Following their late season collapse, the Jets decided to can their head coach, Eric Mangini. He became the scapegoat for what many will argue was a failed experiment with Brett Favre.
Moving forward, the Jets' brain trust, consisting of owner Woody Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum, has to figure out how this team can become a championship contender.
Among the questions they'll be facing, which I'll address, include:
Who should the team consider to replace recently fired head coach Eric Mangini?
What available coaches would be a good fit for New York?
How much does the team's next coaching selection depend on Brett Favre staying with the team for another season?
Should the team go out of its way to try and find a coach that will cater to Favre's liking?
The team desperately needs to find a head coach who can give them the identity it has lacked. The most obvious choice that comes to mind is former Steelers' head coach, Bill Cowher.
Hiring Cowher would give the Jets instant credibility as well as the toughness that they've lacked since Bill Parcells left ten years ago. Cowher also would bring a defensive mindset that would fit well with the 3-4 schemes that have already been established. Cowher has won a Super Bowl and made what seemed like annual visits to the playoffs.
If they're unable to land Cowher, Johnson and Tannenbaum need to make sure they stick with a veteran head coach. Eric Mangini, despite being a disciple of Patriots' coach Bill Belichick, seemed like he was in over his head at times. He failed to provide his team with the steady leadership that they needed during their late season collapse.
The other experienced head coaches who come to mind include former Ravens' head coach Brian Billick, recently retired Mike Holmgren, former assistant under Holmgren Steve Mariucci, Marty Schottenheimer, and a stretch in former Giants' head coach Jim Fassel.
As far as who would be a good fit, Cowher fits as he coaches the 3-4, which the Jets already have the personnel to play it. Cowher has already turned down the Cleveland opening, perhaps paving the way for Johnson to make Cowher a lucrative offer he can't refuse.
The other catch with Cowher is his desire to handle player personnel decisions. This could create a problem with Tannenbaum, who has proved very capable of building a competitive team.
If you're talking about available coaches who fit, the big question is whether or not Brett Favre returns. To quote WFAN's Mike Francesa, "The next coach of the New York Jets will be coaching one of two teams: The Brett Favre led Jets, or the rebuilding Jets." Bringing in a veteran coach like Holmgren or Marriucci might be more appealing should Favre return. Both have coached Favre in the past in some capacity.
Both Johnson and Tannenbaum made it abundantly clear: If healthy, they want Favre back. Should his shoulder be healthy enough to play again next season, Favre will have the support of the owner and GM, which could easily play a role in determining who leads the Jets moving forward.
Simply put, whoever the team hires will depend almost solely on what Brett Favre decides to do, as crazy as that sounds.
When he was brought in, Favre was likely not the first choice of Mangini who is very cerebral. He was forced to adapt to Favre's improvisational ways, which clearly bothered him based on some of his reactions on the sidelines following one of Favre's inexplicable interceptions.
If Favre's shoulder ends up being damaged goods and he's forced to retire, the Jets may be more willing to bring in a trendy coordinator like the Giants' Steve Spagnuolo. Bringing in another first time coach and forcing him to spend his first year with Favre wouldn't be fair. It would set him back at least a year.
It's fascinating how much power has been placed on Favre, although that's what the team signed up for when they traded for him back in August.
For better or worse, the Jets sold their soles to the devil in bringing in Favre, hoping he would prove to be an upgrade over the subsequently departed Chad Pennington.
That obviously didn't prove to be the case. The Jets would end up collapsing down the stretch, costing their head coach his job, and leaving themselves left to wait and see what Favre decides before they move forward in hiring Mangini's replacement.