JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars coaching search has now begun.
Naturally, fans want to know who will be the man in charge in the most important offseason in franchise history.
The team fired Doug Marrone on Monday morning, one day after Jacksonville finished its season with a franchise-worst 1-15 record. Justin Barney and Cole Pepper take a look at some of the coaching candidates who could be in the mix to replace Marrone.
Rising NFL assistants
Over the past three seasons, there have been 16 head coaches hired by NFL teams (amazingly, half of the league has turned over the head coaching position in that time). Of those 16, only one, Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury, was hired from college. Eleven of them were assistant coaches getting their first head coaching jobs. The remaining five were former head coaches getting another chance. Of this list of 11 potential candidates, six of them are current coordinators.
Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Why Bieniemy hasn’t gotten a head coaching job yet is a mystery to me. Some believe that Andy Reid is the bigger reason for the Chiefs offensive success. Other critics say that with Patrick Mahones, anyone could be successful. Clearly, that is not giving Bieniemy enough credit.
He checks all the boxes. At 51, he has plenty of experience. He played in the NFL. He has coached running backs and served as an offensive coordinator and he has called plays for a team with the most potent offense in the NFL during his tenure.
Joe Brady, offensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers
He just wrapped up his first season with the Panthers after being hired away from LSU after just one season there. Brady would be one of the youngest hires ever — he turns 32 in September — but fits the mold of what some NFL teams have tried to do with recent younger hires like Sean McVay and Kliff Kingsbury.
Brian Daboll, offensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills
His candidacy has gained momentum over the past few weeks, no doubt bolstered by Buffalo finishing 13-3 and winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995. His work in helping quarterback Josh Allen turn from a rough-around-the-edges passer into a legitimate franchise player is no doubt appealing. Daboll was the offensive coordinator on Alabama’s national championship team in 2018 and has NFL coordinator experience with Miami, Kansas City, New York Jets and Cleveland.
Mike Kafka, quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
He played in four games in the NFL in 2011 but landed with the Chiefs in 2017 as a quality control coach and has worked his way up the power structure under Andy Reid. Much like the Bieniemy concerns, there will be naysayers who say that he’s had Patrick Mahomes to work with for three seasons and Mahomes makes everyone around him look good. Is Kafka ready for such a jump?
Byron Leftwich, offensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jaguars fans remember Leftwich as a player, but probably not much as a coach. Leftwich was a Jaguars draft pick in 2003 and spent four years with the franchise. Last season, Leftwich’s first as a playcaller with the Bucs, Tampa Bay’s passing offense led the league. This season, the Bucs are ranked second in passing and seventh in total yards. He’s done that while working with two different quarterbacks (Jameis Winston and Tom Brady).
Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
A former linebackers coach with the Jaguars during Gus Bradley’s tenure, Saleh has become a notable head coaching candidate with how he’s remade San Francisco’s defense. He was Sporting News’ coordinator of the year in 2019 after the Niners reached the Super Bowl. Even in a down season for San Francisco, it ranked fifth in the NFL in yards allowed (314.4 per game).
Former NFL coaches
Jim Caldwell, not currently coaching
He’s not coaching anywhere now, but Caldwell was a combined 62-50 in seven seasons as head coach in Indianapolis and Detroit. He only had one losing season with the Lions (7-9 in 2015). If a coach can consistently win in Detroit of all places, they should be considered.
Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator, New York Giants
Most remember Garrett as the longtime Cowboys head coach. He coached for 9 ½ seasons in Dallas and had just one year under .500 (4-12 in 2015). Playoff success was elusive, which is largely the reason Garrett wasn’t retained after going 8-8 in 2019. The Giants had one of the worst offenses in the NFL this season, ranking 31st and in front of only the Jets.
Marvin Lewis, current Arizona State co-defensive coordinator
He’s another well-known NFL name that has emerged in recent weeks. Lewis won a Super Bowl as the Ravens defensive coordinator in 2001 and took over a Bengals team two years later. Lewis was 131-122-3 in his career with Cincinnati and was the NFL Coach of the Year in 2009.
In general, there should be caution about college coaches without NFL experience making the jump to the NFL. Some have had success, like Jimmy Johnson. But far too many have failed (see also Steve Spurrier, Chip Kelly, Bobby Petrino). Beyond the Urban Meyer reports, there is one intriguing potential candidate in the college ranks.
Lincoln Riley, head coach, Oklahoma
Riley, 37, has compiled a 45-8 record in four seasons as the head coach of the Sooners. He has coached Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray to Heisman Trophy seasons. Both became No. 1 picks in the NFL draft. Clearly, his success against Big 12 defenses doesn’t automatically translate to the NFL, but if the Jaguars are going to hire a head coach with no NFL experience, it should be one with an offensive mind and an ability to work with a young quarterback.
Urban Meyer, FOX Sports TV analyst
We saw this report come to life over the weekend when the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Meyer, who won national championships at Florida and Ohio State, was a favorite of the Jaguars. Meyer is currently a TV analyst for FOX Sports. Meyer, 56, has never coached in the NFL and hasn’t coached in two years since leaving the Buckeyes. Jaguars owner Shad Khan said on Monday that reports about Meyer being the leading candidate for the job right now simply aren’t true.