As reports had long indicated, the New York Jets parted ways with head coach Todd Bowles not long after the team ended their season against the New England Patriots on Sunday. While his tenure started off with 10 wins and much promise back in 2015, there’s little question that the franchise has backslid in the ensuing three years. As a result, Bowles departs with a 23-37 overall record but plenty of good pieces for the next head coach to work with, notably promising young quarterback Sam Darnold.
The Jets' search will be interesting. With owner Woody Johnson serving as an ambassador overseas, his brother Christopher has been running the day-to-day operations of the franchise and will likely have significant input over the final say. General manager Mike Maccagnan is expected to remain in place and shepherd the search that will be franchise-shaping given the young talent on the roster and number of high draft picks upcoming.
Who could wind up replacing Bowles long-term? Here are 10 candidates to watch that could be the Jets' next head coach:
The NFL assistants
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
McDaniels is going to be understandably picky if he wants to leave New England but could the division rival be tempting? On top of being able to dictate plenty in terms of front office decisions, the former Broncos head coach would tick off a lot of boxes that Jets ownership is looking for and likely command a hefty salary. It could be as simple as McDaniels deciding that as good as taking over for Bill Belichick might sound, it’s hard to follow a legend and getting to work with Sam Darnold the next 15 years might be too enticing.
Joe Judge, Patriots special teams coordinator
See above in dealing their division nemesis a blow, plus the fact that Judge has coached under both Belichick and Nick Saban. He’s only 36 and does a lot of good work at the margins of a roster already, something the Jets always need. There will be plenty of questions about hiring a special teams coordinator in this media market but that route turned out okay for the Ravens and New York could hope to cash in on a similar trend.
Ken Whisenhunt, Chargers offensive coordinator
Third time’s the charm? If ownership values head coaching experience above all else, it could make sense to give Whisenhunt a call. His overall 48-71 record doesn’t look great but he did lead Arizona to the Super Bowl a decade ago and has consistently churned out some of the best offenses in the league. He’s got a mixed track record with young QBs but the work he’s done in San Diego will make him a candidate for another top job again.
The college coaches
Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma head coach
Can Riley go from Muleshoe, Texas to the Big Apple? The Sooners head coach has proven to be a quarterback guru in tutoring back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners and Baker Mayfield’s early success makes him a hot name many franchises will look into. There are plenty of questions about fit and whether he’d even take it but with Sam Darnold’s potential and a host of cap space and high draft picks, there could be a pretty nifty fit between the Jets and the 35-year-old.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
There have already been reports out there that the Jets would back up the Brinks truck to lure Harbaugh from Ann Arbor but it’s a long shot either way. You have to at least make the call though and his track record with the 49ers shows he can take a dysfunctional organization to the final game of the year fairly quick.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
Campbell has won at just about every level of football and his all-around approach has made him a trendy name in NFL circles this year. His offensive background fits with what the Jets are looking for and his recent Cyclones OC, now-Colts TEs coach Tom Manning, has been terrific since moving up to the pros. It would take a leap of faith but the franchise could be rewarded with somebody who has a lot of backers in his corner.
Matt Rhule, Baylor head coach
Rhule just led the Bears from one win to seven and has put in similar turnaround work at Temple before that. He’s a New York native and has NFL experience from a short stint across town with the Giants. He’s well versed in both sides of the ball, having been a former Penn State linebacker who has also served as an offensive coordinator and OL coach. Rhule interviewed with the Colts last year and could be a name that pops up again in the pros.
The ex-head coaches
Mike McCarthy, former Packers head coach
McCarthy figures to be snapped up by a new team fairly quickly this offseason even if things soured in Green Bay near the end. The bottom line is that he’s one of the few people with head coaching experience and a Super Bowl ring available, plus his offensive background bringing along a young Aaron Rodgers is super attractive to teams like the Jets. He’s not going to excite the fan base or the media in NYC but he’d bring stability and certainly elevate the team’s standing.
Jim Caldwell, former Lions head coach
The lack of consistent playoff success is a notable hole on his resume but he posted winning records with the Colts and Lions, reaching the Super Bowl with the former. He’s done good work with QBs in the past but the overall conservative approach might turn some off. Far from the up-and-comer at his age, he’d bring plenty of stability even if it’s a tough sell to the fan base.
Bruce Arians, former Cardinals head coach
Arians is currently working in the broadcast booth but has expressed an interest in returning for the right opportunity. Something would still have to be worked out with the Cardinals if he wanted to take the gig but he’s been a part of some of the best offenses in the league and would be a great match with Sam Darnold and company. His age might not make him a long-term play but there’s plenty of upside in the near term.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.