FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- One of the reasons why the New York Jets have struggled in recent years is because there has been no continuity on offense -- five coordinators in seven years.
Could it be six in eight years in 2018?
John Morton's future with the team is a story to watch in the offseason. His first season with the Jets -- and first as an NFL coordinator -- was respectable, considering it was a transition year for the offense, but there are rumblings around the league that he may not fit into Todd Bowles' long-term plan.
The players also have mixed feelings about Morton. Some believe he tried to turn the Jets into the New Orleans Saints, his previous team. In other words, they felt he relied too heavily on the passing game.
It came to light when running back Matt Forte publicly questioned the play calling after the Oct. 29 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Privately, others complained, too. Even though the issue appeared to get resolved in the next game, it lingered and created tension in the offensive room, sources said. One player said there wouldn't be an overwhelming sense of disappointment if Morton didn't return.
Would Bowles fire Morton after only one season? He may not have to. Let's play connect the dots.
If Jon Gruden is hired by the Oakland Raiders, he could try to hire Morton for a position on his staff. The two men are extremely close. In fact, Morton got his first coaching job from Gruden, who hired him as a glorified go-fer for the Raiders in 2002.
Gruden has a high regard for Morton. In an early-season interview, Gruden told ESPN, "[The Jets have] been putting some good things on tape, I know that. I've clipped out a few things they've done already that I'm going to try to steal for whatever I do in the future. Who knows?"
Prophetic words, huh?
Morton is under contract for 2018, meaning the Jets could prevent him from leaving for an assistant-coach position. Asked if he'd block Morton from leaving for the Raiders, Bowles said, "I don't deal with rumors. Until somebody talks to me worth something, I'll go from there."
One player said he's convinced that Morton will wind up with the Raiders. Chances are, they wouldn't block him because it would allow Bowles to change coordinators without any bloodshed. It also would save ownership from having to pay the remainder of Morton's contract. Bowles is said to have his eye on Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, whose contract is expiring.
You may recall Bowles tried to hire him last year for the coordinator job, but he was rebuffed because the Eagles declined permission. Once again, the road to DeFilippo won't be easy; he has emerged as a head-coaching candidate with the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears.
On Monday, Bowles praised Morton for the manner in which he integrated new players into his system.
"I picked him for a reason," Bowles said. "He had some plays this year that were outstanding. He had some games that he called great. He had some games where he himself would tell you he'd like to have back. We were happy with John and everything he did this year. Obviously, we have to grow from there, but it takes all the coaches, not just one."
Some league observers wonder if Bowles and Morton are a philosophical match. But starting over -- again -- would be another setback for the offense, which hasn't had the chance to grow in a specific system. Bowles downplayed that angle.
"It's always good to have consistency and continuity, but in the NFL things change all the time and you have to be ready," Bowles said. "If you can keep the same scheme, that's great. If you have to change for whatever reason, we'll go from there."