Newly-hired Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who’s in the early stages of putting his assistant coaching staff together, as expected will hire Mike LaFleur as his offensive coordinator, according to a Monday report from Mike Silver of NFL Network.
The 34-year-old LaFleur, who was the 49ers passing game coordinator under head coach Mike Shanahan, is the younger brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.
Saleh also is hiring John Benton as the Jets offensive line coach, according to the report. Benton was the offensive line and running game coordinator for the 49ers.
Greg Knapp, who was the Falcons quarterbacks coach, is expected to join the Jets in the same capacity. And Rob Calabrese, who was an offensive quality control coach for the Broncos, is being hired as a passing game specialist. Calabrese is a Long Island native.
The Jets haven’t announced any of these hires officially, because it’s believed that Saleh has not yet signed his five-year contract. It’s possible they’re waiting until he travels to New Jersey for his introductory (Zoom call) press conference, which looks like it may take place Thursday.
But the 49ers on Monday announced both the promotion of linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to replace Saleh as defensive coordinator and run game coordinator Mike McDaniel to offensive coordinator as LaFleur’s replacement.
It’s interesting that the first Saleh hires are all on the offensive side of the ball. His background, of course, is defense. And the Jets are coming off consecutive seasons as the lowest-ranked offense in the NFL.
The 49ers this season, despite injuries at quarterback, were ranked 15th in offense.
As for offensive line play, according to Pro Football Focus, the Jets ranked 31st in pass blocking and 19th in run blocking while the 49ers were 24th and second in those categories.
Benton is entering his 18th season as an NFL offensive line coach, having worked with lines with the St. Louis Rams, Texans, Dolphins, Jaguars the 49ers for the past four seasons. Under Benton, the Texans set franchise records for rushing yards (2,448) in 2011 and passing yards (4,564) and total offense (6,129 yards) in 2009.
In the 49ers’ Super Bowl season of 2019, their offense ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards per game (144.1) and fourth in the league in total offense (381.1 yards per game).
Knapp has NFL experience as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, including his work with Michael Vick with the Falcons from 2004-06. Calabrese, a former college quarterback, was the offensive coordinator at Wagner College before becoming an offensive quality control coach with Denver from 2019-20.
LaFleur, who’s expected to run Kyle Shanahan’s offense that features a lot of motion and run-pass option in its scheme, entered the NFL as an offensive intern with the Browns in 2014 and then was an offensive assistant with the Falcons from 2015 to 2016. He joined the 49ers in 2017 as a passing game coordinator and receivers coach.
Among other potential candidates for Saleh’s staff include Miles Austin, a New Jersey native who played his college call at Monmouth University. Austin, a former NFL receiver for the Cowboys, Browns and Eagles, looks like he may take over as the Jets receivers coach.
Saleh, speaking at the QB Coaching Summit last year, said, “Your staff completes you.”
He still has a ways to go before his staff is complete, but this is a start for Saleh.