When a team is replacing a fired head coach, there is a tendency to look for somebody who is the opposite of the old coach. If the last guy didn't work out, the team must need somebody who is the opposite. I have seen a number of people take the opinion that the Jets should hire somebody with head coaching experience in the NFL. All three of Woody Johnson's head coaches are first timers. Although all had early success, none left under happy terms.
Does it follow that the Jets need to hire somebody with experience? Not necessarily. The problem isn't that the Jets hired first time head coaches. The problem is they did not hire the right guy. Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, and John Harbaugh are all on their first team as head coaches. They have all won the Super Bowl.
Beyond that, the retreads in whom the Jets have expressed interest are not an inspiring cast of characters. Tom Cable, Doug Marrone, and Gary Kubiak all have career records under .500. In 13 combined seasons, they have made the Playoffs twice.
Should this be a disqualifier? Coaches certainly can learn and improve. Could these guys?
Three retread coaches have won the Super Bowl with their current team. Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick are on their second teams. Pete Carroll is on his third. Coughlin and Belichick were both fired by their first employer. Carroll was fired twice. Didn't these guys get better.
We can start with Coughlin. Although he was fired, it seems fair to call his time in Jacksonville a success. He built an expansion team from the ground up. By his second year, they were playing in the AFC Championship Game, the first of four straight trips to the Playoffs. The Jaguars then went into cap hell and struggled for the rest of Coughlin's tenure. Former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver later called firing Coughlin his greatest regret.
Belichick and Carroll were less successful. They were reviled by the fanbases of teams that let them go. What happened?
Belichick's case is unique. Although he was dismissed by the Browns, he had two and a half decades of NFL experience at the point the Patriots hired him as head coach and was still considered incredibly bright and innovative. His game plan as Giants defensive coordinator during their Super Bowl XXV upset of the high powered Bills is still the stuff of legends.
His reputation was still such that teams wanted him as this Grantland article indicates.
Indeed, as Parcells’s star pupil, Belichick was linked to a number of head coaching jobs while in New York, despite the fact that Belichick — according to reports from the time — never actually left to go on a single interview during his time with the team. He spoke to a number of teams by phone and turned down a number of requests directly, while others were told by the organization (or Belichick’s agent) that he had been promised the Jets job after Parcells retired. Those organizations headed in different directions
After being fired by the Browns, Belichick went to work under Parcells as an assistant with the Patriots. He then followed Parcells to the Jets. By January 2000, the two teams that knew him best in the league wanted him to be their head coach. Parcells had decided to retire while New England (ironically) fired Carroll.
Five weeks later, things did heat up. On January 3, 2000, Parcells resigned from his position with the Jets, saying he was "not going to coach any more football games" and that the move "definitely is the end of my career." A half hour later, the Patriots fired Carroll and faxed the Jets a request to interview Belichick for openings at both head coach and general manager.
Despite the bad experience, Belichick was still this highly regarded, and his defensive reputation merited it. He was viewed as one of the smartest people in the league.
What about Carroll? He was fired by the Jets after one season. Then he was fired by the Patriots after three.
After his dismissal from New England, he went to the college game and embarked on one of the most successful runs in college football history. At USC he won seven conference championships and two National Championships in nine seasons. You could see growth. In his early NFL days, Carroll had the reputation for being too emotional, a coach whose players walked all over him. While he was still very much a players' coach, it was clear that Carroll learned how to command the respect of his players.
In both cases there was something that stood out about these guys despite their early failures. There was a record of excellence. I think it's fair to say both of these guys grew.
Sometimes it does take failure for a coach to grow and learn. I always thought Eric Mangini made a major mistake taking the Browns job immediately after getting fired by the Jets. Even at the time, I thought he needed to take a step back and assess what went wrong. Jumping right back into things left no time for proper reflection, and going to a bad franchise like Cleveland left him with little chance for success. Mangini wasn't ready to be a head coach. He hadn't developed his own style and seemed like he was trying to be a Belichick clone. I think he set his career back in a big way by not taking time for reflection.
On a similar note, I think Rex Ryan should take a year off. He's getting paid either way. I know some NFL jobs like the one in Atlanta might seem tempting, but some time away could do him some good. I believe it was Bart Scott who had the best advice. Rex should schedule visit after visit to college and pro teams across the country with the most prolific offenses and school himself on all of the different styles and concepts. He still has a chance to have a very successful career, and learning about the other side of the ball will help him get there.
As far as the current crop of potential Jets retreads goes, I don't see much potential greatness. None of the these guys seem to have that WOW factor leading one to believe they might have turned it around. As far as retreads go, Rex might be the top of the line.
Aside from that, I can only really come up with one name. I can't believe I'm saying this because I have mocked the idea and mocked the guy. Thinking about Carroll and Belichick, though, maybe Josh McDaniels has finally earned another chance. His tenure in Denver was a disaster. He wasn't ready and alienated everybody. He does, however, have a brilliant and innovative offensive mind. He also has had four years to step back and reflect upon what he did wrong in Denver. Somebody as smart as him might not make the same mistakes twice. I imagine if he was going to be a candidate for the Jets we would already have heard his name, though.
Then again, I'm not sure McDaniels would be the answer anyway. Carroll and Belichick are exceptions.