The swiftness of Jack Del Rio’s dismissal would have you believe that the Jon Gruden rumor mill will finally come to an end as he returns to be the Raiders head coach. Multiple media outlets have confirmed that it could possibly already be a done deal.
That being the case, the rumor mill has moved on to who he will hire for his staff.
An interesting name being floated, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, is John Morton, who served as offensive coordinator this season for the Jets.
Morton, who has a history going back to Gruden’s first stint with the Raiders, may be looking to pluck him for the same role with the Raiders. Morton did an excellent job with a Jets offense that was supposed to be historically bad. He was handed the reigns of an offense that was to be led by Josh McCown, a journeyman quarterback who hadn’t been able to stay healthy for years. He was backed up by Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, two young quarterbacks who hadn’t shown any signs of being able to play in the NFL and still haven’t. With McCown, he had an uneven offensive line, an inconsistent running game and a batch of unknown receivers.
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Not only did the Jets offense not embarrass itself, they moved the football well for most of the season including putting up 471 yards against the league-leading Jaguar defense in Week 4. This was a respectable unit until McCown got hurt in Week 14 and they were forced to play Petty.
Putting the fact that he’s under contract aside, this is an interesting dilemma for Morton. It’s hard to imagine Gruden coming back and not calling the plays, which will hinder Morton’s ability to showcase himself for a future head coaching position. With Jets head coach Todd Bowles, a defensive-minded coach, Morton had and will continue to have full autonomy in running the offense.
On the other hand, the Raiders have superior offensive personnel to the Jets and it’s highly unlikely the Jets will come close to closing that gap this offseason. There is also a heavy dose of confidence added when an “Offensive Guru” wants you to be his right hand.
Ultimately, however, the best road to moving up the coaching chain is not to coach on the same side of the ball your head coach is known for.