The “safe choice” is always about minimizing criticism at the time of the choice instead of trying to maximize what you can get out of said choice. The “safe choice” won’t put you on the wrong end of being criticized immediately, but it’s by far the best way to find yourself with a ceiling of mediocrity. To want to hire Mike McCarthy, Jim Caldwell or Adam Gase is to say you’re so concerned with getting it wrong that you’re not willing to risk trying to get it right.
“Hire a proven coach with experience,” they say, not realizing there’s far more failures with retreads than there are success stories. Of course the same applies to first-time coaches, but the difference is retreads will almost always continue to do what they have always done, to continue to do what they did that got them fired (after all, they got hired again so they think they must be doing something right), when looking at first-time hires you should be willing to look for someone willing to think outside the box. Someone willing to try different things, someone who will try to be ahead of the curve instead of behind the curve or struggling to catch up to the curve. The game has changed dramatically over the past few years, don’t go to someone still clinging to the past and unwilling to adapt with the times. Go with someone that’s innovative, someone that will be aggressive and put pressure on their opponents. It’s the innovative and aggressive coaches that are having the most success in today’s NFL so use that same mindset when hiring a head coach. Focus on the right choice, not the safe choice otherwise you’ll end up exactly where you started.
Let’s look at the three retread coaches that are having success right now; there’s Bill Belichick who is always changing and adapting his scheme, not even year-to-year but week-to-week, Pete Carroll who not only has been willing to change and adapt but also had to go back to college for nine years, and there’s Andy Reid. Reid has always been a great offensive choice that stayed ahead of trends, but everything got stale in Philadelphia. He got fired and knew he had to make changes, not small tweaks but wholesale changes and he went to Kansas City and immediately became a better coach. This is the selling point people are making with McCarthy and sure, if McCarthy were willing to do that then maybe he could dramatically improve in the same way but go ahead and look at the screenshots in this tweet and convince yourself that this is a man willing to actually make the necessarily changes.
— Joe Caporoso (@JCaporoso) January 4, 2019
People wonder why McCarthy gets criticized for only winning one Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers yet people still praise Sean Payton despite him only winning one ring with Drew Brees, well this is the answer. If you watch the Saints offense you can see all the good Payton does, you can see how he schemes players open, how it makes Brees’ job easier for him. When you watch the Packers offense you see scheme and play-calls making Rodgers’ job harder, you see him having to work harder to get similar results. Rodgers has been so otherworldly it often worked anyway and people confuse that with thinking the entire offense was working. Regardless of how insanely good the quarterback is you want a coach that will help make the quarterback’s job easier, McCarthy failed to do that.
Gase, to his credit, actually did a solid job of making the job easier for his quarterback this year. He added a ton of speed and went heavy with short passes, setting up his speedy receivers to have wide open space in front of them for big plays. This is why Gase would make an excellent offensive coordinator, but he failed as a head coach because he tried the old-school, disciplinarian, my way or the highway approach. He was more interested in having his players fall in line and follow orders than figuring out how to work with the talent he had. Imagine how Gase would respond the first time Jamal Adams says something Gase doesn’t like.
Caldwell would be fine, but do you really think a 63-year-old Jim Caldwell is going to bring something new and innovative to the table? Do you see him being ahead of the curve? You think this is the guy that will lead the Jets to the Super Bowl?
The “safe choice” limits you’re chances of being the worst team in the league, but it equally limits you’re chance of being the best team in the league. The Jets are in a great position, they have a potential franchise quarterback who is only 21-years-old and will be on a rookie contract for the next four years with over $100 million in cap space, they can’t afford to waste this opportunity on a “safe choice.”