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Possible Jets Coaching Candidates, Part 2: College Coaches

TCU v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/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 opened the series yesterday talking about NFL assistant coaches. Today we will discuss college coaches.

The strengths and weaknesses of coaches from college are the inverse of those of NFL assistants. College head coaches understand how to run a full operation and build a program. However, they are used to having full control of that program, not having to deal with a front office or players who make more money than them.

There are also practical adjustments. College teams have practice limitations which leads to less sophisticated schemes. Much time is spent on recruiting. In the NFL there is no recruiting during the season, and a lot of the time each week is dedicated to figuring out deep schematic details to exploit against the next opponent.

All of this is to say any coach coming from college will need to adjust. It’s just different in the NFL.

Here are some potential candidates for the Jets from the college ranks. Also note that some bigger name college coaches might not be mentioned because they qualify for another category later in the series.

Matt Campbell

Head Coach, Iowa State

Pros: Has moved up the coaching ranks very quickly. Has built a winner at a Power 5 program with substantial disadvantages. Has shown schematic flexibility. Widely respect. Patriots once offered him a job.

Cons: Has been very picky about jobs. Turned down an interview request from the Jets two years ago.

Initial Thoughts: I think Campbell is a really good coach. I would be optimistic about the Jets’ future if they hired him. It just isn’t clear how much interest he will have. He might want to test himself at a bigger job, but he’s building something good at Iowa State without a ton of pressure or spotlight. He also gets autonomy to run his program in a way that wouldn’t exist in the NFL. All of this is to say I’m not convinced the Jets will have what it takes to lure him away from Iowa State. I’d be happy to be wrong, though.

Pat Fitzgerald

Head Coach, Northwestern

Pros: Has also built a winner at a Power 5 program with substantial disadvantages. Excellent at developing a staff. Around twenty people who have worked for Fitzgerald have gone on to work in the NFL in some capacity.

Cons: Only knows a low pressure, under the radar environment at Northwestern.

Initial Thoughts: I am a Fitzgerald fan, and I would give him a chance if he landed the Jets job. Still I wonder whether he would be a fish out of water. Northwestern is all he knows. He is a legend at the school going back to his playing days. Transitioning from college to the pros is already a major adjustment. How would he handle a high profile, high pressure job with a fanbase and media group that doesn’t really know him?

David Shaw

Head Coach, Stanford

Pros: Has built a very solid, winning program at Stanford. Good developer of talent. Teams usually play smart, fundamentally sound football. Has NFL experience. Has also worked with Joe Douglas.

Cons: Has a (not entirely deserved) reputation for coaching a conservative, boring brand of football. Stanford’s success has leveled off a bit in recent years from where they were earlier in Shaw’s tenure.

Initial Thoughts: I have a ton of respect for Shaw as a coach. I don’t think the fanbase would be excited by this hire, but I could see him doing a good job. If Shaw didn’t have early success, I could also see fans complaining that the Jets were set in the past with an old school system.

Dan Mullen

Head Coach, Florida

Pros: Considered an excellent offensive mind. Has been at the cutting edge of modern football schemes. Coached Alex Smith and Dak Prescott in college. Has had success at two difference schools in the most difficult conference in college football.

Cons: Brash personality can rub people the wrong way. Teams have come up small in big games.

Initial Thoughts: Mullen has started to get NFL buzz over the past year. I would be a little surprised if the Jets had serious interest. Teams tend to look for the opposite of the coach they just fired. This would be going from abrasive offensive coach to abrasive offensive coach (even if they are different strands of abrasive).

Brian Kelly

Head Coach, Notre Dame

Pros: A coaching self-made man. Has worked his way up the coaching ranks from Grand Valley State to Notre Dame. Won everywhere he has been. Has experience in a high profile, high pressure job.

Cons: Has made suggestions in the past he’d want total control if he went to the NFL. Has a reputation for being very in your face with players.

Initial Thoughts: I have gone back and forth for years on whether Kelly would have success in the NFL. I’m still not sure. You can’t ignore his sterling record of success, but I worry NFL players would tune him out. Guys who take the disciplinarian act too far in the league tend not to last long.

PJ Fleck

Head Coach, Minnesota

Pros: NFL experience. Has had success at two schools without major winning traditions. Would bring a Herm Edwards/Rex Ryan type personality to media relations.

Cons: Coaching style might not work with NFL players. Had a disappointing 2020 season.

Initial Thoughts: A report came out today that Fleck is reportedly getting NFL buzz. Whether that’s legitimate or a story planted by an agent is unknown. My concerns with his style are the reverse of my concerns about Kelly. I’m not sure he will get NFL players to buy in with his rah rah “row the boat” mantra. Fleck is a heck of a coach, though, so I think it’s possible he could adapt.