The former New York Jets coach Brian Kelly apparently hates the cornerback Robert Saleh so much he even took to Facebook to explain why in 2015.
Saleh, now an assistant with the Jacksonville Jaguars, signed a five-year, $40m deal with the Oakland Raiders this offseason after a stellar career with the Jets. Kelly, who led the Jets to consecutive AFC titles in 2002 and 2003, discussed the deal on his own Facebook page Thursday and explained how he and Saleh exchanged online insults in the early 2000s.
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“I remember talking about [Saleh] and he never replied back,” Kelly wrote. “In the 2002 AFC championship game against the Patriots when I was head coach, he made plays on many of our plays throughout the game, including a very nice pass play the other night. He shut down some of our best receivers including Wayne Chrebet. I got a chance to play against him several times in practice. He did have the ability to cover. He didn’t do it very well but I was impressed with his talent, and he could play. But as a person? No.”
Kelly – who later said he met Saleh when the younger man was at UCLA, where he was a freshman – also credited Saleh for showing him “excitement, athleticism and a great desire to play” as a recruit. Kelly then explained why he felt the 49-year-old was a bad influence on his players, citing him for helping to give Patriots coach Bill Belichick “one of the greatest head coaches of all time” and Al Davis “one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL”.
“He showed up at practice and practiced all by himself,” Kelly wrote. “He never talked to me. I hated to see him come in and just sit out practice and watch, but he didn’t say anything. No one knows for sure but it seems like his role for practice was to watch other people. It seemed like when he had to talk to the players that it was about being a better player, being a better teammate. I can’t say it made me better, because I never cared about what other players did. I really didn’t know about the other coaches or the players.”
After Kelly left the Jets in 2009, the team traded Saleh, whose 92 career passes defensed are the most in Jets history and the 10th-most in NFL history. Saleh played two seasons for the Indianapolis Colts, but hasn’t played since 2012.
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Kelly also talked up his conservative offensive system during his time as coach in New York, where it seemed every opposing team would try to rush for over 100 yards against him. This included an infamous AFC title game against the Patriots in which New England’s offensive line, led by Soldatah, so overpowered the Jets that Kelly didn’t attempt a single snap of the running plays in the first half and finished with 8.5 yards per carry.
“The discussion about the 1998 AFC championship game was a lot different,” Kelly wrote, “because not a lot of people back then could run a 7:40 offence. We had over two minutes to go and we got 3 yards. We finished with only 62 yards rushing, and it was basically total silence. I guess my teams when they won, were efficient. In order to do that, it required both the players and the staff to be efficient, and it really takes discipline. Like Rex Ryan, I was never pleased with how I played or coached but knew I needed to win.”
Kelly’s Jets are now reportedly interested in Jon Gruden as their next head coach.