This was Ernie Accorsi, on the January day in 2004 when he introduced Tom Coughlin as the new head coach of the Giants, in what sounds like some kind of scratchy voice out of the distant past.
“There are some jobs that require an experienced hand,” the GM said. “Coaching the New York Giants is not an entry-level job.”
The Jets would be wise to follow Accorsi’s words as they begin another coaching search. The Jets shouldn’t be an entry-level job. Especially at this point in their history, when it feels like they have finally fixed a quarterback riddle that lasted close to 50 years, when the NFL is as wide-open as it has ever been, lousy teams becoming good ones in more rapid fashion than ever once they’re entrusted to competent hands.
The Jets have tried to identify lightning in a bottle for 20 years. Since Bill Belichick ended his one-day tenure as Jets coach in the wake of Bill Parcells’ retirement, they have hired five men for the job. All five had the same lifetime record as an NFL head coach on the day they reported for work: 0-0.
All of them had their moments, too. Al Groh started 6-1 and 9-4. Herman Edwards qualified for the playoffs three times, won two playoff games. Eric Mangini went 10-6 his first year and scored a walk-on cameo on a “Sopranos” episode. Rex Ryan had four playoffs wins his first two years. Todd Bowles had his team at 10-5 and a win from the playoffs after 15 games.
None of them had staying power. And all of these regimes ended in chaos.
And here we are again.
The Jets keep searching for their version of Sean McVay and Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson, young coaches with splendid reputations as assistants, and they keep winding up with secondary and tertiary versions of them. Or worse.
Funny thing, too. In their history, the Jets have been a legitimate power two separate times. And both of those eras were engineered by men who had done the job before. Weeb Ewbank won two NFL championships in Baltimore before migrating to New York. Bill Parcells had won two Super Bowls and led the Patriots to a third before Leon Hess hired him to buy the Jets’ groceries and cook their meals.
That isn’t a coincidence.
That is one reason the Jets must laser their focus on Mike McCarthy, who won a Super Bowl in Green Bay, who would bring instant credibility and instant gravitas to a team that is in desperate need of it. This must be a full-blown recruitment: a wooing, followed by a bundle of money thrown his way because there are likely to be several teams — starting with the Browns, with their own franchise quarterback in need of guidance – who will be interested.
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Really, the Jets only need to be as smart as the Islanders, who are run by one of the smartest men to ever work in this market. Lou Lamoriello waited a respectful 15 seconds or so (actually three days) after Barry Trotz left the employ of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals before making him the head coach of the Islanders. Now, a franchise thought to be left for dead when John Tavares fled for Toronto has a better record through 37 games than Tavares had in all but one of his nine seasons here.
We can rattle of a list of hires like this that have re-energized New York sports teams through the years. It is a strategy that doesn’t have a 100 percent success rate (we’re looking at you, Larry Brown and Dallas Green), but when it does work, it resonates immediately.
“I remember the first time Coach [Pat] Riley talked to us as a team,” Patrick Ewing said recently. “And everyone in the room, immediately, it was a different sense: This guy knows what he’s talking about. He’s done it. He’s been there. He had our attention from day one.”
The Jets need that. New York needs that. McCarthy is by far the best man available who is also attainable. If Jim Harbaugh has had a change of heart after watching his Wolverines slog through the Peach Bowl, find out. Same deal with Lincoln Riley, who may sound committed to Oklahoma, but he wouldn’t be the first football coach to change his mind when the right offer came along.
The Jets have tried for two decades to identify the next Landry and Lombardi, and they have failed every time. It’s time to muscle up and pursue a sure thing for a change. It’s time to bring in a coach who already has a resume, instead of looking to build one. New York shouldn’t be an entry-level city. And the Jets shouldn’t be an entry-level job.