Blame games and bad vibes: Insider notes on Jets' locker room as confidence in Zach Wilson, Robert Saleh plummets
Hopes were high for the 2023 New York Jets. After the trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, many thought the franchise would contend in the very competitive AFC East and make a deep run through the playoffs. A Super Bowl appearance? Many thought it was possible, as the hype machine wound into full gear.
Yet just four snaps into their first offensive possession of the season, the dream quickly died. Now the finger pointing begins.
The first shot was fired yesterday when ESPN's Rich Cimini reported that the situation in the Jets locker room is getting ugly, as players accused Robert Saleh of being an apologist for quarterback Zach Wilson, who the head coach continues to defend. Yet after multiple conversations with sources, I’ve found the problem runs much deeper.
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Hearing from multiple players, I’m told there is a feeling of dread in the Jets locker room, and it is not a good vibe. Zach Wilson spectacle aside, several players have admitted they don’t see the Jets winning many more games this season without Rodgers behind center. No one specifically said the season is over despite their attitude.
Some have complained it’s more of the same on offense, with quarterback Zach Wilson being just a portion of the problem. There have been complaints about the game planning, the coaching (especially the offensive line and running backs coach) and the fact that the team put all their eggs into one basket -- Aaron Rodgers -- and when he went down there was no backup plan.
Saleh himself is part of the problem, according to several of the players.
Prior to the start of the season, sources in the building told me that Saleh was trying too hard to inject himself as a team leader rather than just letting things develop internally. The players loved what Aaron Rodgers was preaching and completely bought into their new quarterback as the team leader.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley was the one on defense that the players looked up to, or at least the ones I’ve heard from. According to many people, Saleh tried to imprint his leadership on the team when it really wasn’t necessary.
As of today, I am told many of the players never really bought into what Saleh has been selling. They’re not confident in his leadership as a head coach, especially after last year’s collapse. The Jets lost their final six games and eight of the last 10 after a 5-2 start. In two years as Jets head coach, Saleh has yet to deliver a winning season.
Then there’s quarterback Zach Wilson. Yesterday’s report from Cimini should come as no surprise to anyone. Just weeks after their final regular-season game, a loss to the Miami Dolphins, I reported players were telling Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas during exit interviews that they needed to move on from Wilson and look for another starting quarterback, which the franchise did in acquiring Rodgers.
Yet even with the team’s thrilling Week 1 victory over the Buffalo Bills, attitudes and beliefs about Wilson were not about to change on a dime.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Gang Green. Their opponents over the next five weeks include the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers. A victory here and there could change attitudes, otherwise people I’ve spoken with expect the situation to go from bad to worse.