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1 – Over the past few days, the New York Jets have fired Offensive Coordinator John Morton and replaced him with Quarterbacks Coach Jeremy Bates. The decision to part ways with Morton had been rumored for a few weeks and it turned out where there was smoke, there was fire. Morton was apparently axed due to philosophical differences with Head Coach Todd Bowles and an abrasive personality. Bates will be the New York Jets sixth offensive coordinator since the end of the 2010 season, demonstrating a crippling lack of stability on that side of the football. At least Bates was on the staff last season, if you believe consistency is a critical.
2 – Morton had a roller coaster season for the Jets. He was a no name hire who was not the team’s first choice, set up with one of the league’s most challenging situations. In training camp, he quickly became popular with fans for his loudness on the practice field and after the Jets offense started better than expected, he became a popular suggestion to eventually become the team’s Head Coach (seriously, this happened commonly on Twitter). Morton also got some well deserved buzz for creativity with his play design in the passing game. Ultimately, the Jets offense fizzled out down the stretch as Morton struggled with consistency in his play calling and crafting a balanced attack. By the end of the year, they were 28th in total offense and 24th in offensive DVOA. As soon as the season ended, rumblings started about him being replaced and it wasn’t long until Bates had swiped his job.
3 – Let’s be fair to Morton, the Jets had a weak overall collection of offensive talent. He coaxed a career year out of dusty Josh McCown, helped take Robby Anderson to the next level and got a productive year out of Seattle castoff Jermaine Kearse. The Jets didn’t run the ball well or that much because Matt Forte was running in cement, Wesley Johnson is a practice squad caliber player and Brian Winters took a major step back after a strong 2016. The Jets are in the bottom third of the NFL in offensive talent (if not the bottom five) and that is roughly the offense they got. Morton was okay, all things considered.
4 – On the other hand, if he was truly clashing all over the building with coaches and players, he was replaceable. The team was 28th in offense and completely no showed critical games against weak opponents like Tampa Bay and Denver. Morton also had a knack for a strong opening script and first quarter, before struggling with in game adjustments. The Jets offense generally fell off a cliff in the second half of games (think brutal mid season losses to New England, Miami and Atlanta). Morton did ultimately play Bilal Powell more than Matt Forte but Forte still played too much and he never found an effective way to integrate rookies ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen. It will be interesting to see where he ends up but I’d guess he gets another coordinator job at some point down the road.
5 – As for Bates, he has a well regarded offensive mind around the league and around the organization. This may or may not mean anything. Hue Jackson also had a well regarded offensive mind around the league. Regardless, Bates was considered an up and coming star after 2008 when he was Denver’s play caller. The Broncos had a top 5 offense and Bates had Jay Cutler playing arguably the best football of his career. After being let go when the Broncos switched their coaching staff (Bates was working with Mike Shanahan), he went to USC before becoming Seattle’s Offensive Coordinator in 2010. He was fired after only one year by Pete Carroll as the Seahawks had the league’s 28th ranked offense. In 2012, he became Cutler’s QB Coach in Chicago where the Bears had the league’s 16th ranked offense. Cutler finished with 19 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 7.0 YPA. He was then out of the NFL from 2013 through 2016 when he joined the Jets.
6 – The reporting on Bates seems to indicate he can also have an abrasive personality but has very strong Xs and Ox acumen. Bates was an integral part of the Jets game planning last year and overall offensive operation, which can be looked at as a positive and negative. It is a positive because their game plans and opening scripts were generally very sound. It is a negative because he was still part of the equation of the league’s 28th ranked offense. The Jets also made no tangible progress with Bryce Petty or frozen block of carbonite of Christian Hackenberg, despite Bates apparently being a “secret weapon” to help develop him.
7 – Now let’s be fair to Bates, nobody is saving Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg. Neither player merits a NFL roster spot and their presence and shortcomings fall squarely on Mike Maccagnan, who must have had the wrong glasses on when scouting them. Let’s hope that part of the Morton to Bates switch wasn’t Morton telling the front office the reality about their chosen young quarterbacks and Bates still advocating that they could be “fixed.”
8 – All of this offensive coordinator shuffling is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic until the Jets figure out quarterback. There has been rumblings that Bates promotion makes the Jets more likely to draft Josh Allen (he’s similar to Cutler!) or more likely to sign Kick Cousins (he’s worked with a Shanahan!). All of this feels a little speculative right now. Bates was out of the NFL for 4 years recently and hasn’t made many public statements or apparent leaks on his preferences at the position. I understand looking at his history and making educated guesses but that is all they seem to be at this point, educated guesses. Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles are still going to have more say over the final decision, for better or worse.
9 – Bates history suggests he will run a similar style of offense to Morton. Loosely, a West Coast passing system with a zone blocking running scheme. I’d guess after the complaints about Morton in 2017, the Jets are a little more run heavy under Bates. In the passing game, you should still see many quick releases, rub routes and the backs integrated as receivers.
10 – Assuming Robby Anderson’s suspension is not prolonged, Bates will need to find the most effective way to utilize the Jets speedster alongside the returning Quincy Enunwa, a physical swiss army knife, who can line up all over the formation. The Jets have an intriguing collection of talent at receiver if everybody is healthy and available, how Bates maximizes this group and spreads the football around will be a key development to keep an eye on.
11 – At running back, Matt Forte won’t be back leaving the Jets with Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire. The unit needs a third piece, ideally through the draft. If the Jets are going to stick with Powell, hopefully Bates is the OC to finally properly utilize him with consistency and he is able to get the most out of McGuire as a receiving back, where he likely brings the most overall value.
12 – The Jets had one of the slowest offenses in the NFL last year, in terms of pace of play. They rarely changed it up mid game and pressed the tempo. Hopefully with a new quarterback this can evolve and the Jets aren’t constantly battling against the play clock and wasting timeouts. Bates must clean up the basic mistakes the Jets made far too frequently last year, despite having a 117 year old quarterback who should have known better.
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