With the New York Jets currently sitting at 3-5, and another season likely not ending in a playoff appearance, this fanbase will most likely start looking towards the off-season. Armed with 3 top 100 picks and $100M in cap space, as well as their presumptive franchise QB in Sam Darnold entering year 2, this is set to become one of the more attractive jobs for potential head coaches should the team decide to move on from Head Coach Todd Bowles. Here are six candidates I would look towards, plus a prediction at the bottom on who I think coaches Gang Green next year.
1. Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
A proven track record in the NFL and the last few years spent in college football providing him a wealth of knowledge about the prospects about to enter the NFL Draft over the next few years, this is a hire that would both satisfy the fanbase’s insane requirement that the next coach be an offensive-minded HC and be the kind of big name that could wrestle some decision-making power away from Mike Maccagnan.
Let’s face it, he hasn’t been the best scout when it comes to rebuilding this roster now four years into his tenure. If the Jets chose to keep Maccagnan, Harbaugh is the kind of coach that has the credibility in the college ranks and in how well the 49ers drafted while he was there to really partner well with Macchiato Mike. Harbaugh ran two different systems with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, and was able to adjust his system to his player’s skill sets. He found ways to implement a more vertical attack with Kaepernick, and I can envision him using Sam Darnold’s mobility in a similar fashion to how he used both Kaep and Smith. His affinity for TEs would also bode well for Chris Herndon, but his desire to play bigger possession receivers would probably spell the end of Robby Anderson. In any event, Harbaugh has been rumored to be leaving Ann Arbor every year, and if the Jets can sway him he’d be the top target on their list.
2. New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael
Sean Payton’s apprentice has QB development experience, and has been calling the plays for the Saints for the last 3 years. He’s spearheaded the development of Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, as well as managed to transition the Saints from an aerial juggernaut when Payton was calling the plays to a more balanced unit capable of winning in January. The Saints do an excellent job of keeping teams off balance with their playcalling, utilizing pre-snap motion to get favorable matchups for their playmakers. Carmichael also utilizes the TE in innovative ways, whether it’s as big slots or singled up one on one versus cornerbacks. He’s also an aggressive playcaller and will take chances vertically, which should mesh well with Darnold’s arm strength and both Anderson and Quincy Enunwa next year.
3. Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator Matt LeFleur
LeFleur was on my list when the Jets fired former Head Coach Rex Ryan, and it’s no surprise he’s back on my list now. He’s now the primary playcaller in Tennessee, after spending a season under Rams Head Coach Sean McVay and spending a few years under now 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. The Titans current offense is ranked 30th overall in LeFleur’s first season calling plays, but you need to look at some other numbers to really see the job he is doing: the Titans are currently top 10 in both plays per drive and time per drive, and QB Marcus Mariota increased his completion percentage from 62 percent to a career-high 66 percent. He helped develop Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins, and this experience will make him incredibly appealing to a team like the Jets who want someone to develop their young QB.
4. Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy
The Kansas City Chiefs lost Matt Nagy and Alex Smith this off-season, and replaced them with QB Patrick Mahomes and running backs coach Eric Bieniemy. It’s like if I took your tricycle and said you can drive a Lamborghini. The Chiefs have increased their points per game output from 25 points to 37 points per game, total yards output from 375 to 437 per game, yards per attempt from 7.1 to 8.5, and all while maintaining their excellent turnover rate from last year. A big reason why is the Chiefs’s rookie playcaller, who has had a hand in the development of NFL MVP front runner Mahomes, and RB Kareem Hunt. He’s been able to do this with a terrible offensive line and a first year QB that had only played one regular season game before this year. Bieniemy is also a former player who coached running backs with the Vikings before calling plays at the collegiate level, and he’s worked with Andy Reid over the last two years, so you hope he picked up on a lot of great things from Coach Reid and none of the clock management issues.
5. Washington Offensive Coordinator Matt Cavanaugh
As instrumental in the development of Kirk Cousins as Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, and Mat LeFleur, Cavanaugh is currently contributing to getting a functional performance from Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson in the year 2018. Last year, Washington was 16th overall in total yards despite having a poor collection of talent around Cousins, and he’s shown an ability to scheme around talent deficiencies on offense. He’s also shown an ability to understand situational football, as Jay Gruden credited Cavanaugh with Cousins’s efficiency in the two minute drill last year, which is something Todd Bowles currently struggles with. Cavanaugh has leaned on quick hitting passes and running backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield, though he does not use as much pre-snap motion as a disciple of Shanahan and McVay theoretically would. While he has not directly called the plays for Washington, he has been instrumental in game planning with Jay Gruden, and has extensive work with QBs that would only benefit Sam Darnold.
6. Oklahoma Head Coach Lincoln Riley
Quite frankly the hottest name on the coaching circuit, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley has been able to keep the Sooner offense running at an efficient pace this year despite the departure of Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Currently sitting at 7-1 and ranked 8th in the latest AP Poll, Riley is already known to NFL circles as 28 teams have picked his brain regarding offensive concepts that he’s developed down in Sooner Country.
The Sooners rank 4th in points per game in the nation with 48.9 as Riley has created his own variation of the Air Raid offense. Most Air Raid offenses don’t utilize bigger offensive linemen, due to its up tempo nature, but Riley still has leaned on the running game with the implemention of a counter trey playcall out of a traditional zone read. What this allows is for them to run the zone read from four wide receiver sets, and if the MLB crashes too hard on the zone read then Darnold could theoretically dump it off to his running back for a big gain. We saw the Sooners call this same play versus West Virginia last year, except this time the QB is able to take advantage of the safety’s aggression and hit his WR for a slant. Due to the safety creeping up, the WR is one on one versus the corner and a big WR like Quincy Enunwa can use his frame to shield the ball from the corner for a reception and a chain mover every time. It’s those kinds of playcalls that Riley would bring to a Jets team that definitely needs to enter the 21st century with their offense.
The Jets hire Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy to be their new Head Coach, and he hires the following staff:
- Offensive Coordinator: Mike Kafka
- Defensive Coordinator: Leslie Frazier
- Special Teams Coordinator: Brent Boyer retained