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Ranking the Jets Head Coaching Candidates

Arkansas v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

The Jets have been confirmed to interview or have strong interest in eight different head coaching options to this point in time. Which options are the best? The worst? Let’s stack them up.

8. Adam Gase

Gase coached the Dolphins from 2016-18 before being fired at the conclusion of this season. He went 23-25 in Miami, leading the team to ten wins and a wild card berth in his first season before winning six and seven games the following two years.

While Gase is still young at only 40 years old, and carries an offensive-minded reputation that the Jets clearly seem to be favoring, his resume in the NFL leaves a lot to be desired.

The Dolphins were 27th in scoring, 27th in scoring defense, and 29th in point differential under his leadership. No, the Dolphins were not a uber-talented superteam that should’ve been winning multiple playoff games a year, but the bottom line is that Gase had three years to build up the Dolphins and they regressed. Ultimately, his team lived much closer to the bottom than to the top.

Of course, it’s hard to match up team performance with a coach’s impact on that product. Should Miami have been the league’s worst team, while Gase lifted them up? Miami’s record far exceeded their performance level (18th in win percentage versus 29th in net points). Or, did Gase just do a poor job developing a football team?

This is all speculation, and nobody who hasn’t spent time with the team can properly evaluate Gase’s impact on Miami’s struggles under his leadership. Same goes for any coach.

What people on the outside can see is when a coach is openly mocked by his players following his exit. This right here is the biggest reason I would prefer for the Jets to avoid Gase. Not only did his teams disappoint, but Gase clearly was not liked very much by his players. Did you see Todd Bowles receive any vitriol like this from Jets players following his exit?

If Gase had a proven track record of success other than being a coach on a team with Peyton Manning, maybe we could look past something like that and feel comfortable enough to take a shot on him. He doesn’t, though. Gase has gone 0-for-4 over the past four seasons in attempting to lead even a top-half scoring offense, going back to his one season as the Bears offensive coordinator in 2015.

Hard pass.

7. Jim Caldwell

Caldwell joins Gase as one of two names I would likely be heavily opposed to. However, in spite of other marks against him, Caldwell at least does have a track record of succeeding in the NFL, enough to put him ahead of Gase.

Caldwell will soon be 64 years old, and did not coach at all in the 2018 season. It’s not a necessity for the Jets to pigeonhole themselves to the youngest, hottest offensive mind out there, but this is a franchise that has been stuck in the mud for years. They have a chance to take a swing for the fences and find somebody who can build a modern NFL offense around Sam Darnold’s tantalizing ability (and cheap rookie contract).

Caldwell went 62-50 in his seven seasons coaching the Colts (2009-11) and Lions (2014-17), making four playoff appearances and winning two playoff games (both in his inaugural season with Indianapolis, which culminated in a Super Bowl loss). He spent two seasons as Baltimore’s offensive coordinator, from 2012-13.

Since 2011, his first year without Peyton Manning (joining Gase in the line of coaches who lived off of Manning), Caldwell is a 38-42 coach who has not won a single playoff game. He only led two top half scoring offenses out of the seven teams he coached.

I think the Jets would be best served looking elsewhere.

6. Kris Richard

Richard, only 39 years old, is currently the defensive backs coach for the Cowboys. He served as Seattle’s defensive coordinator for the previous three seasons from 2015-17, and was Seattle’s defensive backs coach throughout the uprising of the Legion of Boom, from 2011-14. He was an assistant DBs coach for the Seahawks in 2010.

He played defensive back for four seasons in the NFL from 2002-05, mostly with Seattle and including a cup of coffee in San Francisco.

I’m of the belief that the Jets are best served putting an offensive mind at the spearhead of the coaching staff, but Richard seems to bring a reputation to the table that might make him worthy of hiring in spite of his position as a defensive mind.

Remember, the head coaching position carries more non-football weight than any other position on the staff. In addition to everything that goes on with the game, the head coach establishes the identity of the team and needs to be able to lead a large group of players effectively. If Richard can do those things exceptionally well, then of course he deserves a look at the position in spite of his defensive background. There’s no problem with finding a great mind to run the offense at the OC position.

When Richard stepped into the DC role in 2015, he inherited a defense that was already tops in scoring defense in 2014, but the success continued under Richard. The Seahawks ranked 1st, 3rd, and 13th in scoring defense over Richard’s three seasons at the helm of the unit.

The Cowboys are currently having one of their best defensive seasons in a long time, and Richard has gotten a lot of credit for it.

Would Richard be my preference? Probably not. The league is trending heavily towards offense, and I’d prefer to have a guy with a background on that side in the throne.

However, if the Jets see Richard as their man between all of these candidates, it’s likely because they see him as a very special coach, who also has a clear vision on both sides of the ball. They would just need to heavily emphasize getting him a high quality offensive staff.

5. Mike McCarthy

In hiring McCarthy, the Jets would be hoping to get themselves the next Andy Reid.

The Eagles fired Reid after he missed the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in his 14-year tenure. The Eagles went 8-8 in 2011 before bottoming out at 4-12 in Reid’s final season, which remains as his career low win total.

That exit scenario bears a striking resemblance to McCarthy’s current situation. McCarthy just got fired after missing the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in his 13-year tenure. The Packers went 7-9 in 2017, and McCarthy was fired mid-season in 2018 with the Packers at 4-7-1, his worst win total in a season.

Reid has gone on to find newfound success in Kansas City. The Chiefs have had a winning record and top-half scoring offense in every one of his six seasons at the helm there. He revived Alex Smith’s career and turned him into a consistent quality quarterback, and is now working magic with Patrick Mahomes.

The parallels are there. But can McCarthy do what Reid did?

I’m very skeptical. Reid had a reputation as a great offensive mind throughout his time in Philadelphia. He never got to work with a quarterback the caliber of the one McCarthy did, in Aaron Rodgers.

I don’t think McCarthy is the worst option. I’d welcome his experience and huge collection of victories. I think he’s being written off by too many because of what happened in Green Bay this season.

However, I don’t think he is the slam-dunk top choice, either. He has a lot of questions to answer. Can he build a good staff to help him adapt to the current NFL? What can he do with a quarterback besides Aaron Rodgers? Were his recent struggles a fluke, or a revelation of McCarthy’s reliance on one of the greatest quarterbacks ever?

4. Kliff Kingsbury

I’ll be honest. This is the “sexy” choice.

Kingsbury was the head coach at Texas Tech from 2013 until his firing following the 2018 season. He was recently hired as the new offensive coordinator for Sam Darnold’s alma mater, USC.

Kingsbury fits the cliche mold the typical NFL fan is looking for in their head coach in the year 2019. Young. Offensive-minded. Quarterback friendly. Exciting.

And while fans covet those things mostly for style and fun points, I think there are legitimate reasons Kingsbury could succeed with the Jets because of those traits. At the same time, the concerns with a coach of this ilk have to be acknowledged.

Kingsbury, who once threw two passes in a game for the Jets in 2005, went only 35-40 in his six seasons as head coach of Texas Tech. He had a losing record in each of his final three seasons.

It’s fair to wonder if a coach who couldn’t win games in the Big 12 can somehow become a winner in the NFL without having any coaching experience there. After all, I knocked Gase and Caldwell for their records - but at least they had quality seasons in the NFL. Kingsbury struggled to find those in college.

However, I go back to something I wrote earlier regarding Gase. We don’t know how much of an impact Kingsbury had on that record. Should Tech have been a 25-50 team under him based on their talent level, with Kingsbury raising them up? Should they have been 45-30, with Kingsbury bringing them down?

A coach’s impact on a team’s record is hard to quantify. Was Texas Tech’s talent level in the same ballpark as the rest of the conference? Did they recruit well? Did the players do their part in executing what the coaches were trying to instill?

In every single sport, in almost every scenario, it’s important to try and evaluate beyond win-loss record. It is the most important factor, yes. After all, every breath a coach or player takes is made with the goal of improving that W/L mark.

While that’s true, you also can’t make assumptions based on it alone. There are countless factors that go into producing that number - we can’t just assume Kingsbury having a losing record in college makes him a bad coach. And the same can be said for Gase, Caldwell, and every other coach on this list with a measly record.

Kingsbury would be a swing for the fences, bringing intriguing untapped potential that those coaches don’t have nearly as much of. There is gigantic risk making him an NFL head coach. That’s for certain. The Jets would need to make sure they build a tremendous, NFL-hardened staff around him, like Sean McVay has in Los Angeles. Could the Jets get Kingsbury a Wade Phillips to run the defense, like McVay has?

With that said, I see Jamal Adams vocally advocating for him, and other players backing him publicly. Adams never played for Kingsbury. Yet, he is loudly proclaiming his preference for him.

To me, that just goes to show the great reputation Kingsbury has built among his players, and it seems to have spread from them to the rest of the player community. That’s really impressive to me.

You’d also be playing right into the current NFL trend, going young and offensive-minded. Kingsbury led a top-25 scoring offense in the nation five out of his six seasons, and had Tech in the top five twice. He was a successful quarterback in college and played the position in the NFL.

Not to mention, he coached Baker Mayfield (although that didn’t end very well) and Patrick Mahomes.

It’s risky, yes. But there’s a lot of upside with this one. A classic “swing for the fences”.

3. Eric Bieniemy

Bieniemy is in his first season as offensive coordinator for the Chiefs after serving five seasons as their running backs coach.

He spent two years as the offensive coordinator at the University of Colorado from 2011-12. Prior to that, he spent five years as the running backs coach for the Vikings from 2006-10, leading Adrian Peterson through the early portion of his career.

The big question mark with Bieniemy is that he doesn’t call plays on gameday - that job goes to Andy Reid.

While that is a bit concerning, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator behind one of the greatest offenses in NFL history. The Chiefs scored 565 points this year, third-most ever by a team in a single regular season behind only the 2007 Patriots and 2013 Broncos. Those teams were led by veteran quarterbacks who already had Super Bowl rings on their fingers. This year’s Chiefs were led by a quarterback on his first run as an every-week starter in the NFL.

From his own players and co-workers, and his NFL peers on the outside, Bieniemy has been given a ton of credit for his role in what the Chiefs have built this year, receiving a lot of praise for his role in play design and installation during practice.

Perhaps the biggest plus with Bieniemy is the rapidly ascending stock of the Andy Reid coaching tree. The last two Chiefs offensive coordinators that preceded Bieniemy will be clashing in a Wild Card game this weekend - Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson. You might have heard, but Pederson won a Super Bowl last year.

Bieniemy is clearly one of the most respected names on this list. He has been working his way up in the NFL for a long time, and is having a lot of success in his first season as an NFL coordinator. Recent history suggests that the position he is in yields a strong chance of success for him in the future.

This would be a very good hire.

2. Todd Monken

Monken has been the offensive coordinator for the Buccaners over the past three seasons, doubling down as wide receivers coach in 2016 and 2017.

Prior to that, he was the head coach of Southern Mississippi for three seasons from 2013-15. He has received a ton of acclaim for turning that program around. Monken inherited a team that was 0-12 the season before his entrance. He won only one game in his first season, but improved the team each year, winning three games the following season and breaking through with nine wins in his third season.

Monken quietly has had the Buccaneers producing quite well offensively in spite of their lackluster record. After ranking only 18th in scoring offense over his first two seasons at the helm, Monken brought Tampa Bay up to 12th this season.

The Buccaneers have been a top-half passing offense each year under Monken. They ranked 9th in passing DVOA in 2018, 9th in 2017, and 12th in 2016.

I would really like this choice. Monken brings a unique blend of untapped potential and experience. While he has never been a head coach in the NFL and is the ripe age of 52, his experience is greatly extensive, and spans between both the NFL and many walks of the college game. Having experience in both worlds is great to have in today’s NFL, as the league continues to adopt college philosophies that its players are entering the league having experience with.

I’m a fan of Monken’s resume. There isn’t much about him that gives me pause.

1. Matt Rhule

Rhule, a New York City native who played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97, just completed his second season as the head coach at Baylor. He spent the previous four seasons as the head coach at Temple.

Rhule has the impressive distinction of turning around two programs. He inherited a Temple team that won only four games the season before and ultimately did not have a very storied history of football success. After winning only two games in his first season at Temple in 2013, he led the Owls back to .500 with six wins the following season.

Rhule then did the unthinkable and led Temple to ten wins - not once, but twice, in his final two seasons at the helm in 2015 and 2016. Temple had only won ten games in a season once before over the program’s entire history, way back in 1979. The Owls won the conference championship game for their first conference title since 1967.

Following his groundbreaking success in Philadelphia, Rhule took the challenge of turning around a Baylor program mired by scandal troubles. Following sexual assault cases that were brought up against Baylor players in 2015, the Bears took a significant hit to both their 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes. Many previously committed players opted to transfer away from Baylor, leaving the team with a dearth of talent going forward.

Rhule’s Baylor team won only one game in 2017, his first season at the helm.

This year, he surprisingly was able to lead Baylor to a 7-6 season, gaining a huge amount of respect in both the college and NFL communities.

In addition to the success he’s enjoyed in his previous two head coaching stints, Rhule brings experience as a position coach at a variety of positions on both sides of the ball. As you can see above, he spent time as a position coach with linebackers, defensive line, offensive line, special teams, and quarterbacks, with some time as Temple’s offensive coordinator. He even has some NFL experience, as the assistant offensive line coach for the Giants in 2012.

The Giants offensive line was 2nd in adjusted line yards per carry that season, and 3rd in lowest adjusted sack rate allowed. Rhule parlayed his one season in this role into a college head coaching gig.

Rhule is by all accounts a tremendous leader, and the type of coach with the unique ability to turn around a fledgling football program. Sound like something the Jets need?


Who out of these candidates would be your ideal choice to become head coach of the Jets?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Adam Gase
    (49 votes)
  • 0%
    Jim Caldwell
    (11 votes)
  • 1%
    Kris Richard
    (25 votes)
  • 32%
    Mike McCarthy
    (544 votes)
  • 9%
    Kliff Kingsbury
    (158 votes)
  • 12%
    Eric Bieniemy
    (209 votes)
  • 16%
    Todd Monken
    (283 votes)
  • 23%
    Matt Rhule
    (394 votes)
1673 votes total Vote Now