Buck Showalter became the first Mets manager to win National League Manager of the Year on Tuesday. Now can his Shea Stadium cousin do the same thing?
In the same vein as the Mets, the Jets have never had one of their coaches honored as the NFL Coach of the Year. Robert Saleh has shot to end that streak. The Jets are 6-3 at the midway point of their season, poised to end an 11-year playoff drought and a six-year streak of finishing with a losing record.
There is still plenty of football to be played, but if the Jets finish with a winning record and a playoff berth, Saleh has a very compelling argument.
The Jets have been a wasteland for most of the past decade since the early success under Rex Ryan. Saleh inherited a team that did not know how to win and an organization that constantly felt as if it had a cloud over its collective head.
Saleh infused energy into the organization and pushed positivity even through some tough times in Year 1. General manager Joe Douglas got him some better talent for Year 2, and Saleh has put that talent in position to win. The Jets defense has gone from the worst in the league statistically into the top 10. Saleh has instilled confidence in his young team, and has the Jets no longer finding ways to lose games late. Instead, they have the best fourth-quarter point differential (+58) in the NFL and have come from behind in four of their six wins.
When Saleh was hired in 2021, turning the franchise around was a massive challenge. The Jets were coming off a 2-14 season, and had no long-term quarterback as they appeared ready to move on from Sam Darnold. Saleh has not turned things around on his own, but he has been the lead voice and has set the tone throughout the entire organization. The Jets have scored signature wins this season over the Packers at Lambeau Field and the Bills at MetLife Stadium.
Saleh is no shoo-in for the award. A lot can happen in the next eight weeks. There are also many other strong candidates, starting with Brian Daboll across town with the Giants. The Eagles’ Nick Sirianni, the Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel, the Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell and the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll, one of Saleh’s mentors, have strong cases as well.
If Saleh does take home the hardware, he would claim another piece of Jets history. Though a New York coach has won the honor five times, all were with the Giants: Allie Sherman (1961 and 1962), Bill Parcells (1986), Dan Reeves (1993) and Jim Fassel (1997). Two Jets coaches won it before they joined the Jets: Parcells (in 1986 with the Giants and in 1994 with the Patriots) and Weeb Ewbank (in 1958 with the Colts).
Typically, the award goes to a coach who has turned around a team like Saleh has. Looking through the years at the best chances Jets coaches had, Walt Michaels could have won it in 1981, when he ended the Jets’ 11-year playoff drought, but Bill Walsh won it with the 13-3 49ers. Parcells could have taken it home in 1998, when the Jets went 12-4, but Reeves won it with the Falcons, who were 14-2.
Saleh could end the Jets’ drought with the award if the team finishes the season strong and he ends their playoff drought. It would be a nice punctuation mark on what he accomplished this season.
Also making their way down the red carpet…
Saleh is not the only Jet who could bring home some hardware. Here are a few other awards for which the Jets can contend.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Sauce Gardner is the favorite to win this award right now. He has 13 passes defensed, the most in the league, and two interceptions. He has been terrific in coverage and has been a willing tackler.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Amazingly, the Jets could have had two candidates for this award if Breece Hall had not torn his ACL. Instead, Garrett Wilson is the Jets’ best candidate. Wilson leads the team with 42 receptions, and has been heating up lately. The Jets moved him outside, and it has helped his production. He had six catches for 115 yards against the Patriots and eight catches for 92 yards against the Bills before the bye. The only thing that could hold Wilson back is the Jets’ consistent reliance on the run, which has been part of their winning formula. Also, Wilson could lose this award to his former Ohio State teammate Chris Olave, who is doing big things with the Saints.
Defensive Player of the Year: We’re giving Quinnen Williams an outside shot at this award right now. He has seven sacks and has been dominant, but the Cowboys’ Micah Parsons seems like a unanimous choice to win this at the moment. Williams has had a terrific season, and could make a push for the award if he continues to rack up sacks, which is a stat every voter pays attention to.
Executive of the Year: Joe Douglas has to be one of the top candidates. He had a tremendous draft, selecting candidates for Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year. He added wisely in free agency without breaking the bank, and has built a nice, young core along with hiring a coach in Saleh who has the team going in the right direction. Douglas’ toughest competition may be Howie Roseman, his former boss with the NFL-leading Eagles. It should also be noted that this honor is slightly different than the others. It is awarded by the Pro Football Writers of America rather than the Associated Press.
The Jets have been a very strong team in the fourth quarter. Only one team in the NFL has scored more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Here are the top 10 teams in fourth-quarter touchdowns this year:
1. Seahawks: 11
T-2. Jets: 10
T-2. Panthers: 10
T-2. Saints: 10
T-2. Cardinals: 10
T-6. Vikings: 9
T-6. Lions: 9
T-8. Commanders: 8
T-8. Dolphins: 8
T-8. Browns: 8