Jets’ Robert Saleh Comes To Defense Of Mike LaFleur

Mike LaFleur, Robert Saleh, Jets
NFL Analysis Network

New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has come under fire in recent weeks as the team’s performance on that side of the ball is a major reason why their playoff hopes were dashed. 

It was not too long ago that the Jets had the inside track to a playoff spot sitting at 7-4 on the season and needing one or two more wins. Unfortunately, those wins never came. New York is currently riding a five-game losing streak and they were officially eliminated from the postseason with their loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17.

LaFleur has been able to get nothing out of the offense, as they have scored only four touchdowns during the five-game losing streak. The injury to Mike White and being forced to go back to Zach Wilson as the starter certainly didn’t help, but even in his return to the lineup against the Seahawks, White couldn’t save this sinking ship.

The calls for LaFleur’s job are beginning to get louder as the defense continued doing their job despite the offense’s shortcomings. Eventually, it became too much to overcome, but head coach Robert Saleh isn’t giving up on LaFleur, coming to the defense of his offensive coordinator this week.

Saleh said that New York is in the second year of “a commitment to go young everywhere — coaches, players, staff, everybody. It’s so important to take a deep breath … and make sure we’re telling ourselves the truth rather than allowing narrative and panic to set in.”

After finishing 28th in scoring offense last season, the Jets are 27th this season. Wilson not developing as they had hoped along with the offensive line being decimated by injuries has certainly played a part

The plan was for Saleh, LaFleur and Wilson to all grow together, as all were rookies in 2021 in their respective positions. Nearing the conclusion of Year 2, there hasn’t been nearly enough development as no one would blame the Jets should Saleh be the only one remaining in his position in Year 3. But, as long as Saleh is calling the shots, don’t expect major changes to the coaching staff.

“I’ve been in (Mike) LaFleur’s shoes,” said Saleh, recalling how he was on the hot seat as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator after the 2018 season. “It would’ve been very easy for Kyle (Shanahan) to fire me, very easy to say, ‘You know what? We went 4-12, you’re the scapegoat, get the heck out of the building.’

“But to his credit, we sat down … he committed to me, and the rest is history.”

It sounds as if Saleh, who is close friends with Mike’s older brother Matt LaFleur, the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, is going to give the younger LaFleur a similar chance that he was provided by Kyle Shanahan. While the overall product has been poor, Mike LaFleur can take solace in knowing he helped develop the first 1,000-yard receiver for the Jets since 2015 and they did show flashes when healthy.

“There were stretches where we had one of the more prolific offenses in the league for a couple of games in a row, here and there,” center Connor McGovern said. “It’s just a consistency thing. It’s not just on LaFleur, it’s not just on the players. It’s the entire New York Jets not being consistent.”

While LaFleur’s job sounds like it is safe, for now, the pressure will assuredly be on to turn things around in 2023. Another slow start, especially if the Jets can address some of their glaring needs, would likely result in LaFleur being removed from his position as offensive coordinator.