LaFleur’s Departure in the Jets’ Offseason adds another tall task for the organization as changes are brewing already for the Jets. The team’s 2023 offensive staff and its scheme will not be the same as last year. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and the team “mutually parted ways” on Wednesday night. The move came after rumors swirled earlier in the day about the offensive coordinator’s job status with the team. In addition, the Jets parted ways with offensive line coach John Benton on Thursday afternoon.
On the one hand, LaFleur’s departure could be seen as a positive move for the Jets. The team’s offense did not score a single touchdown in the last three games of the season, struggling to move the ball down the field. The Jets averaged just five points per game against Jacksonville, Seattle, and Miami.
On the year as a whole, the Jets were 29th in points per game and 25th in yards per game. This was after a year in which the Jets ranked dead last in points and total yards across the NFL. LaFleur also had rumored tension with wide receivers Denzel Mims and Elijah Moore, as they both requested trades at different points in the season. In addition, offensive lineman Mekhi Becton was called out publicly by the offensive coordinator, and quarterback Zach Wilson has failed to develop under LaFleur’s tutelage.
LaFleur’s Departure Adds Another Tall Task to the Jets’ Offseason
These stats and occurrences, however, do not account for the full story of LaFleur’s Jets tenure. Zach Wilson’s struggles were not all on the offensive coordinator, as his play showed he was not immediately ready for NFL action. LaFleur dealt with a revolving door at quarterback, having to play Joe Flacco, Mike White, Josh Johnson, and Chris Streveler at different times. He consistently dealt with injuries, whether it was Corey Davis and Elijah Moore last season or Breece Hall, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and most of the offensive line at different points this season.
Furthermore, the offense did show signs of life with Mike White at the helm. LaFleur was able to scheme up touches for rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson, and the running game was rolling when Hall and Vera-Tucker were healthy. In this regard, you could argue that LaFleur was never given a fair shake during his time with the Jets. By not having stable quarterback play or health along the offensive line, LaFleur never had a chance to show what his offense could really look like.
Hypotheticals are pointless at this stage, though. The reality is that the Jets need a new offensive coordinator, which is yet another obstacle that the Jets need to clear this offseason. Head Coach Robert Saleh said the Jets will cast a wide net for the offensive coordinator position. He also spoke about why the job would be attractive, mentioning that the Jets have a top-5 defense, a good group of skill players, and are going to be aggressive in upgrading positions of need on the offense, specifically at quarterback.
“We are going to be aggressive as heck when it comes to quarterback play and making sure that we do everything we can to satisfy that position…Do I want to be as arrogant to say I think this is plug-and-play where we’re going to get better? When you can run the ball, you’ve got special teams and you have a top-five defense, you’re supposed to be in the playoffs. I think that we’ll be able to continue on the trajectory that we had been going on,” said Saleh.
Staying true to the “wide net” of possible offensive coordinator candidates, a variety of names are already being floated as possibilities. Ex-Colts Head Coach Frank Reich and former Cardinals Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury are potentially great options but are seen as less likely than other names. Darell Bevel, currently the Dolphins QB coach, has prior experience working with Saleh and has called plays before. Nathaniel Hackett, Greg Olson, and Pep Hamilton are other options that have play-calling experience.
These candidates will not be the only ones the Jets pursue, as they would be doing themselves a disservice if they did not look at every possible candidate. But as the saying goes, “The grass is not always greener on the other side.” There is no guarantee the Jets will be able to upgrade as offensive coordinator; despite the positives the Jets have on offense, it may be hard to attract candidates to the position. Both Saleh and Douglas could be out of jobs next season if the Jets do not improve, making this position a potential one-and-done. Along with the uncertainty at the quarterback position, anyone who accepts the Jets’ offensive coordinator job will have their work cut out for them.
At the end of the day, though, no accurate evaluation can occur yet. Until the Jets’ offseason plan comes into focus, which includes finding a new quarterback and revamping the offensive line, it is impossible to say who is the “perfect” candidate for the job. In addition, it remains to be seen how the new scheme will implement and utilize the different players on the Jets’ offense.
It will now need to be a wait-and-see approach to see how the Jets’ offense develops, mainly with how the new offensive coordinator implements their scheme and utilizes the Jets’ skill players. But, most importantly, this decision will significantly impact the Jets’ next QB and the future outcome of the current regime.
The current Jets’ regime has their work cut out for them this offseason, but it is a situation that has been created because of their previous failures. There is no wiggle room for Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh, as offensive coordinator is a hire that needs to be done correctly in conjunction with finding an upgrade at quarterback. If they cannot get the job done, there is a good chance that this same conversation will be had on a larger scale next year.
There cannot be any more excuses. Fixing the offense and getting an upgrade at quarterback need to be at the top of the Jets’ priority list, and by ensuring that the right offensive coordinator is hired, the Jets will be on their way to fulfilling that goal.