Robert Saleh knew immediately whom he wanted to be his offensive coordinator for Saleh’s first job as a head coach. Saleh, the former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, was quite impressed with the system on the other side of the ball there, and wants to replicate it with his new team.
Thus, be brought in San Francisco passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur to be his offensive coordinator with New York. Saleh said during his introductory Zoom media session, “Nobody knows (the Shanahan offense) better than he does.”
Let’s look at what the offense entails, leaving the most important position aside for the moment, because it obviously is quite unclear who the quarterback will be when New York opens the 2021 season.
San Frnacisco head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense was passed down from his father, the now-retired Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls as Denver’s head coach in the 1990s. Here is how it will affect the Jets going forward in terms of position groups.
Running backs: The offense features a lot of outside running plays that are called “zone runs” in the Shanahan system, in which the emphasis is on the linemen and the tight end, and the fullback all blocking in the same direction, as opposed to some systems that utilize cross-blocking.
The offense requires fast running backs that can get to the outside quickly. Thus, fear not, Jets’ fans, the already-unlikely possibility of veteran Frank Gore being re-signed just dropped to negative nil. Actually, the new offense is well-suited to display the talents of both Detroit castoff Ty Johnson and former Philadelphia Eagle Josh Adams, both of whom played well when Gore was sidelined against Las Vegas in a near-victory for the Jets.
Fourth-round draft pick La’Mical Perine, who struggled as a rookie because of injuries and lack of use, also could thrive because of his short-area quickness.
The Jets will have to add a fullback, something they haven’t used on a regular basis since 2015 when they had Tommy Bohanon. (They occasionally lined up reserve tight end Trevon Wesco as a fullback in short-yardage situations in Gase’s offense.)
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is an integral part of the San Francisco offense, not only for his lead blocking, but also for his pass-catching abilities out of the backfield. Juszczyk has 102 receptions in four seasons with the 49ers while playing in Shanahan’s offense, including four touchdown catches last season.
Offensive line: The Shanahan system requires tackles who can fire out quickly on those “wide zone” runs, and thus, quickness is a must. Despite his large frame, left tackle Mekhi Becton the team’s prized 2020 first-round pick, appears to have that attribute. Right tackle George Fant did a solid job last season after moving over from the left side, where he had played with Seattle, so the Jets should be in good shape here.
Wide receivers: Denzel Mims, the team’s 2020 second-round pick, and slot receiver Jamison Crowder should benefit from all the motion that is utilized in the system. It will be quite a seismic change for them, considering the lack of motion the Jets used in Adam Gase’s offense. The idea, of course, is to confuse the defense and try to create mismatches.
One thing in the Shanahan offense that also was in the Gase offense is use of bunch formations with wide receivers. Putting receivers in the same general vicinity to start the play enables offenses to use rub, or pick plays to spring receivers open. It also makes it easier to send multiple receivers onto the same side of the field, making it easier for the quarterback to read the play. Also, of course, the receivers can go in motion to change the looks given to the defense.
Tight end: Chris Herndon’s stock has fallen since a 2018 rookie season in which the fourth-round pick from the University of Miami had 39 receptions for a 12.9-yard average and four touchdowns. In 2020, he had a drop-filled campaign and finished with 31 receptions, a 9.3-yard average and three touchdowns, although he played better late in the season.
Still, it’s worth noting Herndon is 6-4, 253 pounds. Two-time San Francisco Pro Bowler George Kittle is 6-4, 250, and his rookie numbers in 2017 as a fifth-round pick from Iowa compare favorably to Herndon’s—43 receptions, a 12.0-yard average and two touchdowns. Granted, Herndon isn’t the devastating blocker Kittle is in the running game, but he isn’t deficient in that area, either. The new staff should take a long look at Herndon, who is under contract in 2021 with a very reasonable cap figure of approximately $2.35 million, per overthecap.com, before making a move at the position. The scheme switch could help Herndon fulfill that tantalizing potential everyone saw in 2018.