Mike LaFleur parts ways with Jets, should draw interest from the New Orleans Saints
A dismissed coach on one club could be a treasure on another. While the New Orleans Saints do not currently have a coaching staff opening, there is a chance that one will be created this offseason. If they do, former New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur may be one of their top prospects.
The New York offense ranked 29th in scoring, 25th in total yardage, 30th in EPA/play, and 26th in offensive DVOA. So, what qualifies LaFleur for consideration? The truth is that there is a lot of context to explore surrounding what went wrong in New York.
Throughout the season, the Jets’ quarterback situation was poor, going from Zach Wilson to Mike White to Joe Flacco and back again. Except for Flacco earlier in his career, none of those signal callers have generated much trust. Furthermore, a versatile running back is critical to LaFleur’s approach. Everything changed for LaFleur’s offense when rookie back Breece Hall was declared out for the season due to injury.
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By the way, there is precedent for this success. Kyle Shanahan is now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, although he previously served as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns before moving on to the same post with the Atlanta Falcons.
In two years, he went from having the No. 27 scoring offense and ranking No. 23 in total yards to having the No. 1 scoring offense and ranking No. 2 in total yards gained. Things settled down once he found the individuals he required to completely implement his method. The same might happen to LaFleur when the Saints’ roster is being rebuilt at key positions such as quarterback.
Mike Shanahan is the younger brother of Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.
We discussed 49ers passing game coordinator Bobby Slowik as another potential target a few days ago. We did so using LaFleur’s success (before things went south) with the Jets as positive evidence. His concept is one that fans would like to see in New Orleans, and it does a lot of what fans asked for from the Saints this season.
LaFleur employs a combination of precision short and intermediate attacks (taking what the defense offers them) and a heavy dose of deception. This involves pre-snap motion, play flow misdirection, and other techniques. You can see that if you watch one of the Jets’ early-season games. He also gets credit for continuing to exploit the skills of rookie wide out Garrett Wilson amid the quarterback carousel. Imagine what he could achieve with Wilson’s old New Orleans teammate Chris Olave and emerging talent Rashid Shaheed.
When it came to pre-snap motion, the Saints and Jets were on opposing ends of the spectrum early in the season. The Saints rank towards the bottom of the NFL (31) in pre-snap motion rate, while the Jets rank in the top ten (9) in the league. Furthermore, the Saints were caught being a little too predictable with their motion at the snap.
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According to ESPN’s Seth Walder, teams move players after the snap on 31% of their run plays but only 1% of their throw plays. It’s not ideal. Motion should not be overlooked in today’s NFL, and it is definitely a part of LaFleur’s DNA, which might assist the Saints if an offensive coordinator search is launched.
New Orleans is also well positioned to address LaFleur’s running back dilemma, thanks to one of the league’s greatest in Alvin Kamara. In 2023, the former offensive rookie of the year may go from being woefully underutilized to having an offense constructed around his skill set. Don’t be fooled by the Jets’ end-of-season offensive rankings.
LaFleur is a capable play creator, caller, and schemer. When injuries do occur, he’ll need to learn how to adjust with his personnel. And the Saints will need to invest in their running back room surrounding Kamara. But that’s something both should be aiming for this offseason.