Whenever the Gruden rumors evolve into fact, and the Raiders hire him, his staff looks almost complete. According to the New York Daily News, Gruden began assembling a staff. First, he apparently will tab Jets’ offensive coordinator John Morton. Morton holds league-wide respect; the casual fan may not have any idea who he is.
During the course of Morton’s career, the Raiders played a pivotal role. Regardless of which direction took him, somehow, he would find his way to the Raiders. On three separated occasions, Morton wore the Silver and Black as a receiver. (’93, ’94, ’96). Although Morton resided on the practice squad, the same feeling applies. After bouncing around the continent as a player, Morton found his way to Oakland in 2002 as an offensive assistant/tight ends coach. Over a three-season stretch, Morton saw the Raiders make a deep playoff run. In 2017, Morton took the reins as the New York Jets’ offensive coordinator. Now, it appears that Oakland will call him west once again.
By all reasoning, Morton attacks the offense with a firm demeanor that resonates with his fellow coaches. In addition, players will understand that the days of trampling over Todd Downing are over. Morton asserts his authority on day one and the team will not look back. If you look at his resume, intense coaches hired him. From Gruden to Jim Harbaugh (twice) to Pete Carroll, the expectation is execution. If Seth Roberts runs sloppy routes, he will see the bench.
First and foremost, many want to categorize the Gruden scheme as the West Coast offense. With that said, the term remains open to vast interpretation. Granted, Gruden prefer the rhythm based offense that Bill Walsh invented. However, as times change, offense follow suit. If you look at the Jets’ 2017 stats, you will see running backs and tight ends enjoying their share of targets. Conversely, the two leading wideouts each saw over a hundred targets, averaging at least 12.5 yards per catch. In other words, Morton prefers his quarterback to not lock onto one receiver. At times, that is Derek Carr’s weakness. In addition, if you listen to recent Monday Night Football telecasts, Gruden highlights his love of playing with a faster pace. In turn, that will keep a defense on its heels.
Over the course of Morton’s career, he excelled in his capacity as receivers coach. During the 49ers playoff run a few years ago, Morton handled Michael Crabtree and an aging Randy Moss with aplomb. His receivers seem to raise their level and execute their pattern efficiently. Robby Anderson enjoyed a 941-yard, seven-touchdown season under Morton’s watchful eye. He will definitely attempt to right whatever ails Amari Cooper.
Kyle Hirshkind edits the Jets’ Full Press Coverage website. He offers this tidbit while observing every game of Morton’s tenure.
“His biggest strength seems to stem in the receiving corps. In 2016, he saw much success in New Orleans with wide receivers Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, and Brandin Cooks, who amassed 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. He brought that same mindset to New York and opened the doors for Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, who all had career seasons.”
What to Expect
Granted, Gruden will call his own plays. Yet, the other voice in the offensive room will be John Morton. He has Gruden’s attention. More importantly, he earned his respect. If you expect Carr to live in the shotgun for extended periods, He will not spend as much time away from center. Realistically, Morton will scheme for the talent around him. For example, a seam-destroying tight end like Jared Cook will be allowed to do just that. In addition, Amari Cooper will have a playbook and scheme tailored to the strengths of the roster. The Oakland Raiders and Jon Gruden not only will make a safe hire, they will make a smart one in John Morton. On balance, Morton provides an immediate upgrade.