Numerous writers have provided some background information about the reasons behind John Morton’s firing. There are some recurring themes.
Bowles felt Morton was too pass-reliant, a sentiment echoed in the locker room. Several players were unhappy with his playcalling throughout the season, ESPN reported on Jan. 1. He “thinks we’re the New Orleans Saints, playing in a dome,” one player said, alluding to Morton’s previous team.
Members of the coaching staff also clashed with Morton, sources said. They expressed concern about his ability to design and execute a consistent running game.
Morton is respected on One Jets Drive for his work ethic and desire to get better, but there are some fair concerns about whether he’s the right man to lead the Jets offense in the next phase of this rebuilding process. Matt Forte openly questioned Morton’s pass-happy play-calling in a Week 8 loss to the Falcons on a rainy day. Some people in the organization have privately questioned his play-calling in several other games, including (but not limited to) the season opener in Buffalo and shutout loss in Denver.
The decision came after Morton clashed with players, coach Todd Bowles and other assistant coaches, according to a source. His inability to establish the running game, a lack of in-game adjustments and a perception from players that everyone other than wide receiver Robby Anderson was an afterthought in the game plan doomed Morton.
First, Morton’s relationships with coaches and players quickly grew frosty, and let to internal issues. Second, he was reluctant to run the ball, even when Todd Bowles’ directive was to control the clock. And third, his ability to adapt on the fly became an issue. Morton, for the most part, was fine in the first half of games, when he was working off a script. Later in games, though, when coaches have to improvise, the offense’s production tailed off. Now, if you add all of that to the fact Morton was Bowles’ third choice (behind Lions quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan and Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo) last spring, you can understand why everyone knew the score over the final weeks of the season. By then, Jon Gruden was lining up staff for his return and perception in the Jets building was that Morton was angling for a job with him.
I will be honest. There were definitely points where I felt Morton was too quick to abandon the run game, but I don’t think that was a fireable offense in the grand scheme of things. I think it would have been difficult to produce better results than the Jets got out of Morton given the talent on the roster, and that is what matters.
I find the argument the Jets were too reliant on the pass to be puzzling. The team was in the middle of the pack in run-pass ratio. But that doesn’t even tell the whole story. Factor in that the Jets went 5-11 and were playing catchup in throwing situations more than your typical team. This is a passing league. How much more does Bowles was to run it? And as I asked yesterday, how did Bowles not figure out Morton wanted to throw it that much before the hire was made?
Maybe it would be easier to establish the run if Morton didn’t have to work with interior offensive line that included a pair of guys who can’t run block in Wesley Johnson and Brian Winters. By the way, the Jets gave Winters a big contract last year before they even hired a coordinator or knew what kind of offensive scheme they were installing.
Players were upset Robby Anderson was featured? Aren’t you supposed to build things around your best player? What other receiver in this offense should be considered anything other than an afterthought?
I don’t want to make Morton out to be the NFL’s next brilliant offensive mind, but I think the reasons we were given for his dismissal were strikingly weak. Others in this organization have done worse and not paid with their jobs. I’m not the first to point this out, but it is notable that Bowles has fired two offensive coordinators and one special teams coordinator over failures, but his hand picked defensive coordinator remains on the job for all of the problems on that unit over the last three years. If we are talking about failures to improvise in the second half, why do the Jets ignore a defense that allowed the fourth most second half touchdowns in the league? We can’t say what happened behind the scenes, but from the outside there does appear to be some selective accountability.