The New York Jets are on the hunt for their head coach. Is Indianapolis Colts’ defensive mastermind Matt Eberflus the guy?
The New York Jets are reportedly on the lookout for a CEO-style head coach. Someone who can run an entire team rather than just one side of the ball. Basically, they want the complete opposite of Adam Gase. Nobody on their list personifies that as much as Matt Eberflus.
Sure, there are others on the Jets‘ list who ould fit the archetype of being the opposite of Adam Gase. Robert Saleh in particular stands out. However, Eberflus has something that Saleh doesn’t and that’s nearly 30 years of coaching experience.
The only other candidate for the New York Jets head coach who even comes close to matching Eberflus’ experience is Marvin Lewis. That gives Eberflus a big edge over the other first time candidates.
Matt Eberflus grew up in Toledo, Ohio, played linebacker at Toledo, and got his first coaching job at Toledo before he even graduated. In 1992 he was named a student assistant coach. During his college career, he played under Nick Saban at Toledo.
After graduating, Eberflus stayed on at Toledo as a graduate assistant. He was named a recruiting officer and outside linebackers coach the next year. After two years Eberflus left the recruiting side and focused solely on his work as the outside linebackers coach.
After another three years, Eberflus left his comfort zone working with linebackers to coach Toledo’s secondary. With two years on the job, Eberflus had proven that he was ready for something bigger.
In 2001, Eberflus left the comfort of Toledo. He followed long-time Toledo head coach Gary Pinkel to Missouri where he was named defensive coordinator and would hold that position for eight seasons.
In 2009, Eberflus got his first shot in the NFL. Eric Mangini plucked him away from the college game to become the Cleveland Browns new linebackers coach, Brian Daboll was that team’s offensive coordinator.
Eberflus held the job for two years, moving on once Mangini was fired. He followed his defensive coordinator from Cleveland, Rob Ryan, to Dallas where he worked under Jason Garrett as the team’s linebackers coach. Eberflus held the position for five seasons. He would become the team’s passing game coordinator in 2016 on top of his linebacker coach duties, holding those positions for another two years.
Eberflus got his first shot at an NFL coordinator job when Josh McDaniels hired him on to be his defensive coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts. McDaniels famously backed out of the deal at the last second, but his staff had already signed on. So, when Frank Reich was hired he had to work with the staff McDaniels assembled.
He lucked out with Eberflus. When he came in the Colts defense was among the worst in the NFL. They ranked 30th in the NFL in scoring. In three years under Eberflus, the Colts have ranked 10th, 18th, and 10th.
Three teams requested to interview Matt Eberflus this offseason, the New York Jets, the Houston Texans, and the Los Angels Chargers. Eberflus has since completed interviews with the Jets and Chargers, but declined to interview with the Texans.
Matt Eberflus runs a scheme as old as time, the 4-3 cover 2 otherwise known as the Tampa 2 defense. He toys around with other looks, mainly cover three or single-high safety looks, but for the most part, he sticks to his guns.
The Tampa 2 defense is heavily reliant on zone coverage and especially coverage at the linebacker position. The mike linebacker is arguably the single most important player in a Tampa 2 defense.
It’s the mike linebacker’s job to diagnose the play, recognize his role as a leader run defender, or if he’ll have to drop back into a zone to help in coverage. The mike linebacker will often be left alone to cover the middle of the field in a wide zone.
In Indianapolis, that’s Darius Leonard’s role. He’s fit it like a glove. He’s excellent against the run and the pass and it’s turned him into an All-Pro player.
Gregg Williams was planning on implementing a lot of Tampa 2 looks with the Jets in his first year with the team. C.J. Mosley was supposed to play the role. He was the Jets’ best defensive player in Week 1 of 2019 when he was asked to play that role.
It’s unclear if Mosely would still be able to play that role after two years of little to no football. However, the expectation is that he would take that role in this defense.
In coverage, Tampa 2 teams usually play close to exclusively zone coverage. In fact, in his first 25 games with the Colts Eberflus called zone-coverage 85.22% of the time on average.
The Jets secondary is built to run Eberflus’ zone defense, in large part because most of their corners are Colts cast-offs. Even the ones who aren’t, like Bryce Hall, are best utilized in zone coverages.
For Eberflus it’s an old-school scheme that continues to prove effective. Would that be the case with the Jets? It’s very possible as they already have the personnel to run it, but the talent level isn’t exactly equal.
Is he the next New York Jets head coach?
Eberflus has as good a chance as anyone to land the job. He’s an old-school coach with nearly three decades of experience. Even if he’s never been a head coach before it’s clear that the coaching chops for the position.
Eberflus has learned from guys like Nick Saban, Frank Reich, and Gary Pinkel about what it takes to be a strong leader and a good head coach. Those are some excellent names. There’s no doubt that Eberflus will be a head coach one day.
The big question for him is about his coordinators. Eberflus will likely be as good as his offensive coordinator choice. If he can bring in a top-notch offensive mind to run his offense then he could be off to the races and a perfect hire. If he brings in the wrong guy then he could just be the next Todd Bowles.
At the end of the day, Eberflus is a strong contender for the Jets head coach opening, even if he isn’t one of the favorites.