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Possible Jets Coaching Candidates, Part 1: NFL Assistants

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Jets will likely be looking for a new head coach. Over the next few days we are going to introduce some potential candidates in a series of articles. Surely not all of the candidates we profile will get an interview. It is likely the Jets will speak with candidates who won’t appear on the initial lists. We will go more in depth once interviews are known.

We start today by looking at some NFL assistant coaches. Assistants are typically young, hungry, and full of fresh ideas. Almost every great head coach started as an assistant in the NFL.

However, hiring an assistant comes with risks. They haven’t been in charge of an operation at the top level before. You never know how even the most qualified candidate will adjust to the top job. Most coaches also come through the ranks on one side of the ball and may not have developed philosophies for what they want from the other side. They also might not have thought about how they would build a full staff.

There are more possible candidates than we could possibly profile, but here are some names to watch. (And note that some candidates you might expect like Brian Daboll may be featured in later installments of the series.)

Eric Bieniemy

Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs

Pros: Coordinator of best designed, most innovative, most productive offense in the league. Tenure has overlapped with Patrick Mahomes’ iconic rise. Would come from one of top coaching trees in the league (Andy Reid). Chiefs players revere him and are rooting for him to get a job.

Cons: It isn’t really “his” scheme. It’s Andy Reid’s. Could he coach up an offense without elite talent?

Initial Thoughts: Every year the media seems to anoint some coordinator as the guaranteed next great head coach. Bieniemy is the 2020 vintage. He certainly could be successful in the head job, but figuring out how he’d fare away from Reid on a less talent team seems like a much bigger projection than many would admit.

Robert Saleh

Defensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers

Pros: Ran a defense that carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl last year. Has kept defense playing well in spite of injuries this season. Well versed in some of the dominant current defensive concepts in the league. Has a pipeline to fill offensive staff with coaches off the Shanahan tree.

Cons: Doesn’t have a very long track record in the NFL. Only seven years as either a position coach or coordinator.

Initial Thoughts: I don’t have a great feel for whether Saleh is ready to be a head coach, but I do know he would win the introductory press conference. This wouldn’t be the redux of Adam Gase’s eyes. Saleh would have people fired up.

Joe Brady

Offensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers

Pros: Considered one of the brightest young offensive minds coaching at any level of football. Turned Joe Burrow from late round pick into budding superstar at LSU. Well-versed in cutting edge offensive concepts.

Cons: Would be one of the youngest, most inexperienced coaches ever hired to lead an NFL team. First year as NFL coordinator has seen rather pedestrian results.

Initial Thoughts: The natural comparison for Brady is Sean McVay, the extremely young offensive wizard hired as a head coach. It should be noted, however, that for as inexperienced as McVay was at the time the Rams hired him, Brady is appreciably less experienced. McVay had been a pro assistant coach for close to a decade. Brady is four years removed from having an entry level college job. Still, resume isn’t everything. I hope the Jets at least bring Brady in to see whether he has a vision for leading an entire operation.

Greg Roman

Offensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens

Pros: Probably the best offensive mind in the league when it comes to building a rushing attack. Oversaw Lamar Jackson’s rise to MVP. Creative. Led Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor to their best NFL years. Lots of experience. Has worked in both good and bad organizations and has seen how both function. Has worked with Joe Douglas.

Cons: As sophisticated as his run concepts are, passing concepts are decidedly less so. Has had trouble adapting once defenses have adjusted to his tendencies.

Initial Thoughts: I’ve long thought Roman was one of the most underrated coordinators in the league. If Douglas is looking at Justin Fields with the second overall pick, a partnership with Roman could make a lot of sense.

Arthur Smith

Offensive Coordinator, Tennessee Titans

Pros: Experience cleaning up Adam Gase’s messes. Has resurrected Ryan Tannehill’s career. Impressive work adding modern wrinkles to an old school offensive scheme.

Cons: Would he adapt his offense to different personnel? Light on experience with only three years as a position coach and two as a coordinator.

Initial Thoughts: This hire probably wouldn’t be viewed as exciting, but Smith strikes me as a quality football coach. I’d like to see him interviewed. I do have concerns whether he’d be ready to take on a challenge this big, though.

Don Martindale

Defensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens

Pros: Plenty of experience. Has overseen excellent defenses. Worked around key losses. Experience working with Joe Douglas. Ties to Rex Ryan would excite fanbase and give him an inside perspective into the unique challenges of the Jets job. Rumors have linked him to exciting and innovative offensive coordinator candidates the last two years. Ravens respect him enough to make him the league’s highest paid defensive coordinator.

Cons: In a position to be picky about jobs. Might not want to take on a rebuild this challenging.

Initial Thoughts: As you can probably tell from now narrow these profiles are, I am still early in the research stage. I have to admit one of the biggest surprises of the process thus far has been how impressive Martindale seems.

Matt Eberflus

Defensive Coordinator, Indianapolis Colts

Pros: Worked effectively around a lack of talent. Has defined scheme. Knows what he wants from every role in his system. Judging from how many Colts castoffs have failed on Jets defense, knows when to get rid of players. Has a solid network for potential assistant hires.

Cons: Colts defense has been solid but seldom dominant in his tenure. Unit’s performance has regressed a bit in 2020 after a hot start.

Initial Thoughts: I have a soft spot for Eberflus because he introduced me to a new way of thinking. For the longest time I believed coaches without premium talent needed to manufacture production with complex schemes and smoke and mirrors. He went the other way, simplifying things so that less talented players could get experience repeating concepts over and over and play fast.

Dave Toub

Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs

Pros: Has consistently coached top special teams units. Would have the ability to important offensive coaches from the Kansas City pipeline. Widely respected.

Cons: Despite the success of John Harbaugh, NFL teams have a bias against hiring special teams coaches.

Initial Thoughts: I can’t speak definitively on Toub (or any of these candidates really), but every single person in the NFL who is asked about him for a media story insists he’d be a great head coach. That has to count for something.

Kris Richard

Currently Not Employed in the NFL

Pros: Learned under some of the game’s best defensive minds. Has run successful defenses. Considered an excellent motivator and communicator.

Cons: Not coaching football in 2020.

Initial Thoughts: Two years ago the Jets gave Richard an interview, but I don’t think they took him seriously because of his defensive background. That might have been to their own detriment. Given how PR conscious the Johnsons are I’m not sure they’d consider a first time head coach who spent the year out of football. It’s too bad. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Richard have success as a head coach one day. I don’t even think a year away from the game is the worst thing in the world. It can help provide perspective. Depending on the eventual hire, he might be a worthy defensive coordinator candidate.