Jets could be forced to scrape the barrel for OC candidates

John Morton was hired as the New York Jets’ offensive coordinator less than a year ago. After his unit finished 28th in total offense in 2017, the team decided it had seen enough and let him go.

Morton was a wide receivers coach for the Saints before the Jets hired him, and his only offensive coordinator gig before New York came at Southern Cal. His most prominent moment of the season was admitting to waving the white flag in a shutout loss against Denver. Maybe he was in over his head taking over the Jets offense. Although Josh McCown was on his way to a career season under Morton’s direction (before getting injured), it’s doubtful Morton was capable of building the Jets offense of the future — specifically, their quarterback of the future.

The reality is the Jets’ next offensive coordinator needs to develop its next young quarterback, whether that’s Christian Hackenberg (unlikely), or a new, shiny rookie from this heralded QB class. There’s no qualifier more important for potential candidates — which, in turn, limits the list of reasonable potential candidates.

Before Morton was reported to be on the team’s radar in the first place, New York coveted John DeFilippo, the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach. He helped Carson Wentz shine as a rookie, and after Philly blocked the Jets’ interview request last offseason, he made Wentz an MVP candidate in his second year (not to mention, he helped Nick Foles win a playoff game).

The problem: The Arizona Cardinals want DeFilippo, and not for OC, but for head coach. They plan to give him a second interview after the NFC Championship game. The Eagles didn’t block this because, in the case of head coach interviews, they can’t.

DeFilippo falls into the category of attractive candidates who will be hard to poach away from their respective teams. The other box the Jets could rummage through is the group of free agent coaches with experience, but shaky track records.

Adam Schefter reported that Todd Haley was a “potential replacement” for Morton. The Pittsburgh Steelers announced they won’t renew Haley’s contract, ending his six-year run as their OC. While he coached a terrific offense, he had a future Hall of Fame quarterback plus the best running back and wide receiver in the NFL to work with. Haley caught a lot of flak for two failed fourth-and-one conversions in the Steelers’ AFC Divisional Round loss to the Jaguars, when he called a sweep run and a play-action pass instead of pounding it up the middle with either Le’Veon Bell or Ben Roethlisberger.

Haley’s tenure with Pittsburgh was impressive, but it always felt like he left too much on the table with that stable of stars. His situational play calling also left much to be desired.

Another name I’ll add to this box is Darrell Bevell, whom the Seahawks fired earlier this month. Between coaching the Seahawks and the Vikings, Bevell has been an OC in the NFL every season since 2006, and he certainly deserves some credit for Russell Wilson’s early-career success and Seattle’s Super Bowl title. But Seattle fans got sick of his play-calling during the last two years with an offensive line in shambles and a pathetic running game.

Mike McCoy is a name appearing in some speculative articles and tweets. The good: A former quarterbacks coach and a quarterback himself, McCoy helped both Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow achieve temporary success under his schemes with the Broncos. The bad: Philip Rivers’ yards per attempt and QBR went down while his interceptions total went up during McCoy’s unsuccessful four-year term as the Chargers’ head coach. The ugly: McCoy couldn’t work the same Tebow magic on Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian in his return season to Denver and was fired before Thanksgiving.

Oh, someone else between jobs right now is Ben McAdoo, who just interviewed for the Browns’ OC job — sorry, no, please don’t stop reading. I was kidding, I swear. Nobody likes Ben McAdoo.

If none of these options sound appealing so far, it’s because they’re not meant to. I’d favor Bevell over the other former OCs, but only slightly. At least there’s one candidate with neither a questionable history nor an annoying amount of competing offers: Jeremy Bates, the Jets’ own quarterbacks coach. Schefter’s tweet listed Bates as the other serious candidate besides Haley, and reiterated the common sentiment that he’s well-liked in the locker room. Bates spent one year as Seattle’s OC (right before Bevell took over, actually) in 2010, the year Seattle made the playoffs at 7-9 and won a Wild Card game because of the “Beast Quake,” Marshawn Lynch’s incredible touchdown run in the playoffs.

Bates moving into the OC position would at least provide some consistency for Hackenberg. But the truth is, whoever takes the job will be Hackenberg’s fifth coordinator in six seasons dating back to his freshman year at Penn State. (Another truth: Hackenberg is unlikely to be in the long-term plans and New York might cut him this offseason, anyway.)

The list of sensible candidates isn’t longer than this. Either the Jets need someone with more experience at the position than John Morton had, or they need a so-called prodigy. If they don’t get this hire right, it could spell the end of the Todd Bowles era.

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