Jets’ Mike LaFleur Ends 4th Down Debate: ‘There’s No More to Talk About’

Zach Wilson

Getty New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson on January 2, 2022.

If one play had gone differently, the New York Jets would have defeated Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17.

That, of course, was the fourth and two quarterback sneak that was stuffed on the final Jets offensive drive of the game — besides the nine-second prayer that officially ended it.

For those that missed it, head coach Robert Saleh was fuming after the loss, and he was very specific on who was to blame in the moment of miscommunication. “In that situation, we wanted the ball handed off to [Braxton] Berrios but we did a very poor job as a coaching staff communicating that in the huddle and Zach [Wilson] executed the playbook as it’s designed… poor job on our part for lack of communication,” he explained.

While Saleh took joint responsibility as HC, he also admitted that offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is typically responsible for relaying that sort of information. Today on January 6, the Jets OC addressed the media for the first time since the debacle.

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LaFleur: ‘It’s 100% on Me’

During his Week 18 press conference, LaFleur began by taking full responsibility for the game-changing miscue the week before.

The coordinator stated: “First, it’s 100% on me. Disappointed with myself for two reasons; I pride myself on communication and our unit on execution — you’ve heard me talk about execution a lot — and I failed at both of those. The total intent was to get [Berrios] the ball, he was balling, and I failed at both of [those] to get that relayed [to Wilson]. Our quarterback did exactly what he was supposed to do in that moment and like I said, I know what our intent was — whether people want to believe that one or not — but that’s what happened. I failed at both and again, I have to live with that. I know I’m going to learn from that, I know I have learned from that. You can’t let the same play beat you twice and in that situation, I’m going to make sure that absolutely does not happen again.”

On a follow-up, ESPN’s Rich Cimini asked if someone could have radioed to Wilson at the line of scrimmage and LaFleur ended the debate there. “Yeah, no that’s what I’m saying. There’s no more to talk about, it was flat out in the moment, I did not relay what we wanted to get done. That’s what’s disappointing… There’s no one else’s fault but mine.”

He even added that he “wasn’t saying much to Zach” during the timeout as they determined whether to go for it, what play to call and the exact distance they had to gain.

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Final Ruling From Heavy

The normally happy-go-lucky OC looked notably agitated and down on himself during the admission of guilt but the truth is, all parties involved were partially to blame.

Yes, LaFleur’s job is to make things as easy as possible for a first-year quarterback and communicate the play call clearly. We said as much on Monday and that’s still the case now.

At the same time, Saleh should be listening in and acting as a sort of quality control, especially on a key call when the team had a 30-second timeout to get themselves prepared. The Jets HC also must improve on the speed at which he makes these fourth-down decisions. Multiple times in year one, it’s taken him too long to choose between a field goal and an offensive attempt.

Wilson also made a terrible read, rationalizing a two-yard sneak over the option-reverse to Berrios. That right there is a rookie growing pain in a crucial spot — nothing more.

And lastly, the rest of the assistant coaches assigned to the QB room shouldn’t get off the hook either. I’m looking at you Rob Calabrese, Matt Cavanaugh, and John Beck. As LaFleur and Saleh are making all their choices, one of these three should be talking Wilson through some possibilities.

All in all, it was an epic blunder for this operation and as much as LaFleur would love to cover the grenade for everyone else — this one was a team effort.

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