The most important investment a NFL team can make to gain a competitive edge is a great head coach. A top flight quarterback is valuable but so is a top flight head coach, nevermind one who can get the most out of the quarterback position. This offseason the Jets will make a critical decision on who will replace Rex Ryan. Woody Johnson has went with only defensive backgrounds in his previous hires, see-sawing between player friendly coaches and disciplinarians.
Herman Edwards, Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan all reached the playoffs. Edwards went 39-41, with two 10 win seasons, one division title and two playoff wins. Ryan is going to finish with a highly comparable resume. He is currently 44-47, with one 10 win season, zero division titles and four playoff wins. Mangini went 23-25 with zero playoff wins but had the same amount of winning seasons (two) in three years that Ryan did in six. Where will Johnson turn and will current GM John Idzik be involved in the decision? We won’t know for a few weeks but here are a few candidates to keep an eye on:
Jim Harbaugh – Harbaugh is a top 3-5 coach in the NFL and may shake free this offseason. He would be worth the ransom he’d demand when it comes to money and personnel control. The Jets can make him the league’s highest paid coach, let him dictate how the personnel department is structured, present immense cap flexibility and a potential top five pick. Harbaugh would have a talented, young defensive line and a strong collection of offensive skill position players (Decker, Harvin, Amaro, Kerley, Ivory). He will be highly in demand. This is a longshot. Impossible? No, but still definitely a longshot.
Dan Quinn – If Idzik is here, Quinn is likely to be one of the first people interviewed and even if Idzik isn’t, he still might be. “He’s not married to a scheme; he wants you to grow. He changes with the players,” Michael Bennett said of Quinn…hmm that sounds like a refreshing change, no? Many people will say they want somebody more proven but how proven were Bruce Arians or John Harbaugh before they got their chance? Quinn might not be that guy but a coordinator or current college coach could end up being the right choice. The key question for Quinn would be who would he hire as an offensive coordinator?
Kyle Shanahan – Speaking of coordinators, Shanahan got a Rookie of the Year season out of Robert Griffin III by smartly adapting the Baylor offense to the NFL, instead of being stubborn about his own system. He is now excelling with a journeyman pocket passer, two rookie running backs and a bunch of no names at wide receiver and tight end prior to Josh Gordon coming back. Regardless of Cleveland’s finish, he is likely to field a few head coaching interviews this offseason. If the Jets finally want to hire an offensive mind and stay within the NFL, Shanahan could be the guy.
Todd Bowles – He just received an extension for the terrific work he has done with the Cardinals defense, in spite of all the injuries they have dealt with. For a head coaching opportunity, he may be able to get out of his contract. Selling another aggressive defensive coach may be difficult, unless the Cardinals get themselves into the Super Bowl. Bruce Arians is as highly regarded of a coach as there is in the NFL right now so taking from his staff is a positive.Gus Malzahn – This is a copycat league. Everybody is looking for the next Chip Kelly: a creative offensive mind who can manufacture points and has a progressive management style. Malzahn may not be Kelly but he is an intriguing candidate who received NFL consideration last offseason after Auburn’s run to the National Championship game. Could the Jets look to the collegiate ranks after picking a coordinator for their last three hires?