This article was updated 1/17 in regards to the firing of Jets Offensive Coordinator John Morton.
Before the Raiders added Greg Olson as their offensive coordinator, Jets’ OC John Morton was a candidate for the job. The Jets were open to having Gruden’s team pursue him, but plans quickly changed when it was announced Morton was not pivoting to the west coast.
However, as of January 17th, Morton is now out of a job.
According to Manish Mehta and various other sources, the Jets fired Morton after his first and only year with the team.
The Jets have reportedly wanted to keep the position in house by moving quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates to OC. Bates reportedly is not open to the switch, however, so the Jets could face a dilemma when trying to find a new OC this upcoming off-season.
This being said, whoever enrolls as the Jets’ OC come 2018 will be faced with laborious tasks. It may not be an ideal job from a stability standpoint, and the Jets may have limited options when it comes down to selecting the right person.
Evolve and Adapt
One thing Morton did quite well during his first, and only season in New York was manufacture a versatile receiving corps. When standout wide receiver Quincy Enunwa fell to season ending injury, Morton’s game plan altered. He was responsible for making sure Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse could sufficiently handle the workload as players who had never been dealt spotlight status. This was Morton’s strong-suit, and it showed as both receiver’s nearly eclipsed 1,000 yards on the year.
On the other end, Morton failed to excel in other key areas. The three-back committee seemed like a smart approach at times, but ultimately wasn’t the answer. Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, and Elijah McGuire all witnessed their time of excellence at one point or another, but in a broader perspective, they were below average. Despite Powell proving his potential as a feature back in past years, Morton still looked to the washed-up Forte and rookie McGuire for touches. The distribution kept the Jets stumbling and failing to maintain a sense of wholeness on the offense.
It was a similar situation for the quarterback group as Morton could not properly prepare the unit week in and week out. Josh McCown was able to hold his own as a veteran, and Morton used that to his advantage. However, once Bryce Petty was thrust into the starting lineup, Morton was unable to alter his offensive scheme in light to support his backup QB.
Heading into 2018, much of this may be different. A new quarterback is more than likely going to be entrusted with the starting duties, and a backfield shakeup seems indisputable. The Jets will ultimately be pushing hard within their evolving mindset, and whoever the OC may be will need to adapt and conform instantaneously.
What’s on the Menu?
With the Jets very likely being a new-look franchise in 2018, anyone who submits to the offensive schematic duties will be under some form of duress.
Many predict the Jets to take a leap of faith in terms of their record. This is simply because of the athleticism and competitiveness presented in 2018. While many offensive pieces will be moved and altered during the off-season, a new OC cannot afford to let the culture shift in a different direction.
Anderson, Enunwa, and possibly Kearse and Austin Seferian-Jenkins will need to be provided the same attention in the passing game. While the Jets’ OC may be more focused on constructing the system around a new quarterback, they should ultimately be peering through the opposite side of the funnel. They shouldn’t allow their weapons to collect any dust or rust.
When it comes to that of the backfield and overall playcalling, the Jets’ OC will need to be aggressive. This is what kept the Jets out of games in 2017. You wouldn’t be able to count on both hands and feet how many series the Jets went run, run, pass.
The running game will need to become a healthy alternative to the passing attack in that regard. Morton faced much criticism in 2017 for failing to make that happen. Too often he relied on his receivers to move the chains, leaving the backfield for a slew of grunt work.
Lastly, and most importantly, the quarterback(s) will need plenty of undivided attention. It will be in their hands to further the future of the franchise. An OC cannot afford to just simply rely on their athleticism to carry that load. This is what Morton did with McCown in 2017.
The Jets’ OC job will come presented similarly to a head coaching position, minus the pay. With the pressure building up heading into 2018, the seat may already be hot before anyone takes it.
According to some reports, the Jets would like to pursue current Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. He is likely sought after for his contributions to developing Carson Wentz. The Jets would appreciate that sort of stability and intelligence as they pursue a new quarterback this off-season. DeFilippo, however, was blocked from interviewing with the Jets last year.
Other than DeFilippo, Bates and former Steelers OC Todd Haley have been the only names floating around to snatch up the position. Bates’ interest to move higher up in the Jets’ coaching staff is reportedly minimal, however.
Haley could be at the top of the candidate list for New York. Having spent the past six years in Pittsburgh, Haley helped propel Ben Roethlisberger to career numbers. He also maintained a strong sense of the receiving corps. Under Haley, Antonio Brown amassed five straight 100-yard seasons. His efforts were also evident in the Steelers draft plans as he is credited with the draft evaluations of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant.
Morton’s short stint with New York presents an interesting debacle. Many could expect the Jets offense to submit to a new look come 2018. If one thing is for sure, the Jets will likely be scrapping the “give up” scheme that Morton reportedly admitted to doing in the Jets’ shutout loss to the Broncos in Week 14.