Bowles’ tenure as head coach started with so much promise- the team went 10-6 and barely missed the playoffs because of shoddy quarterbacking from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Decker and Marshall were having 100-yard games regularly and the defensive line featuring Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, and newcomer Leonard Williams was causing a disturbance in the backfield on every play. Fast forward past two 5-11 seasons, the only player who remains from those six names is Leonard Williams, and none of the others were adequately replaced. Those issues are on management.
Where Bowles went wrong was his in-game decisions. Seemingly every time the Jets had the ball at the end of the first half with a little bit of time, they would pass up a free shot at the end-zone or a short drive leading to a field goal in favor of going to the locker room, and often down a score or two. Confounding coaching. Bowles rarely made changes to his gameplan, and that seemed to seep into the team environment, an environment of complacency. The Jets are about to go 5-11 for the third straight season, that is if they can pull out a win in their next two games, but they’re facing off against Brady and Rodgers. The writing has been on the wall, and even Bowles knows he’s halfway out the door.
So who’s up next?
The Heavily Rumored
Mike McCarthy- The former Packers head coach lost his job in Week 13 after a home loss to the hapless Cardinals. McCarthy won one Super Bowl in 12 years as head coach of the Packers. Each of those seasons was quarterbacked by Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. It’s clear that what he was doing schematically didn’t work anymore in Green Bay with great quarterbacks, so what makes people think McCarthy is capable of changing his ways?
Lincoln Riley- While Riley may be more inclined to take the Browns job with his ties to Baker Mayfield, the Jets have Darnold, some defensive talent, and a boatload of cash to spend. Riley is 24-3 as head coach of Oklahoma and has coached two Heisman winners in his only two seasons. Is that a coincidence, or a consequence of his coaching? Regardless, he has had great success at Oklahoma and may not be ready to make the jump to the NFL this year.
Jim Harbaugh- The younger brother of John Harbaugh, who would be on this list had he not just signed a contract extension with the Baltimore Ravens. Harbaugh came into the 49er organization and turned it from a perennial loser into an AFC champion in two years. He had help from Colin Kaepernick and an already solid defensive core, but he helped change the entire atmosphere. He went 44-19-1 as a head coach, and if he hadn’t gotten into a power struggle with the GM, he might’ve stayed in San Francisco. Harbaugh told Adam Schefter that rumors of his leaving for the NFL were merely a tactic for recruitment by other schools. He also just got top recruit Daxton Hill, but the rest of the class is mediocre, and he may pull a Nick Saban.
The Less Conventional
Vic Fangio- Since Fangio’s return to the NFL in 2011, he has turned around shoddy defenses. In San Francisco, he helped make their defense be in the top five in yards allowed for all four years he was there. In Chicago, he has turned their defense into one of the best in the league, if they are not currently the best. A lot of that can be attributed to the talent level of their defense that suddenly has Khalil Mack, but the level they are playing at now is outrageous. One has to wonder why the 60-year-old had not been offered a head coaching job previously, and the Jets may want to stray from defensive coaches, but Fangio may have absorbed just enough from Matt Nagy to become a legitimate consideration.
Dave Toub- Besides John Harbaugh, no special teams coordinator has become an NFL head coach in 20 years. Toub has been a special teams coordinator in the NFL for 21 years and now sits as assistant head coach to Andy Reid in Kansas City. It may be beneficial for the Jets to hire someone with such NFL experience, as he would know who to bring in at offensive and defensive coordinators, and let them run day-to-day operations while he runs the show and deals with the press. As long as we’re talking about special teams coordinators turning head coach, Brant Boyer deserves to be interviewed for the job considering the work he’s done this year.
Matt Campbell- The 39-year-old has only had success as a college head coach, but it is unknown if he can make the jump to the NFL from Iowa State. He could be one big college gig away from the NFL, or that could just be convention talking. Look for the Jets to at least kick the tires on Campbell. There will be more than one coaching availability for the Jets next year.
Zac Taylor- Everybody is looking for the next Sean McVay, and the 35-year-old quarterbacks’ coach of the Rams may be the closest thing. He has been with McVay the last two seasons and has offensive coordinating experience from taking over as an interim following the 2015 firing of Bill Lazor. While it may be risky for the Jets to take such a young coach, Zach and his younger brother Press Taylor look to be the next great coaching family in the NFL.
Eric Bieniemy- Bieniemy has taken over the reins of offensive coordinator from Matt Nagy in Kansas City and they have accomplished wild things with Patrick Mahomes in his first year as a starter. But just how much of their success can be attributed to Bieniemy? He, like Toub, will have had to absorb a lot from Andy Reid to be ready for a head coaching gig.