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Notebook | Jets GM Joe Douglas: 'Seven Wins Are Not Enough. We Have to Do Better'

HC Robert Saleh on Aaron Rodgers in ’24: ‘I Think He’s Going to Be as Driven as Ever’


Head coach Robert Saleh believes 2024 "is going to be special" for the Jets.

"We wanted to start '24 with a win," he said about the season-ending victory at New England that ended the Jets' 15-game losing streak against the Patriots. "We're expecting to get a lot of wins and we're not expecting to be in the same position in a year that we're in now.

"We expect to be something better."

After consecutive 7-10 seasons, Saleh told Eric Allen on "The Official Jets Podcast" that "the message is that we're 1-0 in 2024 and the expectation is to work our tails off with the same deliberate mindset that we attacked last offseason with."

He added: "When the time comes [in September] to put ourselves in position to go 2-0, we'll be prepared to do it."

Saleh acknowledged there's much work to be done. While the defense was again an elite unit, the offense was another story. The Jets used four starting quarterbacks -- Aaron Rodgers, Zach Wilson, Tim Boyle and Trevor Siemian -- who played behind 13 different combinations of players on the offensive line. Rodgers will be back and there's a young, emerging core on offense that is likely to be strengthened via free agency and April's NFL Draft.

"There's a lot of positives," Saleh said. "You can either mope and complain about what happened or you can try to find silver linings that you can build and grow off. A lot of young guys got way more reps than we anticipated and because of it we feel like we got some guys we can build off."

At the top of his list were undrafted free-agent wide receivers Xavier Gipson and Jason Brownlee, O-linemen Joe Tippmann and Carter Warren -- all first-year players -- and tight end Jeremy Ruckert.

"Even Garrett [Wilson] and Breece [Hall] took a big step," he said. "Max [Mitchell] took a big step. There's a lot of growth and these guys are going to be the foundation of this football team."

The defense led the league in allowing the fewest yards per play and is anchored by a group of young emerging stars like Quinnen and Quincy Williams, Sauce Gardner, Jermaine Johnson and Will McDonald. There will be decisions to be made -- Bryce Huff and Jordan Whitehead have expiring contracts (also Mekhi Becton and Carl Lawson), as do special team standouts Greg Zuerlein and Thomas Morstead.

"Defensively we played a lot of really good quarterbacks, and the defense held its own and for most part played well," Saleh said. "We finished top 5 in most categories." He added: "There were a lot of positives, but we can't turn a blind eye to all the things we need to get corrected."

Rodgers, who turned 40 in December, worked diligently to recover from his injury as quickly as possible. He was elevated to the active roster after his birthday, but because the Jets were not in playoff contention, he served as the scout team quarterback in practice as the team won three of its last five games.

"He's a special talent, I think that was good for everyone to watch, to reconnect to who he is and what type of player he is," Saleh said of Rodgers' work against the first-team defense in practice.. "He's a game changer, he's elite in every sense you can conjure. It's special. It was bittersweet -- you're watching and it's like what could have been. With that misfortune comes fuel. I think he's going to be as driven as ever along with the rest of our football team."

General manager Joe Douglas, the guy who engineered the trade for Rodgers last April days before the NFL Draft, said he, too, was conflicted watching Rodgers back on the practice field.

"It was bittersweet the last three weeks [of the season], watching him run the scout team and go against first-team defense almost every day," Douglas said. "Some of the throws he made in practice took you back to camp, your heart sinks a little bit thinking about losing him for the year.

"The fire's still blazing, he's the ultimate competitor and he still wants to prove everybody wrong. I love where he's at right now, and can't wait for OTAs, I'm sure he can't either. There's a lot of people coming back with a renewed purpose and on a mission."

Douglas had special praise for two of his 2022 draft picks on offense -- Hall and Wilson -- whom he called "cornerstone players" and spoke glowingly about Pro Bowl linebacker Quincy Williams, a guy Douglas plucked off waivers after he was cut by Jacksonville. The GM knows, however, that he'll need to bolster the offensive line.

"Ultimately, it was not good enough," Douglas said. "I'm proud of way guys competed, there's a lot of character on this team, these guys had a lot of opportunities to not finish as strong, but they battled and they proved the type of character there is in this locker room. But ultimately, seven wins are not enough. We have to be better."

He added: "There's been a lot of adversity thrown at us on the offensive side of the ball when it comes to injuries and changes to the depth chart. This team's battled, battled through a lot. But I don't want adversity to define the season, I want the definition to be us overcoming it. We expect adversity next year, and probably the only guarantee when you have adversity is to be equipped to overcome it and win games."

Take a look through some of the best photos throughout the Jets 2023 season.

Aaron Rodgers, O-Linemen Hit the Links
For a legion of NFL players, the second season (for those not in the playoffs) is about hitting the golf course. And for Jets QB Aaron Rodgers and three of the team's current offensive linemen -- Connor McGovern, Max Mitchell and Chris Glazer -- a trip to the links in North Las Vegas produced the kind of highlight that Rodgers did not experience during the 2023 season.

In his first round on the links since rehabbing from surgery to repair the Achilles tendon he tore only four snaps into the season, Rodgers scored a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th hole (140-154 yards) at Shadow Creek Golf Course.

McGovern, who missed 10 games with a knee injury sustained against the Giants on Oct. 29, managed to have his cellphone at the ready as Rodgers sank his ace.

On the Shadow Creek website, Rodgers is quoted as calling the hole "One of the prettiest, yet most difficult shots in golf."

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