After the New York Jets Week 13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, NYJ fans were outraged over offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s red zone play-calling.
Yesterday on December 8, the OC was forced to face the music during his weekly Thursday press conference. His responses may not have been what Jets fans were looking to hear, however.
Jets’ Mike LaFleur Explains ‘Unorthodox’ Calls vs Vikings
“We didn’t execute at the level that we were, getting [the ball] to that point [on the field],” LaFleur began at the start of the presser. “When we got down to the 20 it was a collection of errors. We gotta get that fixed as coaches. The execution was just a little bit off, not crazy [far] off but any time you’re one for six it’s [not good enough.]”
SNY’s Connor Hughes followed up, asking LaFleur if he’d have called anything differently on the fourth-down stand from Minnesota at the one-yard line that ended in an incompletion to wide receiver Braxton Berrios. The Jets did not attempt to run the ball on third or fourth down from the one.
“On the third down I called an RPO [run-pass option] to make sure I gave our guys a chance versus an all-out type pressure,” the Jets play-caller reasoned. “I know the easy answer is, just [QB] sneak it. Well, we snuck it the series before that and we were about an inch away and I’m surprised they overturned that one to be honest with you.”
“I didn’t want to put our guys in that situation again,” LaFleur admitted. “In hindsight, whatever play would have worked is the play I wanted to call but we’re going to stick with it. It is what it is.”
ESPN’s Rich Cimini also noted that the Jets OC referred to the decision to go with an empty backfield on fourth and goal at the one-yard line as “unorthodox,” and this is where he defended his decision a bit.
Here was the full quote from LaFleur: “That was a play that we were extremely comfortable with. We’ve been running that six or seven weeks in practice, waiting for that opportunity. I know it’s a little unorthodox, maybe, to go empty [backfield] in that situation but the point was to get people open. We did that, we just didn’t execute it to get the touchdown.”
In all fairness, Berrios was open for a moment and quarterback Mike White did put the ball within reach. You could argue it wasn’t a perfect throw but at the end of the day, the slot-receiver dropped it. LaFleur was not asked why Berrios was on the field in such a key moment of the game.
Is the Seat Heating Up for Mike LaFleur?
We’ve talked about it in the past, but what would it take for the Jets to ever consider a change at offensive coordinator?
Right now, the defense is playing at a top-five ranking in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per game. The only three teams they trail are the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, three of the best current defenses in the sport.
Before, the scapegoat was Zach Wilson but if this offense continues to fail under Mike White — despite the yardage it produced in Week 13 — fans and front office members will look for someone to blame. General manager Joe Douglas has invested heavily in this unit the past two offseasons and it shouldn’t be a weakness.
There’s also the question of who is at fault for Wilson’s lack of progress? Is that LaFleur, QB coach Rob Calabrese, or Wilson himself?
LaFleur doesn’t necessarily deserve to be fired at this very moment. He’s done a lot of good things along with the bad.
If the Jets were to miss the playoffs because of the offense, however, that could be an issue. Then the next question arises — can head coach Robert Saleh make an objective decision when it comes to LaFleur? Who is, of course, his best friend’s little brother.