepare and play to the best of their ability. If they do that, then they should have a chance to win.”