The New York Jets have begun this new football season with a rookie quarterback, No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson from Brigham Young University, and a first-year head coach in Robert Saleh, formerly the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator.
Saleh and Jets general manager Joe Douglas have remade the coaching staff, replacing the previous offensive and defensive coordinators under previous head coach Adam Gase. Mike LaFleur, the younger brother of Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LeFleur, is now running the offense, and Jeff Ulbrich is guiding the defense. Saleh has built his staff with eighteen new Jets assistants, some, like LeFleur, have never had the position they currently hold.
The Jets needed an overhaul after a 2-14 2020 season. The changes include quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach, linebackers coach, offensive line coach, run game coordinator, running backs coach, safeties coach and defensive backs coach. Brant Boyer, the special teams coordinator, deservedly was retained.
In his five seasons with the Jets, Boyer has been responsible for the unit ranking in the top five in two of the last three seasons according to HYPERLINK “https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/” l “inbox/_blank” FootballOutsiders.com, which compiles NFL statistics in five key elements of special teams. Boyer, 50, who was an NFL player for 10 years, joined the Jets in 2016 after four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts working as a special teams assistant.
LaFleur, 34, was with Saleh in San Francisco as the 49ers’passing game coordinator. He was a college quarterback at Elmhurst University in Illinois and began coaching with his alma mater in 2009 before moving to Saint Joseph’s the next year, and after that Davidson before getting his first NFL position with the Cleveland Browns as an offensive intern in 2014.
After a year with the Browns, LaFleur moved on to the Atlanta Falcons as an offensive assistant in 2015 and was hired by San Francisco in 2017 as their passing game coordinator. He also was a wide receivers coach with the 49ers.
The Jets job is Ulbrich’s first full-time defensive coordinator opportunity. He held the interim defensive coordinator title last season from Week 6 with the Atlanta Falcons. Ulbrich began his coaching career as an assistant special teams coach in 2010 with the Seattle Seahawks after playing linebacker with the 49ers from 2000-2009. After two seasons with the Seahawks, he coached at UCLA from 2012-2014 and was brought on by Atlanta in 2015, where he made his mark as the Falcons’ linebackers coach.
The 44-year-old, who played linebacker at San Jose State and the University of Hawaii, is starting his tenure with the Jets already under duress. Defensive end Carl Lawson tore his Achilles last Thursday, ending his season before it officially started with the Jets’ opening regular season game against the Carolina Panthers on the road, and also lost inside linebacker Jarrad Davis for up to four weeks with an ankle injury, which happened on Saturday early in the second quarter against the Packers.
“The initial prognosis is positive. But again, he’s got to get more tests,” said Saleh of Davis. “When someone falls off the train, I want to make sure I say this the right way, it’s another opportunity for someone to jump on the train.”