Adam Gase’s tenure as the New York Jets head coach has been disastrous. While he’s hasn’t been fired yet, his days appear numbered.
Barring a strong finish to the season, Adam Gase isn’t likely to return as the New York Jets head coach in 2021. Since the Jets know that Gase’s days are numbered, the team should be on the hunt for its next head coach.
The issue is that the job isn’t all that appealing. Few coaches want to come to the worst team in football, and there’s a real chance the Jets go 0-16 and forcefully pair a new head coach with current general manager Joe Douglas. It’s a situation that’s going to narrow those interested.
In fact, one prominent coaching agent told Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, “There are places I don’t want my guys to go. Like, I’m not sending anyone to the Jets this offseason. There’s no way I want my guy getting his first [head coaching] job with that organization. You only get so many chances at these things, so you need a good fit.”
If agents are going to steer the top candidates away from the Jets, that’ll likely lead to hot names like Eric Bieniemy, Robert Saleh, Greg Roman, and Brian Daboll being off the table.
That doesn’t mean the Jets can’t find a good head coach, it just means they’ll have to find the next big thing rather than the next big thing coming to them. Remember, Sean McVay wasn’t the hot name on the market in 2017, and the Los Angeles Rams seem happy with him. The same can be said of Sean McDermott in Buffalo, Mike Vrabel in Tennessee, and Matt LaFleur in Green Bay.
With that in mind, here are some under-the-radar names who the Jets should consider interviewing.
Mike Kafka, Chiefs QB Coach
If the Jets are willing to take a gamble on their next head coach, then it should be on Mike Kafka. The Chiefs quarterbacks coach has been working with Patrick Mahomes since he took over the job in 2018, and Andy Reid has heaped nothing but praise on Kafka’s role in Mahomes’ development.
Kafka has also worked under Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, a long-time top candidate for NFL head coaching jobs. There’s no doubt that Kafka is on his way to a head coaching job soon. If it’s not this cycle, it’ll be after taking over as offensive coordinator when Eric Bieniemy likely receives a job of his own.
As the Rams showed with McVay, it’s okay to take a chance on a young hotshot candidate. You’d rather hire them early than miss your chance to hire them at all.
Of course, Kafka has some major weaknesses that are difficult to overlook. He’s never schemed an offense; Reid does that. Kafka’s never called plays; Bieniemy does that. Most importantly, he’s never coached even one side of the football, just the quarterbacks.
Still, he’s a rising coaching candidate who has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL in a few years. The Eagles hardly regretted hiring young Andy Reid when he was the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach with no coordinator or play-calling experience.
Matt Eberflus, Colts Defensive Coordinator
The Jets got an up-close look at Matt Eberflus’ defense in Week 3 when the Colts dominated New York. His group recorded three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. It was arguably the worst game of Sam Darnold‘s career.
Eberflus earned his first NFL coordinator job in 2018 when he joined Frank Reich’s staff. When he came in, the Colts employed one of the worst defenses in the NFL, having ranked 27th in DVOA in 2017. It didn’t take long for Eberflus’ presence to be felt though.
The Colts were 11th in DVOA in Eberflus’ first year, 19th in his second year, and currently rank first in that category. His ability to get the most out of what’s not the most talented defensive unit in the NFL has been nothing short of astonishing.
Just look at the Colts defense — the only noteworthy stars are Darius Leonard, an inside linebacker, DeForest Buckner, a defensive tackle, and Xavier Rhodes, an older and declining cornerback. Yet, he’s turned that defense into the best unit in the NFL in 2020.
That doesn’t happen with scheme alone. It’s clear that’s he’s able to get the best out of his players. Surely there are questions about how well that would translate if he became a head coach and thus took on responsibility for the offense, but he has experience on that side of the ball. Eberflus was the Cowboys passing game coordinator in 2016 and 2017.
He may not be a flashy name, but Matt Eberflus’ resume stacks up against any other hot head coaching candidate.
Joe Brady, Panthers Offensive Coordinator
No name in coaching was hotter than Joe Brady in 2019. He took over as LSU’s passing game coordinator last year and watched Joe Burrow flourish. The dominant nature of Brady’s offense landed him on Matt Rhule’s staff in Carolina. Now just four games into his NFL coaching career, Brady is again showing why he’s one of the best young offensive minds in football.
Carolina’s offense is only ranked 28th in DVOA, but is 18th in scoring. Robby Anderson has developed into one of the best wide receivers in the NFL under Brady. The biggest issue is Teddy Bridgewater.
The veteran has looked great at times — his 73% completion rate and 8.1 yards per attempt are phenomenal. However, his four touchdowns in four games are not. Even worse are his three interceptions.
So the question looms: Is it Bridgewater holding back the Panthers offense, or is Brady just not scheming it well? Given that Bridgewater has a career-high yards-per-attempt rate and Anderson is undergoing a breakout year, it seems to indicate the quarterback is at fault.
Hopefully, the Panthers will get Christian McCaffrey back from injury and their offense will surge. Either way, Brady’s innovative scheme and ability to develop a strong passing game — Bridgewater is on pace to throw for 4,588 yards in 2020 — are enough to at least interview him.
The next Jets head coach is likely going to get the chance to work with a new quarterback and an incredibly young offense. There may not be anyone in the NFL more suited to that than Joe Brady.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State Head Coach
Matt Campbell is the only individual on this list with prior head coaching experience. He took over as Toledo’s interim head coach in 2011 and held that job through 2015. His 35-15 record then landed him a Power Five head coaching gig at Iowa State.
He took over a dreadful team that he quickly turned competitive. The Cyclones went 3-9 in his first season, but have made a bowl every year since, going 1-2 in those games.
Campbell hasn’t turned the program into a powerhouse, but his work at Toledo and Iowa State has been impressive. He’s tremendously improved both programs, and his resume is similar to that of Panthers head coach Matt Rhule.
The Jets were interested in Campbell in 2018, but he declined a request to interview. Would he change his mind in 2020 given a ton of cap space, picks, and the chance to work with a rookie quarterback?
Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator
The former NFL quarterback has taken well to a coaching role. Byron Leftwich earned his first coaching job in 2017 as the Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks boss. Halfway through 2018, he was the offensive coordinator, and his work with Josh Rosen left a lot to be desired on the worst team in the NFL.
Despite being fired, Leftwich quickly found a home with a familiar face. Bruce Arians brought Leftwich with him to Tampa Bay where he’s taken over as the Buccaneers offensive coordinator.
Under Leftwich, Chris Godwin broke out, Breshad Perriman underwent his best season, and Jameis Winston threw for over 5,000 yards last year. His offense wasn’t perfect — Winston threw 30 interceptions and the running game was next to non-existent. However, he was working with the most inconsistent quarterback in the NFL. In 2020, Leftwich has found success with Tom Brady. His offense has been dominant in all facets of the game.
It may be too early for Leftwich to become a head coach and his lack of sustained success as a coordinator is worrisome. However, it’s clear he’s a forward-thinking offensive mind who’s coaching towards the NFL’s new air raid style.