A Look at the Potential Head Coaching Candidates
So what do the Jets do next? Who exactly do they tab as the next head coach for the New York Jets? In my mind you have three options- the star powered proven coach, the retread, and the young hot coordinator, with the final result depending on how you feel about the Jets short and long term prospects.
Do the Jets really believe that this is a win now team with a very small window of opportunity to win a championship in the NFL? Going into this year it was no secret what many of the fans thought when looking over the contracts doled out---this is a three year window with 2008 as the warm up act, 2009 as the main act, and 2010 as the potential one last go at it with this group of stars. When you look at this roster you realize that it is loaded with veterans whose best days are likely behind them. Alan Faneca, Kris Jenkins, Laveranues Coles, Brett Favre, Shaun Ellis, Thomas Jones, Damien Woody, Ty Law, Eric Barton, and Tony Richardson are all older players whose best days have passed. Brandon Moore, Kenyon Coleman, Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and Jerricho Cotchery are all players who should be in the prime of their careers. If the Jets are committed to this group for the future, and from a cap perspective they are stuck with many of them, you are thinking shorter team with these players rather than longer term. When you couple that with the fact that Tom Brady is supposedly delayed in his rehab and will be a huge question mark in 2009 regardless, the Jets should be looking at the 2009 year as their prime year to make a run at winning the AFC East. If you believe all of this then the Jets need to look for a proven coach that has been to the playoffs multiple times and found their way into the Super Bowl or at least very close to it. You are talking about Bill Cowher, Bill Parcells, Brian Billick, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden, Jim Fassell or Steve Mariucci whose name doesn’t belong with this group but he has a long history with Favre, a player who the Jets must convince to come back if this is a one year dash to the finish line.
The second option is you want to go for broke right now with a coach that can possibly win it with this current cast of characters, but is also going to be here for the long haul and build a solid team for years to come around the young core of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Darelle Revis, Kerry Rhodes, Leon Washington, Dustin Keller, and hopefully Vernon Gholston. If that is the type of coach the Jets want they should immediately cross the names Parcells and Mariucci off the list. Holmgren probably should go as well and Schottenheimer is so old he should not be an option if that is the case either. That leaves you with Cowher, Billick, and Gruden from the first list and you can probably throw a number of other names with head coaching experience.
The third scenario is the disaster scenario where you replay 2005 all over again. The team has decided that the window closed this year and the talent isn’t good enough to win. You have to develop a new quarterback. You are already figuring out the best options for cutting certain players. You would like a long term answer at coach, but will be leaving yourself an out in the event the coach turns into another Eric Mangini. Is this a likely way that the team is headed? Probably not. The fact that they did not fire the general manager has to make you believe that the blame of 2009 fell firmly on Mangini and not on anyone else, but the Jets still could be willing to sacrifice now to step into the future. You may still be able to consider Cowher in that situation, but more likely your options are limited to a hot coordinator who was in a very similar situation to the one that saw your team hire Mangini a few years ago, though in this case the Jets will not gamble on someone with very limited experience as they did with Mangini and Herman Edwards before him.
Forget the third option. There is no way I am hiring another person with no head coaching experience and assuming he will catch lighting in a bottle. It rarely happens and the Jets are not so good that anyone can come in here and win with the team, nor are they so bad to where fans will just accept losing for a few years. We already wasted our time on this approach with Herm and Eric. “Hot” coaching names that could not win with what they were given, nor could they really develop anyone in the organization.
As a fan I am torn between option 1 and option 2. The problem with option 1 is that most head coaches that have been to a Super Bowl don’t get back there with a new team. If they do they never win it. But deep down those are the names you feel gives you the greatest shot of winning even if the numbers tell you something different. They also bring a respectability to the franchise that the Jets have not had since 1999 and would do wonders to clear the air of the stink from the 2008 season.
Option 2 probably has the best chance of working over the long haul. When you look up and down at some of the most successful head coaches they got over that hump in a new location. Bill Belichick did it in New England, not in Cleveland. Tom Coughlin did it in New York and not in Jacksonville. Gruden made it happen in Tampa. Tony Dungy got over the hump in Indianapolis. Mike Shanahan did it Denver rather than Oakland. Sometimes you need to get knocked down a peg to really reach your potential. Even Mangini will probably be a better coach somewhere else in a few years than he ever would have been had he remained in New York. But most of these names are a tough sell to the crowd. Brining in a Gregg Williams is such a letdown when you compare him to the names Cowher and Parcells, but it is more likely the smarter move for the organization.
Some thoughts on the candiates:
Bill Cowher- Cowher certainly has an impressive track record from his years in Pittsburgh. Cowher’s biggest strengths lie in the fact that he was constantly able to integrate new players into his team and continue to be successful year after year. He could win divisions with almost any quarterback he was saddled with, a feat not many coaches could accomplish. He is certainly battle tested with the media and has enough close relationships in the media to where he could most certainly deal with the NY reporters. Cowher is the one coach where you could definitely say he could win now and be here for the long haul and build a team for the next 10 years. Negatively for Cowher is the fact that he was always branded as an underachiever in Pittsburgh. While he had great regular season success, that rarely translated into postseason success. Numerous times his teams were favored to go to the Super Bowl and numerous times they fell short. He is as conservative a coach as there is in the NFL especially in a big game. That is not really the style of football that Jets fans are acclimated to and may not accept if things go bad. There is also a question as to how much power he would want if he came here. Would he basically be a co-GM with Mike Tannenbaum? Cowher has never been in that type of position before and the personnel decisions were almost entirely handled by the front office in Pittsburgh. We have seen many coaches fail badly once they were given close to complete control and this could be no different with Cowher. I would consider him more as a long term solution than a one year win it all type, but I think we would all end up kind of disappointed in the team in a few years.
Bill Parcells- Parcells saved this franchise once before when he rebuilt the team from a 1-15 laughingstock into an AFC contender within two years. Parcells is well respected among the players and his criticism would carry a much different weight than Mangini’s would in the locker room. He already has a relationship with Tannenbaum and when you bring in Parcells you are bringing in a proven staff with him. Romeo Crennel would potentially tag along as defensive coordinator. Dan Henning could leave Miami to join Bill in NY. His potential assistant list is gigantic and Parcells is hungry for one last Super Bowl and is regarded as one of the true coaching minds of the last 25 years. However all is not positive with the Tuna. Parcells, at most, is going to give you three years. He has a rough personality and it is either his way or no way at all. Bill’s best work is taking over a bad team that he can mold into his group in two or three seasons. The Jets are not a bad team and will Parcells really want to try to win with guys that are not “his players”? You easily could sacrifice 2009 while Parcells makes an example out of a Bryan Thomas the way he did Neil O’Donnell back in 1997. Between Parcells’ age and the fact that he has not won a playoff game since 1998 it really is a question mark as to whether or not he can win again in the NFL. He probably can not, but he is extremely hard to say no to.
Mike Shanahan- Shanahan is one of the great coaches of the generation. He has 2 Super Bowls to his name, which he won with an aging legend at QB. He has won 3 AFC West championships at a time when the division was extremely competitive and has been to the playoffs seven times. He also owns Bill Belichick, the best coach in the NFL. Shanahan has fallen on hard times in Denver since making the switch from Jake Plummer to Jay Cutler, and I mentioned earlier in the year that he probably needed a change of scenery which surprisingly he got. Shanahan will do a good job both grooming young Qbs and make them seem better than they are and has had success fixing the careers of mediocre veterans. His big problem is he is a total control freak who does not have a great mind for defense. If he was to want to be involved in personnel decisions on that side of the football it would be a problem. His best chance for success if for the GM to pick his defensive assistants for him, something a coach of this stature may not agree to. Shanahan should be right at the top of the teams list.
Brian Billick- Billick is desperate to get back into the NFL. OF all the name candidates you probably can hire him on your terms and not his terms. That is how much he misses the game. Billicks reputation took a huge hit when he failed to develop anything resembling a QB in Baltimore and then saw his former team rebound under a rookie coach this season. Still he is well respected and has a network of coaches willing to work with him as they hope to find their own head coaching jobs down the line. Billick, who cut his teeth in Minnesota, would kill for the opportunity to coach Favre even if Favre is 40 years old with no arm. He will certainly adapt his gamestyle to suit whomever is the QB and he does coach to the strengths of the team whether on offense or defense. The defense would likely be kept intact and you know he would allow them to coach aggressive on that side of the football. When you would turn to a new young QB, he has a reputation, whether warranted or not, of being able to develop them. The thing with Billick is how much of a role did he really play in the Ravens success in the early 2000s? Many think he just lucked his way into a Super Bowl because of the defense that they had in place and many think his offensive genius was more likely tied to great WRs in Minnesota than anything else. His stubborn approach to the QB position probably cost Baltimore at least one more Super Bowl and his teams slowly became a product of their schedule more than a product of consistent excellence. He certainly will never quit, but is he really that good in the first place? Out of all the one year and win it all guys he may have the best chance.
Marty Schottenheimer- Considering the Jets fired his son it would be hard to believe they would even consider Marty. Schottenheimers legacy is seemingly already written. Great regular season head coach....awful postseason head coach. He will never win a Super Bowl and is probably the most conservative coach in recent memory in the NFL. A team would really be making a leap of faith that at this age he somehow, after decades of failures, would be able to find his way into the big game. Realistically a waste to even consider. Pass.
Mike Holmgren- Holmgren has a long history with Favre and has coached in three Super Bowls and is one of the few head coaches to arrive there with different teams. Everywhere he goes players seem to respect and love him and he has a long track record of success in the NFL. The offensive pieces the Jets have in place would translate very nicely into what Holmgren would run and it would be a guarantee that Favre would feel more at ease. Holmgren is also one of the few coaches in the NFL that was able to reign Favre in when he gets interception happy like he did these last few years. There are two big negatives that stand out to me with Holmgren. One is could he handle NY? He has only coached in very small markets in front of very loyal fanbases and never has had the kind of attention that would be given to him by the NY media on a daily basis. He just seems like a guy that would do better hidden away in Buffalo than he would in the spotlight of New York City if he was to come east. Secondly would he be willing to come back and not have full control of the organization? He has been top dog so long it is hard to imagine him playing second fiddle to Tannenbaum or anyone else. I tend to think that Holmgren, who said he wanted a break from the NFL, would come here for any reason other than Favre and if things did not work he would just bolt. I dont think his heart would be into it enough to hire him.
Jon Gruden- Here is what you know about Gruden. He is the one coach that had no problem walking into a ready made situation and delivered a Super Bowl. He didn’t tinker with it at first. He just went out there, coached the talent in front of him, and won the big game. Prior to that he did an excellent job with whatever was given to him in Oakland. His offense is a perfect match for Favre and he wanted Favre last year. If you hire Gruden what happens beyond 2009 is the question. He more or less wrecked the Buccaneers. He is completely impatient with the QB position and with the Jets needing to eventually develop a young QB is this the guy you want teaching him? Absolutely not. He has proven himself to be a very poor evaluator of talent and he would have to come in with very little input into the personnel side of the team if he was to be a success. He is very thin skinned and would have a terrible time in press conferences following a loss. It’s also a very hard sell to the fans when he is coming off a collapse at least as bad as the Jets collapse. You certainly could do worse than Gruden but this is probably not the right place or right time to bring him here if he gets fired by Tampa Bay.
Jim Fassel- Fassel is certainly a nice guy with a very even temperament that the players would likely embrace after the tight lipped Mangini era. Fassel has already had success in NY with the Giants and is certainly capable of dealing with the attention in the area. He was credited for saving the career of Kerry Collins and has been able to work very well with numerous QB’s. Fassel is desperate to coach again, moreso than anyone on this list, and would take any deal offered to him if it meant working again. Can he get enough out of the team though? His players on the Giants really didn’t reach their full potential until they had Tom Coughlin as a head coach. The Giants were also one of the worst prepared teams ever on Super Bowl Sunday. There are worse options out there, but can hire a guy that has publicly begged for the Oakland Raiders job and expect anyone to take him as a real high level coaching candidate? Doubtful.
Steve Mariucci- While nowhere near as accomplished as the other coaches on this list, Mariucci was the last head coach of the good San Francisco teams before they fell apart and he does have one of the excellent offensive minds in the game. A player like Leon Washington would probably develop into a big producer in his offense. If the Jets brought in the right young player with upside he could probably turn him into a player. Mariucci knows how to handle egos and knows how to work the media. Of course the only reason he is on the list is because of his standing with Favre. Once Favre goes does Mariucci really have any benefit to the Jets? He gave up on the Lions in Detroit once he clashed with the GM and why would things be any different here? If the young QB is no good Mariucci will wear out his welcome fast. He is also far removed from the coaching ranks as he has been working with the NFL Network for some time. He might be willing to take a short term deal which is a benefit to the team, but Im not sure if the risks outweigh the potential rewards in this case.
Mike Tice- The Jets nearly hired Tice over Mangini a few years back and is a local guy itching to get another shot at coaching. He would love to come coach here and the team was already impressed with him once. Tice had some success in Minnesota, but could never come up with a way to win when it counted late in the year. His teams were strictly built for the dome and he did little to prepare them for travel into the elements. Has he improved enough on gameday to where he can win this time around?
Mike Mularkey- Mularkey never really was fired from Buffalo where he did an ok job, but could never find his way into the playoffs. Mularkey simply decided to take a step backwards as he knew he as not ready to continue being the head coach of that franchise. He probably has learned alot since then and has done a fantastic job in Atlanta this year as their offensive coordinator. He falls in love way too much with the gimmicks and trick plays on offense, but he should be given consideration for a job if he interviews well.
Gregg Williams- A brilliant defensive mind, Williams was in line to be head coach of the Washington Redskins when they just cleaned house and brought in all new people. Williams had a rough go of it in Buffalo where he was too afraid to call games, went back and certainly proved that he has what it takes to coach in the NFL. He will tinker with this defensive front, but this will be a very aggressive style of play and players like David Harris and Vernon Gholston would have the potential to be stars. He should get a shot at the job.
Dom Capers- I’m a little more hesitant on Capers because he has failed twice now, but the situation in Houston was just beyond awful. They never gave him anything to work with resembling an offensive line and you can probably just throw that out completely when evaluating him. Capers was known as the original architect of the early Pittsburgh defenses so you have to like that about him. The negatives are can he deal with the media and can he do anything with an offense? You also start more of the Patriot/Jet wars with this hire. Probably too risky to bring in.
Mike Martz- I know he made a Super Bowl, but he just isnt a proven coach in my mind. Martz is basically a lunatic as a head coach, but he has an offensive mind very few can match wits with. Detroit’s offense completely fell apart when he left the team and his success with the Rams is well known. The problem with Martz is that he is probably this generations Buddy Ryan. Those guys get too concerned with how the units they like look rather than concentrating on winning football games. Martz’ offense might also be too hard for Favre to comprehend. Too risky, but those could be some fun Sunday afternoons.
Bill Callahan- A complete dark horse, but he is already with the club and familiar with the personnel. Callahan did a great job as a coordinator out in Oakland and he did get a ready made team to the Super Bowl. The problem was ownership lost complete confidence in him when he was just outsmarted and embarrassed by Gruden in the Super Bowl. He never really had a chance to redeem himself. He certainly did wonders for the Jets running game this year. Worth a glance and at the very least should get a chance at replacing Brian Schottenheimer.
Pete Carroll- Pete gave it a shot here before in New York and was in way over his head. He had moderate success in New England before being let go, but has reinvented himself as a great college coach at USC. Carroll is another great defensive mind, but is likely too far removed from the NFL game for this team to really give him major consideration.