When Todd Bowles chose John Morton as his offensive coordinator, he hired a coach, not a system.
Even though Morton has spent the better part of his NFL career in a West Coast offense, he will adapt based on the New York Jets' personnel. The system, Bowles said, "will mold itself."
That philosophy soon could be put to the test -- specifically, with regard to running back Leonard Fournette.
The former LSU star is widely regarded as one of the top prospects in the draft, and he could be available for the Jets, who own the sixth pick. The Jets, who haven't used a first-round pick on an offensive player since quarterback Mark Sanchez in 2009, are desperate for a playmaker. Fournette is a rare talent, according to scouts, but it may not be a slam-dunk decision if he's still on the board.
If they pick Fournette, they'd be drafting an identity, not just a running back. They'd have to commit to a certain way of doing things or else it would make no sense to add a player with his skill set. He'd have to be the focal point of the offense.
At 6-foot-1, 228 pounds, Fournette is the kind of back who needs the rock in his hands -- a lot. He wears down defenses with his power and physical running style. In his signature season, 2015, he averaged 25 carries per game, finishing with 1,953 yards. He was an absolutely beast in the third quarter, compiling 36 percent of his rushing total.
With Fournette, the backfield-by-committee approach really means a one-man committee.
The Jets have a couple of capable runners in Matt Forte and Bilal Powell, who earned a bigger role with his late-season surge, according to Bowles. If they bring Fournette into the program, it has to be his show, not a three-man rotation. From football and financial standpoints (we're talking about a guaranteed contract of $22 million, based on the sixth slot), it wouldn't be prudent to make him one of the guys. He'd have to be The Guy.
Would Bowles and Morton be willing to run the offense through Fournette?
Another factor is scheme.
Fournette needs to be in a power-running scheme (think: Tennessee Titans) that capitalizes on his downhill style. A zone scheme, often utilized in a West Coast system, is predicated on creating cutback lanes for the running back. You need a slashing back with patience and vision, someone who waits for a hole to develop and attacks the daylight with a quick re-direct.
That particular style, some scouts believe, isn't conducive to Fournette's game.
General manager Mike Maccagnan subscribes to the best-player-available philosophy and Fournette could be the best player on the board when the Jets are on the clock, but it's not a decision that can be made in a vacuum. Scheme must be considered, as well the overall value of running backs, which has declined in recent years.
Did you know that 10 of the 12 playoff teams last season didn't have a first-round running back? The exceptions were the Pittsburgh Steelers (backup DeAngelo Williams) and the Dallas Cowboys (rookie Ezekiel Elliott). The Cowboys defied the recent trend by using the No. 4 overall pick on Elliott, who won the NFL rushing title. So, yes, certain players are good enough to be exceptions.
Fournette has that kind of ability if used properly. If Morton wants to employ a typical West Coast offense, not featuring a smash-mouth rushing attack, the Jets should take a pass on Fournette and go in another direction.