FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Anybody who watches the New York Jets knows offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates likes to throw the ball. That said, there's one thing he won't pass.
"We have to score more points, and that's on me," Bates said Thursday. "I need to put our players in better positions to be successful. I need to put our players in better positions to score touchdowns. That's my responsibility. You have to score points in this league to win games."
Bates gets high marks for accountability. As for performance ... uh, well, he said it himself. It's a scoring league, and the Jets have scored only one touchdown in their past 27 possessions. They're averaging just 22 points per game, which ranks 22nd in the league. Like his predecessors -- John Morton, Chan Gailey, Marty Mornhinweg and the list goes on -- Bates is a lightning rod for the team's offensive struggles. When you're the OC of the NYJ, it comes with the territory.
Frankly, Bates is getting too much blame. His critics conveniently forget he's working with a rookie quarterback and a banged-up group of receivers, both of which put obvious limitations on what he can do. On Sunday, the operation should be smoother with Josh McCown in charge. He doesn't have Sam Darnold's physical ability, but he's a coach on the field. Maybe he can galvanize the offense. The unit needs something. Anything.
"Our coaching staff, we haven't done a good job," head coach Todd Bowles said when asked specifically about Bates. "Being 3-6, we have to do a better job. I won't assess anybody individually. As a staff and as a team, we haven't done well."
Ultimately, Bates will be judged on Darnold's development, which will have a big impact on Bowles' future. Darnold was in a three-game slump before his foot injury, which will sideline him at least one game, so you can't give Bates a pat on the back for his work with the young quarterback. But he'll have six games (max) to get it turned around, to get Darnold playing the way he did in victories over the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts.
Bates refused to second-guess the way he has handling Darnold. At the start of the season, he spoke confidently about how he had given Darnold a full plate of offense, not a small portion. Coach them like rookies, Bates said at the time, and they play like rookies.
Maybe it's time to rethink that approach, because Darnold is playing like one.
"No, I don't think so," said Bates, disagreeing with the idea that he should scale back the offense. "I think he can handle it. He's mentally sharp. He's prepared. I have to do a better job of getting him plays that work."
A few suggestions:
Get the running backs involved in the passing attack. The Jets' backs have only 34 receptions (28th), which doesn't make sense. If the receivers are banged up and the rookie quarterback is having trouble getting the ball downfield, why not integrate the backs into the attack? They're a safe, check-down option. Elijah McGuire, playing the Bilal Powell role, has some skills. "We're trying to," Bates said. "They're definitely a weapon, and we need to use them more."
Try some no-huddle as a change of pace. Unless it's an obvious hurry-up situation, the Jets don't use no-huddle. Part of that is because of Darnold's inexperience, but they should try to speed up the tempo now that McCown is starting.
How about a gadget play? Other than an end-around to Robby Anderson last week, which backfired, they haven't tried any recent trick plays. Nothing can change the momentum of a game like a successful flea flicker or double pass.
This is kind of obvious, but get back to running the ball, and do it with passing personnel on the field. The Jets are more effective when running out of three-receiver packages (4.7 yards per attempt), compared to one back/two tight ends (2.9). It's blatantly obvious Darnold is so much better when supported by a ground game.
Bates wasn't too expansive on Thursday, except to say he needs to do a better job. Some of his answers were clipped, and you could see the tension on his face. Tough times at One Jets Drive.