The Jets are willing to bet a whole bunch of championship trophies on Robert Saleh being the right head coach for the job.
Owner Woody Johnson just has to borrow the collateral from another team first.
A once-in-a-generation coaching carousel is underway and about to get even more interesting thanks to the Dallas Cowboys’ playoff choke. Meanwhile, the Jets are sitting it out for the sake of sticking with Robert Saleh, whose .353 winning percentage (18-33) over three seasons is better than only three of his 17 full-time predecessors.
Super Bowl-winning coaches Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, national championship-winning and NFC-winning coach Jim Harbaugh and playoff-tested coach Mike Vrabel top the list of candidates who could have new jobs in the next two weeks.
It could get as crazy as having two other Super Bowl-winning coaches join the mix if the Cowboys fire Mike McCarthy — who won his ring with a quarterback named Aaron Rodgers — and the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin decides he wants a fresh start without sitting out a season and thus becomes a trade chip.
And that list accepts at face value that Nick Saban really is retired after winning six national championships in 17 seasons at Alabama instead of just sick of the headaches caused by NIL and the transfer portal and ready to scratch an itch from his disappointing stint in the NFL with the 2005-06 Dolphins.
In some years, maintaining continuity makes sense for most teams, even those who have lost as often as the Jets under Saleh. This is not one of those years because this is not the carousel that was expected on Dec. 24, when Johnson revealed that he was keeping Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas in a New York Post exclusive.
At his current pace of six wins per season, Saleh would catch Vrabel’s career win total in 2029 … and McCarthy’s, Carroll’s and Tomlin’s around 2050 … and Belichick’s in 2070. He has a ways to go just to catch Harbaugh’s with the 49ers, and he is barely past Saban’s — without considering either’s lengthy college résumés.
The list of available candidates is so enticing that it is almost a bad time to be a Super Bowl contender — if such a time exists. The pressure facing the two favorites in Monday’s playoff games already is immense and only will increase if the Cowboys set a blueprint for impatience by firing McCarthy.
What will happen to the Bills’ Sean McDermott if they revert to early-season form — a 6-6 start — and lose to the Steelers?
A second straight year of losing at home in snowy conditions — the kind made for the ground-and-pound, defense-oriented Steelers to muck their way to a low-scoring upset — on the heels of the infamous mismanagement of 13 seconds in the 2022 playoffs loss to the Chiefs will amplify the feeling that a championship window is closing in Buffalo.
What fate awaits the Eagles’ Nick Sirianni if a late-season slide from a 10-1 start and Super Bowl favorite is completed with a one-and-done playoff appearance at the hands of the Buccaneers?
Eagles owner Jeff Lurie fired Andy Reid after the winningest tenure in Eagles history, fired Chip Kelly after paying $32.5 million to lure the then-college genius to the NFL and fired Doug Pederson — whose legacy literally is immortalized with a statue outside of the stadium — only three seasons after engineering the only Super Bowl victory in franchise history. So, what reason is there to think that Sirianni — one year removed from winning the NFC — will be let off the hook for a huge collapse?
If it sounds crazy to put McDermott (73-41) or Sirianni (34-17) on the hot seat despite their regular-season success, consider that a hallmark of winning organizations often is not settling for good in the pursuit of greatness.
But, back to the Jets’ premature vote of confidence in Saleh, what are they really risking by keeping Saleh?
Their own ugly history with Carroll (who was fired after one season at the helm of the Jets in 1994 to start the disastrous Rich Kotite era) and Belichick (whose one-day stint as head coach in 2000 ended with a hasty resignation written on a napkin) might eliminate the top two candidates on any fellow win-now team’s board.
The Jets already passed once on hiring Harbaugh — in 2009, before his great but brief run with the 49ers — to hire Rex Ryan and on Mike McCarthy once for Adam Gase. And even though time heals most wounds, that’s not to mention the reportedly bad terms that Rodgers and McCarthy ended on in Green Bay.
Suddenly, the board looks a lot less attractive in the Jets’ situation. Especially if Rodgers has to sign off on any hire.
And yet the dichotomy is that, if the Jets’ job was open, it would rank as one of the best available options because the four-time MVP Rodgers is committed to playing at least two more seasons, a championship-caliber defense is in place, the top four picks in the 2022 draft all look like cornerstones and a franchise history of underachievement sets a low bar for fan satisfaction.
Can you imagine, for example, Vrabel — a three-time Super Bowl winning player and former peer of Rodgers’ — saying no to those perks after making the most of an underwhelming Titans’ roster?
Alas, the Jets decided weeks ago that Saleh “is the right coach for the job because he is the right man for the job,” as Douglas said in an example of the kind of reasoning that makes logic professors cringe.
But just imagine who the Jets might be able to attract if he wasn’t.
Today’s back page
Rangers doing their worst Yankees impression
Over the last 83 years, no active New York franchise in any of the four major professional sports has won more championships than the Yankees (19), while none have won fewer championships than the Rangers (one).
So, most comparisons between the two should play favorably for the Rangers. This one, however, does not.
The 2023-24 Rangers are in danger of imitating the 2022 Yankees — a team that raced out to a 61-23 first half-ish of the season before their weaknesses — lack of timely hitting, not enough quality starts, sloppy infield defense, bad baserunning — were exposed during a 38-40 finish.
About 14 months later, the Rangers looked like the best team in the NHL during an 18-4-1 start. Even when they inevitably cooled off — finishing the 2023 calendar year with a 25-9-1 record — it seemed that the Metropolitan Division title never really would be in jeopardy.
Then came a different kind of dry January. The Rangers were 1-4-1 in their first six games of the month as the Hurricanes closed within one point of first place.
That’s why Sunday’s 2-1 victory against the Capitals — on the back end of a weekend home-and-home — was such an important momentum-flipper.
The Rangers, who didn’t capitalize on a 37-second 5-on-3 advantage and needed goalie Igor Shesterkin to stalemate five high-danger chances, didn’t fix their flaws, but showed an ability to overcome some of the giveaways, struggles defending the rush and empty quality scoring chances that have plagued a season-worst stretch.
The victory coincided with Kappo Kakko’s return from a 21-game absence (lower-body injury). He logged 16 minutes of ice time, mostly on a line with playoff snipers Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.
With five of the next nine games against the NHL’s top-12 teams in points, the Rangers needed a way to stop the bleeding. Only time will tell whether Sunday’s win was a Band-Aid or a cure, but repeating the ’22 Yankees’ quiet playoff exit would be a recipe for disaster for the raised-expectations Rangers.
Surprise beast of the Big East
Stop searching for Seton Hall guard Kadary Richmond’s name on the preseason All-Big East First and Second Teams, as named by the coaches.
You won’t find it.
That won’t be the case when more meaningful awards are re-issued in March.
Richmond might be the early favorite for Big East Player of the Year after he dropped 24 points, 12 rebounds and five assists on Butler in a win Saturday that has Seton Hall (12-5, 5-1) tied for first place in the conference with UConn, which it beat earlier this season. Picked to finish ninth in the league’s preseason poll, the Pirates have won four straight and could be the New York area’s best hope at winning games in March Madness.
Richmond’s averages rank No. 6 in scoring (16.4 points), No. 13 in rebounding (6.6), No. 6 in assists (4.6) and tied for No. 1 in steals (2.1) in the conference. He is shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and just topped 1,000 career points.
Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner, Providence’s Devin Carter, UConn’s Tristen Newton and Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, the reigning winner, all will stake a claim to the award as the season progresses, but Richmond has elevated his game to another level between the non-conference and conference seasons — and coaches always look favorably on such gamers.
With no shortage of Nick Saban protégés and other alumni hoping to be tapped for one of the premier jobs in college, Alabama instead hired Washington’s Kalen DeBoer, whose first season as an FBS head coach came in 2020. He has no previous ties to the school.
In other words, the quick search for the retired Saban’s successor was defined by trying to find the best candidate for the job. DeBoer shot to the top of the list after beating two former Alabama assistants — Oregon’s Dan Lanning and Texas’ Steve Sarkisian — on the way to the College Football Playoff national championship game.
Perhaps remembering the state of its own program before Saban arrived — when former Alabama quarterback Mike Shula went 26-23 over four seasons — Alabama eschewed the path for replacing a legend that has been popularized in college sports, especially basketball.
St. John’s and Georgetown had to fire legends Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing, respectively, at the risk of strained relationships. North Carolina had more success transitioning from Roy Williams to Hubert Davis.
Duke and Syracuse more recently handed their jobs to former players who returned to their alma maters as assistants: Jon Scheyer replacing Mike Krzyzewski and Adrian Autry replacing Jim Boeheim, respectively.
The approach has worked slightly more often in football — with Jimbo Fisher taking over for Floroida State’s Bobby Bowden at the top of the list.
Does DeBoer’s hire on his credentials alone guarantee that he will be successful? Of course not.
Recruiting — especially in the South — can be territorial. And DeBoer, who previously coached at Fresno State and Division II Sioux Falls, is bringing the bulk of his Washington staff with him across the country.
But DeBoer speaks two universal languages: Winning — his 105-12 (.897) all-time head coaching record even outpaces Saban’s remarkable 206-29 (.877) run at Alabama — and offensive innovation. The Huskies averaged at least 36 points per game in both of DeBoer’s seasons at the helm.
But scoring and winning a lot of games isn’t enough at Alabama. He will be judged most seasons by one game — the one that Washington lost this season to Michigan with the national title on the line.
If he fails, plenty of Saban’s protégés will be waiting in the wings.
What we’re reading 👀
🏈 Mark Cannizzaro felt the pressure coach Mike McCarthy was feeling in Dallas before their playoff title with the Packers was unfair before Sunday. But after the Cowboys were so thoroughly outplayed and outcoached by the Packers in a 48-32 loss, it’s clear keeping McCarthy as coach of the Cowboys “would be an unhealthy situation.”
⚾ After signing Marcus Stroman late last week to bolster the starting staff, the Yankees still have a bit of work to do to restructure what was the best bullpen in the majors last season. Greg Joyce has his eyes on a few familiar, and some not-so-familiar, names who could fit the bill.
🏀 Hey, did you know the Knicks have a pair of red-headed guards that look vaguely similar? If not, perhaps you haven’t been scrolling through your social media accounts as much as you should to notice that Malachi Flynn has been dubbed the evil twin of Donte DiVincenzo. Confused? Stefan Bondy explains.
🏀 The Nets haven’t had a lot to smile about lately, but Lonnie Walker IV’s recent scoring surge has coach Jacque Vaughn thinking about how to get the impending free agent more time in the lineup.
🏒 This year’s NHL All-Star Game is in Toronto, which may explain why the players voted in by the fans are largely from the league’s Canadian outposts. The Islanders were not spared, though they will at least be sending Bo Horvat to the festivities.