Jets and OC Mike LaFleur agree to part ways

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — After a season marked by deep offensive struggles and the regression of quarterback Zach Wilson, the New York Jets and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur parted ways on Wednesday, according to a source.

Recent speculation about LaFleur’s employment status has prompted teams to inquire about his availability, a source said, and the Jets have allowed him to pursue those opportunities. The search for a replacement begins Thursday.

The move came as no surprise, as the Jets showed no statistical improvement under LaFleur, 36, one of the first to join coach Robert Saleh’s staff in 2021.

It’s probably been tough for Saleh, who’s known LaFleur for about 20 years. LaFleur is the younger brother of Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur, one of Saleh’s closest friends. A week ago, Saleh publicly defended Mike LaFleur, fueling speculation that owner Woody Johnson was pushing for a change. The Jets claimed that was not the case, with general manager Joe Douglas saying Monday that Saleh has the final say on coaching staff decisions.

This means that they will have at least two positions to fill within the offensive staff. Saleh has indicated he “definitely” wants to hire a senior offensive assistant, basically to fill the role that was created in 2021 for the late Greg Knapp. Former Houston Texans and Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak is rumored to be a possibility, but he’s not expected to come out of retirement.

“This is a production-based business; you’re not going to run away from that,” LaFleur said last week. “I grew up in a family of coaches – my dad was fired, my brother was fired. Every coach is going to be fired at some point and rehired. It’s just the cycle – that’s how it is. That doesn’t keep waking me up at night or falling asleep.”

Saleh’s hope was that LaFleur, a first-time coordinator, would grow with Wilson, drafted second overall in 2021. For various reasons, Wilson struggled in both seasons and was benched twice in 2022.

The offense hit rock bottom down the stretch as the Jets failed to score a touchdown in the last three games — the team’s longest drought since 2010. In total, they won all 31 last possessions of the season without a touchdown, the longest streak in the league. in 2022.

Without much offensive support, the Jets (7-10) finished on a six-game losing streak, costing them a playoff berth.

LaFleur presided over an offense that finished 29th in scoring and 25th in total yards. In 2021, they were 28th and 26th respectively.

The Jets showed promise early on, but a season-ending injury to running back Breece Hall and a series of offensive line injuries made it difficult to sustain. They were 5-2 with Hall in the lineup, 2-8 without him.

They did some good things under LaFleur — wide receiver Garrett Wilson was one of the best offensive rookies in the league — but Zach Wilson’s bitter struggles proved too much for LaFleur to overcome. Garrett Wilson suggested the Jets offense had become too predictable.

“I seemed [opponents] had an idea of ​​what we were trying to do, and they did a good job of shutting us down once they got the movie together,” Garrett Wilson said. “At the end of the year, it became very difficult for us as an offense. “

Adversity hit early, as Zach Wilson injured his right knee in the first quarter of the preseason opener, which required arthroscopic surgery and caused him to miss the first three games of the regular season. The Jets opened with Joe Flacco, who was replaced by Wilson, who was eventually benched for Mike White. They returned to Wilson when White was injured, but Wilson played poorly and was benched again.

“In two years, yeah, we haven’t done our job with him,” LaFleur said of Wilson. “…The players have to meet you in the middle with this, but you want all these guys to play at their best and we all know Zach hasn’t played at his best.”

Changing coordinators is not a new trend for the Jets. LaFleur was their eighth offensive coordinator in 11 years.

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