NFL Rumors: Jets drama starts early with conflicting reports of ‘heated’ discussion

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh and owner Woody Johnson may have gotten into an argument during the annual league meetings.

New York Jets v Las Vegas Raiders
New York Jets v Las Vegas Raiders / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

The New York Jets typically get to enjoy a few short weeks of optimism during this time of year, before reality hits them sometime between training camp and the start of the regular season. This year, however, the Jets don't even have the luxury of basking in their short-lived optimism.

There was an argumentative conversation between team owner Woody Johnson and head coach Robert Saleh at the annual league meetings in Orlando, according to NFL Network's Colleen Wolfe.

"At the owners meetings, there was a very heated conversation between Woody [Johnson] and Robert Saleh, to the point where it was a little awkward," Wolfe said. "What were they arguing about? ... Who knows, it could have been about anything."

Wolfe clarified that it wasn't an argument, but it was heated enough to get "super awkward." The conversation occurred during a party on Sunday night.

Conner Hughes, a local reporter who covers the Jets for SNY, disputed the report.

"There was no verbal argument between Robert Saleh and Woody Johnson at the NFL’s annual meeting reception," Hughes posted on social media. "I know because I was at the party where this apparently happened, feet from Saleh & Johnson, before Johnson & Jets contingent left. Woody took them out to dinner. Checked in with two sources at the dinner. Confirmed nothing happened there, either."

Jets HC Robert Saleh may have had heated argument with team owner

Although the truth about the alleged argument may never come out, there have been some hints at frustration between the head coach and ownership.

There were rumors that Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas could get fired after the Jets' 2023 campaign ended in disaster. Johnson put those rumors to bed in December, when he told the New York Post that he would not make any changes to the team's leadership.

“My decision is to keep them,” Johnson told the newspaper. “I think we’ve had some very positive moves. The culture of the team is a lot better. The defense is better. The offense needs a few pieces.”

Johnson has confessed to getting mad with Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas before. During the NFL Honors award shows in Las Vegas in February, ESPN's Jeff Darlington asked Johnson about the disappointing 2023 campaign.

"The discussions I've had in the last couple of months, they've seen me about as mad as I can be with what was going on, with the offense particularly," Johnson said. "We have all this talent, and we have to deploy talent properly. So I think they all got the message. This is it. This is the time to go. We've got to produce this year. We have to do a lot better than seven [wins], definitely."

Every time Johnson has spoken, he has hinted at Saleh's role shifting to the offensive side of the ball.

"We gotta fix our offense," Johnson told Darlington. "I think we will do that. Aaron Rodgers will be back, and we’ll protect him. Defense is pretty good. They’d be better if our offense could do something. That’s obvious."

Saleh was hired as head coach after serving as the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. With the Niners, Saleh helped construct one of the more dominant defenses in the league. That success has translated to New York, where the Jets have caused headaches for opposing quarterbacks. The offense, however, has continued to struggle.

"[Saleh's] going to be a lot better head coach," Johnson said. "One thing about head coaches is you get better as you get more experience. And he's going to concentrate on offense. He's got [defensive coordinator] Jeff [Ulbrich] to do the defense, and we've got good special teams. It's offense, offense, offense."

The Jets traded for quarterback Aaron Rodgers last offseason, and their Super Bowl aspirations reached an all-time high. An ensuing media circus led to the team being featured on HBO's Hard Knocks series, but the hype didn't last long. Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon just four snaps into the season. Without a viable backup quarterback, the offense descended into dysfunction. The Jets ranked 31st in scoring — second to last — in total yards and 29th in scoring with Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft as their leading quarterback.

Saleh has produced an 18-33 record in his three seasons as head coach. The team has a 27-60 record under Douglas. The Jets have a 13-year playoff drought, the longest among all major sports leagues in North America.

Douglas will have no room for error in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft, and Saleh will have to find a way to get this offense humming regardless of whether Rodgers stays healthy, goes into politics, or retreats into darkness.

If they're unable to do so, both Douglas and Saleh will be out of a job next offseason.

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