Robert Saleh was the first guest coach up during NFL Network's league schedule reveal, sharing his thoughts with Rich Eisenon his team's exciting, yet challenging slate. That goes especially for the first four games of the regular season: home vs. Buffalo on "Monday Night Football," at Dallas, home vs. New England and then a marquee Sunday night game against Reid's Chiefs.
Overall, the Green & White will be featured in six nationally televised games (which includes the Black Friday game vs. Miami).
"It's an exciting time," Saleh said. "It's exciting. It's not going to be monotonous with all the 1 p.m. starts we're used to. Change is good. But again, we have to take it one game at a time."
The addition of QB Aaron Rodgers has altered the scheduling calculus for the league and its TV partners (ESPN/ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and Amazon Prime). Last season, the Jets played only three games that did not start at 1 p.m. Eastern. This season, they are scheduled to play only two 1 p.m. games in the first three months of the season, while there are four on the schedule in December.
Saleh knows that Rodgers and his Jets are in the spotlight.
"We acknowledge the fact that there's a lot of excitement around the team, and the talk outside the building, what with what we're capable of and all the expectations, which is fine," Saleh said. "And we are capable of doing a lot of really cool things.
"We have to take care of the moment and we still got to take care of where we are at each moment, dominate the day to day and just find ways to get better every day. I know it's a cliché. We already knew who our opponents would be on the schedule [AFC East, AFC West, NFC East and fourth-place teams from NFC South, AFC North and AFC South]. None of it matters, national games are good for the fans and everybody.
"But if we don't take care of today, tomorrow won't matter."
Having already been slotted to play the opening Monday night game of the regular season, the Jets were selected to open the preseason at the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, OH, on Aug. 3., and will play four instead of three preseason games. (The Jets last played in the HOF game in 1992.) There has also been chatter that the team, which obviously plans to open training camp early, might be featured in HBO's "Hard Knocks" series.
"Like every coach, I want to limit distractions, especially with all the hoopla around the team," Saleh said. "I'll let the higher ups deal with that one and I'll focus on the team."
After Rodgers was featured at an introductory press conference at 1 Jets Drive a few days before the NFL Draft, the four-time NFL MVP jumped right into the team's voluntary offseason workouts. He made an immediate impression on his new coach.
"You know, he's very thoughtful, very thoughtful -- and it's not fake," Saleh said. "You can't fake the way he approaches different people in the building, asks and cares about their personal lives. And the questions he asks and the dialogue and discussions on the field he has with the position groups and coaches, he's very deep in thought.
"He's special, and not just throwing the football."
ESPN Goes All in on Jets and Rodgers
The Jets' long-marinating acquisition of Rodgers resulted in a series of B12 shots and turned many NFL fans Gotham Green, in terms of national interest in the team. None more so than among the programming folks at ESPN.
And indeed, Christmas came on the 11th day of May when the NFL officially released its schedule for the 2023 season ... and the Jets and Mr. Rodgers lead off the network's "Monday Night Football" schedule in a Week 1, AFC East game against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 11.
According to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, ESPN expressed to the league its hope of carrying Rodgers' first pro game in the No. 8 jersey and then was gobsmacked when the Monday night opener fell into its lap.
"We did not put any parameters on our ask in terms of who the opponent was, and I was pleasantly surprised on two fronts," ESPN president of content Burke Magnus told Deitsch. "First, we got his first game in the Jets uniform at home in Week 1. Then where I really got excited was seeing it's an AFC East game with a really good opponent and another great quarterback in Josh Allen. The ceiling on that game is just enormous."
Last season's Monday night opener on ESPN with Denver, and QB Russell Wilson returning to Seattle, drew 19.85 million viewers, the most for the network last season.
"We try in most circumstances to give the NFL as much flexibility as possible in our requests, understanding that we don't think it made a lot of difference as to whether or not that [opponent] was Buffalo or Miami or New England in the divisional game against the Jets. So seeing Buffalo at the Jets was about as good as we could have possibly gotten."
Add an interesting metric to the Jets' 2023 regular-season schedule: rest differential.
As it stands, the Jets have three "short" road weeks -- at Dallas after the Monday night opener vs. Buffalo; at Las Vegas on Sunday night after a Monday night game (vs. the L.A. Chargers); and a Thursday night visit to Cleveland after facing Washington on Christmas Eve. The conventional wisdom is that the Jets could be at a disadvantage over that period.
But according to Rich Cimini of ESPN, the Jets will benefit from a "plus-12 days in net rest differential relative to their opponents. In fact, it's tied for the fifth-best differential since 2002, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. This means, more often than not, the Jets will be more rested than their opponent. It's an important factor in today's NFL, considering the short weeks, mini byes, etc. Presumably, this will make the 39-year-old Rodgers a happy man. A year ago, the Green Bay Packers' rest differential was minus-13 days, worst in the league.
"The Jets don't have any games against teams coming off their bye week. They do have three short road weeks, tied for the most -- hardly ideal. But, again, the lopsided rest differential is the most important stat. A year ago, their differential was minus-8, something the coaches were keenly aware of."