Fans were upset with LaFleur toward the beginning of his first season as offensive coordinator but after a productive stretch to close out the year, his hot seat quickly turned into an ice bath. Of course, with Saleh and LaFleur came a whole bunch of positional specialists to fill out an entirely new staff — besides special teams coordinator Brant Boyer.
Some made the journey from San Fran while others joined this regime from different organizations. One relatively unknown hire in a key area ended up being the East Islip (N.Y.) native and quarterbacks coach, Rob Calabrese, who will reportedly take on a heightened role in 2022.
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Calabrese Will Be More Involved ‘in Wilson’s Development’
According to a recent article from beat reporter Connor Hughes of The Athletic, the Jets won’t be retaining special assistants John Beck and Matt Cavanaugh. Both of these moves were expected, as Beck always intended to resume his private quarterback operation after the season and the front office looks to lessen the number of voices in Zach Wilson’s ear.
Most fans won’t bat an eye over Cavanaugh’s departure, despite his experience, but Beck’s absence could cause some concern. The quarterback guru worked with Wilson in college and has become his personal trainer outside of the organization.
Based on his success with the BYU product, Gang Green decided to bring Beck in after the 2021 bye week. Unfortunately, Wilson got injured during the first outing after he was hired, but the results were tremendous either way. First Mike White turned into Tom Brady overnight and then Wilson ended up limiting his turnovers and transforming his game down the stretch.
It’s unclear how much of that was LaFleur, Beck or Cavanaugh but it appears Calabrese is reaping the rewards. Hughes reported:
They’re going with a much more traditional setup in the quarterback room this year. LaFleur’s voice will still be the loudest, but quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese will take on a much more prominent role in Wilson’s development. Calabrese didn’t do much last year in a developmental season for him. It will be interesting to see how much more involved he is during these OTA practices. The Jets do still have plans to add a young quality control coach to the room, although that hasn’t happened yet.
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Rising Star or Inexperienced Hindrance?
Calabrese is a former college quarterback (UCF) who began coaching in 2013. He started at the high school level before returning to UCF as a graduate assistant. From there, Calabrese joined Wagner College for three years — two as an offensive coordinator — and earned his first pro-level position with the Denver Broncos.
As an offensive quality control coach with the Broncos, “Calabrese worked with a number of quarterbacks.” His profile indicates that “rookie quarterback Drew Lock started the final five games” during his tenure, “compiling a 4-1 record, while Joe Flacco, who started the first eight, completed 65.3% of his passes, the best mark in his 13-year NFL career.”
It’s unclear how Calabrese wound up on Saleh and LaFleur’s radar — maybe they’ve crossed paths in years past, maybe Flacco recommended him to Joe Douglas — but his 2021 promotion to quarterbacks coach of the Jets was easily the most significant role of his young coaching career. 2022 should top it.
During his rookie campaign, Wilson showed flashes of brilliance, but his overall numbers ranked toward the bottom of the league. Having said that, all three Jets backup QBs had moments of success under LaFleur and Calabrese.
Was Wilson the root of the offensive problems? Or are the two young coaches to blame for some of the early-season struggles?
The answer to that question may remain a mystery but either way, the long-term success of all three of their careers will likely hinge on the gunslinger’s development in New York.