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Mike LaFleur Decides to Leave New York Jets After Struggles With Offensive Play

Mike McFleur (Photo: NFL)

After a season marred by offensive struggles and the regression of quarterback Zach Wilson, the New York Jets have decided to part ways with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.

The speculation surrounding LaFleur’s job status prompted interest from other teams, and the Jets granted him permission to look into those opportunities. The search for a replacement is set to commence on Thursday.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh expressed confidence in LaFleur’s future, stating, “He’s going to be fine.”

The decision to move on from LaFleur was expected, as the Jets failed to show statistical improvement under the 36-year-old coordinator, who was one of the initial hires to Saleh’s staff in 2021.

With the Jets parting ways with Mike LaFleur, the team’s previous offensive coordinator to remain in the role for more than two seasons was Brian Schottenheimer (2006-11). The Jets scored six or fewer points in their last three games, becoming the first team to do so since the 2009 Browns.

The departure was undoubtedly a challenging one for Saleh, who has known LaFleur for nearly two decades. LaFleur is also the younger brother of Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, who is one of Saleh’s closest friends.

Just a week ago, Saleh publicly supported Mike LaFleur, leading to speculation that team owner Woody Johnson was pressuring for a change. The Jets denied this, with general manager Joe Douglas asserting on Monday that Saleh has the final say on coaching-staff decisions.

The Jets now have at least two positions to fill within their offensive staff. Saleh indicated a definite interest in hiring a senior offensive assistant, a role previously occupied by the late Greg Knapp in 2021.

Former Houston Texans and Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak has been rumored as a potential candidate, although he is unlikely to come out of retirement.

“This is a results-oriented business; that’s not something you can avoid,” LaFleur remarked last week. “I come from a family of coaches.

My dad has been fired, my brother has been fired. Every coach goes through it at some point, and they get rehired. That’s just how it goes. It doesn’t keep me up at night or put me to sleep.”

Mike LaFleur (Photo: John Minchillo)

Saleh had hoped LaFleur, a first-time coordinator, would develop alongside Zach Wilson, drafted second overall in 2021. However, Wilson encountered difficulties in both seasons, leading to his benching on two occasions in 2022.

The offense hit rock bottom towards the end of the season, failing to score a touchdown in the final three games, marking the team’s longest drought since 2010. They concluded the season with 31 straight possessions without a touchdown, the longest streak in the league in 2022.

With minimal offensive support, the Jets (7-10) finished the season on a six-game losing streak, missing out on a playoff berth.

During LaFleur’s tenure, the Jets’ offense ranked 29th in scoring and 25th in total yards. In 2021, they ranked 28th and 26th, respectively.

The Jets displayed promise early on, but injuries, including a season-ending one to running back Breece Hall, and numerous offensive line setbacks hindered their progress. They posted a 5-2 record with Hall on the field but struggled to a 2-8 record without him.

While LaFleur achieved some successes — such as wide receiver Garrett Wilson’s standout rookie season — Zach Wilson’s ongoing struggles proved insurmountable. Garrett Wilson suggested that the Jets’ offensive predictability became a significant issue.

“It felt like [opponents] had us figured out, and they did a good job of stopping us once they studied the film,” Garrett Wilson explained. “As the year went on, it became increasingly challenging for us as an offense.”

Adversity struck early when Zach Wilson injured his right knee in the first quarter of the preseason’s opening game, necessitating arthroscopic surgery and causing him to miss the first three regular-season games. The Jets initially started with Joe Flacco, who was later replaced by Wilson.

Wilson was later benched in favor of Mike White, only to reclaim his starting position when White suffered an injury. However, Wilson’s performance declined, leading to his second benching.

“Over these past two years, we haven’t done our job with him,” LaFleur admitted regarding Zach Wilson. “The players need to meet us halfway, but we expect all of them to perform at their best, and we all know that Zach hasn’t reached his full potential.”

The decision to change coordinators continues a familiar pattern for the Jets. LaFleur was their eighth offensive coordinator in an 11-year span.

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