We hear the honeymoon might already be over for New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur — just three weeks into his first season. Robert Saleh isn’t beyond reproach either after three losses by a combined 50 points. And the Jets’ offense is almost solely to blame for New York’s terrible start.
The New York Jets offense is very, very bad
The Jets rank last in first downs (15 per game) and interception rate (6.7%), 31st in sack rate (14.3%), and 30th in yards per game (250), yards per play (4.1), passing yards per game (170), yards per pass (4.9) and red-zone efficiency (33.3%).
Say what you want about Adam Gase’s time as New York’s head coach — and plenty has been said — but this has been somehow even worse.
Concerns about Zach Wilson?
Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has had a brutal start to his NFL career. Through Sunday’s games, he ranks last among 34 qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating (51.6) and 31st in QBR (22.1).
“It’s frustrating,” Wilson said after throwing 2 interceptions in Sunday’s 26-0 loss to the Broncos. “It’s just a lack of execution. Once again I just say, we’re all learning. We’re trying to get better every single week. It’s maybe hard for people to see that, but we’re learning a lot in those games. People are going to hate, and it is what it is, but we’re just going to keep that confidence. Getting there Monday and just be hungry to keep trying to get that win.”
Wilson is right. The Jets are all learning. And that includes — and perhaps begins with — LaFleur, a first-year offensive coordinator at 34 years old. He followed Saleh from San Francisco this past offseason, getting a promotion from Kyle Shanahan’s passing game coordinator to a first-time play-caller.
Mike LaFleur’s rocky start
He’s made some mistakes that have irked people within the organization. LaFleur is determined to run his version of Shanahan’s twist on the West Coast offense. The problem is, he’s doing it without San Francisco’s personnel.
The Jets have three receivers well under six feet — Braxton Berrios, Jamison Crowder, and Elijah Moore — and Moore plays on the boundary far more than someone his size should. LaFleur has a big, rangy downfield threat in Denzel Mims but refuses to play him.
Stubbornness is bad. Stubbornness plus inexperience is worse. League sources point to a bunch of novice assistants as a significant reason Saleh has struggled as a head coach. Greg Knapp’s tragic passing left a void on the staff.
Lack of veteran leadership could be hurting the Jets
Saleh’s quarterbacks and wide receivers coaches — Rob Calabrese and Miles Austin — are young guys who might not have been ready for the career advancements Saleh gave them when he hired them in the winter.
They haven’t helped LaFleur devise an NFL-caliber game plan. The Jets have a 2:1 pass-to-run ratio, and Wilson is throwing deeper on average than Patrick Mahomes, Matthew Stafford, and Baker Mayfield. The result — an on-target rate of just 48.1% — is as unfortunate as it is predictable. It doesn’t help that Wilson holds the ball too long. He’s been sacked 8 times on plays that he held the ball for 4.52 seconds or more. But that can, in part, be fixed with better play calls.
“You do want to see growth, day in and day out. You want to see the entire offense, you want to see that growth, you want to see that communication, you want to see the precision as we go,” Saleh said. “I feel like we’ve been having great practice. Obviously, games are not showing it but at the same time we just got to stick to our zones, stick to our philosophy, stick to our professionalism, and try to find a way to convert all our practice habits to the football field and see if we can pull everyone together.”