The New York Jets made a savvy coaching decision this off-season by replacing Tony Sparano with Marty Mornhinweg as the team’s offensive coordinator. Savvy could be an overstatement considering what an obvious choice it was to fire Sparano. Savvy could also be an understatement considering how AWFUL Sparano was last season and since Mornhinweg has proven to be a competent NFL offensive coordinator. Regardless of the level of savvy, it was a positive move and this season will provide Mornhinweg a chance to shine.
Early reports around the team and Rex Ryan’s quotes indicate that Morhinweg will basically have autonomous control over the offensive decision making. With Rex in a make or break year, he is going back to a hands-on defensive coordinator mindset. At least in the beginning of the year, Mornhinweg is going to dictate this team’s offensive identity.
Expectations couldn’t be lower for this offense. From a passing perspective, that makes sense. The Jets currently have the worst group of tight ends in the NFL, a shaky wide receiver situation that lacks depth and a question mark at the quarterback position. From a running perspective, they have potential both because of their talent at running back and the make-up of the offensive line. Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Austin Howard were all very good run blockers last season. If healthy, Willie Colon will fit right in and rookie Brian Winters has potential to as well.
We have previously discussed Mornhinweg’s tendencies from his time in Philadelphia as a play-caller. He has shown flexibility in changing his approach depending on his quarterback and personnel situation. It will be his challenge this year to put together a competent offense, which protects the football and allows the Jets to stay competitive on a weekly basis thanks primarily to their defense. Nobody expects a top ten unit. Nobody probably even expects a top fifteen unit. Mornhinweg needs to manufacture points with the limited talent available to him and avoid turnovers. If he can do that, this season will be success for him and the Jets offense.
Look for the Jets to lean heavily on Chris Ivory, even more so if Mike Goodson has limited availability this season or isn’t around at all. If Goodson is out of the mix, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight can platoon to pick up the slack behind Ivory. Regardless, the Jets running backs should be the focal point of their offense both as runners and receivers.
Mornhinweg is going to rely more heavily on the screen game than his predecessors and they won’t be limited to the running backs. Both Santonio Holmes and particularly Jeremy Kerley can be movable chess pieces with the ability to create plays after the catch. Both will be used in multiple spots to get easy completions to them in space.
Mark Sanchez’s struggles with the screen game is a major hindrance for him to overcome if he wants to win the quarterback job. The turnovers are the primary issue of course but if he can’t consistently hit screens (something Geno Smith excelled at in college) Mornhinweg will go with the rookie. There isn’t going to be a ton put on the plate of the Jets quarterback this year – Work the screen game and short passing attack. Protect the ball. Take occasional deep shots off play action to a hopefully productive Stephen Hill. Mark Sanchez of 2012 couldn’t manage that. Mark Sanchez of 2010? That is a different story.
No matter who is playing quarterback, the low expectations and autonomy should be an offensive coordinator’s dream. How much of an impression can Mornhinweg make with this opportunity?