It could be worse: Offensive coordinator edition

As usual after a win, we're going to look at one aspect of the team which has come under fire by comparing it to some others around the league (or perhaps from Jets history) to illustrate how other teams have to deal with the same issues.

Today, we're somewhat bucking the trend by looking at an area where most expectations have been outperformed, as we're going to take a look at offensive coordinator John Morton.

While Morton's offense was predicted to be historically bad in many places, they find themselves ahead of eight teams in terms of yards per game, outside the bottom 10 in terms of scoring, in the middle of the pack in terms of third down conversion percentage and all the way up in eighth for time of possession.

On the basis that the Jets have what is considered to be some of the worst offensive personnel in the league, Morton must have done a solid job to scheme around this to have an offense that could objectively be described as pretty competent.

However, in recent weeks, the Jets - who have lost six of their last eight - have struggled in a few key areas so Morton has come under fire. So we need first to knock him down before we can build him back up and remind ourselves that it could be worse.

Some of the criticisms thrown at Morton include abandoning the running game too early, not featuring his young receivers enough and being overly conservative at times.

In our own analysis we've noticed some patterns with the offense too, with aspects - specifically in the running game - that aren't working often leading to adjustments but not until the following week. For example, there was an over reliance on inside zone blocking schemes one week, a complete lack of success running from run-personnel packages another week and a near-complete refusal to run the ball in short yardage situations a few weeks ago.

But, who's worse? And why? We could single out the Browns or Giants who are averaging just 15 points per game compared to the Jets' 21. Alternatively we could look at Chicago, Indianapolis or Cincinnati, the bottom three teams in the league in terms of yards per game. Or perhaps Washington, who have fumbled 25 times, losing 12.

Any of those would be good choices, especially since most of them at least began the year with what was considered to be superior personnel. Instead, let's compare him with some recent Jets coordinators:

Paul Hackett. Paul Hackett was the Jets' offensive coordinator for four years from 2001 to 2004 under Herm Edwards. The team was successful during that period, reaching the playoffs three times.

Unfortunately, most saw this success as having been attained in spite of Hackett rather than because of him. Unlike Morton, Hackett was blessed with excellent personnel and considered to have underachieved. The Jets had solid quarterback play from Vinny Testaverde and Chad Pennington, a hall of fame running back in his prime in Curtis Martin, an excellent offensive line and good receiving talent in Santana Moss and Wayne Chrebet.

Hackett's main problems were his dink-and-dunk offense which led to predictability, a lack of big plays and a prevent-style offense when leading games which belied Herm Edwards' "play to win the game" mantra. He also seemed to run Martin into the ground and didn't make the best use of Moss's abilities.

Hackett's supporters would say that he created an efficient west coast offense and that the play selection issues were influenced by Edwards' conservative nature. However, his offenses never placed in the top half of the league in points and never higher than 12th in yardage. You'd have to imagine Morton could do more with the same level of personnel.

Brian Schottenheimer. As the offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2011, Brian Schottenheimer was the longest-reigning coordinator in recent team history and he was a lightning rod for criticism over most of his tenure.

Schottenheimer's offenses were all outside the top 10 for both yards and scoring, apart from in 2008 when the Jets signed Brett Favre and snuck into ninth for scoring. However, they were only 16th in yardage that year with Favre not throwing for a single 300-yard game.

The Schottenheimer era will be most closely associated for what came after, as he failed to develop Mark Sanchez into the franchise quarterback the team so desperately coveted, despite trying everything from colored-coded wristbands to foam bats to mold him.

Statistically, his best offense was in 2010 as they ended up 11th in yards and 13th in scoring, but they ended up 13th in scoring again in 2011 despite being 25th in yardage. That was because they were the best red zone team in the NFL, an anomaly often credited to the fact the team hired Tom Moore as a consultant that year - a move which spoke volumes. In any case, Sanchez said that quarterback coach Matt Cavanaugh deserved most of the credit, as he accounted for a career best 32 touchdowns.

Most of the criticisms of Schottenheimer centered around his play selection, although they would often contradict as one day the offense would be too predictable and the next it was needlessly complex or one person would be saying they ran the ball too much while another would be blaming them for not running it enough.

Ultimately, he often called the right play, but his players executed it poorly. However, that's still part of his job description and that one at which his persistent failure ultimately cost him his NFL career.

Tony Sparano. Sparano arrived in 2012 as Schottenheimer's replacement, immediately proving to those fans who constantly criticized his predecessor that it could be worse as he was one-and-done.

With a background as an offensive line coach, Sparano was expected to rejuventate a Jets offensive line that had been among the best in the NFL a few years earlier, but underperformed in 2011 as new starting right tackle Wayne Hunter had struggled. The disciplinarian Sparano brought the promise of a run-based attack with accountability, execution and the excitement of "chunk plays" to look forward to.

That promise went completely unfulfilled as Sanchez had the worst season of his career and any big-play threat from the offense was non-existent. The Jets finished up 30th in the NFL in yardage, worse than every year in team history apart from 2005 - the year after Hackett left which featured a series of quarterback injuries. They were also 28th in points, marking only the third time in history the team has been 28th or lower in both categories.

In Sparano's defense, many have criticized the offensive personnel at his disposal that year. However, nearly all of the players who struggled had been productive under other coordinators in the past.

Chan Gailey. Gailey's two season spell as the Jets offensive coordinator couldn't have begun much better as he guided the offense to a record-breaking season. The team was in the top 10 for yards (albeit only 10th) for the first time since the team went 12-4 and reached the AFC Title game in 1998. They were also 11th in points.

Nevertheless, there were several aspects to his offense that contributed to the failure to make the playoffs in the season finale and saw them slide to 30th in points and 26th in yardage in his second season.

One such problem was that he never got the tight ends involed in the passing game. Another was that there was no place in his offense for smaller receivers, leading them to get rid of or miss out on some promising contributors.

The biggest issue, which would ultimately place a ceiling on the offense's potential, was an over-reliance on Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker which led to Ryan Fitzpatrick pre-determining where he would throw the ball, making the Jets predictable and leaving them in a bind when those players were hurt.

In his day, Gailey was obviously a good offensive coordinator. However, the Jets needed a more forward-thinking mind going forwards, so hopefully Morton will provide that. Based on his performance so far, this seems to be happening.