Philadelphia turned the ball over 37 times last year, tied with the Jets and the Chiefs for most in the league. The Eagles ranked 29th in points scored. But when people speak of things like a top-fifteen offense, the convention is to refer to a team’s rank in yards gained, and Philadelphia did rank 15th in yards in 2012.
Which is completely meaningless. Mornhinweg is a pass-happy coach, and passing teams simply gain more yards than running teams. When people say that Mornhinweg has consistently fielded top-ten offenses, what they mean is that Mornhinweg’s offenses usually rank in the top ten in yards, which sounds a whole lot less impressive.
Let’s take a real look at his tenure in Philadelphia. The second column shows the Eagles’ rank in yards; the next three categories display where Philadelphia ranked in expected points added by the offense, by the passing game, and by the rushing game. For the uninitiated, the amount of expected points a team is credited with is calculated based on the particular gains given the down, distance, and yard line (you can read more about it here). The next two categories show where the Eagles ranked in Net Yards per Pass and Adjusted Net Yards per pass, while the “TO” column represents Philadelphia’s rank in turnovers. The next categories show how Philadelphia fared in the Red Zone, in Goal to Go, and third down situations. Finally, the last three categories come courtesy of Football Outsiders, and show Philadelphia’s rank in points per drive, yards per drive, and drive success rate.
Philadelphia quarterbacks have gained far more rushing yards than any other team’s quarterbacks over the last seven years. So while Mornhinweg’s teams have fared very well in rushing EPA, much of the credit there goes to Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb. Many of the key metrics — offensive EPA, passing EPA, NY/A, ANY/A, third down rate, and all three drive stats paint the typical Eagles offense as slightly better than average but not inside the top ten. It’s worth noting that in the Red Zone and in Goal-to-Go situations, Philadelphia has consistently struggled, which any Eagles fan will tell you if you ask (or, perhaps, even if you don’t). Mornhinweg’s offenses have been good, but not great, and have been trending downwards. It should go without saying that this is just a description of the Eagles offense, and the offensive coordinator can only control a small part of the production. But for the most part, Mornhinweg has had good talent to work with: in addition to Vick and McNabb, Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Shawn Andrews, Jason Peters, and Todd Herremans have given him some strong talent to coach with during that span.
Outside of the numbers, the hire also leaves me unimpressed. Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, Charlie Weis, and Romeo Crennel received head coaching jobs after having success in New England, but have failed without having Bill Belichick around. I wonder if the same effect will be seen with Andy Reid’s offensive proteges — it is fair to wonder how much of the success that the Eagles’ offense has achieved is due to non-Reid coaches. So far, being affiliated with Reid has turned Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress into attractive hires with uninspiring results. I’m not sure why the expectations should be any higher for Mornhinweg. On the other hand, considering the two previous Jets coordinators (Tony Sparano and Brian Schottenheimer) and the resumes of the other candidates the Jets interviewed (Shurmur, Cam Cameron, and Joe Lombardi), I’m not sure the Mornhinweg hire looks too bad.
While we could look back on what Mornhinweg did before he got to the Eagles, I don’t know how instructive that would be. His tenure as head coach in Detroit was a disaster, as he went 5-27 in two seasons and both his offenses and defenses were among the worst in the league. While his teams in Green Bay and San Francisco in the mid-to-late ’90s were successful, it’s hard to consider that relevant given his work since then, and the fact that those teams were coached by offensive head coaches and loaded with talented players. Along the same vein, some have tried to make Mornhinweg out to be a quarterbacks guru because he’s had five different quarterbacks (Brett Favre, Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick) make the Pro Bowl under his watch. But four of those quarterbacks made a Pro Bowl before being coached by Mornhinweg, and the fifth, Garcia, had been a star in the CFL for years prior to playing in San Francisco. As far as developing young quarterbacks, his track record is much less impressive. Mornhinweg has been the head coach or offensive coordinator for six quarterbacks under the age of 27 who have thrown at least twenty passes in a season Jim Druckenmiller, Jeff Brohm, Mike McMahon, Joey Harrington, Kevin Kolb, and Nick Foles.