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Here’s where NY Jets’ Hackett ranks among NFL offensive coaches

Nathaniel Hackett, NY Jets, OC, Coach, Rankings, Stats
Nathaniel Hackett, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

Stacking up New York Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett against 31 other coaches

Every New York Jets fan has their fair share of critiques for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who has constructed the worst offense in franchise history based on DVOA. No matter how hard Robert Saleh tries to defend Hackett at press conferences, no Jets fan will be convinced that Hackett is anything but a massive liability.

While it seems blatantly obvious that Hackett’s coaching has been poor this season, I wanted to give Saleh’s pro-Hackett arguments a chance instead of just laughing them off. Maybe if we dig deeper, we can see what Saleh is talking about.

To do this, I figured it would be a good idea to try and deduce Hackett’s true impact on the Jets by stacking him up against all other offensive coaches in a few different metrics that point directly to coaching. By comparing him against his peers in specific metrics that are strongly affected by coaching, we can find out if Saleh has a point when he claims Hackett doing a better job than the Jets’ basic offensive metrics would suggest.

I ranked all 32 teams in five different metrics. My goal was to focus on metrics that tell us how a team performed in specific areas that are often attributed to coaching. While no metric can fully separate the coach from his players, I believe these metrics, when combined in the aggregate, do a good job of estimating the effect that each team’s offensive coaching staff has on the final product.

Here are the metrics I evaluated:

  • Rate of pre-snap offensive penalties
  • Rate of passing yards generated on wide-open downfield throws
  • Red-zone touchdown rate
  • Success rate on screen passes
  • Success rate at picking up blitzes

Without further ado, let’s dive in and see how the Jets have performed in these strongly coaching-influenced metrics. We’ll see where the Jets rank in each category before blending everything into a cumulative ranking.

Pre-snap penalties

While it’s definitely possible for any given pre-snap penalty to be solely the player’s fault, this is a category that we can all agree boils down to coaching when looking at cumulative totals over the long haul.

A well-oiled machine of an offense will rarely mistime the snap count, line up in the wrong spot, or fail to get the snap off. A disjointed unit that is not on the same page will frequently do all of those things.

These are all of the flags I included when tallying offensive pre-snap penalties: false start, delay of game, illegal formation, illegal shift, offsides, too many men in the huddle, illegal motion, and illegal substitution.

To account for sample size, I ranked teams based on their average rate of offensive plays ran per pre-snap offensive penalty.

2023-NFL-Pre-Snap-Penalties-Jets

The Jets have committed an NFL-leading 42 pre-snap penalties, buoyed by a league-high 31 false starts. Their rate of 23.6 plays per offensive pre-snap penalty is the worst in football. The league average is 38.5.

Passing yards on wide-open downfield throws

One of the primary hallmarks of any good offensive coach is the ability to generate “easy offense.”

Players should not always have to achieve world-class athletic feats to make things happen. When you watch any elite offense in the modern game, so much of their production comes on well-schemed plays where the receiver breaks wide-open simply based on design. They don’t have to run an amazing route and the quarterback doesn’t have to make an amazing throw.

To try and quantify how good each team is at creating these kinds of plays, I pulled the number of passing yards each team has generated on wide-open completions that were thrown at least 10 yards downfield (per Next Gen Stats). In this case, wide-open completions are defined as any catch where there is at least three yards of separation between the receiver and the nearest defender at the time of the catch.

Certainly, having a talented offensive line, skilled receivers, and an accurate quarterback will help a team generate more of these plays. Still, the majority of the time, when this type of play occurs, the coach plays a large role in making it happen. And if a team is not making many of these plays, the coach probably isn’t scheming up enough opportunities for the players.

To account for sample size, I ranked teams based on their average rate of wide-open downfield passing yards per play across all passing dropbacks.

2023-NFL-Wide-Open-Coach-Rank-Jets

The Jets rank 30th in wide-open downfield passing yards with 510, an average of just 31.9 yards per game. The league averages are 46.2 per game and 739.7 on the entire season, meaning the Jets have generated about 230 fewer of these yards than the average team.

While the Jets are ahead of the Giants in total yards (the Giants are 31st with 455 yards), the Jets have run significantly more passing plays than the Giants, so on a per-dropback basis, the Jets are actually slightly worse than the Giants with 0.79 yards per dropback. Only the Patriots (0.61) are worse than the Jets at generating these kinds of plays.

New York’s 510 yards came across a total of 22 wide-open downfield completions, which ranks as the third-fewest. The average team has generated 33 of these completions.

The Jets also have the third-fewest attempts with 34, while the league average is 46. The lack of attempts could be due to one of three reasons: a low number of opportunities being schemed up, the offensive line preventing the quarterback from having time to find these opportunities when they’re open, or the quarterbacks just doing a poor job of seeing them. Most likely, it’s a combination of all three.

The top of this list is littered with well-regarded offensive coaches, highlighted by Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel at the very top. They are closely followed by rookie phenom Bobby Slowik, Matt LaFleur, Todd Monken, Andy Reid, and Ben Johnson.

The presence of these names at the top of the list supports the idea that this is a strong metric for evaluating coaching. So, while injuries at quarterback and offensive line are likely hurting the Jets in this department, it’s still an issue that Hackett shares a brunt of the blame for.

Red zone touchdown rate

This metric is the most basic and likely the most talent-driven of the five I chose, but I felt like it was still very worthy of inclusion.

Down in the red zone, the field shrinks, which means many plays are decided within the first second or two after the snap. Routes are shorter and quicker, as are the quarterback’s dropbacks. There isn’t as much time or space for raw talent to win via speed, long-developing routes, or improvisation. That’s not to suggest this never happens, but it’s more rare in the red zone.

Whereas the Dolphins can just chuck one up to Tyreek Hill between the twenties whenever they want, it’s tougher to rely on his talent in the red zone without Mike McDaniel cooking up the perfect play to get him in space.

Whereas Travis Kelce has no issue finding soft spots in the zone all the way down the field, teams can key in on him in the red zone when they no longer have to play soft deep coverage and leave the intermediate area open, so Andy Reid needs to be creative to get him the football – using things such as their famous shovel pass.

Oftentimes, a red-zone play’s success is simply determined by whether the offense or the defense won the chess match. So many red zone touchdowns are scored on wide-open passes into the flat or well-designed screens and trick plays. It can be argued that play calling is more integral in this part of the field than any other.

Here is how teams stack up in the percentage of red-zone trips that result in a touchdown.

2023-NFL-Red-Zone-Offense-TD-Rank

Despite gaining notoriety in Green Bay for being the Packers’ red-zone designer, Hackett has the Jets ranked last in red-zone touchdown rate – and it’s shocking just how far behind they are. The 8.9% difference between the Jets and the 31st-ranked Giants is larger than the difference between the Giants and the 17th-ranked Texans (8.7%).

Hackett is known for nicknaming this part of the field as the “gold zone.” I think he missed a word. What he meant to say is “fool’s gold zone.” Jets fans get excited whenever their team finally makes it to the 20, thinking a touchdown is on the horizon, only to have their hopes dashed within seconds.

Screen pass success rate

It goes without saying that it helps to have talented players running your screen plays. Still, play design and play calling are essential in making screens work.

The coach must excel at designing screens that are ideal for exploiting the weaknesses of the specific defensive opponent each week. He must also excel at picking the right times to call screens, having a great feel for when he can catch the defense with a numbers disadvantage.

Based on data from NGS, I ranked all 32 teams based on their success rate when throwing screen passes, which is calculated according to the percentage of screen passes that generated positive EPA (Expected Points Added). To be clear, this data only includes screen passes that were actually thrown, so this does not include any busted screens that resulted in a sack, penalty, or other non-pass-attempt result.

Here is each team’s efficiency at executing screen passes.

2023-NFL-Screen-Stats

We finally have something the Jets are not terrible at. They rank 18th with a 37.5% success rate on screens, generating positive EPA on 15 of their 40 attempts.

However, as we broke down yesterday, the Jets have seen their screen efficiency rapidly decline since they started increasing their reliance on them around mid-season.

Through Week 8, the Jets ranked last in screen attempts with 15, but they had success on seven of them, an excellent success rate of 46.7%. Since then, the Jets have jumped to 12th with 29 screen attempts. However, they have only converted seven of those, a 31st-ranked success rate of 24.1% over that span.

New York is armed with ideal weaponry to be an elite screen team. Breece Hall leads all running backs in receiving yards (579). Garrett Wilson is an extremely elusive wideout who ranks second among all wide receivers with 41 missed tackles forced since the start of 2022. With these stars on the team, it’s fair to expect the Jets to rank much higher than 18th in screen success rate.

Blitz pickup success rate

While the quality of a team’s pass protection mostly boils down to the raw talent of the offensive line, it is also largely affected by coaching.

In this case, the impact of coaching has less to do with play calling or play design. It’s more so about the coaching staff’s ability to get its offensive front to play with cohesion and communication. Does the team look like a well-oiled machine in its blocking schemes? That’s the simple question I wanted to find the answer to.

I wanted to choose a metric related to pass protection that does a good job of answering the aforementioned question, but I had some trouble deciding which one did the best job of isolating the unit’s cohesion from its raw talent. Ultimately, I settled on evaluating each team’s pressure rate allowed versus the blitz.

Anyone burdened with watching the Jets over the past few years has seen how much of an impact that coaching has on offensive line play. Yes, the Jets have lacked talent and continuity, but the unit never looks like it is on the same page. Stunt pass-offs are frequently botched. Blitzes leave everyone looking befuddled. Unblocked rushers are common.

Considering what I’ve seen from watching the Jets’ struggles against complex pressure packages, I figured that analyzing a team’s pass-blocking performance against the blitz would be the best way to evaluate how cohesive the unit is. Whereas pressures allowed against a four-man rush are usually due to one-on-one losses (a result of raw talent), pressures allowed against the blitz are typically the fault of a blown pickup that occurs due to poor communication.

Here is the percentage of each team’s blitzed dropbacks (5+ rushers) in which they allowed the quarterback to be pressured, per NGS:

2023-NFL-Blitz-Stats-Jets

The numbers match what we’ve seen with our eyes. The Jets’ offense is a discombobulated mess that has no answer to the blitz. They’ve allowed pressure 53.7% of the time when blitzed, ranking ahead of only the Giants and Broncos.

Final results

Let’s bring everything together for a final ranking of all 32 offensive coaching staffs.

Instead of ranking teams based on their average rank across the five metrics, I gave them a 0-to-10 score for their performance in each metric. The worst team in each metric receives a 0, the best team receives a 10, and all other teams are scored based on exactly how far they are from those two points.

This is a more effective way to rank teams than simply using the average rank across all metrics, as it takes into account exactly how far apart teams are from one another in each metric regardless of their ranks. Just look at the Jets’ red-zone touchdown rate for an example of why that’s important. If you are miles behind the team in front of you (or vice versa), it should be scored accordingly.

Here is the complete ranking when combining all five metrics.

NFL-Offensive-Coordinator-Coach-Rankings-2023-Hackett

And there you have it: Based on the five metrics we looked at today, which are each heavily influenced by coaching, the Jets are the worst-coached offense in the NFL.

Jets’ rankings and scores:

  • 32nd in plays per pre-snap penalty (23.6) – Score: 0.0
  • 31st in wide-open passing yards downfield per dropback (0.79) – Score: 1.1
  • 32nd in red-zone touchdown rate (34.3%) – Score: 0.0
  • 18th in screen pass success rate (37.5%) – Score: 3.4
  • 30th in pressure rate allowed versus the blitz (53.7%) – Score: 0.5

If you’re curious to see everything in one place, here is an expanded look at the data featuring each team’s metrics besides their scores.

NFL-Offensive-Coordinator-Coach-Rankings-2023-Hackett-NY-Jets-OC-Analytics

While these five metrics alone are far from a perfect measure for evaluating coaches, there seems to be a pretty good correlation between our cumulative leaderboard and the reputations of offensive coaches league-wide. The top of the list is littered with big names in the world of offensive coaching.

Kyle Shanahan takes the crown, which is no surprise. Shanahan’s offense is the gold standard of creating schemed-up offense and making life easy on the quarterback.

In second are the Buffalo Bills. While they fired their initial OC, Ken Dorsey, in November, many argued that Dorsey was scapegoated for the Bills’ turnover woes (largely out of a coach’s control) and that he was doing a solid job. Dorsey was replaced by Joe Brady, a respected young OC who received head coach interviews not long ago.

In third are the Mike McDaniel-led Miami Dolphins. McDaniel’s incredible work speaks for itself. Taking some elements from Shanahan’s 49ers offense and reinventing them into his own innovative vision, McDaniel has found the perfect ways to maximize Miami’s strengths, turning the Dolphins into one of the most explosive offensive teams in history.

Kellen Moore’s Los Angeles Chargers coming in fourth is a surprise, but the Chargers were playing fairly well offensively before Justin Herbert went out, ranking 11th in scoring through 12 games despite shoddy offensive line talent. Moore previously did an excellent job with the Cowboys and is generally considered a good offensive coach.

More stars round out the top 10. Andy Reid comes in fifth while hot-shot Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson slides into sixth. Todd Monken, who is receiving immense praise for revitalizing the Ravens’ offense, ranks seventh. Sean McVay ranks eighth for his impressive work with a surprising Rams team, while Mike McCarthy is in ninth with his high-octane Cowboys offense.

At the bottom of the list, the Jets are joined by uninspiring company.

One spot ahead of the Jets are the Titans, who are led by offensive coordinator Tim Kelly. Currently in his first season as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator after one season as the team’s passing game coordinator, Kelly previously spent three seasons as Houston’s offensive coordinator from 2019 to 2021. The Texans fired Kelly in January of 2022 after he led them to 32nd in total yards per game in 2021.

Next up is the Giants, who have been an utter disaster on offense under Brian Daboll. While Daboll had a strong debut season with the Giants, he completely lost control of the offense in 2023. This Giants offense has allowed 83 sacks, 20 more than the second-ranked Jets and the second-most in one season by any team in NFL history.

At No. 29 you have the Broncos, where Sean Payton has hardly outperformed Hackett despite his arrogant comments in the offseason. Payton is one of the most scrutinized coaches in the league right now. One spot ahead of the Broncos is a terrible Panthers team that fired its lead offensive mind, head coach Frank Reich, midway through his first season.

Ultimately, this list seems to do a solid job of estimating the impact of each team’s offensive coaching. The fact that the Jets rank 32nd confirms our suspicions: Nathaniel Hackett is performing extremely poorly in his role and severely decreases the team’s chances of winning each week.

While you don’t have to be a genius to see that, it’s reassuring to have quantitative evidence that backs up the harsh criticisms thrown at Hackett. He is exactly as bad as it looks. Everyone except those in Florham Park can see it.

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Psi
Psi
6 months ago

Michael…an amazing effort by you. You wonder if NFL teams are this clinical when evaluating their product and personnel and then reacting accordingly. Would love to see a similar analysis of the other two units. Based on base metrics I suspect both the D & ST would be graded more favorably, which would be a general nod in Saleh’s favor to remain and give him a chance to fix the one underperforming unit. I know this last point is anathema to you at present but would love to see the additional analysis.

Charlie Winner
Charlie Winner
6 months ago

Football is the ultimate team game. It is up to coaching to make a cohesive group of players go on the field every game. We are all human and mistakes will occur. But blaming cruel fate for your inability to perform at a high level, regardless of outcome, is simply an excuse.

Also, who’s in charge? Douglas and Sala, or Johnson and Rodgers? The former knows squat about corporate organization and the later seems to be running low income housing for Packer outcasts.

Will somebody please show some shadow of competency!

Great article.

Triumph85
Triumph85
6 months ago

Mike this is another excellent article- honestly, I wish there was some way to get this information over to the Jets- I don’t think they self-coach themselves at this level- this is eye-opening and puts into hard data what we’ve seen for years. The OL coaching leaves a lot to be desired- play calling reminds me of Paul Hackett- there is no rhyme or reason- and if I have to watch a Jets QB, on 3rd and 1, turn around and run the ball backward to the running back to get the ball 6 yards away and get tackled for a 2 yard loss, again, I’m going to throw up. Really with the exception of Shanahan and McDaniels there is no ingenuity in the NFL- these guys ever hear of misdirection, deception, etc.

DHB
DHB
6 months ago

Yeah, get rid of him. I don’t give a fuck what Rodgers thinks. Let’s get at least a half-decent OC.

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