Top 5 potential head coach candidates for 2019
By Justin Fried
The New York Jets will likely be in the market for a head coach come the offseason. These five coaches could be perfect candidates to lead the team into 2019 and beyond.
It takes a special talent to be able to coach an NFL team. Not only do you need to possess an incredible understanding of the game and all of its little intricacies, but a head coach must be a leader of men and a chairman for his organization.
Many have tried their hands at the profession but few stand the test of time. Stability is essential in the NFL and a truly successful coach remains with an organization for so long that they become almost synonymous with their franchise. Think Bill Belichick with the Patriots and Mike Tomlin with the Steelers.
The New York Jets currently sit at a crossroads with their head coach, Todd Bowles. Bowles is in his fourth season as the coach of the Jets and his time with the team is likely coming to an end.
NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport reported that Bowles faces “an uphill battle to keep his job” essentially sealing the fate of the former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator. The Jets have failed to take the step forward that they had hoped this season under Bowles and after the team’s embarrassing blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills, it seems like a given that Bowles will not make it past this season.
With that in mind, it’s about time to start taking a look at the available options that will likely dominate the NFL coaching carousel come early 2019. Some of these names have been linked with the Jets already and others are just pure speculation.
One thing’s for sure, the Jets need a change and each of these five candidates will undoubtedly provide that. Let’s take a look at the honorable mentions first.
David Shaw – Head Coach (Stanford University): An offensive-minded head coach, Shaw would make an interesting candidate for the Jets head coaching position. His name has regularly made the rounds for the past few offseasons and his prior NFL experience combined with his tenure as the head coach at Stanford makes him appealing for a number of teams. Unfortunately, trying to draw Shaw away from his alma mater where he has spent the past 12 years could prove difficult.
John DeFilippo – Offensive Coordinator (Minnesota Vikings): DeFilippo’s name has been tossed around so much by fans that it seems crazy that a move to the Jets hasn’t happened yet. That being said, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach hasn’t had the most impressive season as the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings and NFL front offices don’t seem to view him in the same way that fans do. Don’t count on a second stint for DeFilippo with the Jets coaching staff.
Lincoln Riley – Head Coach (University of Oklahoma): Riley is one of the brightest, young offensive minds in the football world and signing him would undoubtedly be a huge get for the team. However, the Oklahoma coach is in a great spot with the Sooners and luring him away from a top-tier college gig would be difficult for the Jets to do. It’s more likely that we see Riley entertain potential offers from the Browns, Packers, or Cowboys if he is to leave Oklahoma for the NFL.
Zac Taylor – Quarterbacks Coach (Los Angeles Rams): At just 35-years old, Taylor is still very inexperienced as a coach having officially been a coach for under a decade. Still, for teams looking to replicate the Rams Sean McVay hiring, Taylor will likely draw a lot of interest. While he doesn’t call plays with Los Angeles, he has experience doing so as the interim offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins in 2015. His lack of head coach and even coordinator experience mean he still may be a year or two away from getting serious looks by NFL teams but he is certainly a name to watch for the future.
Dave Toub – Special Teams Coordinator (Kansas City Chiefs): The longtime special teams coordinator was finally given a bigger role this year as Toub was promoted to assistant head coach to compliment his special teams coaching. Andy Reid has a knack for producing successful NFL head coaches under his tutelage, see Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy in recent years, and it seems that NFL teams have caught on to that. Toub was connected with the Colts job last season and had previously interviewed with both the Broncos and Dolphins meaning that he is well on the radar of the NFL. Perhaps he could follow in the footsteps of John Harbough who also went from special teams coordinator under Reid to NFL head coach.
Next: 5. Dan Campbell
5. Dan Campbell – Asst. Head Coach and TE’s Coach (New Orleans Saints)
Campbell’s name has been thrown around a lot as of late and it likely won’t be long before he is finally given a chance to be a head coach in the NFL. The Saints tight ends coach is a protege of not only Sean Payton but Bill Parcells dating back to his playing career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Although his positional title may not be all too appealing, Campbell actually has some experience leading an NFL team. He was made the interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins following the midseason firing of Joe Philbin in 2015 and he led the team to a 5-7 record over 12 games.
As we all know, the NFL is a copycat league and teams looking to copy the career trajectory of the Rams Sean McVay may find Campbell appealing. Much like Campbell, McVay was a tight ends coach before his head coaching career and his ability to relate with players has always been considered one of his strengths. Being a former player, Campbell has been praised for his ability to relate to players much like the younger McVay.
Given his recent success with the Saints, it seems all but certain that Campbell will be given a chance to be a head coach by some team. Only time will tell if that team’s the Jets.
Next: 4. Todd Monken
4. Todd Monken – Offensive Coordinator (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Todd Monken isn’t necessarily a coach that appears most appealing at first glance but he very well could be given a look as a head coach come 2019.
Considered a sleeper pick for many potential head coach openings this winter, Monken is currently the offensive coordinator on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that actually has a pretty solid offense. The Bucs currently rank third in total yards behind just the Rams and the Chiefs and even ahead of the Saints. This is despite their less-than-stellar play at quarterback with the duo of Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick playing hot potato with the starting job.
Monken’s ability to maximize his resources in Tampa has caught the attention of NFL front offices and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get looks come the offseason. In fact, he may not even have to find a new team as the Buccaneers could always opt to promote him to head coach if Dirk Koetter is ultimately relieved of his duties.
Monken has had prior success as a head coach dating back to his time at the college ranks with the University of Southern Mississippi. There he was able to turn the previously one-win Golden Eagles team into a nine-win program after just two seasons with the school.
While he may not be the hot, young, exciting name that fans will be clamoring for, Monken represents a realistic option for the Jets that could prove to be successful when all is set and done.
Next: 3. Matt LaFleur
3. Matt LaFleur – Offensive Coordinator (Tennessee Titans)
If you’re looking for the next supposed young quarterback whisperer/offensive mind then Matt LaFleur is your guy. If you’re also looking for a guy who will undoubtedly be compared to both Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan then look no further because Matt LaFleur is once again your guy.
LaFleur is currently the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans but it’s his experience working with both of the aforementioned coaches that will truly be his selling point.
Before joining the Titans coaching staff this season, LaFleur was the offensive coordinator under McVay last year in Los Angeles. LaFleur was also the quarterbacks coach while Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta from 2015 to 2016. Dating back even further, the trio were all on the same coaching staff as a part of the Washington Redksins organization from 2010 to 2013.
LaFleur interviewed for the Titans head coach opening this past offseason before settling for the offensive coordinator job in favor of Mike Vrabel. But it’s only a matter of time before some team tries to parlay off the success of McVay and Shanahan and make LaFleur the figurehead of their franchise.
His lack of head coaching experience at any level could scare teams off but he could be a great fit for the Jets if they’re looking for a young, quarterback-savvy coach to work with Sam Darnold.
Next: 2. John Harbaugh
2. John Harbaugh – Head Coach (Baltimore Ravens)
If the reports are to be believed, John Harbaugh’s time in Baltimore is all but over at the conclusion of the 2018 season. If that turns out to be true, expect Harbaugh to be the hottest commodity come the offseason coaching carousel.
Harbaugh is a proven winner having led the Ravens to the playoffs in six of his 10 seasons with the organization and even having coached them to a Super Bowl victory in 2012. There will likely be no coaching option this offseason with the proven track record that Harbaugh has.
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Although the Jets would be better off going with an offensive-minded coach, Harbaugh brings with him an advantage that most of the other options don’t have. That being his ability to build a coaching staff.
One of the more underappreciated responsibilities of a head coach is to build a respectable coaching staff around him to properly divide up the responsibility. The Jets current head coach Todd Bowles has failed to do so and it continues to negatively impact the team with each new assistant hired.
Harbaugh has the experience and leaguewide admiration to construct a very respectable coaching staff which would include bringing in a high-profile offensive coordinator such as even the aforementioned Monken or LaFleur.
Hiring Harbaugh would not only give the Jets a surefire excellent coach, but a much more respectable ensemble of assistants than the team currently has. The only issue now would be actually luring him to a team with little recent success and question marks surrounding the ownership group.
Next: 1. Matt Campbell
1. Matt Campbell – Head Coach (Iowa State)
Matt Campbell may not be getting the national attention that other potential head coaching candidates are but it’s about time he does.
He’s not the most exciting young, offensive-minded college coach hire (Lincoln Riley), he’s not the potential future home-run coordinator hire (Matt LaFleur), and he’s not the proven NFL head coaching hire (John Harbaugh). But when all is set and done, Campbell could very well be the best of them all.
Campbell took over the Iowa State head coaching job in 2016 and in just two short years he has been able to turn around a program that was regularly a bottom-feeder in the Big 12 to a legitimate top-25 team. He has been praised for his discipline and ability to get the absolute most out of his players wherever he’s gone, two traits that should transition very well into the NFL.
The 2017 Big 12 Coach of the Year would be an audacious hire for the Jets but one that could serve the team well going forward. Campbell would be able to maximize the abilities of the Jets young offensive players, most specifically Sam Darnold.
With that, he would bring a level of coaching discipline not seen by the Jets in years. It would be a slam dunk hire and give the Jets the offensive-minded coach they desire paired with the hard-nosed disciplined coach that the team needs.
The only concerns would come from his inexperience at the NFL level and his potential difficulty building a staff around him given his little experience to date. That being said, the Jets would be fortunate to land Campbell in the offseason and he should be a name high on the list for multiple NFL teams.
He may not be the coach everyone is talking about, but the silence around Campbell’s name should only be temporary.