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NY Jets: You Can't Blame Everything on the Coordinator

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Chan Gailey's situational playcalling has come into question after Thursday night's loss to the Bills. I think when a play does not work, the easiest thing to do is to blame the offensive coordinator for calling a stupid play. That certainly was the case on a fourth and two at the start of the fourth quarter that the Bills stopped. Why would Gailey call a quick pass to Marshall short of the first down marker?

As it turns out, it was not that simple. In the postgame press conference, Ryan Fitzpatrick mentioned it was his decision to go to Marshall there.

The one to Brandon, they were coming after us and I thought, get it in his hands, but it wasn’t the right call.

Here is what things looked like as the teams lined up. You can the cushion Ronald Darby is giving Brandon Marshall on the outside. He is playing around three yards behind the first down marker. Marshall was two yards away. With Fitzpatrick anticipating a blitz, you can understand why he might want to get the ball quickly to Marshall. If he gets it out quickly, Buffalo's pass rush would not be able to get to him, and his receiver would start closer to the first down marker than the one guy who could tackle him.

As it turns out, Fitzpatrick's read was correct. The Bills do blitz six men. The five offensive linemen and the back do pick it up pretty well.

Why didn't the play work? Todd Bowles offered an explanation in his postgame press conference.

The ball was in the wrong location. The route was short. There was a mix-up there.

Bowles seems to be putting a little of the blame on Marshall and a little on Fitzpatrick.

Now you can see where Marshall stops his route relative to the chains. Bowles is saying the route was short. A frequent complaint about offensive coordinators is that they call third and fourth down passes that go short of the first down marker. Sometimes, though, the receiver is supposed to run to the marker and does not do so. It seems like Bowles was suggesting that was the case in this instance.

Bowles also put some of the blame on Fitzpatrick. You can see why when you look at where Marshall caught the ball.

Marshall actually catches the ball behind the original line of scrimmage. On top of this, Darby is making contact with him immediately.


A good throw, something in that general vicinity, would [make Marshall run forward to get it so he would be in stride up the field to get the first down. It also would have him running away from the defender to make the catch. It requires the quarterback and receiver to be on the same page. As Bowles noted, both guys deserve a little of the blame there.

This shows the difficulty of being an offensive coordinator. This play didn't fail because there was an inherent design flaw. The quarterback made a read. The receiver didn't run a good route, and the quarterback didn't make a good throw. When a play like this happens, all anybody wants to know is why that stupid offensive coordinator would call a one yard pass.

I think there has to be a middle ground somewhere when we talk about offensive coordinators. I do question some of Gailey's situational calls in the game. His job is to maximize the possibility of success. I'm not sure he did that on a number of key plays.  I think it is fine to criticize him for that. At the same time, I think it is an oversimplification to say the Jets are losing only because of playcalling, Gailey has to go, finding a new coordinator will solve all of the problems, etc. I have heard this over and over through the years with coordinator after coordinator.

In any offense, execution is more important than playcalling. Almost any play can work if the players run it correctly. In this case, you had a veteran quarterback and the best player on the offense fail to execute. The Bills executed better.That is what decided the outcome on this play and many of the other key plays in the game.