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Robert Saleh: A Finger on His Team's Pulse and Both His Feet on the Ground

Jets HC Keeping His Family in His Heart as the Jets Prepare to Face the Eagles on Sunday


On Sunday, players and coaches across the NFL will take part in "The My Cause, My Cleats" campaign, which will allow them to customize their shoes highlighting the causes and campaigns that are dear to them.

And when the Jets take the field at MetLife Stadium to face the Philadelphia Eagles, head coach Robert Saleh will do his part with a special tribute to his wife Saana and her charity, Saana's Stars, which provides support and comfort to childhood victims of sexual abuse.

"So my beautiful wife has a charity for sexually abused children," Saleh said in the Week 13 edition of "Jets Gameday" with team reporter Eric Allen. "And she is relentless in her pursuit to help young boys and girls who have been abused, so I'm wearing those shoes in support of her and her cause. I always have her back on that."

Back before he was married and had his own "team," that is a growing family, Saleh's college team was Northern Michigan, where he majored in finance and (mostly) blocking as a tight end (32 games, 45 receptions, 2 TDs in three seasons, 1998-2000).

"You know, I was one of the old-school blocking tight ends for the Titans," he said. "And my college coach is actually going to be here this weekend."

Asked to provide a scouting report, Saleh said: "That's probably a better question for him. But I think I was alright."

Come on coach, you've got to give us a bit more. How much did you bench press? "I was about to get to 25 at 225." And what about a time in the 40-yard dash? "And then I'm probably a generous 4.8 in the 40."

Before every Jets game, home or away, folks arriving early at the stadium can see a lone figure chugging up and then down the thousands of stadium steps. It's the supremely fit Jets head coach getting in some stress-relieving, and idea-provoking cardio.

"I've been doing it since I was a GA [graduate assistant] at Michigan State," he said. "You know, I've got to get a workout in and just kind of burn off some steam. And so initially as a GA it was more to stay in shape than anything. Then, when I got to be a position coach and a coordinator, it was really about trying to play the game in my mind. As a coordinator, playing the first 15 and how I wanted to call the game early, to present the defense to the opposition.

"And now as a head coach, it's really just a way to calm my mind to kind of go through every situation that can pop up. What do I want to do on fourth down when we're in these areas? Or inside the 5, do I want to go with a field goal, or whatever it might be. Do we want to fake in these situations? There's a lot of different things that go through my mind as I'm running. And it's probably the calmest point where I can do that."

Saleh said that he wakes up with that energy, felt terrific early last Sunday in Houston and was ready to hit the ground running. And so were the Jets -- who rushed for their highest total of the season on offense (157), while the defense (5 sacks) stood tall and held the Texans without a point in the second half of the 21-14 win ... Saleh's third as an NFL head coach.

"There's an old saying in football: There's three things that travel regardless of the venue, the weather, road or home ... it doesn't matter," Saleh said. "You pack your special teams, you pack your run game, you pack your defense. You take those with you everywhere. And those are the three most consistent aspects of every football team. We went on the road, our run game was rockin', defense played its butt off, special teams were able to block a punt and do a lot of things on that in that phase. So it was a really cool formula on how to be consistent in this league and win consistently. When those three things are working, you'll be hard to beat."

Rookie QB Zach Wilson returned to the lineup at Houston after missing four games with a PCL strain in his right knee. Though Wilson admitted after the game that he was a bit rusty at the start, Saleh said that he managed the game well, especially as the Jets scored late in the first half and then took the second-half kickoff down the field as the Jets were able to "lap" the Texans and take the lead.

"He'll get better, he's gonna get better," Saleh said of Wilson. "To expect him to come out like Joe Namath after a monthlong injury was probably unrealistic. But at the same time, he did orchestrate three or four really long drives and we were able to get 21 points on the scoreboard. We were able to run the ball well, he took advantage with a couple of play-action passes. Empty zero pressure, he got the ball to Berrios for an explosive, so he did a lot of different things to keep the chains moving and to get us into the red zone and to get us into the end zone. So he did all the right things. He took care of the ball, with the exception of one play, which I know he wants back. There's he's got a lot of stuff to build off of and it's always better to learn off a win then the other way around."

So on Sunday, keep an eye on the players' feet -- fans can vote for their favorite cleats on the Jets' Instagram page and SAP, a team partner, will donate $5,000 to the top fan-favorite cleats, $3,000 for second place and $1,000 for third place.

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