Let’s start here: The Jets must get this right.
When they fire Todd Bowles, as they are expected to do at the end of the season, if not earlier, they cannot afford to screw up hiring his replacement.
They are at a critical moment in time. They potentially have the franchise quarterback they have been searching for in Sam Darnold. Patriots star Tom Brady is going to retire soon … I think. There is going to be a window for the next Jets coach to capture the AFC East.
There are all sorts of boxes people want the Jets to check off with this hire. Most Jets fans want an offensive-minded head coach to develop Darnold. Others are clamoring for someone with head-coaching experience, after watching the past five coaches learn on the job. There will be a lot of pressure for the Jets to win the press conference with this hire.
They need to ignore all this noise.
The Jets need a leader. They need someone who is going to walk into One Jets Drive and demand accountability immediately. They need someone who can change the culture on arrival. Right now, the Jets are beaten down after so much losing. No one inside the Jets locker room has been to the playoffs as a Jet. Only a few players left from 2015 have even experienced a winning season with the Jets.
Who is this coach?
I think John Harbaugh fits if he and the Ravens do indeed part ways at the end of the season, as many around the NFL expect them to.
Harbaugh would bring instant credibility with his Super Bowl ring, and has the type of commanding presence the Jets need. Harbaugh is liked by his players, but he also knows how to instill discipline. The Jets would have to team him with a strong offensive coordinator to oversee Darnold’s development, but they should be well-versed in who the top, young offensive minds are in the NFL after researching possible head-coaching hires.
If the Ravens win the AFC North and Harbaugh ends up staying in Baltimore, the Jets need to turn over every rock to find a coach. They need to look at the young stud assistants, the retreads, college coaches and everyone in between. If the coach at Madison High School down the street is innovative, bring him in for an interview, too.
This is not an exact science. A few weeks ago, Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was considered a top head-coaching candidate. On Tuesday, Minnesota fired him. The Colts thought they had their guy in Josh McDaniels last year until he backed out, and now they may be better off with Frank Reich.
The inexact nature of this means the Jets must talk to as many candidates as they possibly can, do mountains of research and figure out who fits them best, not who the pundits think is the best.
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If Harbaugh is not available or not interested, there are other former coaches out there the Jets could look at such as former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio or former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. McCarthy has the Super Bowl ring and has some cachet, but it feels like his offense got stale in Green Bay. Del Rio has flopped in Oakland and Jacksonville after some modest success. Arians is really unlikely because he is Bowles’ mentor and has said the only job he is interested in is the Browns.
The most likely route the Jets will travel is that of the young offensive assistant. Every team is now searching for the next Sean McVay. Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan, Seahawks quarterbacks coach Dave Canales, Chargers quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen and Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka are all names being discussed in NFL circles.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley is the college coach everyone wants after he has developed an offense with the Sooners that has produced back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell is also drawing attention from the NFL.
The Jets should not limit themselves to only talking to offensive coaches. Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard are all worth a look, too.
The Jets have lost 31 games over the last three years. With this coaching hire, they need a win.