Few NFL jobs are as challenging as offensive coordinator for the New York Jets, a team whose offense was terrible last year, entering a season in which the quarterback competition between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith is sure to bring on withering scrutiny.
In other words, it’s a great opportunity for Marty Mornhinweg to rebuild his reputation.
Mornhinweg’s reputation is, to say the least, tattered. This week, when Deadspin ranked the worst modern NFL coaches, it put Mornhinweg atop the list, noting that he went 5-27 in two seasons as head coach of the Lions, and that he infamously lost a game after choosing to take the wind — rather than receive the kickoff — in overtime.
It’s hard to defend Mornhinweg’s record as a head coach, but I would argue that it’s unfair to label Mornhinweg the worst coach in recent NFL history for the simple reason that I’m not sure any coach could have won with former Lions President Matt Millen picking the players. Yes, Mornhinweg went 2-14 and 3-13 in his two seasons as the Lions’ coach, but the other Detroit teams that Millen built weren’t much better: In the seasons after Millen fired Mornhinweg, the Lions went 5-11, 6-10, 5-11, 3-13, 7-9 and 0-16 before finally deciding that someone other than Millen should be building their roster and hiring their head coach.
But even if you don’t think Mornhinweg is the worst coach in recent NFL history, you probably don’t think he’s a very good coach, and his two years in Detroit gave you plenty of reasons to think that. And, more importantly, even though Mornhinweg has said he wants another shot at being a head coach, NFL owners haven’t been interested in giving him that opportunity.
Turning around the Jets’ offense, however, would be a truly Herculean coaching feat. If Mornhinweg solves the puzzle of how to run an effective offense around Sanchez — or if he builds a strong offense around a rookie quarterback in Smith — he’d get an outsized share of credit, just as everyone around the Jets has received an outsized share of blame in the past couple years.
So if Mornhinweg is ever going to get a chance to prove that he’s not such a bad head coach, then offensive coordinator of the Jets may just be the perfect job for him. Even if it also may be the toughest job in the NFL.