FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — For the second time in two years, the New York Jets are in the market for a head coach after the team parted ways with Adam Gase on Sunday.
They broke a long franchise trend in 2019 by hiring an offensive-minded coach in Gase. This time, the Jets figure to be more open-minded, although it will be important to have a strong offensive coach on the staff to fix incumbent quarterback Sam Darnold or develop a high pick from the 2021 NFL draft.
The search will work like this, according to a source: CEO Christopher Johnson, team president Hymie Elhai and general manager Joe Douglas will conduct it. Douglas will make the recommendation on whom to hire and Johnson will have the final decision. This won’t be a bang-bang process; it will be extensive and thorough, the source said. Douglas could reach into his Baltimore Ravens past for candidates. Relationships matter in the NFL.
Here’s how we handicap the search:
The best coordinator choices
Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator: The Jets interviewed him in 2019, but they didn’t consider him one of their top three or four candidates. Bieniemy, 51, is an attractive hire because everybody wants some of that Andy Reid/Patrick Mahomes magic. He’s not the Chiefs’ primary playcaller, which might concern some, but he’s regarded as a charismatic leader.
Brian Daboll, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator: A branch on the Bill Belichick/Nick Saban coaching tree, Daboll, 45, deserves big props for his grooming of Bills quarterback Josh Allen. He works for a defensive-minded head coach, Sean McDermott, so you know it’s Daboll’s show on offense. He’d be the best fit for Darnold or a rookie replacement. Longtime Jets fans might recall he was the quarterbacks coach on Eric Mangini’s staff in 2007-08.
Matt Eberflus, Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator: He’s a well-regarded defensive mind who has turned the Colts into a consistently solid unit. Eberflus, who interviewed for the Cleveland Browns‘ head-coaching vacancy in 2019, has an ally in assistant Jets GM Rex Hogan, a former Colts executive.
Robert Saleh, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator: A Pete Carroll disciple, Saleh has done a fantastic job with the 49ers’ defense. That they finished fifth in total defense this season was a minor miracle, considering the number of injuries they endured. Saleh, 41, is a fiery coach who would bring much-needed energy to the Jets. He’s beloved by his players.
Arthur Smith, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator: Under Smith, quarterback Ryan Tannehill went from Miami Dolphins castoff to MVP candidate. The Titans had the fifth-highest scoring offense over the past two seasons. Smith, 38, worked his way up the ladder in the Titans’ organization, but has had limited experience elsewhere. Does he have the personality to handle New York? His father is Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx.
Connections to Douglas
Jim Caldwell, former Detroit Lions coach: Caldwell was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator on their Super Bowl-winning team in 2012, when Douglas worked as a Baltimore scout. Caldwell, 65, has plenty of head-coaching experience (62-50 record in NFL) and quarterbacks are his specialty, but would he excite the fan base? He didn’t move the needle when he interviewed for the Jets’ job in 2019.
Don “Wink” Martindale, Ravens defensive coordinator: Yes, another Baltimore connection. Martindale, 57, has spent the past nine years with the Ravens, the past three as the coordinator. The man knows how to coach defense; he’s a protege of Rex Ryan. Martindale interviewed for the New York Giants‘ vacancy last year.
David Shaw, Stanford coach: He checks key boxes. He’s a former Ravens assistant (during Douglas’ days as a scout), he has head-coaching experience (90-36 at Stanford) and he’s offensive-minded. The question is, could he be pried away from Stanford?
The ‘ol college try
Matt Campbell, Iowa State: The Jets wanted to interview him for the job in 2019, but he declined the invitation. Campbell, 41, is an offensive-minded coach who is viewed as a program builder and a leader. He was a consistent winner at Toledo before taking over Iowa State, where he doesn’t get five-star recruits but still has a 34-28 record. The biggest concern is he has zero NFL experience.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: He has coached his alma mater for 15 years, taking the program to unimaginable heights. Fitzgerald, 46, can coach, but many believe the only NFL job he’d consider is the Chicago Bears.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: He’d be a polarizing candidate. You can’t argue with his success with the San Francisco 49ers (44-19-1, one Super Bowl appearance), but his run at Michigan has been disappointing (49-22). His personality wears on people and that was an issue in San Francisco. The Johnson family, which owns the Jets, has had a long fascination with Harbaugh, 57. He interviewed for the Jets’ head-coaching job in 2009. He’s reportedly negotiating an extension with Michigan.
Outside the box
Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator: Talk about meteoric rises. Brady, 31, is nine years out of college. He burst on the national scene as LSU’s passing-game coordinator in 2019, the season the Tigers won the national championship with quarterback Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals). He made the jump to the NFL and did solid work in Carolina even though he didn’t have running back Christian McCaffrey for most of the season. His lack of experience is a concern.