Morton up to task of directing Jets’ young, new-look offense
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) John Morton spent the entire spring and summer shouting.
The New York Jets’ first-time offensive coordinator still has plenty of voice left, though, even after all the yelling – the encouraging words for jobs well done by his players and the not-so-family-friendly jabs for mistakes and missteps.
Morton has certainly made his presence felt, and heard.
He has, after all, been waiting for this moment his entire coaching career. And he’s prepared to tackle what is widely considered one of the toughest tasks in the NFL this season: making the Jets competitive on offense.
”I feel really confident,” Morton said Thursday. ”Otherwise, I shouldn’t be sitting here.”
Morton, who turns 48 later this month, acknowledged that he hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep lately. His tired eyes are proof, as is the scruff on his cheeks that’s mixing into his graying goatee.
There’s little time for rest now, not with the regular season about to kick off. And certainly not with a revamped offense that has so many new and/or inexperienced players that outsiders wonder how the Jets will manage any points from week to week.
”I don’t know, we’ll see,” Morton said of whether the Jets’ offense can exceed the lowly expectations. ”I just want our guys to go out and be competitive and go hard and do their job every single play and protect the ball.
”If we do that, we have a great chance of winning. I’ve said it before: 82 percent. You win the turnover battle, you’re going to win 82 percent of your games, so I think that’s what we shoot for.”
Morton enters the season as a bit of a mystery man because this is his first job in the pros as an offensive coordinator .
These things we know: He runs a West Coast-style system, enjoys hard rock – Metallica, for one – and likes to get his point across.
”He brings confidence, I know that much,” coach Todd Bowles said. ”He’s a brash guy and I like that about him. It’s one of the reasons I hired him. He’s a smart guy. He gets it. He’ll understand situations, and he’ll make the right calls. He has everybody on the same page and I have every bit of confidence in him.”
Morton was a wide receiver in college, first at Grand Rapids Community College before going to Western Michigan. He spent some time playing in the CFL and was on a few NFL teams’ practice squads before turning to coaching.
He has been an offensive assistant and coached tight ends and wide receivers along the way. His bosses have included Jon Gruden, Bill Callahan and Norv Turner in Oakland, Jim Harbaugh (University of San Diego and later San Francisco), Sean Payton (New Orleans, twice) and Pete Carroll (USC).
But on Sunday at Buffalo, up in the coaches’ booth at New Era Field, Morton will call the shots on offense for the first time – for real – in the NFL. It’ll also be the first time he’s doing so at any level since he was USC’s offensive coordinator in 2010.
”I’ve been prepared,” Morton said. ”I’ve been around some great coaches that have prepared me and a lot of great players that have prepared me, and I’ve been in a couple of big-time games, Super Bowl games. I’m fortunate enough (that) I can say that, and a lot of playoff games I’ve been in.
”So, I feel really comfortable going into this game calling the plays for the first time.”
But it isn’t exactly a cushy gig for Morton, who was hired during the offseason to replace the retired Chan Gailey.
He’s got a 38-year-old journeyman quarterback in Josh McCown starting and a 31-year-old running back in Matt Forte, who’s in the twilight of his career but happens to have the most career receptions of anyone on the team.
The wide receiver group is young and inexperienced, with the additions of veterans Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Kerley in the past few days giving the Jets a couple of guys who at least casual fans have heard of other than Robby Anderson.
The tight ends are expected to be used more than they were in Gailey’s offense, in which the position was virtually non-existent. But Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the projected starter, is suspended the first two games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and rookie Jordan Leggett, a fifth-rounder from Clemson, is dealing with a sore knee.
There’s also a shaky offensive line that will have three new starters – center Wesley Johnson, and either Kelvin Beachum or Ben Ijalana at left tackle, and Brandon Shell or Brent Qvale at right tackle.
It’s far from an enviable spot for a first-year coordinator. Not that Morton cares what anyone outside the building thinks.
”I don’t get into that stuff,” he said. ”All I’m worried about right now is Buffalo. That’s it. … You start worrying about that stuff, you’ve lost.”
That’s the approach that Bowles enjoys having on his staff, ”a grinder” who reflects the attitude of his team: someone who wants to come out on top – no matter the odds.
”You play a game of jacks and he’s going to compete and beat you,” Bowles said. ”I don’t care if you’re 4 years old, he’s going to try to win that game.”
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