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Mornhinweg and Vick plan for their dream season.

On Friday, the Jets finally concluded their search for a new offensive coordinator by hiring Marty Mornhinweg. The reaction was predictably mixed, but one of the facts trumpeted by the pro-Mornhinweg crowd was that he has been an offensive coordinator for 11 years and his teams never ranked lower than 15th on offense. Besides my initial reaction of “well, that’s about to change“, my next thought was: wait, the 2012 Eagles were a top-fifteen offense?!

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.

20114111527153114189  711  9
201026131121012142514  9  510
200911131381111723242315  919

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.

  • Jon Silverberg

    You buried the lead (at the end of the next to last paragraph): “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.” Just like the gm search, everyone that would take the OC job had something wrong with him…they did the best they could, in the circumstances…I agree with your earlier posts: focus on 2014 and further out…

    • Chase Stuart

      I hear you. More importantly, I think Mornhinweg is only going to be here a season, as the Jets offense will be on its 4th system in 4 years in 2014. That’s because Idzik will fire Ryan and bring on an offensive-minded HC who will have his own system in 2014, in my opinion.

  • Pauley

    Well, that leaved me depressed. However, which category does Sanchez fit in….Druckenmiller, Brohm, Kolb and Foles…or Young, McNabb and Favre? That script has yet to be drinking. And yes it’s 9am and im drinking.

  • Jim

    1- Why do you think 2012 was part of “trending downwards” rather than an aberration as a single down year? Marty’s ranking on every stat you provided was (well) below his (above-average) median rank (except points per drive, which was at the median), but his trend had been going up since 2009. Even discounting the 2010 Michael Vick annus mirabilis, most of MM’s 2011 ranks were at or above his median, with the notable exception of turnovers…except Vick has been a turnover machine his entire career, with double digits in turnovers AND interceptions in almost every year he’s started at least 10 games since 2004 (9 fumbles in 2006 and 6 interceptions in 2010). Since one of your earlier criticisms/responses to pro-MMs was the high turnovers in 2012, how much of that is MM’s responsibility (although it is reasonable to say he did not improve Vick’s turnover tendencies, which were even slightly worse this year)?

    2- How do you separate talent from coaching and/or system? Yes, the Eagles had several talented and successful skill position players during MM’s tenure, but how frequently do even high draft picks fail to live up their perceived (at least as reflected by where they are drafted) potential? If Maclin was putting up numbers like Ted Ginn did (or if Maclin’s role was being filled by a 7th rounder), would you feel different about MM? And what about 2007, when he posted bad numbers with leading receivers Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown?

    I’ve watched enough of the Eagles over the years to know that MM hasn’t put up top 5 numbers by any means, but I’m not sure the initial tone of the article fits in with your conclusion (which I share) that his offenses have been “good, but not great.”

    • Chase Stuart

      One could argue that 2012 was just a down year, but it does feel like the WCO is becoming less a part of the NFL every year. I think that the 2012 Eagles are probably a better representation of the 2013 Jets in terms of talent than some of the prior Philadelphia teams, so that also feels like a better fit.

      There have been many in Jets circles that have touted Mornhinweg as an excellent hire with a proven track record of great success (top ten, top five offenses, etc.). So perhaps that explains some of the tone of the article. I think we are on the same page on Mornhinweg’s success.

  • Chase Stuart

    2013 Jets are 27th through 16 weeks.