The Jacksonville Jaguars have requested to interview Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles as part of their head coaching search, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud and ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Leftwich and Bowles are in their third seasons with the Bucs. They join former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and Cowboys coordinators Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn to be requested for interviews by the Jaguars, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network and Schefter.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN also reported former Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell will meet with the Jaguars about the opening.
Once the Jaguars fired Urban Meyer, Leftwich was the most obvious candidate to target.
The 41-year-old spent four seasons in Jacksonville as a player. His hiring would probably serve as a nice salve for fans who might have grown disenchanted after the failure of the Meyer era.
Leftwich would also fit with a franchise that needs to get Trevor Lawrence's development back on track. Lawrence has thrown 3,225 yards, nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions, production falling well below expectations in 2021.
Thanks in part to Leftwich, the Bucs finished third and seventh in total offense in 2019 and 2020. Their 401.7 yards per game are second-most in the league this year.
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians commented in February he was "very, very pissed" that Leftwich failed to get a head coaching interview during the last hiring cycle. That's changing this time around, and it seems likely Leftwich will land somewhere in the offseason.
For the Jags, Moore checks the same boxes in terms of his field of specialty. Dak Prescott is averaging 305.3 yards per game and has thrown for 68 touchdowns in 35 games with Moore as Dallas' offensive coordinator.
Lawrence would likely thrive in an offense similar to what the Cowboys are using.
Quinn and Bowles would both come with NFL head coaching experience. The former had a 43-42 record in five-plus years with the Atlanta Falcons and helped the franchise win the NFC in 2016. The latter was 26-41 across spells with the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. He coached Miami for only three games in 2011 after taking over for Tony Sparano.
Dallas and Tampa Bay also rank first and seventh, respectively in defensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders.
The Colts are ninth on that list after finishing seventh in 2020. Considering Eberflus interviewed with the New York Jets and Houston Texans in 2021, it's little surprise to see him emerge as a candidate once again.
Pederson's time with the Eagles ended in messy fashion, but there's no looking past the Super Bowl he won in Philadelphia in 2017. Carson Wentz performed like an MVP that season, finishing with 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions before tearing his ACL.
The 53-year-old has already spoken highly of Lawrence in an interview with ESPN's Tim McManus:
"Obviously athletic. You see the same things with young quarterbacks with anticipation, trying to get away with sometimes doing too much. But then you see those 'wow' plays with him, whether he's escaping the pocket or he throws an accurate ball down the field. I think about Carson his first year and how he was able to do some of those same things. Tough kid ... and another one that I think can have a bright future."
In general, this coaching search will serve as a great litmus test for the outside perception toward Jacksonville.
The Jaguars have their quarterback of the future with Lawrence and have an owner, Shad Khan, who's both passionate about the organization and not prone to making rash decisions—the hiring and firing of Meyer notwithstanding.
But NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Jags are planning to retain general manager Trent Baalke. Baalke's last few years with the San Francisco 49ers were a disaster, and things at his current post haven't gone much better.
The Associated Press' Mark Long wondered whether Baalke will be a hindrance this offseason:
Mark Long @APMarkLong
Jaguars keeping Trent Baalke is another awful decision by Shad Khan. He hasn’t made many good decisions and worked behind the scenes to get rid of Dave Caldwell, Doug Marrone and Urban Meyer (even though all three doomed themselves). <br><br>Would think this affects the HC search.
Mark Long @APMarkLong
No one worth a damn should want the Jaguars HC job with GM Trent Baalke staying in place (of course someone will take it because it’s one of 32 and people are desperate). <br><br>Seriously, how hard is it to ask around and get the real story on a guy with a horrible NFL reputation?
Despite their 2-13 record, the Jaguars should be an attractive landing spot. The next few months will reveal whether that's actually the case.