Right Down the Middle: A Closer Look at Matt Rhule

Stephen Russo with a closer look at Matt Rhule’s coaching career…

The New York Jets coaching search has officially reached one week. Thus far, the Jets have four interviews in the books (Bieniemy, Gase, McCarthy, Richard) and at least one more scheduled (Monken). This weekend has been quite the frenzy as news continues to break: Is McCarthy really taking 2019 off (please)? Is Green Bay all-in on Adam Gase (please!)? Will Kingsbury opt out of his contract with USC to interview with NFL teams (PLEASE!!)? All this news in only two days has Jets fans on the phones like Adam Schefter. Or maybe that’s just me.

Since 2005, the Jets have had somewhat of a ping pong approach to picking Head Coaches. They went from a boisterous, player’s coach in Herm Edwards, to a stoic disciplinarian in Eric Mangini, to Rex Ryan’s bravado, and capped it all off with Todd Bowles’ lifeless personality. The fact that all these hires were defensive minded ties them together, and leaves much of the Jets fanbase clamoring for the next Sean McVay – hence why we (and our wives) continue to drool over Kliff Kingsbury. However, in life, in work, in sports, sometimes the answer doesn’t lie too far to one side or the other, but rather in a mutual balance of the two, which is right where we’d find the next emerging candidate on the Jets radar: Matt Rhule.

Matt Rhule is the current Head Coach at Baylor University. At only 43 years old, Rhule has already established quite the resume. Rhule grew up in New York City before moving to Pennsylvania as a teen and playing linebacker at Penn State for 4 years. Upon graduation, he immediately got into coaching. From 1998 to 2011, Rhule had stints at Allbright College, Buffalo, UCLA, Western Carolina and Temple. During those stints, he coached linebackers, defensive line, and quarterbacks before being named Temple’s OC in 2008. Rhule was the Offensive Coordinator at Temple from 2008 to 2011 before taking a job on Tom Coughlin’s staff with the New York Giants in 2012 as an Assistant Offensive Line Coach.

Following the 2012 season, Rhule returned to Temple as Head Coach of a 4-7 team. After going 2-10 in 2013 in his first season, Rhule quickly turned that around and got the Owls to a 6-6, 10-3 and 10-4 in the next 3 seasons, finishing first in the AAC in 2015 and 2016.

In 2017, Rhule left Temple to take over as Head Coach at Baylor University following Baylor’s 2016 sexual assault scandal, which was no easy task. The scandal led to HC Art Briles being terminated, the resignation of the Athletic Director and University President. Furthermore, many players transferred and many recruits de-committed. Again, it was not an easy job to walk into, demonstrated by his 1-11 record in his first season as Head Coach. But Rhule yet again showed that he could turn things around and led the Bears to a 7-6 record in 2018 and a victory over Vanderbilt in the Texas Bowl.

Matt Rhule is not a Quarterback Whisperer. He is not a defensive genius. He is a quality head football coach with a proven track record of quickly turning around college programs. He has history working with both sides of the ball, and experience at both the NFL and Collegiate levels. It’s difficult to know what Christopher Johnson and Mike Maccagnan are truly looking for in a candidate, it leaves us venturing guesses based off what we hear from the media and what we want as a fanbase. I feel confident in saying that most fans want the Jets to make a big swing hire on a young, offensive mind. That is why most of us cringe at the thought of Mike McCarthy or Jim Caldwell. They’re too safe. Too boring. It feels like the last 4 years under Todd Bowles: playing not to lose.

There is no disputing that the biggest asset the Jets have in their quest for a head coach is Sam Darnold. However, this search is about more than pairing Darnold with the next great offensive mind. It is about finding the right guy to lead this team out of perpetual mediocrity. While there are certainly candidates that would be a bigger gamble, a Matt Rhule hire may be a big enough swing on an up and coming, CEO type coach that could energize this team and fanbase. And begin to turn this organization in the right direction. The answer may not lie in the typical, oppositional approach the Jets are used to, but rather right down the middle with Matt Rhule.