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The big questions about the Jets offensive coordinator search

It’s get it right Joe or you may not be around much longer

NFL: Washington Commanders at Indianapolis Colts IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets search for the offensive coordinator position isn’t so hard if you look at the job from the approach of a rational businessman.

What do the Jets have?

The Jets have some solid receivers. Maybe there are a few question marks, but there is enough talent to entice a quality coordinator prospect. The Jets drafted a winner in Garrett Wilson who set rookie records this year. They also have Elijah Moore who had a very good rookie season (cut short by injury) but overall a fine job. 2022 was admittedly a disaster for Moore, but he is still the same talented receiver we saw in 2021. He needs to be given a distinct role. He was moved all over in the MLF offense so he never had a chance to excel.

Cory Davis saves the Jets $10.5 Million in salary cap space with only $666,668 in dead money if he is cut so the Jets will be moving on. There will be no teams looking to trade for Davis so he will be a free agent. Players like Jeff Smith, Denzel Mims, or Irvin Charles will hope to fill the void but the Jets will be on the hunt for another receiver or two.

The Jets have a great group at running back with Breece Hall, Bam Knight, Michael Carter, Ty Johnson and James Robinson. You could also add Nick Bawden (FB) if you want. They could draft a player here in later rounds. Bam Knight shined, but Carter was unimpressive this season. You could make a trade for a 6th round pick with Carter if you want. The RB position will again be overlooked by evaluators so if you want a quality RB in the 4th or 5th rounds he will be there for you.

The Jets are just about set at tight end with a group of Conklin, Uzomah, Yeboah and Ruckert. No assets should be spent here.

At QB the Jets have Zach Wilson who is still only 23 years old. The Jets would have a dead cap hit of nearly $21 million in 2023 to move on from Wilson. Joe Flacco is gone, and so is Mike White; the Jets will be outbid by some team looking at White. Maybe he comes back on a hometown discount, but a new OC might have his own idea of a backup (or starting) QB to bring in. No decisions on QBs will be made until a new OC is named.

What kind of offensive coordinator do the Jets need?

Simple; the Jets need an offensive coordinator who has an ability to craft an offense to the talent. The Jets will bring in another QB, but who will it be? Zach Wilson hwill be here the next two years so let’s find an offensive coordinator that can work with him. You just can’t simply give up on Zach. It’s too expensive. You can bring in another QB to compete with Zach, but I don’t know who you will find to replace him.

I loved it when Robert Saleh said, “We’re casting a wide net,” in terms of the offensive coordinator search.

If the Jets bring in a Chad O’Shea or Nathaniel Hackett or Nick Caley then they will not be an enticing destination to offensive players. Of course the Jets could bring back Dowell Loggains and the whole team might not come back...that was humor. If the Jets could entice a Frank Reich to become their offensive coordinator then the door is open for the them to bring in any QB available. Reich is well respected around the league. He is the type of coach the Jets need if they intend to keep Zach Wilson. Reich had a 14 year career in the NFL including one year as a New York Jet where he started 7 games in 1996. Although he was a career backup he has loads to wisdom to give to a young QB. Why the Jets chose a young OC in the first place is beyond my comprehension. It was an idiotic move made by a GM with little experience. Zach Wilson was your future when you drafted him. Why not bring in the best OC possible? Why not an OC with experience helping a young QB?

Look at Daniel Jones of the Giants. His 5th year option wasn’t picked up by the team. They bring in head coach Brian Daboll who turned around a struggling Josh Allen. Daniel Jones had the best season of his career by any measure. He had a top 10 QBR in the NFL in 2022. Who would of thought that was possible? Now the Giants have to re-sign Jones which will cost them plenty. Great coaches always make a huge difference with young players. No position is that more true than the QB position. With the way the game is played now with all the hybrid defenses, a quality coach for a young QB is essential.

Why didn’t Mike LaFleur work as the Jets offensive coordinator?

It’s hard to pinpoint specifically what went wrong with LaFleur as coordinator but things were definitely wrong. The change had to be made. There were too many instances of turmoil when there didn’t have to be.

First LaFleur only got the job because he was on Kyle Shanahan’s offensive coaching staff. He wasn’t even the offensive coordinato. He was the passing game coordinator which is not a decision making position for that particular offense. He had no pedigree of success in his past, only a role on a good offensive team. Kyle Shanahan was the decision maker with the Niners. He worked for years under coaches like Jon Gruden, Gary Kubiak, and his dad in Washington. He became the offensive coordinator in Cleveland only to quit because he felt the organization was going in the wrong direction. He immediately became the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons and turned them into the highest scoring team in the NFL. He gave Matt Ryan the bet year of his career plus took his team to the Super Bowl. That type of resume gives you respect around the league and with young players. Mike LaFleur had none of that.

Second there was Denzel Mims who had some injury problems and then food poisoning. When he was healthy he was working hard and did the right things. He was still left out of the mix as an offensive weapon. A good offensive coordinator takes the strengths he has on the roster then uses them where they make the greatest impact. LaFleur wanted Mims to learn every WR position on the team which would be nice but to not use him at all was just foolish. He tried to play tough guy with a young player to the detriment of the team. Mims is not a superior player, but he has talent. He could have been an asset. Other players can see that. When you do things like that it better lead to winning because when it doesn’t you can lose a locker room.

Third there was the strange problem with Elijah Moore who had a good rookie season (43 rec/ 538 yards/ 5TDs in 11 games) cut short by injuries. 2022 should have been a breakout year for Moore with his OC drawing up plays to get him into the action early and often. Yet by the 5th game of the year Moore was a non-factor. This boiled over into practice sessions where Zach Rosenblatt of the Atlantic wrote this:

His frustration spilled into practice that week. That Thursday, Moore surprised teammates and coaches by blowing up on LaFleur, telling him to “go (expletive) yourself” and “you suck,” according to multiple people who witnessed the interaction. LaFleur and Saleh ultimately decided to send Moore home to cool off. That night, he requested a trade.

Of course players talk, Moore was a well-liked teammate. Situations like this can tear a team apart but little was done to repair the damage. Moore finally realized he was not going to be traded so he relented in his criticism but the damage was done.

Fourth Zach Wilson wasn’t getting better. He was regressing; playing with zero confidence. Then the Jets had a bye week after the huge upset of Buffalo. LaFleur had two weeks to devise a game plan against the Patriots, a team they had played two weeks earlier. The Jets offense was morbid, few slants or quick dig routes were called. In the strong wind LeFleur called plays to throw to the sidelines where the wind would affect the ball the most. The running game was worse. If you take away Zach Wilsons 3 scrambles for 26 yards the Jets averaged 1.65 yards per carry (20/33). The Jets lost on a punt return, and Zach Wilson was benched. Wilson came back against the Lions to throw for 317 yards in a game the Jets would have won if not for a gaffe by the defense in a 51 yard 4th down toss to a backup TE.

In that game the Jets were tied at the half then LaFleur called a sideline pass to Elijah Moore 20 yards downfield into a two deep defense. Of course the ball was intercepted and nearly went for a TD. The blame was placed on Zach Wilson which was warranted. He should have seen the coverage and look somewhere else. Yet Zach lacked confidence. He threw to the player who the OC called for to get the pass. A more mature, more confident QB would have known better. Still it was an awful call by the OC when the Lions were basically playing that coverage on all passing situations.

LaFleur had two seasons to prove he was an NFL offensive coordinator. His efforts showed everyone that he doesn’t have that level of expertise yet. He may come back sometime in the future to become a competent coordinator, but that time is not now. The Jets had to make the change now. They are tasked with getting it right or the entire front office and coaching staff will be replaced; again.

Where do the Jets look for another QB?

It’s not like quality QBs grow on tree plus you have numerous other teams also searching. Sure you might have your pick of Jimmy Garoppolo, Sam Darnold (hehe), Baker Mayfield or Andy Dalton but who’s to say those player would sign with the Jets? Besides the Jets always have the problem (when they don’t shower a key player with boatloads of cash) of the New York press. They can be a venomous mob so why sign here when you could be loved in Carolina or Tampa Bay or a number of cities? Plus New York taxes have come into the minds of players. When the Raiders moved to Vegas from California the players all felt a windfall of money from the same contracts they already had. It was like receiving a bonus because they were away from the stifling California tax burden.

You could trade for Derek Carr, but that will cost you Draft capital. Plus how much of an improvement is he when he had better protection that the Jets QBs? You would have to assume a contract that still has 3 years and $116.3 million on it. Plus Carr has a no trade clause so he might not want to come to NY anyway.

Zach is not a lost cause. I know most of you have written him off, but I have a lot of faith in Zach Wilson. He will have to prove that trust I have for him this year upcoming. Obviously for some reason the Zach Wilson/Mike LaFleur relationship didn’t work. Maybe because that LaFleur clashed with a young Zach Wilson, but whatever it was it didn’t work.

Zach Wilson is a smart kid, a hard working kid, a kind kid, a good kid. I wouldn’t be hard pressed to say that this offseason Zach Wilson will work harder that he has ever done before. With a new OC and an ability to work on his technique with a coach he trusts, Zach might finally become the type of QB Jets fans have searched for. The Jets have to try. They have way too much invested in Zach not to. When Joe Douglas selected Zach #2 he knew then his entire Jets career hung on that selection. GMs rarely survive a fatal mistake at #2 in the draft with over $35 million guaranteed at signing on Zach’s contract.

The Jets need to find the right OC to make the Jets competitive in the NFL. If the right coach is chosen it can lead to a better situation for the entire team. All the offensive players will benefit from his wisdom and play calling. He can also entice a few free agents who might not of look at the Jets as a possible landing spot.

The Jets have a huge decision to make.

It better be the right one.

That’s what I think.

What do you think?