The New York Jets found a big piece to their offensive puzzle when they finally hired an offensive coordinator on Tuesday. But nothing they do really matters until they find a quarterback -- which remains the biggest piece of all.
That piece is going to be the real key to the success of John Morton, whom the Jets hired as offensive coordinator. Morton has never been a coordinator in the NFL, though he held that position at USC from 2009 to 2010. He was a wide receivers coach in San Francisco from 2011 to 2014 and again in New Orleans for the past two years.
It's somewhat alarming that he's never called plays in the NFL, but it's really surprising that the Jets had to go with an inexperienced coordinator to replace veteran Chan Gailey, who retired after two seasons on the job. The Jets' job wasn't exactly an attractive one, considering head coach Todd Bowles enters the 2017 season on the hot seat and the Jets don't have an obvious quarterback.
They do have two young quarterbacks -- Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg -- but neither has taken hold of the job. Petty struggled in limited action last season and Hackenberg, in his first NFL season, couldn't even earn his way onto the field. If the Jets believed one of those two were ready, they surely would've hired either a more experienced coordinator or one who has worked with quarterbacks in the past.
Going with Morton is likely a signal that the Jets' next quarterback is not on the roster, which is what sources have told SNY for months. It also could be a sign that they're going to bring in a veteran or at least someone with more experience than Petty or Hackenberg so Morton doesn't have to spend his time developing a quarterback while he's trying to install a new offensive scheme.
Chances are that offensive scheme will be a good one, considering the head coaches that Morton has studied under. He spent the last two seasons under Sean Payton, whose Saints offense has regularly been one of the best in the league. Before, he worked under Jim Harbaugh with the 49ers, where his offense thrived with quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith.
Morton also has a track record with young receivers, which could be huge for the Jets with the status of veterans Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker uncertain, and a bunch of talented young receivers behind them on the depth chart, like Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson and Charone Peake.
Last season, under Morton's direction, the Saints young receiving trio of Brandin Cooks (78 catches, 1,173 yards, eight touchdowns), Michael Thomas (92-1,137-9) and Willie Snead (72-895-4) combined for 242 catches, 3,205 yards and 21 touchdowns. Of course, they were catching passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees.
That's why the Jets' choice of quarterback will be so essential. Gailey's offensive scheme worked brilliantly in 2015 when it ranked 10th in the NFL and the Jets went 10-6 behind one of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's finest seasons. Last season, the offense sunk to 26th in the NFL mostly due to Fitzpatrick's regression, injuries at the quarterback position, and poor play by the quarterbacks all around