Jets’ fill-in coach Ron Middleton a ‘mentor’ for Jaguars’ James O’Shaughnessy

Some of the people happiest that Ron Middleton is getting a chance to coach the Jets on Sunday may be on the other sideline.

Middleton was an assistant with the Jaguars from 2013-20 before joining Robert Saleh’s Jets staff as tight ends coach this season. One of his pupils in Jacksonville was James O’Shaughnessy, who played under Middleton from 2017-20. With Saleh now out with COVID, Middleton will lead the Jets against his former team and O’Shaugnessy.

“I don’t think I can describe it enough what he’s done for my career,” O’Shaugnessy told reporters in Jacksonville this past week. “Him as a person, him as a coach, he’s one of the best mindset coaches I’ve ever heard, ever been around. He’s one of the best technical coaches when it comes to the tight end position, obviously because he played it, and then coaching it for a long time. Then him as a man, [he’s] just been a great mentor in a lot of ways and making me a better man. He’s done great things for my career when I came into learning how to block, becoming a more well-rounded tight end. I could go on for days.

Ron Middleton (left) coached James O’Shaughnessy (right) in Jacksonville as an assistant before joining Robert Saleh’s Jets staff.
Bill Kostroun, USA TODAY Sports

“I love Mid, and when I saw that, I texted him right away. I couldn’t have been happier for him. He ever gets the opportunity to be a full-time head coach, I think he’d do wonderful things. Like I said, I don’t have enough time to go through all of the things I want to thank him for. But I just know a lot of people here have the utmost respect for him, players and coaches.”

Middleton, 56, said he dreamed of being a head coach when he was younger and he will embrace Sunday’s opportunity to fill in for Saleh.

“You know, earlier in my career that was the goal,” Middleton said. “And as you age, your goals change, take different paths and what not. But yeah, I’ve always wanted to be a head coach, and I just appreciate Robert giving me this opportunity to get a taste of it. It’s been great.”

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The Jets elevated six players from the practice squad for Sunday’s game — OL Isaiah Williams, WR D.J. Montgomery, TE Dan Brown, DE Ronnie Blair, LB LaRoy Reynolds and S Elijah Benton.

QB coach Rob Calabrese will not coach Sunday due to COVID protocols. Senior offensive assistant Matt Cavanaugh will handle his responsibilities.

Bob Wischusen, the play-by-play voice for ESPN Radio, will not be calling the game. The longtime broadcaster has COVID but said on Twitter he’s “fine.” Wischusen said this will be the first time he has missed a regular-season Jets game.

Dan Graca will be on the call, Wischusen said.

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