Mike LaFleur’s history with Jets coach Robert Saleh runs deep

New Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is working under head coach Robert Saleh for the first time, but the two have known each other for close to 20 years.

Saleh and LaFleur’s older brother, Matt, were graduate assistants together at Central Michigan in 2004 and Mike got to know Saleh then. Saleh was the best man at Matt LaFleur’s wedding.

“Matt and Saleh lived about a mile down the street in an apartment with no cable or anything like that,” Mike LaFleur said Thursday. “They were trying to save every cent they could because they were GAs. They knew that my parents were right down the street, so they were going to come eat our food and watch all the TV that I was trying to watch and use our pool. I got to know Saleh at a pretty early age.”

The two worked together with the 49ers. LaFleur was the passing game coordinator and coached wide receivers, while Saleh was the defensive coordinator.

“I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve always looked at him as a really close friend,” LaFleur said. “But then obviously getting to work with him in San Francisco, that’s when I respected him as a worker. He’s very, very smart, but he’s an incredible worker, and he’s really good with the players, and he’s truthful. When he had the opportunity and he asked me, it was no-brainer because of the respect I have for him.”

New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur coaches a drill
Mike LaFleur is thrilled to join his old pal Robert Saleh with the Jets.
Corey Sipkin

As for his older brother Matt, who is now the head coach of the Packers, LaFleur said he grew up idolizing him.

He was asked if he has any advice for Matt on dealing with the Aaron Rodgers situation.

“You’ll have to call to Wisconsin on that,” Mike said. “I know he loves him, though.”

Saleh said the Jets want to give their young cornerbacks a chance to prove themselves this spring and have no plans to sign a veteran at the position anytime soon. There has been speculation the Jets would try to sign Richard Sherman, who played for Saleh in San Francisco.

“The easy answer is to right now bring in a veteran, but a veteran will probably just eat up reps and not give us an ability to look at all these young guys who are just starving for an opportunity,” Saleh said.

What was Zach Wilson’s reaction to facing his predecessor Sam Darnold and the Panthers in Week 1?

“My first reaction was: typical NFL, right?” Wilson said. “They love to bring the fans. I love it. What an exciting matchup it’s going to be for us. I’m excited to be able to play them, great team.”

Wilson said is not overly excited because he is facing Darnold.

“It’s not for that reason. Sam’s a great guy,” Wilson said. “I’ve talked to Sam before. It’s not like I’m so pumped because it’s Sam. I’m excited because the Panthers are a great team, and it’s a great challenge for us. It has nothing to do with him. He’s a great player, and he’s going to handle his own. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was here in New York and now he’s there. I’m happy for him.”

Notable players missing from Thursday’s OTA practice, which was open to the media: OT Mekhi Becton, S Marcus Maye, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Denzel Mims and DE Carl Lawson. 

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