I really hate writing this article. Being a New York Jets fan has never been a particularly pleasurable experience, but for a brief period a few years ago, I thought that had changed.
Rex Ryan rode in on a white horse (or perhaps a purple bird) and promised to change the culture of the Jets, and he did. The problem was, he went too far.
His lackadaisical approach to player discipline, his unrelenting stubbornness and his constant unflattering sound bites destroyed the Jets almost as quickly as it brought them within a game of the Super Bowl (twice). Players hated playing under ultra-disciplinarian Eric Mangini, but at least he kept them in line.
The truth is, I don't think Rex Ryan is a bad coach. I think he has the potential to be a great one and he did a lot of good early in his tenure with the team. I think when Rex gets his second chance he'll compete for plenty of Super Bowls.
However, I think he's worn out his welcome with the Jets. This team is too far gone for him to fix. It's time for the Jets to start fresh with a new GM, a new quarterback and most importantly, a new coach.
Predicting the GM is a fool's errand as the candidates are too many and too unknown, and without knowing where the Jets will be picking in the draft, it's nearly impossible to predict a quarterback.
But finding a coach is entirely possible. He's going to have to fit two important criteria:
1. In all likelihood, he will be offensively minded (no Jets coach has come from that side of the ball since Rich Kotite.)
2. He will have to have a fairly high profile to appease Woody Johnson's need for media attention, but not be a media whore on Ryan's level.
Even with those precursors, there are plenty of potential candidates to consider. Here are the 10 most likely candidates to succeed Rex Ryan as head coach of the New York Jets.
Chip Kelly is to Oregon what Jim Harbaugh was to Stanford a few years ago: the architect of an unlikely powerhouse who has likely outgrown his Pac-12 home.
Given the success of Harbaugh and Greg Schiano, college coaches are sure to be all the rage in coaching circles for the next few years, and none have a higher profile than Kelly. His innovative spread offense and consistent success despite roster turnover (assuming Oregon wins out they will now play their second national championship game in three years with a first-year quarterback) make him a very attractive candidate.
That's the problem. I have absolutely no idea why Chip Kelly would take this job.
Let me explain. Kelly is going to have his pick of jobs over the next few years. Why would he take a job in a media circus like New York over a chance to slowly and quietly build a contender?
Look at the roster; it's the complete antithesis of a Chip Kelly team. The offense has no speed. Shonn Greene has gone from War Machine to a mid-70's Volkswagen, the receivers are among the worst in the NFL and neither of those things appear to be changing anytime soon.
I'm sure the Jets will call Kelly, and I'm sure Kelly will turn them down. He'll be an NFL coach soon enough, but it won't be for the Jets.
Chip Kelly might not be interested in what New York has to offer, but an egomaniac like Jon Gruden? Now we're talking.
Gruden will look at New York for all of the reasons Kelly won't. Where Kelly will see a broken locker room, a disastrous locker room and very little talent, Gruden will see opportunity.
Just as New York has what Gruden is looking for, Gruden seems like the kind of coach Woody Johnson would want. He has a Super Bowl pedigree, is considered among the better offensive minds in football and has a personality that can certainly handle New York.
What makes him even more attractive is Gruden would almost certainly ask for control over player personnel, and if Johnson doesn't want to pay a new GM, hiring Gruden for both jobs makes fiscal sense.
The one potential issue is Gruden's tendency to hoard veteran quarterbacks. I think I speak for all Jets fans when I say we're sick of veteran journeyman, Hall-of-Famers who don't want to be here, spoiled USC kids and born-again Christians. We want what the Giants have with Eli Manning: a homegrown star we can call our own.
If Gruden isn't on board with that plan, he might not be the right man for the job.
Denver's Mike McCoy is in my opinion the best under-50 assistant coach in the NFL. He is the only offensive coordinator in football that could have seamlessly transitioned from Kyle Orton to Tim Tebow midseason and still made the playoffs, and then construct an entirely new system for Peyton Manning that makes him look like an MVP candidate in his first year back from a major injury.
McCoy has the rare ability of being able to fit a system around the players he has, rather than the players he wants. Considering the current lack of offensive talent on this roster, that's a pretty good trait to have.
McCoy is also only 40 years old and has no head coaching experience. That makes him eminently signable to a reasonable contract, something Johnson will undoubtedly look for.
Among assistant coaches, McCoy would seem to be the best fit for the Jets right now.
I may be in the minority (in fact, I may be the only person on Earth who believes this), but I think Josh McDaniels is going to be a very good head coach someday.
Look at his situation in Denver. At 32 years old, McDaniels was given the keys to an entire organization as both the coach and GM. Of course he was going to screw that up, he was only 32!
People often overlook the good McDaniels did in Denver. While he did get rid of several talented players, he also purged the team of locker room problems, which has paved the way for Peyton Manning's seamless transition to Denver.
He also started a season 6-0 with Kyle Orton as his quarterback and a below-average defense. That's no easy feat.
If you actually watched the Jets during the not-so-affectionately nicknamed "Schotty's" tenure, you know that he is among the league's worst offensive minds and if I had my way, would be banned from ever returning to the state of New York. His incredibly uncreative play-calling and dreadful job developing Mark Sanchez has made him persona non grata among Jets fans.
Yet for reasons unclear to me, he is among the most respected assistant coaches in football. It's agonizing to think he may have the inside track on the head job of a team he was essentially chased out of with torches and pitchforks and torches just a year ago.
He has done a respectable job in St. Louis and has the pedigree of being a Schottenheimer, but I can't think of a single reason to be legitimately excited about another Schottenheimer era in New York.
Let me make myself perfectly clear (if I haven't already). I don't want Brian Schottenheimer to coach the Jets. I just wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't acknowledge the very real and very terrifying possibility that it could happen.
Former Arizona State head coach and current Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has certainly put himself on the map this year. The Falcons are 8-1 and Matt Ryan has played like an MVP candidate thanks to the offensive system Koetter has put in place.
He's not a sexy hire like Kelly or Gruden and isn't a young up-and-comer like McDaniels or McCoy, but Koetter clearly knows how to score points when he has talent.
What worries me is what happens when he doesn't. His tenure in Jacksonville wasn't exactly spectacular and he'd have similar talent with the Jets.
You also have to worry about his mediocre job in college. With Arizona State and Boise State, he managed only a 66-44 record. Good, but not what you want out of a college coach making the jump to the NFL.
I don't think Koetter will get the job, but he'll be mentioned and that's enough for this list.
Nobody seems willing to address the elephant in the room for the Colts. They've played better with Bruce Arians than they did with Chuck Pagano. It's not even close.
I'm not disparaging Pagano, because he has obviously played a part in the resurgence in Indianapolis, but most of the credit should belong to Arians. He has helped Andrew Luck mature into a potential MVP candidate as a rookie. That's unheard of.
A team that went 2-14 last year is now probably going to make the playoffs. Say what you will about Arians, but he deserves praise for that.
The honest truth, though, is that Arians could have gone undefeated and he wouldn't have actually replaced Pagano. That's just not how the NFL works. However, Arians is proving that he deserves a shot running his own show.
On paper, Arians only has one major obstacle to obtaining the big job: his age. Teams are rarely enthusiastic about hiring a 60-year-old who has never been a permanent head coach. The closest thing I can think of was Romeo Crennel getting the Cleveland job at 58, but he was coming off of his third Super Bowl.
Arians probably won't get a head coaching job for that reason, but that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve an interview.
Our first defensive coach makes an appearance here simply because of his name. When Bill Cowher is interested in coaching your team, you have to at least think about it.
Cowher was mentioned as a possible candidate in 2008 before Ryan got the job and has been linked to several high-profile teams in the past. He's the second-best coach on the market (behind the final name on this list) and has the ring to show it. If anyone can fix the locker room Ryan destroyed, it's Cowher.
I think if Cowher wants this job it's his to lose, but I'm not so sure he'd be interested. A veteran like Cowher with nothing left to prove would probably want a deeper roster.
More importantly, he'd probably want an established quarterback. This is what led Jeff Fisher to St. Louis over Miami and will likely play a big part in convincing Cowher to leave CBS.
Speaking of which, we aren't sure if Cowher even wants to leave his television job. Cowher could easily ride off into the sunset as one of the best head coaches of his generation without a second thought. I don't think that will be the case, but I doubt he takes the Jets job.
If I had dramatic theme music it would be playing right. Eric Mangini? How could he possibly come back to the Jets after what happened last time?
Well, to be honest I think there's a part of Woody Johnson that regrets firing Mangini. Outside of a 4-12 2007 season in which he started Brooks Bollinger, Mangini actually did a great job going 19-13 with the Jets. He also did it with a far worse roster than Rex Ryan ever had.
If Brett Favre hadn't gotten injured in 2008, you could argue that the Jets would have competed for or even won the Super Bowl. Had that happened, Mangini would have been locked up for life, Mark Sanchez would have never been drafted and for all we know the Jets would be perennial contenders.
The Mangini firing was rash and only happened because Johnson needed a scapegoat. He never really had a chance to succeed.
That last sentence could apply to any coach in the history of the new Cleveland Browns. You can't blame him for his failure with the Browns, nobody could have won there.
As far as I'm concerned, Mangini is still the same coach who led a very mediocre (and that's being generous) team to the 2006 playoffs and helped build the roster Rex Ryan would take to two AFC championship games. He deserves another chance somewhere. I can't say for certain if New York is the right place, but I do think he at least deserves to plead his case to Woody.
I know Sean Payton probably isn't leaving the Saints. In fact, you can pretty much lock him into a big contract extension this winter.
Still, it's a tantalizing prospect. The NFL's best coach not named Harbaugh or Belichick is technically not under contract and the Jets have deep pockets under the right circumstances.
Would you put it past Woody Johnson to hand Payton a blank check to rebuild the organization from the ground up? Considering his desperation for headlines, I'd say no.
There isn't a coach I'd rather have for this team than Payton. I'm sure most Jets fans agree with me. Unfortunately, we'll probably never get the chance to see it happen. Payton is staying with the Saints.