The Jets haven’t asked for my input on their coaching search, but there are some things I’d like to see in Todd Bowles’ replacement and the search process.
Be open to new ways of thinking.
A lot of football coaches get very set in their ways and are resistant to changes in the game. This is to their detriment. Any coach who says things like, “A smashmouth run game is the best way to win,” “Gimmicky college offenses won’t work in the NFL,” or “Stats only work in baseball,” is not the kind of coach I want.
Times change, and those who don’t adapt are left behind. The next coach of the Jets should be open to innovation and be willing to use data to his advantage. I want somebody at the cutting edge of offensive innovations. I want somebody who aggressive going for fourth downs and two point conversions because the numbers show how smart it is.
This doesn’t mean the search should be limited to young candidates. There’s nothing to prevent an older candidate from being open-minded. Bill Belichick is 66 years old and is one of the most innovative coaches in the league.
Build a coaching staff diverse in experience.
As stated above I want fresh thinking, but that doesn’t mean we throw out every single piece of conventional wisdom. We should only throw out the outdated stuff that no longer makes sense.
With that in mind, I want a coaching staff with a mix of backgrounds.
If the choice is an experienced NFL hand like Mike McCarthy, I’d like for him to bring in some people with a fresh perspective. Leave Joe Phibin, Ben McAdoo, and McAdoo’s slicked back hair behind. A few hires from the college ranks who come from innovative offensive backgrounds might be just want he needs.
Somebody less experienced, such as Matt Rhule should have at least one (and ideally more than one) former head coach on his staff to help guide him through the pitfalls of running an NFL team along with some veteran position coaches.
I want the right balance of new ideas and the type of wisdom that can only come from experience.
Have a plan for everything, not just offense.
I keep seeing people push the idea that the Jets should hire an offensive guru as their head coach. The thinking goes that the worst case scenario is the team losing but Sam Darnold developing.
Wrong! The worst case scenario is that the Jets will have blown their biggest Super Bowl window in decades.
The next three years are critical for this franchise. Darnold is still on his rookie deal. That means the Jets can get quality quarterback play and still have a full assortment of salary cap space to stock their entire roster.
This hire will determine whether the Jets take advantage of this once in a decade opportunity. Those are high stakes.
Yes, having a plan on offense is critical. Yes, this coach will be tasked with developing Darnold.
The other parts of the team matter too. People point to Sean McVay and Matt Nagy as examples of what can happen when a team hires a strong offensive mind. It is easy to forget that they both made very strong coordinator hires on the other side of the ball immediately upon being hired.
Being a good offensive mind simply isn’t enough. Don’t make me read you the list of good offensive coordinators who were lousy head coaches. You don’t have the time to sit through that.
The right head coach will have a strong plan for offense. He will also have a strong plan for defense. And a strong plan for special teams. And know how to build a quality staff. And understand how to gain the respect of a locker room, deal with problems, manage a game, and a lot of other things that separate the good head coaches from the bad head coaches.
Past failures can be forgiven...on one condition.
Bill Belichick is the best coach in the NFL. One might argue he is the greatest coach the league has ever seen. (I wouldn’t, but also I wouldn’t laugh at you if you told me you did.)
Belichick failed in his first NFL head coaching job and was fired.
Failure is part of life. Sometimes failure makes us better because we learn from it.
That is the important thing. I don’t care if a coach has a bad track record. If he can figure out why things didn’t work in a previous stop and how he will do things better next time, he has my attention.
Through this process, you might have noticed how skeptical I have been of Kliff Kingsbury’s candidacy.
I’m not sure a few months of distance is enough time for a relatively inexperienced coach like Kingsbury to figure out why his defenses were bad at Texas Tech, why his assistant hires were so shaky, why his teams were undisciplined, and why he had a losing record even when he had the guy who might be this year’s NFL MVP playing quarterback for him.
But if he actually has a compelling answer and has figured out how he will do better coaching at a higher level one year later, I’m all ears.
Hype doesn’t matter.
A lot of the immediate opinions on coaching hires come from media hype. Just think about how many coaches were hyped by the media when they were hired and ultimately failed.
On the flip side, Doug Pederson was once called the least qualified man in recent history to be hired as a head coach. He’s worked out just fine.
Any celebration or frustration the day a coach is hired will be temporary. Future job performance is much more relevant.
If the Jets were to hire Kliff Kingsbury, I imagine a ton of hype would follow. He has built exciting offense and has movie star good looks.
But if he hasn’t learned from those failures, the buzz will be short-lived.