Maybe he’s not a big enough name

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Around 11:30 on Wednesday morning . . .

Longtime NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, who cover the league for KPRC in Houston, tweeted, “#Jets parting ways with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, according to league sources He ran their offense the past two seasons after a previous stint as #49ers passing game coordinator.”

But then team beat writers went to the team to get a response, and somebody in the building shot down the story:

An NFL aggregation website I go to called “The Redzone,” because I refuse to go to Pro Football Talk, summed up all the beat writer reports: “LaFleur’s firing surfaced Wednesday morning but were quickly knocked down by Jets beat writers.”

The beat reporters all basically wrote the same thing that the Jets are “deliberating” whether to bring LaFleur back.

Then Ian Rapoport, who works for the league, made it official at 6:14 pm -“Sources: The #Jet and OC Mike LaFleur are mutually parting ways.”

People owe Wilson an apology. He had the story.

Clearly what was going on was an attempt to buy some time to figure out how to spin it because Saleh is very close with the LaFleur, and didn’t want to make him look bad. This isn’t a shot at anybody, just pointing out there are very good friends, and Saleh didn’t want to fire him, so he wanted to help him make a smoother exit without the word “fired” in it.

So they presented it this way by Rapoport and others – “Several NFL teams have inquired about LaFleur and he’s been allowed to seek other opportunities.”

Based on this information, which was given to quite a few reporters, the Jets didn’t fire LaFleur, but other teams want to hire him, so they are letting him pursue those opportunities.

LaFleur didn’t do the best job, but he was forced to start Zach Wilson in 22 games. The QB, who came into the league as a 21-year-old junior, after playing teams like North Alabama during one standout college season, was rushed into action. The team admitted recently he started too quickly.

But Woody Johnson, a much-more hands-on owner than his brother, Christopher, wanted LaFleur out, and owners usually get their wish.

Joe Douglas and Saleh were both hired when Woody’s brother, Christopher, was running the team. Christopher told them he’d talk a “light” touch. Meaning, let them do their thing.

Woody’s approach isn’t what Douglas or Saleh signed up for. Woody and Christopher have way different approaches to running the team, and they also have way different personalities.

Not sure how happy Joe and Robert are right, but who resigns and gives all that money back? Very rare. In the NFL, if you get fired, you get paid, but not if you resign.

Did LaFleur do a great job? No.

But making him start Wilson in 22 games, was like a ball and chain around his ankle.

No doubt Wilson has rare arm talent, but he’s not accurate enough, not good at going through his progressions and reading defenses, and isn’t an alpha dog leader.

What did you want LaFleur to do with him?

There is no doubt LaFleur needs to improve as a chess player. So much of being a great offensive or defensive coordinator is beating your opponent at “chess on grass” with the flow of your play-calling, one play setting up the next.

Sometimes it seemed like LaFleur was just calling plays off his play sheet, and not playing enough chess.

In looking for a replacement for LaFleur, the Jets should probably stay within the Shanahan coaching tree, so the system doesn’t change drastically. That would be bad for all their young talent, and honestly, it’s a good system when executed right, as we saw against Cincinnati in 2021, and as we see almost every week with the San Francisco 49ers.

January 12, 2023

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Dan Leberfeld
Dan Leberfeld
Publisher of Jets Confidential Magazine. Call 1-800-932-4557 (M-F, 12-4) to subscribe. Co-host of Press Coverage every Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio from 11-2.

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