We are now a full day removed from the parting of ways between the New York Jets and Mike LaFleur. The sentiment amongst the Jets fan base has seemed split. Some feel the move was warranted, considering the lackluster play of the Jets’ offense. And others, rightfully so, are disappointed with some regret because, in the end, LaFleur does have the talent.
It is always tough to see changes made. LaFleur brought some excitement to the offense in the second half of the 2021 season, earning the nickname “Booth LaFleur” from Jets Nation. He showed love to the Jets fan base on numerous occasions, expressed his endearment for the organization, and ultimately, seemed committed to helping turn the Jets around.
There is no denying the fact that LaFleur was dealt a bad hand in 2022. Whether it be some of the worst quarterback or line play in the league or injuries, the situation was tough. While the state of the Jets’ offense was unfavorable to LaFleur, there were still some things within his control that should have been handled better.
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Why parting with Mike LaFleur is in the New York Jets’ best interest:
Elijah Moore’s usage all throughout 2022:
The first reason here on why the Jets could not retain LaFleur is one I feel pretty strongly on. LaFleur’s plan for Elijah Moore (if there even was any) all year long was simply unacceptable.
It first jumped out to me as early as Week 2, when the Jets needed to throw the ball over 40 times to come from behind and eventually beat the Browns. That day, Moore was targeted five times. From there, it only somehow got worse. Come Week 5, Moore caught one pass on four targets, only to follow that up with not a single target in Week 6. We all know what happened from there, a trade request and frustration aired out publicly.
It is understandable that LaFleur was working with Zach Wilson’s erratic play, but with Moore’s skill set, there is no excuse for him to hardly get opportunities. Moore is well-known for his athletic ability, great speed, and quickness. It gives him the ability to effortlessly separate as a terrific route runner, and Moore has strong hands at the catch point. But, a huge component of Moore’s game was left on the shelf all year. The gadget game.
A key part of what Moore can provide to the Jets’ offense is electricity with the ball in his hands. Between pitch passes, jet sweeps, end-arounds, and screens, among any other underneath opportunities, LaFleur gave Moore nowhere near the manufactured touches that he should have had in 2022.
Moore was a pivotal young player the Jets needed to take a step in his second year. Unfortunately, due to his role, the jump could not be made.
Moore’s “breakout” game in Week 12 against the Bears consisted of just two targets. The wide receiver did not have a double-digit target game until Week 14.
For Moore to finish year two with the Jets having 65 targets (only six games of five plus), 37 catches, 446 yards, and one touchdown with schemed touches at a minimum every week was enough of a reason to not retain LaFleur for 2023. Moore should have a substantially bigger role in the Jets’ offense in year three.
Whatever happened with Denzel Mims?
One of the most frustrating occurrences of LaFleur’s two-year tenure with the Jets. The development (or complete lack thereof) of Denzel Mims.
Was this really a case of bad food poisoning? A player not learning the new playbook? Or a new coach coming in not working with one of his hand-picked players? Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
But the few points that must be made note of. Mims is a talent both physically and athletically. He was 23 when LaFleur came to the Jets with three years remaining on his rookie contract. On a historically bad Jets team in his rookie year, after missing time with injury, Mims showed much promise in the nine games he played in 2020.
After a good first year, when LaFleur came in, Mims did not prove growth. And most importantly, Mims’ confidence in himself did not seem there. Was LaFleur ever interested in working with Mims and fulfilling his intriguing upside as someone Joe Douglas invested a second-round pick in?
Zach Wilson obviously did not develop:
Zach Wilson certainly had enough of his own problems, and this one is not fully on LaFleur, but unfortunately, here, someone had to be the fall guy. In this case, it’s the play-caller.
With Wilson, the arm and athletic talent are undeniable. Both mechanically and mentally, though, Wilson never progressed. From a coaching standpoint, Wilson’s footwork was an issue dating back to his rookie year and was never refined. The fact that Wilson’s confidence got to be as low as it did as well is certainly not a good reflection of the coaching.
Too much was at stake for Wilson in 2022 to go out with all of his ability and show a complete lack of development.
Working relationships with key players?
The tough question that would have been answered if the Jets kept LaFleur for 2023. The speculation (and rightfully so) on what his relationships were like with multiple Jets. Players who all happened to be first and second-round draft picks made by Joe Douglas.
Not only the three discussed players above, Wilson, Moore and Mims, who both went as far as to request trades because of their role in the offense but Mekhi Becton as well.
The fact that there are unknowns as to what the bonds were between LaFleur and all of these players certainly did not bode well for him.
The final three games were too tough to come back from:
The final reason is as straightforward as it gets. Over the final three games of the 2022 season, the Jets’ offense went without a touchdown, 33 straight drives. For LaFleur to come back from that simply would have been too tough.
The Jets scored 15 points in the final three games. One thing that certainly did not help LaFleur were the comments made by Garrett Wilson on Monday at his end-of-season press conference. Wilson said that he got the sense opposing defenses knew what the Jets were going to do.
In the end, LaFleur still has a promising future as a young coach with an exciting scheme, but this was a change the Jets needed to make.