Robert Saleh’s Jets rant could become iconic – like Herm Edwards’

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They made fun of Herman Edwards. You bet they did. All these years later, you can still hear the answers and the answers to Edwards, whose second season in charge of the Jets in 2002 quickly disintegrated in a nasty 2-5 mess.

At a Wednesday press conference at Hofstra days after his team lost a miserable game to the Browns, 24-21, Edwards was asked if he was concerned that some of his players might choose to post in the rest of the season. Edwards’ eyes narrowed. He took a few deep breaths. And soon his inner preacher was on full display.

“Not on my watch, they won’t do that,” Edwards said. He had just warmed up. “It is inexcusable. It is unthinkable for me. There was more: “You don’t stop playing sports, you retire.”

And then the money shot:

“That’s the best thing about sports: YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME. HELLO?! You play to win the game. You don’t play just to play!

Oh, they made fun of Herm.

Herm Edwards' "you play to win the game" rant (left) could be matched by that of Robert Saleh "tirade of receipts, if the Jets can continue on a winning streak like they did under Edwards.
Herm Edwards’ (left) ‘You’re playing to win the game’ rant could be matched by Robert Saleh’s ‘receipts’ tirade, if the Jets can continue on a winning streak like they did under Edwards .
YouTube screenshot; New York PostBill Kostrun

But a funny thing happened a few days after that. The Jets flew to San Diego, where they were to be blasted by the Chargers 6-1, and instead annihilated the Bolts, 44-13. They’ve won four in a row, seven of their last nine, and when they beat the Packers in Week 17 and got help from the Patriots to upset the Dolphins in Foxborough, they won their second (and the newer) AFC East title since merger.
Then, for good measure, they wiped out Peyton Manning and the Colts, 41-0, in the first round of the playoffs.

No one was laughing on January 12, 74 days after “You play to win the game!” when that season-long jolly ride finally ended in Oakland.

It’s the trick of the coaches who use their weekly podiums and bully pulpits to get a different message across. It shouldn’t age badly.

Which brings us to Robert Saleh’s Herm Moment this week, on Monday, when he defiantly said, “We’re all taking receipts from all the people who continually laugh and say we’re not going to do anything. I’m taking the receipts and will be more than happy to share them with you all when all is said and done.

And here’s the thing: If the Jets can change that, even a little bit, then he can present those bills he was referring to, mainly those of us in the media who had our fair share of fun with that one. He will be right. And we’ll all remember that when Saleh arrived as head coach, perhaps when the Jets arrived as a viable team.

But you must win now.

You win, those words become legend, as Joe Namath did in January 1969 at the Miami Touchdown Club dinner party when he responded to a heckler a few nights before the Jets faced the Colts in the Super Bowl. “I’ll tell you what, we’re going to win the game, I guarantee it.

You win, they become the first paragraph of your obituary, as happened to Jim Fassel (who actually made local headlines the day Herm said “Hello!” because that’s the day he took responsibilities of Sean Payton). But two years earlier, the Giants suffered back-to-back losses and battled to 7-4.

“It’s a poker game, I push my chips in the middle of the table,” Fassel said, “I raise the bet, anyone wants in, in. Anyone wants out, out. D AGREE? This team is going to the playoffs.

The Giants didn’t lose again until they met Ray Lewis and the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. And, yes, when Fassel passed away in June 2021, that quote was right in every track.

Of course, there’s also the cautionary tale of Joe Judge, who has spent much of the last year fertilizing notebooks with provocative observations – my favorite was, “This isn’t a team that fights margin. It’s not an organization of clown shows or anything. OK?” – and was never able to get out of his own way before the Giants mercifully fired him.

We all had a little fun at Robert Saleh’s expense this week, and he was fair game. But he’s right about one thing. He has a lot of receipts. And there’s only one way to make the most of that possession, starting Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.

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