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Hutch: Schottenheimer the Top Contender, New Names Emerge

Dave Hutchinson reports Brian Schottenheimer is currently the leader in the clubhouse to land the head coaching job.

It's early in what the Jets have promised will be a long and thorough search for a new head coach, but offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has emerged as the early frontrunner, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they're not authorized to speak for the Jets.

Schottenheimer, in his third season with the Jets, interviewed on Friday and his session with general manager Mike Tannenbaum was described as ``impressive'' by one person. Tannenbaum liked Schottenheimer entering the process but he realizes Schottenheimer could be a tough sell to an angry fan base.

Hutchinson has been on the Jets beat for the Star-Ledger for a long time. He is typically reliable as he has established great sources with the team. With that said, hold off on storming the team's headquarters in Florham Park, NJ for the time being. Schottenheimer is one of only three to interview at this point. The other two were Bill Callahan, an abject failure as a head coach, and Steve Spagnuolo, who spent his week getting ready for three potential opponents, not outlining a plan of what he would do if he took over the Jets. Schottenheimer had much more time to prepare and has an intimate knowledge of the personnel on the roster. Tannenbaum may have been impressed, but he saw what everybody else did the past two years. Part of Schottenheimer's "impressive" performance might have been very low expectations.

Hutchinson also reveals some potential new names in the coaching search.

Other names on the Jets' radar are Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks.

All three are minority candidates. The Jets have to interview at least one minority candidate for their vacant head coaching position under the league's Rooney Rule or face a substantial fine. Rivera is the most intriguing at this point. He has built two terrific defenses in Chicago and San Diego using two completely different systems. He also has exposure to a third, Philadelphia's attack 4-3, from his time there working under Jim Johnson. He completely turned around San Diego's defense on the fly this year, taking over at midseason after Ted Cottrell was dismissed, even without Shawne Merriman. His gameplan against Peyton Manning last night was superb. It is definitely good news this guy is on the Jets' radar.

Frazier and Meeks are similar. Both are from the Tony Dungy coaching tree, which has produced Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, and our own Herman Edwards. They are intriguing possibilities as long as they realize their Tampa 2 defensedoes not fit the talent on the roster. David Harris is one of the cornerstones of the roster and lacks the athleticism and coverage skills a middle linebacker in the Tampa 2 system, needs. The Jets should remember what happened when they put their last budding star middle linebacker, Jonathan Vilma, into a system that did not maximize his skills. He was traded within two underwhelming seasons.

Mike Tomlin, a Tampa 2 guy, stuck with the 3-4 when he went to the Steelers because it best fit his players. If either of these guys is willing to make a similar evaluation of the talent and adjust the defensive system accordingly, they are worth a look because they are both well-regarded. If they really are good coaches, they will not be married to their system at the expense of results on the field like Eric Mangini was.