FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets coach Robert Saleh, responding to sharp criticism from one of his predecessors, fired back Monday at former Jets coach and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan.
Ryan ripped Saleh in a morning interview on ESPN Radio’s DiPietro & Rothenberg, questioning his coaching ability and saying he’s insulted when comparisons are made between him and Saleh because of their defensive backgrounds.
Several hours later, Saleh went back at Ryan.
“I’ve never met Rex. I’ve never had a conversation with Rex,” Saleh said in his weekly spot on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio. “I don’t even know him except for people who know him throughout the league.
“Obviously, if it’s that personal for him, he knows where to find me.”
Saleh wasn’t finished. Asked if he’s surprised by Ryan’s comments, he said, “Nah, I’m not surprised by him. He’s always got something to say.”
The first-year coach is under fire because the Jets are 2-7 with a historically poor defense. The defense is last in the major statistical categories. The Jets have allowed 175 points in the past four games, the second-highest total in a four-game span since the merger in 1970.
Ryan, who coached the Jets from 2009 to 2014, was critical of Saleh earlier in the season after a blowout loss to the New England Patriots. On Monday, he went after him again.
“This guy is supposed to be a defensive guru,” Ryan said. “I take it personal. Everything I heard was this guy is a lot like myself, but without the bad part. Some of the bad part you need, because this team doesn’t want to play with any damn heart. That’s the thing that is disappointing to me.
“Don’t ever compare this Robert Saleh guy to me. Statistically, one time they were a top defense (at the San Francisco 49ers). Four out of five times they were dead last in their division. They are going to be dead last again, so he’s going to be used to that. To me, I am little pissed off about it when I heard his background is a lot like yours. No, it isn’t. No, it isn’t.”
Before Saleh’s response on the radio, his brother, David Saleh, fired off a tweet, attacking Ryan.
“Rex Ryan took over a good [Eric] Mangini roster. Won with it the first two years and lost with his own roster every year after,” he tweeted. “The only person making comparisons is you in an effort to stay relevant …”
Ryan went 46-50 in six years with the Jets, making the playoffs in his first two seasons. His defense ranked no lower than 11th in yards allowed in any of his seasons. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, Ryan’s second year.
Despite the adversity, Saleh vowed to turn around the Jets.
“I’m just as frustrated as everybody else and my promise to Jets fans is, this thing is going to flip,” he told reporters on a Zoom call. “The support is always warranted. The criticism is always warranted. You reap what you sow, right? This thing is going to flip. I know in my heart it’s going to flip.
“This thing’s going to turn, and when it does, it’s going to be freakin’ awesome.”