Dan Leberfeld's Blog

It’s not all on Rodgers 03.07.23

It’s easy to criticize him for the drama he’s caused the last few off-seasons in Green Bay.

And the Packers are reportedly disgusted with it.

But honestly, Aaron Rodgers should probably be disgusted with them as well.

That organization has done plenty to waste some of his best years.

Two years ago, Rodgers led the Packers to NFL’s best record with 13 wins. Rodgers completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 4,115 yards with 37 touchdowns and a 111.9 passer rating. He had just four picks.

Yet, they lost to San Francisco in the playoffs due to a horrendous performance by their special teams, which were bad all year, and the head coach did nothing to fix it. Before that season, they fired the special teams coach after the unit struggled in 2020, but promoted the assistant special teams coach to replace him. Who fires a guy who heads a bad unit, and promotes his assistant to replace him? The replacement lasted one year and was the overlord of the 2021 special team’s disaster that led to their early playoff exit.

This past season, with a 39-year-old QB, coming off an MVP season, they trade Davante Adams, and go with a young receiving corps with two raw draft picks – Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson – in major roles.

If you have an older franchise QB, and you want to take advantage of him late in his career, why would you go so young at receiver in such a pivotal year?

You can go back over the years and see plenty of things Rodgers should be pissed at.

Like the former GM, the late Ted Thompson, being philosophically against spending big money in free agency. That led to some wasted years.

The discontent cuts both ways, and rightfully so.


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63-79 record in nine seasons 03.06.23

He’s a wonderful person and an okay player, but maybe it was for the best . . .

Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo announced on Monday that QB Derek Carr is closing in on a four-year deal with New Orleans.

The Jets were interested in the player and met with him twice, once in Florham Park, and also in Indianapolis.

Carr has started 142 games and has a 63-79 record in nine seasons.

The Raiders traded for Carr’s best friend, Green Bay Packers receiver DeVante Adams in 2022, perhaps the best in the game, and Las Vegas went 6-9 before Carr was benched for the last two games. He has only led the Raiders to a winning record two times in nine years and only played in one playoff game.

There are 15 quarterbacks in NFL history who have started more than 130 games and Carr is the only one who hasn’t gone to the Super Bowl and hasn’t won the MVP.

Not a bad player, but Bill Parcells always said, “You are what your record says it is.”

So while some Jets fans are bummed about the announcement from Rapoport and Garafolo, perhaps, as the old saying goes, “Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.”


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Jets QB decision should be made by . . . 03.03.23

When they were hired, they were told things would be set up a certain way.

When the Jets added GM Joe Douglas and then head coach Robert Saleh, they were both hired by Christopher Johnson.

When they were hired, Christopher was running the team for his brother, Woody, who was serving as United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2017 to 2020).

Christopher does own part of the Jets, but not as much as his brother, so when Woody came back from his assignment overseas, in 2021, he took over the team again.

According to a league source, when Christopher hired Douglas and Saleh he told them he’d take “a light touch” when it came to football matters.

What Douglas and Saleh signed up for might have changed.

Former NFL GM Mike Lombardi, now with VSIN, said on January 9 – “The rub here is when the owner wants to fire an assistant coach and the head coach doesn’t want to do it. That’s happening at the Jets.”

The coach he was talking about was Mike LaFleur, who was let go as OC a few days after this tweet.

So the bottom line is Woody is a more hands-on owner than Christopher.

Hey, it’s not unusual for an owner to force the head coach to fire a few assistant coaches after a rough season. Many owners do that.

But when an owner gets involved in personnel decisions that can be a slippery slope, and the Jets should try to avoid this.

In the past, Woody was very involved in making trades for quarterbacks like Brett Favre and Tim Tebow.

Hey, Woody can do whatever he wants, he owns the team. However, it would probably be best for the Jets to let Douglas make the personnel decisions, like which QB to sign or trade for.

That is the job Douglas signed up for when Christopher hired him.


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A big Jets need they must address! 03.02.23

With so much focus on the QB, sometimes other needs are obscured in the public discourse, and this is one of them:

The Jets need a massive, athletic DT, who excels against the run, to complement Quinnen Williams.

The Jets struggled against the run after the bye week, and a lot of runs went up the middle.

They tend to go with smaller, quicker defensive tackles, and sometimes, if they don’t beat centers and guards into gaps with their quickness off the snap, they can get engulfed by linemen sometimes 30-40 pounds heavier. It’s not a lack of effort or toughness, but more a size disparity.

Some might argue, that is what the system calls for, smaller, quicker interior penetrators, who can also run sideline to sideline.

Well, keep in mind, the San Francisco 49ers play the same system as the Jets, and it’s almost possible to run on them, and their starting defensive tackles are 6-7, 290-pound Arik Armstead and 6-5, 319-pound Javon Kinlaw.

It’s time for the Jets to get somebody like Armstead or Kinlaw to team with Williams.

Hey, there is nothing wrong with having a super-athletic three-technique DT who is a little undersized, but it’s probably best to have a thick run-stuffer next to him.

Maybe Clemson’s Bryan Bresee or Baylor’s Siaki Ika in the draft or perhaps somebody like Pittsburgh’s Larry Ogunjobi or Minnesota’s Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency could help.


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Clark’s attack on Saleh is receipt worthy. 02.01.23

When somebody calls you a liar that isn’t a very nice thing to do.

ESPN’s analyst Ryan Clark feels the Jets hired former Green Bay assistant Nathaniel Hackett to be their offensive coordinator to attract Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to the Jets.

Clark said the following on the ESPN Show – “Get Up:”

“Let’s bring [Hackett] to the Jets because of the quarterback he’s connected to. Robert Saleh (says), ‘Everybody in this league is connected.’ At least lie better. We know why you went out and got [Hackett].”

That is a powerful statement from Clark, considering there is no way to prove it, unless you are a mind reader, and are 100 percent sure Saleh hired Hackett just to get Rodgers.

It’s not like Saleh hired a guy he doesn’t know. Hackett and Saleh worked together on the Jacksonville staff in 2015-16.

And Hackett runs a similar West Coast offense to what the Jets have used the last two years, so they won’t have to teach their young players a new system from scratch.

Maybe on some level, Saleh thinks Hackett being on the Jets staff can help attract Rodgers, but remember Rodgers isn’t a free agent, it requires a trade, so this isn’t like college recruiting. Rodgers is under contract to another team.

But for Clark to say Saleh needs to “lie better” perhaps qualifies as a cheap shot, unless Clark knows for sure Hackett was hired for just one reason.

And it should be pointed out that the Jets’ radio flagship station is ESPN Radio New York.

This attack on Saleh by Clark is perhaps receipt worthy.


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Vicious, vicious commentary about a Jets coach 01.31.23

Some might consider this kind of commentary mean-spirited and a bit hyperbolic.

“Nathaniel Hackett is actually terrible at coaching,” ESPN’s Ryan Clark said. “He’s terrible at managing an offense. He’s terrible at decision-making.”

Now, you can argue Hackett wasn’t a great head coach during his brief time in Denver, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad offensive coordinator.

“[Denver is] part of the resume and I get it, but you got to have the discipline to look past recency bias, you got to be able to look past, whatever you want to call Denver, but the fact of the matter is that he got to Denver, and he had that opportunity because of his life’s work as an offensive coordinator,” said Jets coach Robert Saleh.

Saleh continued: “There’s a lot of strengths with him, his commitment to complimentary football, the experience, he’s an innovative teacher, he’s got a laundry list of stuff that we’re all really, really excited about.”

Saleh loves Hackett’s running scheme.

“He’s got a proven history of being able to develop a heck of a run game in every stop that he’s ever been in,” Saleh said.

Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers had some kind words for Hackett in 2020, while the Jets’ new OC was on the Packers’ staff.

“Hack has been a really important part of our culture change and a part of our success on offense,” Rodgers told reporters in 2020. “I love him.”

Clearly, Saleh and Rodgers have different worldviews of Hackett than Clark.

Some might discern that Clark saying Hackett is “terrible at coaching” is perhaps vitriol that goes a little bit over the top.


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Playcalling most important, other stuff is gravy 01.26.23

When you are looking for a new offensive coordinator, you don’t hire the person to attract a quarterback.

You hire the person because they are a good offensive play-caller, a good offensive strategist, a good offensive chess player.

And the Jets feel they have landed a guy like that in new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

If he happens to help them attract a veteran QB, that is gravy.

First and foremost, you want a guy who is really good at calling offensive plays.


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Is Rapoport correct about Zach Wilson? 01.24.23

There was a report last week on Zach Wilson that caused a stir:

“There would be a mutiny if Zach Wilson is QB1 again,” The Score’s Jordan Schultz said on The Pat McAfee Show. “It’s not gonna happen. … In speaking to some players on the team, his approach, or lack thereof, was not well regarded. Everyone knows this guy is super talented. He could be the franchise, but you want to see a lot more. Whether it’s late to meetings, screwing around in meetings, not having the right attitude, that’s what I gather.”

Schultz made a mistake in his report, which is unacceptable, and got destroyed for it: Wilson has never been late for meetings.

So by doing that, people dismissed his entire report.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweeted:  “The on-field product was not what anyone wanted. But Zach Wilson worked insanely hard, was on time, and did what was necessary to prepare.”

How does Rapoport know that Wilson works “insanely hard?” Wilson might, but how does Rapoport know? He’s around the team maybe once or twice a year.

Consider something former NFL GM Mike Lombardi said after Wilson was benched following the New England game:

“He’s not detailed enough or understands how to be detailed enough,” Lombardi said on VSIN. “I’m not saying he’s not going to get it, but it’s a process you have to go through and the preparation you need to play QB in the National Football League goes far beyond the 2.5 hours of practices you take to the field. I think there are other things in Zach Wilson’s life that kind of deter that from him.”

Wilson’s work ethic is probably somewhere in between the extremes of Rapoport and Lombardi.

Wilson does work hard, but perhaps he could work even harder, like a lot of young players.


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Shouldn’t Jets stay with “Best scheme in the world” 01.20.23

It’s not like they were running an offensive system that doesn’t have a great track record.

So why would you want to move on from it?

The Jets ran the Kyle Shanahan offensive system the last two years under coordinator Mike LaFleur, who they recently moved on from.

After hiring LaFleur in 2021, Robert Saleh called the Shanahan scheme LaFleur was bringing to Florham Park – “The best scheme in the world.”

So why would you want to move away from that?

Why not bring in somebody else who runs the same thing, and perhaps can run it better?

It’s a very QB-friendly system when well executed.

“Kyle (Shanahan) will give the QB a lot of easy throws,” said one long-time NFL executive. “One thing about Kyle’s offense, there are a lot of easy throws for the QB.”

Just look at the easy throws Shanahan has provided San Francisco rookie 7th-round QB Brock Purdy this season.

So if you think it’s the “best system in the world” why not hire somebody who will keep on running it?


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Was that the best way to speak to him? 01.20.23

Some would argue this might not have been the best way to handle the situation.

The Athletic’s Zach Rosenblatt reported this week that Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore, at the Thursday practice following the Jets’ 27-10 win over the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 16, told the team’s then OC Mike LaFleur to “go f–k yourself” and “you suck.”

Moore was reportedly unhappy with having zero catches in Green Bay. Jets coach Robert Saleh sent Moore home from practice after this outburst, and the receiver requested a trade shortly thereafter.

Some would argue, that telling one of your bosses to “go f–k yourself” and “you suck” is somewhat out of line at the workplace.

Now some on Twitter would argue that it was totally appropriate because they feel LaFleur did a poor job as Jets OC.

But some would argue, while LaFleur might not have done the best job, he’s a decent person, and perhaps the receiver shouldn’t have spoken to him that way.

It depends on your worldview.


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Jets can’t let this drive OC search 01.19.23

This should not be the reason the Jets hire a new offensive coordinator.

Talking about the candidate’s ability to attract a veteran QB to the Jets.

You hire a great play-caller, a great offensive chess player, a great offensive teacher, not a QB recruiter.

Last year, the Denver Broncos reportedly hired a head coach because they thought he could get Aaron Rodgers to follow him. It didn’t happen.

The concept of hiring a guy to get a certain QB to follow him should be way down on the list. Way down.

Just hire a great candidate to handle the job – running the offense.

Let the GM focus on finding a QB. An NFL OC’s job is to do a great job coaching the offense; he’s not a college recruiting coordinator.


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Jets need to avoid getting a hostage 01.17.23

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has a saying about players who might not be all in with the program:

“We need volunteers, not hostages.”

So with all these quarterbacks the media proposes the Jets go after, in free agency or trades, if they acquire one, they better make sure the person is into being with them and wasn’t sent there against their will or is just there because they overpaid him.

It seemed like Brett Favre was a hostage in 2008, but he was traded to the Jets and had no choice if he wanted to get paid.

Do you really think RB Le’Veon Bell was into being a Jet in 2019-20, or the money was too great to turn down?

Why do you think Deshaun Watson picked Cleveland? There are $230 million fully guaranteed reasons he went there.

The point is simple, don’t make a trade or sign a player, who, in his heart of hearts, doesn’t want to be there.

Money can’t buy you love.

It almost never ends well.

You’ve got to read the tea leaves.

You need volunteers, not hostages.


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Is this the best way to go for Jets? 01.16.23

The Jets have cast a vast net all over the NFL in their search for a new offensive coordinator, and plan to talk to a slew of candidates.

So what kind of candidate should they look to hire?

Some would argue, it might be in their best interest, to hire a candidate who has been an NFL offensive play-caller before, like Frank Reich, Darrell Bevell, or somebody like that.

Why roll the dice on somebody who hasn’t done it before? They just did that?

In a year they need to win, why not go with settled science, and somebody who has proven they can do it, as opposed to guessing whether a position coach can handle the job?


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Do you agree with Joe Douglas on this? 01.13.23

Jets GM Joe Douglas made a powerful statement about his team on one side of the ball:

“The defense was obviously a championship-caliber defense this year,” Douglas said.

Some would agree with him.

But some might say they need to play the run better and cause more turnovers to be considered “championship caliber.”

It all depends on your worldview.


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When Jets hire new coordinator, they must avoid this thinking! 01.11.23

And what kind of thinking is that?

“We are hiring this new offensive coordinator to fix Zach Wilson.”

Don’t do it.

Hire the best offensive coordinator, the best offensive chess player you can find, and if he happens to help Wilson turn it around, that is gravy.

When Woody Johnson hires a new offensive coordinator, he needs to avoid falling into that “We need a guy who can fix Zach” claptrap.

Just hire the best offensive-play caller you can find.

If he comes from the Shanahan tree, that would be ideal, so the young offensive players don’t have to start from square one with a new playbook. And it’s a system that works – just look at San Francisco.


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Two different kinds of owners 01.11.23

They are very different people . . .

When the Jets hired Joe Douglas to be their GM in 2019, and then Robert Saleh to be their head coach in 2021, those men were hired by owner Christopher Johnson, who was filling in for his brother, Woody Johnson, who had an assignment overseas.

Christopher and Woody aren’t wired the same.

And as for ownership style, Christopher is considered more hands-off, and generally lets his football people do their things.

Woody’s history, prior to his three years away from the team, was much more hands-on, with the trade for Brett Favre in August of 2008 being an example.

So the report from former NFL GM Michael Lombardi, on his podcast earlier this week, should not come as a surprise:

“I hear the owner wants (Mike) LaFleur gone and (Robert) Saleh is digging in the trenches. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I heard the owner wants to get rid of the entire offensive staff.” – Lombardi said Monday on the GM Shuffle.

This doesn’t sound like a position Christopher would take, and he’s the guy who hired Douglas and Saleh. According to a league source, Christopher told his GM and coach that he would take a “light touch” as owner.

You have to wonder how Douglas/Saleh feel about their new boss, a man who didn’t interview or hire them. Do the men have any buyer’s remorse?

In any business, we all know, when the boss changes, often many other things change as well, and it’s sometimes not what you signed up for as an employee.


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