Focus Should Be on LaFleur

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

(Photo credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

It’s open season on Jets sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson after an inept performance that included a three-interception game in the Jets’ 22-17 loss to the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

But let’s not forget about Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. He hasn’t exactly shined in his role for 26 games. The Jets offense has been underwhelming under his guidance, so there should be a conversation about him.

Pro Football Focus ranked the Jets offense at 32nd. This means it’s last in the league of all teams, including some of the worst teams out there such as the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders, Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions. That’s damning right there.

It was insane to have Wilson throw 41 times against the Patriots. He struggled to throw all day, so one would think Lafleur would rein his struggling quarterback in. There’s no reason for Michael Carter to have seven carries on a day Wilson struggled, and it’s inexplicable that newly acquired running back James Robinson only had five carries. This is where the offensive coordinator deserves to be scrutinized right there.

Yes, LaFleur’s job is to develop Wilson after the Jets invested so much time and money in last year’s No. 2 overall draft pick. But there has to be a time when it’s time to stop and let the game come to him. Wilson is far from a finished product for him to be a gunslinger. Even though the running game struggled in the first half, there’s no reason to give up on it altogether.

There were 43 dropbacks and 15 runs in this game. This is not right. It does not make sense when the quarterback had horrible field awareness and not be in sync with his receivers. Plus, Wilson is playing his fifth game after coming off a knee injury, so to make him a pocket passer does not make sense.

Wilson should have done plenty of running in this game along with throwing short passes. This is his strength. If he doesn’t have it in him to throw, there’s no point making him do it and hoping he can figure it out. By making him do something he is not, he can lose his confidence that way.

Look, Wilson has to grow up and figure it out. He needs to know how to have field awareness. He has to work better with his receivers. But LaFleur needs to make his job easy while he is still learning on the job.

The job of an offensive coordinator is to put his quarterback in a position to succeed. LaFleur has not done that so far whether it’s Joe Flacco or Wilson. He has had some success with Mike White, but his job is to get results out of Wilson.

It’s also his responsibility to get Wilson to protect the football and play smart. Either he is not teaching properly or the quarterback does not understand him.

When Giants head coach Brian Daboll and Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka get decent results out of Daniel Jones, it’s fair to expect the same out of Lafleur with Wilson.

It’s also remarkable why LaFleur is not getting Denzel Mims, Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore involved in the offense. He needs to be drawing up plays for Wilson to work with either or all of them. Maybe if he did that the other day, Wilson would not have focused on Ty Conklin in the second half, which resulted in his second interception to Devin McCourty.

This offense has been sporadic at best. Much of the Jets offense success came from Jets running back Breece Hall. But now he is out for the season with an ACL injury, so it’s on LaFleur to adapt and make this work without his best offensive player.

Most importantly, the Jets offensive coordinator needs to get Wilson under control. He needs to fix Wilson’s mistakes. Yes, the quarterback may not be smart, but it’s on the offensive coordinator to figure him out.

LaFleur has some good players on his offense. He has to utilize them better. It’s why he is being paid the big bucks.

At some point, he has to be accountable. He is as much of a problem as his quarterback is.

The offensive coordinator receives too much credit and too much blame. That’s the life of being an offensive coordinator. Still, some of the struggles are a poor reflection of LaFleur.

It’s time for him to do his job better by making this offense better than we have seen.

This writer can be reached on Twitter: @LeslieMonteiro6

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