While this season was a letdown for the Green Bay Packers, Matt LaFleur has earned enough clout with his 13-win seasons in his previous three years as head coach. But while Green Bay’s LaFleur will certainly keep his job, another LaFleur is on the market. Following the New York Jets narrowly missing the playoffs, the Jets and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, Matt’s younger brother, agreed to part ways.
The Jets exceeded expectations this season, but the offense never found its way. That leaves LaFleur the Younger a coaching free agent. Even though LaFleur the Elder anticipates maintaining his coaching staff, the offense needs improvement, and the team could create a “senior offensive assistant” role. Does a family reunion make sense for the Packers, or would another LaFleur be one more voice in the echo chamber?
Matts and Mikes are everywhere, not only in the NFC North but across the country. But we’ll proceed with calling each brother but his given name (Matt is clearly the superior moniker).
The brothers worked together under Kyle Shanahan’s offense in Atlanta from 2015-2016. Matt was the quarterbacks coach, while Mike was an offensive assistant. In 2017, the San Francisco 49ers hired Shanahan as their head coach while friend Sean McVay took over the rival Los Angeles Rams. In a gesture of friendship (this is not histrionically accurate), each newly minted head coach was allowed to have one LaFleur. Matt joined McVay as the Rams’ offensive coordinator, and Mike joined Shanahan as passing game coordinator and wide receiver coach.
Matt would later join the Tennessee Titans for a chance to be a playcaller and advance his own career, eventually becoming the coach of the Packers in 2019. Mike worked under Shanahan until he followed 49ers defensive coordinator and family friend Robert Saleh to the Jets in 2021, his first shot as offensive coordinator and playcaller.
The Jets took Zach Wilson second overall that year, but injuries created a shuffling cast at quarterback. Mike did some good things with a limited cast. New York was the 22nd-ranked defense by DVOA with the 15th-ranked rushing attack. The younger LaFleur showed some creativity and generated excitement for a fanbase in need of it.
Unfortunately, while New York’s defense took a leap forward, the offense did not. Wilson was injured and then spent a long time not being good, leading the Jets to rely on Mike White and the ghost of Joe Flacco under center. The offensive line faced a series of injuries while promising rookie running back Breece Hall had his season cut short by a torn ACL. New York’s offense finished 26th by DVOA.
While the quarterbacks weren’t good, New York’s offense probably should have been better. Even with ascending rookie receiver Garrett Wilson, the Jets didn’t score a touchdown in the final three games.
What was the final straw for Mike? According to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline, there was a disconnect between the Jets coaching staff and the front office. The powers-that-be in New York believed that Mike’s offense needs certain players to do well and isn’t versatile enough. They also believed Mike did a poor job developing Wilson. Meanwhile, the coaching staff believes Wilson might just be bad.
This disconnect, along with the team receiving multiple inquiries about Mike, led to both parties agreeing to part ways, according to The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt. Despite the firing, the younger LaFleur should be in demand. His stint in New York showed enough creativity and energy to earn an offensive coordinator spot somewhere in this league.
Matt once tried to hire his brother as offensive coordinator, but Kyle Shanahan blocked the move. Despite the title difference, it was a lateral move because the OC role in Green Bay was not the playcaller. Without being under a contract, Mike would now be free to join his brother.
The Packers need some help on offense, and Matt said he’s open to giving up playcalling if he feels it’s the best choice for the team. But Adam Stenavich is set to remain OC, and Matt probably doesn’t need to give up playcalling quite yet.
Would Mike accept a non-OC title and a potential non-playcalling role? It could be a step backward for an up-and-coming offensive mind, a guy who presumably has visions of being a head coach himself one day. Would the younger brother want to work with his older brother or try to carve his own path?
I’ve also criticized the offensive echo chamber currently affecting the Packers. Green Bay’s offense stagnated after losing Nathaniel Hackett and Luke Getsy and promoting internally. Would the head coach’s brother be able to push against him and evolve the offense?
In fairness to Mike, he’s not the same coach as Matt. Both studied under Shanahan, but when Matt followed McVay, he turned to a more pass-heavy offense. Upon joining the Packers, Matt incorporated some of Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite concepts from Mike McCarthy’s West Coast offense. Meanwhile, Mike spent more time under Shanahan’s rushing-focused attack and dealt with a quarterback carousel in San Francisco and New York. Despite similar roots, the brothers have enough unique experiences to have different offensive styles.
Still, Mike may choose to find a dedicated OC role. The Rams have an OC opening and might be the ideal place for Mike to rebound, especially if McVay offers him playcalling duties. Mike has a social connection to McVay but hasn’t worked with him before. McVay could groom Mike for a head coaching role whenever he decides to enter the broadcast booth.
Matt will certainly consider a role for his younger brother. The Green Bay offense needs some fresh eyes but needs to be wary of adding to the echo chamber. Even if Mike is family, he can still offer a unique perspective that can evolve the offense. Wherever he ends up, Mike’s career is one worth following.