Breaking Down Marty Mornhinweg's Impact on the Jets' Offense
Mornhinweg replaces Tony Sparano, who only got one season to try and prove himself in New York. He will of course be working with Rex Ryan, who remains the head coach.
Mornhinweg brings a new style and football philosophy to New York. His presence will determine the futures of guys like Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Shonn Greene and others. For better or worse, the Jets offense is going to look very different in 2013 from how it did in 2012.
Here are the five most important things to know about Marty Mornhinweg and how he will reshape the Jets in 2013.
Perception and Reality: Who Runs the Show?
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There is discussion in the mainstream media about Rex Ryan and the new Jets general manager, regarding who will have power and control over personnel decisions. However, this discussion is largely off topic.
The real question is who will have control over the players and schemes on the practice field and in games.
An interesting issue that went largely unnoticed during Rex Ryan's first four years with the Jets was his relationship with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine—who was recently denied extension and is now with the Buffalo Bills—came to New York with Ryan in 2009.
Ryan and Pettine had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with each other. They both cared deeply about the Jets but did not agree on how the defense should operate. Initially (in 2009) Ryan called all the shots, and the Jets had their most successful year defensively.
Each year since then, Pettine has been given more responsibility and control over the defense, while Ryan has moved into more of a supervisory role. And each year since then, the defense has been less dominant.
With Pettine now in Buffalo, it is reasonable to expect that Ryan will be taking full control of the defense again. The reason this matters for Marty Mornhinweg is that it means Ryan is probably going to be extremely hands off when it comes to the offense.
In his first four years, Ryan did not appear to have an offensive coordinator he could trust. Brian Schottenheimer was already there when he came to New York, and it is unclear whether or not he was ever on board with the Tony Sparano hire in 2012. With both of those coordinators, they ran something of the run-heavy "ground and pound" nature that Ryan has liked in the past.
Mornhinweg is very different from those two men. He has spent his career running pass-heavy West Coast offenses. His offense is a major departure from anything the Jets have executed in recent history. More importantly, the hire means that Ryan is ready to step away from the offense and let Mornhinweg develop a system that Ryan himself does not have expertise with.
When it comes to big decisions like quarterbacks and scheme, Ryan is sure to get his share of the blame regarding the 2013 Jets offense. But in reality, it will be Mornhinweg running the show.
Who Is Marty Mornhinweg?
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Marty Mornhinweg has been coaching in the NFL for 18 years, primarily on the offensive side of the ball. Most of his career has been spent as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. His trip through the NFL has included stops in Green Bay, San Francisco, Detroit and Philadelphia.
He served a brief two-year stint as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, putting up an atrocious 5-27 record. His more successful years have been spent as an offensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. He coached for the Eagles from 2003 until just recently.
Mornhinweg is known for running a West Coast offense that is unusually pass-heavy. Even in Philadelphia, with access to LeSean McCoy, he stuck primarily with the pass. As a result, expect him to focus the lion's share his efforts educating whomever his quarterback is. Mornhinweg has experience with several well-known quarterbacks, including Brett Favre, Steve Young and Michael Vick.
Most importantly, Mornhinweg has a strong personality and is going to want control. He often took control of play-calling responsibilities from head coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia, and he is going to want to run the offense his way in New York.
Despite not having the title officially, Mornhinweg will more likely than not be serving effectively as the assistant head coach, with the offense being his responsibility and the defense being Rex Ryan's responsibility.
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While offensive coordinators do not officially make personnel decisions, Mornhinweg will doubtless make sure he has a quarterback who he wants to work with. His past tells us much about what the Jets' quarterback situation will look like in 2013.
Despite short-lived rumors to the contrary, Mornhinweg and Michael Vick do not appear to be interested in reuniting. Similarly, bringing in another struggling quarterback like Tarvaris Jackson does not appear all that likely.
Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are both still on the roster. However, neither of them has much experience in a West Coast offense. Tebow particularly lacks all of the skills you would want in a West Coast quarterback.
The hire of Mornhinweg assures that Tebow will not see significant action at quarterback in 2013, at least not in New York. The Jets have recently hired David Lee—a Wildcat guru—as their new quarterbacks coach. Thus, Tebow might still find a role as the Wildcat back.
The hire of Mornhinweg also may not bode well for Mark Sanchez. It instead favors McElroy as a real contender to start in 2013. It could also mean that a fresh face will be brought in to compete for the job.
Names like Matt Flynn and Alex Smith will most likely be tossed around this offseason. However, Mornhinweg could look to the draft to get a quarterback who is a more natural fit for his system and who has more physical talent than McElroy.
All signs point to Mornhinweg sitting in the driving seat with regards to the Jets' 2013 quarterback situation. Rex Ryan and new general manager John Idzik will have a say, but should be looking to make their new offensive coordinator happy and comfortable.
The Running Backs
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As I pointed out in Week 4 and argued further in Week 7, the running offense that Tony Sparano brought to New York was problematic. The switch from a zone-running scheme to a power-running scheme killed Shonn Greene's productivity.
It was a shift away from the type of ground attack the Jets had used in prior years and was not well suited to their personnel. It was also a predictable approach that lacked in creativity.
Assuming Mornhinweg brings the Jets back to a zone-running scheme, this could change the running back situation for the Jets. Greene's poor productivity led to increased carries for Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell in 2012. It has also led to some mock drafts calling for the Jets to draft a new running back.
Having already spent draft picks on McKnight, Powell and Greene in recent years, drafting another running back would not be desirable at the moment. Instead, by going back to a scheme that makes use of Greene's strengths and downplays his weaknesses, he could potentially become a legitimate starter again.
A big part of being an offensive coordinator in the NFL is adapting to the personnel you have, and that is something Sparano did not do in 2012. With a switch to a more creative offense, the Jets may be able to make due with the three backs they already have on their roster.
Mornhinweg's Fate Is Not Tied to Rex Ryan
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The Jets offense in 2013 is going to be more a product of Mornhinweg than Rex Ryan. All signs point to him not being a one-year trial but being a potentially long-term hire.
This means that his job security is not fundamentally tied to that of Ryan. If the Jets have a disappointing 2013 campaign and Ryan's job security is weakened, a decent performance on offense should be enough to keep Mornhinweg around (think Brian Schottenheimer in 2009 for precedent).
As far as the offense is concerned, Mornhinweg should and most likely will be making long-term decisions rather than short-term stopgap decisions. It is possible that even if Ryan is not around in 2014, Mornhinweg will be (though ideally they both will be).
Expect to see the new coordinator not afraid to implement his own system and mold the offense to fit his philosophy. As a result, the Jets will still look like a Rex Ryan team on defense in 2013 but perhaps not on offense.