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New Jets HC Robert Saleh preaches togetherness, mum on Sam Darnold's future in intro presser

It's a new dawn and a new day at One Jets Drive.

The New York Jets introduced their new head coach Robert Saleh on Thursday afternoon, one week after announcing his hire. With Saleh's arrival to New York comes a complete change in energy and outlook from the frustrating Adam Gase era, which ended three weeks ago after only two years.

Saleh, the well-liked, energetic and telegenic San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, was the embodiment of that change in his introductory presser, a far cry from Gase's underwhelming and over-memed conference from two years prior.

"We're going to do this thing together. To our organization, get used to the mantra 'All gas, no brake,'" Saleh said. "When we talk about 'All gas, no brake,' we're not talking about the effort on the field. We're talking about the process at which we do things. We're talking about the way we prepare, the way we wake up every single morning, the way we rehab, the way we communicate, the way we speak to one another.

"I cannot tell you enough how excited I am to work with this entire Jets organization and understanding that when we wake up in the morning we will all from top down step on the pedal and find a way to get somewhat better than we were when we woke up."

Motivational coachspeak aside, Saleh touched on a number of hot-button issues pertinent to the fan base of a team with questions at quarterback, play-calling and organizational culture.

On the curious case of Sam Darnold, New York's No. 3 pick from 2018 who could be replaced this offseason with a No. 2 pick, Saleh neglected to say whether he saw Darnold as his starting QB come training camp, but sung his praises as a former defensive coordinator who had to scout against him.

"He's got an unbelievable arm talent. There's a reason why he was the No. 3 pick in the draft," Saleh said. "He's fearless in the pocket. He's got a natural throwing motion. He's mobile. He's extremely intelligent. He's tough as nails. His reputation in the locker room is unquestioned. Just that in general, there's a reason he was the third pick in the draft and you can see all those qualities on tape and around the building and the way people speak about him."

New York did confirm its play-callers for the 2021 season, announcing that Mike LaFleur will join Saleh from San Francisco as offensive coordinator and former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will call plays as the Jets' new DC. Whether LaFleur will be working with Darnold next season or, say, Ohio State product Justin Fields is a matter for another Zoom conference.

Saleh said LaFleur will establish a "clear identity" on offense as he brings with him the Shanahan system that his former boss, Kyle Shanahan, and his brother, Matt LaFleur, have executed so well in San Francisco and Green Bay, respectively. New York sorely needs an offensive identity after Gase, once dubbed a "brilliant offensive mind" by Jets brass, led Gang Green to the bottom of the offensive charts in 2019 and 2020.

Saleh won't be the only new face in the Jets' building this season. Jets principal owner Christopher Johnson confirmed that his brother and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Woody Johnson, is returning to the country after four years away from the franchise. Woody is expected to take over principal owner duties "soon," Christopher said, while the younger Johnson will be vice chairman and remain heavily involved with the organization.

How the reshaped Jets organization looks and functions in 2021 -- with a new coach, new coordinators, new-again owner and potentially new quarterback -- will be fascinating to monitor. After the Buccaneers and Browns both made the playoffs this season, it's the Jets who hold the longest postseason drought in the NFL (10 seasons) and who need a major makeover.

New York is hoping its most recent decade of mediocrity can be made over with Saleh's hire. The new coach, 41, spoke Thursday of establishing a culture of togetherness and authenticity in interacting with coaches, players and staff. "Everyone says this is a business. It's not," Saleh said. "This is a personal investment to people."

The Jets' admiration for Saleh in hiring him is not a one-way street either. Saleh said after he met with the club in the building "it just felt like home. ... It was like talking to family." The new coach added he doesn't agree with the perception that New York is a dysfunctional franchise, a conclusion he will work toward rewriting right away.

"I always believe that it's the people that make things work. It's the heart, the humility of individuals that make things work," Saleh said. "And there's no question going through this process with Christopher, (GM) Joe (Douglas) and (president) Hymie (Elhai) that's what they represent.

"When you have people who have that mindset, have that humility, who have the heart to do what's right for the organization, it's really, really hard to fail."

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