Robert Saleh Jan 7, 2024; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh watches from the sideline as they take on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It finally happened.

No, the New York Jets didn’t break the longest active playoff drought in North American professional sports, but the franchise did break the streak of wishing its sitting head coach a Happy Birthday — and likely did so intentionally.

On Tuesday — Robert Saleh’s 45th birthday — The Athletic released a scathing tell-all about the team’s rotten culture after speaking to 30 different sources within and around the organization. The article was particularly unkind to Saleh, who was painted as a paranoid leader who oversaw a team where excuse-making was rampant.

Of course, it’s not easy losing a future Hall of Fame quarterback just on the fourth snap of the season and having to turn to the backup quarterback who was supposed to replace him. However, instead of using it as a motivation to push harder, the Jets used it as an excuse and a rallying cry, particularly Saleh.

The article details that after a 4-7 start, Saleh reportedly researched how teams led by the NFL’s best coaches performed without their starting quarterback. With Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin the lone exception, “That became Saleh’s battle cry as the Jets’ losses piled up and criticism mounted: What do you expect? We lost Aaron Rodgers.”

So when the Jets didn’t wish Saleh a Happy Birthday, especially with the timing of the story and reports surfacing that the team had parted ways with a top lieutenant in general manager Joe Douglas’ front office, it didn’t exactly pass the smell test. That’s not to imply that Rex Hogan was one of The Athletic’s sources — in fact, he was let go three weeks prior to the news surfacing — but the team refusing to wish its head coach cheers to another year reeked to the high heavens of paranoia.

This is the same Saleh who reportedly threatened to take members of his coaching staff’s phones in a bid to identify leakers. It’s not exactly a stretch to say that the team could’ve avoided a Happy Birthday message in order to wait out the media firestorm and see a graphic filled with responses from unruly fans who were unhappy with the details of Tuesday’s report. Nothing was particularly new to those who have been following the Jets and the dysfunction that seems to follow the franchise like a foul stench, but the stuff about Saleh was particularly damning considering that New York could’ve dumped the head coach, who is 18-33 in his first three seasons and pursued the likes of Mike Vrabel, Bill Belichick, or even Pete Carroll, among others.

But he received an endorsement from Aaron Rodgers and the dreaded vote of confidence from ownership, which is just as good — if not better — as receiving birthday wishes in the form of a graphic from your team’s social media department.

The silence on Saleh’s birthday speaks volumes about the Jets’ fractured state, a team seemingly allergic to success and comfortable in the stench of self-inflicted misery. With a franchise built on dysfunction, even birthday wishes become casualties, leaving one to wonder if the Jets will ever truly celebrate anything worth celebrating.


About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.