Head Coach: Todd Bowles
The New York Jets head coach returns for Year 4, but Todd Bowles won’t have his 2017 offensive coordinator after firing John Morton for philosophical differences following one season.
Bowles prefers a slower-paced, ground-based offensive rhythm. Morton, a disciple of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, likes moving the ball down the field via the pass and with chunk plays. As it turned out, it was not a great union.
Despite having virtually nothing to work with in terms of offensive personnel, Morton’s Josh McCown-led offense surprised plenty of observers. McCown enjoyed a career year, even though the Jets finished just 24th in scoring and five spots out of last place in total yards. It felt like a win.
Offensive Coordinator: Jeremy Bates
Bates, New York’s quarterbacks coach in 2017, returned to the Jets for a second stint. He held the same position back in 2005. Bates, 41, spent time traveling the NFL as an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach, with stops in Tampa Bay, Denver and Chicago, plus a one-year stay in Seattle as the offensive coordinator. The offense finished 28th in yards and 23rd in points, leading to Pete Carroll firing Bates.
In 2008, Mike Shanahan allowed Bates to call the plays from his quarterbacks coaching position, and the Denver Broncos finished second in offensive yards. Bates’ career wandered from there, resulting in an incoming Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman firing him in 2013.
At 36 years old, Bates abruptly walked away from football for four years. He grew up the son of Jim Bates, a coach with five decades worth of experience in college and the pros. An X’s and O’s savant, the younger Bates is known to be rough around the edges with how he handles player relations. He spent months hiking a 3,000-mile trail alone, and according to his father, matured during his time away from the game.
Few coaches have such a winding history at just 41 years old, whether it be coaching for the likes of Shanahan and Jon Gruden or taking a lengthy sabbatical and even finding another coaching opportunity, there is no question Bates is unique.
All of that makes for a nice tale, but fantasy gamers want to know about the system. Bates will install a West Coast offense and utilize a zone-blocking system (coached by Rick Dennison, which is a huge plus). The emphasis will be a strong running game with play-action and bootleg passing. Morton’s WCO was more vertical in nature, and Bates’ should focus on short-area gains in the classical sense of the system’s design.
Sooooo, now that we have some idea of the offensive structure, does New York have the talent to make it work as intended? At this current time, all signs point to the answer being an emphatic “no.”
Quarterbacks in this system don’t need to be elite slingers. A successful West Coast quarterback needs intangible strengths more so than ideal physical traits. Mobility and accuracy are major positives, but reading defenses pre-snap, making smart post-snap decisions, and a command of a complex playbook are arguably more important elements of the makeup.
McCown is an unrestricted free agent in March but could remain in the Jets’ fallback plans. There’s Christian Hackenberg, whose mechanics had to be rebuilt, and accuracy has been a correlative problem. The coaches would like to give him every chance to take the job in the offseason, but to say the jury is still out is an understatement. Bryce Petty has flashed marginal ability in limited play; he has some of the traits of being an acceptable WCO quarterback for the interim.
Does New York look outward, perhaps to Jay Cutler or try to lure Kirk Cousins to the Big Apple? Rule out neither. Cutler has history with Bates and came close to signing with the Jets last year.
The running back stable could be blown wide open. Matt Forte is on his last leg (edit: Forte has since retired), and Bilal Powell is coming off of a disappointing campaign. Elijah McGuire flashed at times as a 2017 rookie. It is too early to assign any credible fantasy prediction to this backfield.
Wideouts on roster feature 2017 breakout and downfield weapon Robby Anderson and possession receiver Quincy Enunwa. Jermaine Kearse offers a little of both worlds, while second-year ArDarius Stewart will jockey for a larger role. Anderson has considerable upside, and Kearse is a safer bet for consistency than Enunwa. Stewart is merely a wildcard.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins recently declined a two-year, $8 million deal with the Jets due to insufficient guarantees. It is believed the sides eventually will work out a contract. Aside from maybe Anderson, he could wind up being the only fantasy-relevant Jet in 2018.