Mike LaFleur is out as offensive coordinator for the New York Jets after two disappointing and mostly unproductive seasons on offense, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
LaFleur’s future with the team was in doubt after Zach Wilson struggled mightily in his second season and the offense was among the worst in the NFL for two straight years. There was growing speculation that LaFleur might be on the way out after Robert Saleh’s Jets finished 7-10 with a season-ending six-game losing streak.
The Jets and LaFleur agreed to part ways on Wednesday after a few other teams inquired about the embattled offensive coordinator, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce the move. .
LaFleur, 36, the younger brother of Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur, was a first-time coordinator when he joined Saleh and the Jets in 2021. He was an offensive intern with Cleveland in 2014 before serving as a offensive assistant with Atlanta under coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who brought LaFleur with him to San Francisco when he was hired as head coach in 2017.
LaFleur served as the 49ers’ passing game coordinator for four seasons — while Saleh was the defensive coordinator — before leaving to join Saleh’s staff as the Jets’ offensive coordinator.
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Saleh said Monday he “definitely” plans to hire a senior offensive assistant to help improve the offense and work with Wilson. Greg Knapp, who was hired in 2021 for the role, died before this season when he was struck while riding his bike at his home in California. Saleh brought in Matt Cavanaugh and Wilson’s quarterback personal trainer John Beck last season, but then opted out of a veteran offensive assistant this season.
Saleh will likely be looking to fill at least two roles within his attacking coaching staff.
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Saleh and Matt LaFleur were graduate assistants at Central Michigan in 2004 and the two often stopped by the LaFleur family during lunch breaks — and Mike, then in high school, got to know Saleh during those visits.
Saleh brought Mike LaFleur with him from San Francisco when he was hired by the Jets two years ago, thrilled to have a friend and one of the NFL’s best young offensive minds on his team.
But New York’s offense couldn’t find any consistency — or sometimes the end zone — and Wilson didn’t develop as expected after being the No. 2 overall pick in April 2021.
The Jets, who haven’t scored a touchdown in their last three games, missed the playoffs for the 12th straight year — and LaFleur’s offense was the main culprit.
In the end, LaFleur paid the price.
The Jets have been among the league’s worst offenses for the past two years, but have shown flashes at times midway through this season. Injuries to rookie running back Breece Hall and second-year offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker were blows, as was an injury-plagued O-line.
But Wilson’s underwhelming play has been a major problem, especially this year when he was benched twice.
This led to a revolving door at quarterback with Wilson, Mike White and Joe Flacco all starting games. Neither could provide consistent success on offense, and LaFleur didn’t seem to be doing enough to make up for the quarterback’s issues.
The Jets’ next offensive coordinator will ask a major question at the game’s most important position — “the serpent’s head,” as Saleh called it.
Saleh insisted the Jets will remain committed to developing Wilson “through hell or high water.” LaFleur acknowledged “in hindsight” last week that Wilson would have benefited from sitting as a rookie behind a veteran.
It seems likely that New York will pursue a vet this offseason to step in as a potential starter next season. White and Flacco should be free agents.
Wilson has 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions with a 55.2 percent completion rate and a 72.8 quarterback rating in 22 starts. He showed flashes of athleticism and the ability to make throws and off-the-book plays, but Wilson was unable to consistently read defenses and struggled with mechanics and fundamentals.
“In 2023 now, I guess you can say people don’t want to wait,” LaFleur said last week. “They want instant gratification from these rookies, these sophomore guys to be superstars and that’s understandable. You understand why – this is a highly competitive environment.