Mike LaFleur dug deep in his bag of tricks against the Dolphins in Week 15 to try and get the Jets out of an offensive rut.
New York had scored just nine points the previous weekend against the Saints. Zach Wilson struggled mightily in the loss to New Orleans, completing less than 50 percent of his passes. LaFleur’s offense was up a creek without a paddle and it was on him to jumpstart the unit.
LaFleur got creative right out of the gate against Miami. Braxton Berrios got the Jets on the board first with a touchdown run that was supposed to be a wide receiver pass before the Dolphins took that option away. Flea flickers and end arounds ensued and by the end of the first half, LaFleur was ready to call a play that would take the NFL by storm even though the Jets ultimately lost.
LaFleur dialed up one of the most unique hook-and-ladder players you’ll ever see with the Jets in the middle of a two-minute drill. Wilson hit Jamison Crowder underneath and Crowder proceeded to turn upfield. After picking up a couple of yards, Crowder turned and fired a backward pass to Braxton Berrios, who was standing at the line of scrimmage waiting to get his hands on the ball.
The end result? A Jets first down.
LaFleur’s hook-and-ladder design wasn’t cooked up in practice leading up to the game. It wasn’t designed after he became the Jets’ offensive coordinator in January and he didn’t draw inspiration from Kyle Shanahan, his brother, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, or any of his other mentors.
He designed the play during one of his high school gym classes.
“I think we did it in air force football in gym class, like, when I was in 11th grade,” LaFleur said Thursday. “We, as a staff, just as we were coming up with a third-down plan, we throw our ideas out there and try to fine-tune it to what we believe gives our guys the best chance.”
Plenty of young, innovative offensive minds have come through the NFL in recent years. It’s safe to assume almost none of them — Rams head coach Sean McVay might be the lone exception — were drawing up plays during their junior year gym class that they would one day call at the professional level.
Kudos to LaFleur for having the guts to roll with his hook-and-ladder design in a regular-season game. The Jets didn’t have much to lose running the play given the team’s place in the standings, but if things had gone awry, LaFleur would have had to answer questions about a sequence almost as embarrassing as the butt fumble.
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