The Jets are about to embark on solving the riddle that bedevils so many NFL teams: How do you hire the right head coach?
Gang Green is expected to fire Todd Bowles when the season ends in two weeks and begin chasing the Holy Grail of coaching again. Do they hire someone with experience? Do they hire someone coordinating a hot offense in the NFL? Do they put names in a hat?
There does not seem to be any formula to finding the right coach unless someone with a Hall of Fame résumé shakes free, like Bill Parcells did in 1997 for the Jets. But look around, there are no Parcells on the market this year.
Projecting assistant coaches as head coaches is a hard game to play. The Jets have done that with their last five coaching hires. Herm Edwards, Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan all got the Jets to the playoffs but could not get them to the mountaintop of the Super Bowl. Al Groh bolted after one season. Bowles looked promising for the first 15 games of his tenure, but has endured 33 losses in the next 47 games.
Looking back at when the Jets hired Bowles, it is hard to find fault with their reasoning. He had just been named assistant coach of the year with the Cardinals. He came with endorsements from Parcells, Bruce Arians and Joe Gibbs. He knew the market, having grown up in New Jersey. He promised discipline that was lacking under Ryan.
Yet it did not work out for myriad reasons.
Take a look at the hiring cycle of 2015 — Bowles and Dan Quinn with the Falcons are the only coaches of the seven hired that year still employed, and it looks like Quinn will be alone soon. The best hire of that class was the Broncos hiring Gary Kubiak, who won a Super Bowl in his first season but walked away for medical reasons after his second. The Bills (Ryan), Raiders (Jack Del Rio), Bears (John Fox) and 49ers (Jim Tomsula) all hired coaches they fired within three years.
If you look back to 2014, there were seven coaches hired that year. Only three are still on the job — Bill O’Brien (Texans), Jay Gruden (Redskins) and Mike Zimmer (Vikings).
Three teams that season went the route, which is popular with fans, of hiring a coach who had taken a team to the Super Bowl.
The Titans hired Ken Whisenhunt, who had led the Cardinals to a Super Bowl. He was fired in the middle of his second season with a 3-20 record.
The Buccaneers hired Lovie Smith, who had taken the Bears to a Super Bowl. Smith was fired after his second season with an 8-24 record.
The Lions hired Jim Caldwell, who had guided the Colts to the Super Bowl. Caldwell had some success, taking Detroit to the playoffs twice, but was fired after his fourth season with the team believing it needed someone else to get it over the hump.
Here's whom Jets should hire to replace Todd Bowles, if they can
Let’s start here: The Jets must get this right. When…
Opinions can change quickly in the NFL, so the Jets cannot make this a popularity contest. John DeFilippo was the hot name a month ago as the Vikings offensive coordinator. Now he is out of work. Doug Marrone was a Coach of the Year candidate last year after taking the Jaguars to the AFC title game. The Jaguars fell apart this year and now there are rumors that Tom Couglin may replace him in 2019. The Cardinals liked Steve Wilks so much 11 months ago they made him their head coach. He is expected to be fired with less than one year on the job.
Sometimes you can get it right and still get it wrong. The Browns hired the man considered to be the greatest coach in the history of the NFL, but Bill Belichick had only one playoff appearance in five seasons in Clevleand. Was he a bad coach or just in a bad situation?
Solving this riddle won’t be easy for the Jets. Owners Christopher and Woody Johnson must listen to the right people. Coaching searches are filled with people pushing their friends instead of the most qualified candidates.
The Johnson brothers must cut through the noise and find the right person, which NFL teams prove every year is not so easy.