After winning just two games in 2020 and looking generally lifeless for most of the season, the New York Jets finally made a move everybody was expecting in firing Adam Gase after just two years. While the organization has dealt with a lot in recent memory, general manager Joe Douglas has an attractive opening to sell with the No. 2 overall pick and a host of cap room that could transform the franchise in short order.
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Who wants to take on the challenge in the Big Apple? Here are 10 candidates to watch that could be the next Jets head coach:
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
The hot name on the coaching carousel for a second straight season could be just the kind of offensive mind to build around and either help revive Sam Darnold's fortunes or develop a rookie like Justin Fields or Zach Wilson. While much will be made about him bringing the system Andy Reid has used to perfection in Kansas City, Bieniemy is much more than just play calls and could be a great leader and face of the franchise to usher in a new era of Gang Green.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator
Daboll has done wonders upstate the past couple of years and his role in turning Josh Allen into an MVP contender will not go unnoticed by a front office looking at a similar project in Sam Darnold. He's got a blue-collar background and spent a ton of time in New York — to say nothing of years and years coaching in the AFC East. That familiarity and coaching acumen make for a strong candidate.
Robert Saleh, 49ers defensive coordinator
Saleh has done more with less this past season than just about any coordinator and played a huge role in helping get San Francisco to the Super Bowl the year prior. He would represent a sharp contrast to the stylings of Adam Gase as a head coach and could help establish a new culture in the Meadowlands.
Arthur Smith, Titans offensive coordinator
Smith has been a relative lifer with the Titans but the work he's put in as OC has thrust him into a great position to become a head coach. Ownership is bound to be intrigued with his background (his father founded FedEx) while Joe Douglas is sure to like his run-first philosophy and work developing Ryan Tannehill in Nashville.
Former Head Coaches
Jim Caldwell, ex-Lions/Colts head coach
Not a name that would delight the back pages by any means but if the franchise is looking to raise the floor considerably and bring some stability to the top job, Caldwell makes a ton of sense. If Jets fans question what he can do in charge, just look at how far both franchises fell after they let him go.
Bill Cowher, ex-Steelers head coach
The CBS analyst is no stranger to the media market that New York is but he's starting to get linked to the Jets job for a reason. After all, there are not many former head coaches who have won a Super Bowl and are going into the Hall of Fame out there for the taking and Cowher would bring a ton of credibility for ownership. He hasn't coached since 2006 but that might not matter to those in charge of making such decisions.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
Given the lack of home-run hires among the pro ranks, college head coaches will get a detailed look from NFL teams this offseason and Campbell likely tops most short lists given the work he's done in Ames. Though he lacks any sort of NFL experience, his ability to connect and coach players at a number of different levels will resonate with a lot people and he'll benefit from the early success former Big 12 rivals like Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Rhule have had making the leap too. The question is whether he'll see the Jets as the right opening to leave a place he really enjoys.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
Harbaugh has not lived up to expectations in Ann Arbor but the turnaround he authored with the 49ers from 2011-14 still carries a lot of weight in the league. Could he be in line for something similar happening in the Big Apple? His personality would be an interesting mesh with the local media but the entire region is starved for a winner so that might not matter as much if he can get things right on the field.
P.J. Fleck, Minnesota head coach
Fleck has been a surprise name that's popped on the coaching radar for a number of NFL franchises but it does make sense when you consider he's a rare candidate who has both played and coached at both levels of football. He's turned around two programs that are normally hard to win at and has been Coach of the Year in both the MAC and Big Ten the past few years. He may have to adapt his "Row the Boat" schtick for the NFL but if anybody could sell the Jets future, it just might be the most energetic personality out there.
Marvin Lewis, Arizona State defensive coordinator
Much is made about his lack of playoff success but the Jets would love to even get into a position where they can make it to the postseason for a stretch of six times in seven seasons as Lewis did in Cincinnati. Given the limitations he had with the Bengals, it would be fascinating to see what he could do with the resources that are available in New York. Again, it may not win any headlines from the back-page pundits but it would seriously elevate the floor of the team and make the Jets a much more competent group on a weekly basis.
— 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.