Since there is a “Win Now” philosophy among most NFL owners, what’s become known as “Black Monday” in the league has become a very intriguing and fluid day. What was true an hour ago might have flipped the other way by now.
What’s different in 2016 than in other years is the number of “hot” candidates will have their choice of jobs so the Jaguars will be in competition with other teams for the top candidates. Any head-coaching job in the NFL is an elite spot but coaching candidates will look at the rosters and the team ownership and figure out where they can win quickly and sustain that.
There are several reasons the Jaguars head-coaching job is attractive, not the least is the patience Owner Shad Khan has shown since buying the team five years ago. He wasn’t happy with the advice he got in 2012 so he quickly changed the team’s management and committed to a complete rebuild. It’s that kind of patience that will be attractive to a lot of coaches although doubtful Khan will wait four more years for a winner.
With just 15 wins in the past four seasons, Khan isn’t happy with where the Jaguars are now, but is the type of owner who will listen to the candidates to get their ideas on why the Jaguars aren’t winning. Personnel? Coaching? Discipline? Quarterback? All of those played a part in the Jaguars disappointing 3-13 finish. Khan has “charged” General Manager Dave Caldwell with finding a new coach but the owner will be part of the process.
Looking at the criteria, Caldwell has said head coaching experience will be helpful but not necessary for the next leader of the Jaguars. Someone who can create a “winning culture” is how the Jaguars GM termed it two weeks ago. And somebody who can either fix or move on from Blake Bortles will be part of the equation. Caldwell has said he’s open to all kinds of opinions about the Jaguars quarterback. Former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin checks a lot of those boxes but apparently last week Coughlin and the Jaguars couldn’t find enough common ground to have him join the organization so both parties have moved on.
The Other Candidates:
1) Josh McDaniels, Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots. McDaniels has done wonders in New England but his quarterback, Tom Brady, is among those in the discussion for greatest of all time. McDaniels would be interested in the Jaguars if he thinks Blake Bortles is the answer or if there’s a quarterback either as a veteran free agent signing or in the upcoming draft that can make the Jaguars offense go. He wouldn’t have to worry about the defense, especially if he brings in a coordinator he trusts. His tenure at Denver as the head coach ended unceremoniously and his personality rubbed the entire organization the wrong way. He drafted Tim Tebow so he thinks he can fix flaws in any quarterback.
2) Harold Goodwin, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals. Goodwin has been the Coordinator for the Cardinals since 2013 and has also been a coach for the Bears, Steeler and Colts. Not having head coaching experience could work against him but his offense in Arizona with Bruce Arians as the head coach and Carson Palmer at quarterback has been potent during his tenure. He also fulfills the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” of interviewing minority candidates for head coaching vacancies.
3) Mike Smith, Defensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Bucs. Smith was very successful in Atlanta but was fired by one of Caldwell’s mentors, Thomas Dimitrioff. Perhaps a change of scenery was needed in Atlanta as they are the #2 seed in the NFL in 2016 but Smith was there for the initial development of Matt Ryan. As a former defensive coordinator for the Jaguars under Jack Del Rio, Smith is familiar with Jacksonville and was a very popular figure while he was here. If he thinks Bortles is fixable and perhaps current Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is on the right path, he would be an easy fit, even keeping most of the current staff. They’re all still under contract for 2017.
There will be other names bandied about including Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He reportedly has an interview with the Jaguars among other teams this week. His most natural landing spot is in Denver where his father coached, he knows John Elway and Gary Kubiak just resigned. Anthony Lynn will also get consideration but he’s most likely to stay in Buffalo and reportedly would like Gus Bradley as his defensive coordinator with the Bills.