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With the Jets reportedly weighing the candidates to replace head coach Todd Bowles, it’s widely viewed as an inevitability that they will seek a so-called offensive mastermind and look to build around Sam Darnold.
With potential candidate John Harbaugh out of the running after the Ravens announced they will be retaining him, reports have so far centered on the recently-fired former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Which potential new head coaches would be best for Darnold’s development?
Jim Harbaugh – Michigan Head Coach
The Jets have disputed the Harbaugh reports, but he remains a candidate. A former NFL quarterback, Harbaugh could be a strong mentor for Darnold, having mentored the likes of Andrew Luck in the past. However, he’s a proponent of a power running game, which might be at odds with the running game personnel the Jets have in place — not to mention an outdated approach in the modern NFL. In addition, Harbaugh’s fiery and sometimes abrasive style might create a bit of a culture shock within the organization.
Mike McCarthy – Former Packers Head Coach
Reports indicate he may be high on the Jets’ wishlist. The Packers offense under McCarthy was rooted in west coast principles while relying on Aaron Rodgers‘ ability to go off script, which could be ideal for Darnold.
McCarthy’s supporters will point to the fact that he won a Super Bowl with Rodgers, but there’s also concern centered around the fact that he only won one Super Bowl with Rodgers — with the Packers underachieving over the past several years.
John DeFilippo – Former Vikings Offensive Coordinator
Prior to the recent reports, another coach who was a hot name was DeFilippo. However, DeFilippo was recenty fired after the Vikings dropped to .500 with some disappointing performances from their Kirk Cousins-led offense.
There’s some suggestion DeFilippo’s reputation has taken such a hit that he might need to take another coordinator job to restore his reputation as a future head coaching candidate. Would he accept such a role with the Jets, perhaps under a more experienced head coach like Bruce Arians who could step aside for him to take over in a few years?
Lincoln Riley – Oklahoma head coach
Riley, a 35-year old Mike Leach disciple, is another possibility. However, there’s a question of whether Riley would leave the Sooners. And if he does, the Browns will no doubt be in the mix for his services given the fact that Baker Mayfield won a Heisman trophy under him. Offenses that have evolved from Leach’s Air Raid philosophy are becoming increasingly respected at the pro level, especially with the success of Mayfield and Pat Mahomes this season.
Other candidates within the college ranks
Another young possibility from the college ranks is Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, a 38-year old who is regarded as the kind of disciplinarian the Jets might covet to replace Bowles. David Shaw and Chris Petersen are far less likely to leave for a job in the pros.
Other NFL candidates
Another option might be raiding a coaching staff from one of the league’s best offenses. Are offensive coordinators Eric Bienemy from the Chiefs and Pete Carmichael from the Saints ready for a head coaching role? Matt LaFleur, who was on the Rams’ staff until moving to the Titans during the offseason could also be considered. If the Jets can’t attract one of these three, perhaps they could instead pursue a position coach like Dan Campbell or Zac Taylor from one of these teams for a coordinator role.
What should the Jets do?
With the current emphasis on high-powered offenses around the league, it’s encouraging to know that there are multiple respected offensive minds potentially available.
The dilemma for the Jets is going to be to establish which of these coaches were most responsible for developing successful offenses rather than just enjoying success with players that were so talented they likely would have thrived no matter who was coaching them.
There’s a mixture of youthful candidates with fresh ideas and more experienced candidates with prior success at the pro level. While the Jets would presumably like to have a younger option to team up with Darnold for the long-term, there’s a risk that such a candidate might not find it quite so easy to put together a strong coaching staff.
Having invested so much to get Darnold, the Jets are obviously impressed with what he’s shown so far and will be determined to create the best possible situation within which he can thrive. Assuming they fire Bowles next week, it’s going to be challenging to identify the ideal person for the job.