As an NFL coach, there are certain clubs that you want to be a part of. In the modern-day, few groups have been hotter than The Athletic’s “NFL 40 Under 40” and a New York Jets assistant made the cut in 2022.
The 2021 edition featured Sean McVay and Zac Taylor, who led their respective teams to the Super Bowl. Not only does this list have a championship history in recent years but many of the names on it are also interviewed for head coaching promotions — if they don’t hold that title already.
The new wave within front offices and owner’s rooms has been to hire young because as we know, the NFL is a copycat league. If sub-40 coaches are winning titles, expect more to be handed a position of power.
Gang Green’s name to watch in this regard is offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who has head coaching duties running through his bloodline with his older brother Matt LaFleur in Green Bay.
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LaFleur Named to Top 40 Under 40
Senior NFL writer Lindsay Jones put together this list once again. For LaFleur’s section, she detailed:
Few things went right for the Jets’ offense in 2021 with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and LaFleur, the first-year offensive coordinator. But with a restocked offensive roster and a year’s worth of lessons learned, LaFleur has a real chance now for professional growth.
LaFleur, the younger brother of Packers coach Matt LaFleur, joined Robert Saleh’s staff in New York after working for Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco and Atlanta. He’s now leading a slimmed-down offensive staff, along with quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese, as they try to accelerate Wilson’s development in Year 2.
‘For him to walk in, head up, [with the] conviction and strength that he projected was pretty awesome, and I think it fed through, because the offense did nothing but get better as the year went on,’ Saleh told reporters this month. ‘Second time around as a coordinator, second year, it’s only getting to get better. Excited to see him grow.’
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Year 2 Could Accelerate the Process
As Jones and Coach Saleh noted, year two could be a whole different story for LaFleur. It’s hard to forget the cries from fans to fire the new OC after his first month or two on the job — but then the offense improved and the narrative shifted.
Toward the end of 2021, LaFleur’s creativity began to shine through, getting different playmakers like Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios the ball as much as possible. The system finally took shape and fans appeared more satisfied with the on-field product.
That was all with either a rookie or backup quarterback and very few weapons at tight end and wide receiver.
Now, LaFleur is locked and loaded with three new high-caliber tight ends (C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin and Jeremy Ruckert), a new dynamic running back to pair with Michael Carter (Breece Hall), a new first-round wideout (Garrett Wilson), and a beefed-up offensive line that added Laken Tomlinson with Mekhi Becton set to return.
LaFleur will be tied to Wilson, no doubt. He was a major part of the brain trust that drafted him and he’ll play a large part in developing him. Having said that, this offense now has the pieces to take the pressure off the quarterback position.
Wilson doesn’t need to break records in 2022 for LaFleur to continue on his path but if the young gunslinger does “take flight,” those head coaching offers are going to come a lot faster than expected.