There is little doubt that Jets head coach Robert Saleh is a no-nonsense kind of guy, which is to be expected of a man who leads other men in the NFL. Yet he knows when to press the pedal to the floor and when to lighten the mood, particularly in team meetings.
Tight end Ryan Griffin, now in his ninth season in the league, stands as witness to Saleh's lighter side -- the coach has had a basketball hoop installed in the room.
"He keeps it interesting," Griffin told hosts Eric Allen and Leger Douzable on the latest edition of The Official Jets Podcast. "Some of these coaches I've had, you know what to expect. But coach Saleh can come up with film of practice, other games we haven't even watched. And he has that basketball hoop in team meetings if we have to decide something in the shootout. He also likes to tell some non-football stories. He's got great energy, great messaging, and I'm excited to be a part of it."
Those shootouts tend to be among the Green & White rookies and coaches.
"I'm lucky, I've avoided the embarrassment of putting up an air ball," Griffin said. "Some of their jumpshots are pretty broke. It's fun watching knockout-style for 30 seconds as they try to hit as many 3-pointers as they can. It's a lot of fun, a lot of laughs and at the end of the day it's competition. Guys getting at each other."
Griffin, 31, said that though Saleh is devoted to X's and O's, he's not adverse to challenging his players with brain teasers and riddles.
"He'll ask us in a riddle if something is true, it's kind of like studying for the SATs again," said Griffin, who played in college at UConn. "He keeps it fresh. The season gets long, sometimes it's hard to see the light. His energy is great and I can't wait to get back out there."
Like his teammates, Griffin is still smarting from last Thursday's loss at Indianapolis, even though he grabbed his first touchdown pass since the 2019 season. Griffin hauled in a 13-yard scoring toss from the backup to the backup quarterback Josh Johnson in the fourth quarter. Overall in the game, Griffin was targeted 7 times and made 4 catches for 28 yards as he spelled Tyler Kroft. Kroft sustained a lung injury on an impressive twisting catch against the Colts.
Griffin played six seasons for Houston before being released in May 2019. He signed with the Jets and had a productive season, catching 5 TD passes and starting 13 games.
"It's been too long [between TDs]." Griffin said. "Josh put a good ball on me. It felt good. The thing was steaming down the hash marks. It was the type of throw you have to make in the red zone. Things are compressed and defenders are you on quickly. He was going through his reads and putting the ball where it should be going."
With the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills (5-3) coming to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, the Jets (2-6) are still unsure who the starting QB will be -- Zach Wilson (PCL) and Mike White (arm contusion) are expected to be back at practice on Wednesday; while Johnson and newly acquired Joe Flacco would also be available.
"Zach is a really positive guy," Griffin said. "He wants what's best for the team. I've seen him in the training room getting treatment, learning, trying to get back healthy. In the meantime, he's a student of his position. That's what's going to make him great.
"Mike, he's cool out there in the huddle, very poised, nothing can faze him. He's been in preseason games, intense practices made great throws under duress. The guy has seen it all, but he's not been seen on Sundays. He's ready to show the world what he's got." Griffin added: "Just because Mike didn't get game time ... he's been through hundreds of practices and OTAs."
For his part, Saleh is known around One Jets Drive as a man devoted to fitness of the mind and body. He runs the steps at stadiums before each game and has been known to mix it up pretty good on the basketball court, though he usually stays out of the meeting-room shootouts.
"I wouldn't want to see him in the post that's for sure," Griffin said.