On November 27th, the New York Jets were flying high with seven wins and four losses. Mike White had replaced a struggling Zach Wilson, and the offense looked competent. And that is all the Jets needed to ensure they end the second-longest playoff drought in sports—a capable offense to go along with a top-flight defense.
Then five straight losses to the Vikings, Bills, Lions, Jaguars, and Seahawks and a once-promising season has been derailed. The offense has been awful. They are 22nd in total offense and have just 15 passing touchdowns. In back-to-back “must-win” games against the Jaguars and Seahawks, the offense managed just nine total points.
So who is to blame?
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has taken most of the vitriol from the Jets’ fanbase, and it is warranted. The second-year signal-caller is on the hot seat, and fans are calling for his head. LaFleur said about his job security on Thursday, “This is a production-based business. You’re not going to run from that. I grew up in a family of coaches; my dad’s been fired, my brother’s been fired. Every coach is going to be fired at some point and rehired. It’s just the cycle; that’s what it is. That doesn’t keep me up at night or put me to sleep. It doesn’t matter. What matters is these players.”
LaFleur admitted he and the Jets may have made a mistake playing Wilson too early. Speculating that Wilson could have benefitted from sitting and watching a veteran quarterback play and handle the daily life of an NFL signal caller, LaFleur had this to say:
“Zach, in hindsight it probably would’ve benefited just to sit back and learn a little bit and watch a veteran do it and just kind of grow in this League, kind of in the back seat watching, and getting better in practice, and getting better through scout team, and all that, but again, that wasn’t the course that we went, and from here we got to pick it up, we got to pick up the straps, and we got to get back to work.”– Mike LaFleur, New York Jets Offensive Coordinator
But are the offensive failures of the Jets all on LaFleur? The injuries piled up, and most teams would be unable to handle them without a significant dropoff in production. They lost a rookie running back in Breece Hall, who was on his way to having a special season, in Week seven against the Denver Broncos. In that same game, they lost offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker who was the team MVP at that point. Vera-Tucker played all over the line and played at a high level.
At various points in the season, the Jets have started Nate Herbig (cut by the Eagles), Cedric Ogbuehi (signed off Texas practice squad), Bam Knight (undrafted rookie), a still injured George Fant, and a 37-year-old and injured Duane Brown. These guys are all significantly less talented than expected starters Mekhi Becton, Vera-Tucker, and Hall.
As the season winds down this Sunday in Miami, the two major questions that need to be answered are who will be that quarterback in 2023? And will LaFleur be the OC? I tend to think LaFleur will be here but head coach Robert Saleh may have to go to bat for him with owner Woody Johnson. I think the best course of action for the Jets is to bring in a veteran coach to be an offensive consultant. The coaching staff, like the team, is young and could benefit from an experienced coach.