Top NFL Head Coaching Candidates for Jaguars After Urban Meyer FiringDecember 16, 2021
Top NFL Head Coaching Candidates for Jaguars After Urban Meyer Firing
The Jacksonville Jaguars' Urban Meyer era ended less than a year after it began Wednesday when ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the head coach was fired after 13 games with the organization.
Now the Jaguars must start looking for a new head coach for the fifth time in the last decade.
While Jacksonville has only had one winning season since 2008, the job has appeal. The team recently secured a generational quarterback prospect in Trevor Lawrence, a promising rookie who has improved despite the lack of talent surrounding him and the reportedly chaotic coaching situation.
By firing Meyer before the 2021 season ended, the Jags have given themselves the advantage of getting a head start on finding their next coach before other franchises start looking.
There is no shortage of qualified candidates for the job.
If Jacksonville wants to emulate the success of a franchise that won six championships since the turn of the millennium, the team should consider New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
McDaniels has called plays for New England's offense for 13 years over two stints with the organization. He's won three titles during the past decade in his current role, orchestrating some of the NFL's most high-powered offenses in that span.
While McDaniels did flame out in his one previous attempt at head coaching—going 11-17 with no playoff appearances with the Broncos in 2009 and 2010—he's spent over a decade proving he's ready for another shot.
The Jaguars should take note of how the Patriots found instant success with rookie QB Mac Jone. The 23-year-old has New England sitting atop the AFC and is easily the most productive of the five first-round rookie signal-callers drafted this year.
Not only would McDaniels—whose chemistry with Tom Brady helped the team tremendously during its dynastic run in the 2010s—be a boon for Lawrence, but the coach has also had the opportunity to learn how to run a franchise from Bill Belichick over the last three years.
It's unclear if McDaniels would even be interested in taking the Jags job despite the possibility of succeeding the 69-year-old Belichick in New England, but Jacksonville brass would be foolish not to make a run at the 45-year-old.
Eric Bieniemy has been considered one of the top head coaching candidates in the business for the past few years.
The Chiefs offensive coordinator has been instrumental in the team's recent success. He's become a right-hand man for head coach Andy Reid—one of the brightest offensive minds in the history of the league—and makes an impact despite not calling plays for Kansas City.
With Bienemy's leadership and input into the offense since 2018, the Chiefs have become one of the league's top franchises, winning 47 regular-season games, two AFC titles and a Super Bowl in that span.
Because of Kansas City's achievements, Bienemy was one of the more requested interviewees for head coaching vacancies last offseason. He met with nearly every team that had an opening before winding up back with Kansas City for 2021.
Reid expressed his disappointment that Bienemy was passed over while noting the value he provides, per Adam Teicher of ESPN:
"I'm glad I have him [for at least another season], but I'm not so glad I have him. I was really hoping he would have an opportunity to take one of these jobs. You guys know what I think of him. I think he's great. I think he would be great for any number of teams that opened up and help them win football games and also develop men into men. I just think he's a great person."
While the Jags were one of the teams that met with Bienemy, they passed him up to go with Meyer.
In hindsight, the decision was clearly the wrong one. The Jaguars may not want to make the same mistake twice.
After Meyer failed so spectacularly during his first NFL head coaching stint, the Jaguars could go with an established candidate this time.
In such a scenario, there's arguably no better option than Doug Pederson.
He is a Super Bowl-winning head coach, having lifted the Lombardi Trophy following the 2017 season—his second at the helm of the Eagles.
Philadelphia succeeded that year despite losing starting quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz late in the regular season. The head coach maximized the abilities of backup Nick Foles, who went 10-3—including the postseason—under Pederson's tutelage from 2017 to 2018 and has gone just 2-9 as a starter since.
Although Pederson's five-year tenure in Philadelphia ended on a sour note, the coach had winning seasons in all but his first and last year with the club.
Pederson's offensive creativity was a major part of what led the Eagles to an upset victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. It could also make him the ideal candidate to jump-start a Jacksonville offense that ranks in the bottom three in yards and scoring this year.
The team could bring in Pederson for an interview right away, as the free-agent coach took the 2021 season off after being fired in January.
Despite ending his playing career less than a half-decade ago, former NFL quarterback Kellen Moore has already become one of the brightest offensive coordinators in football.
Moore, who spent six years in the league as a backup and practice-squad member for the Lions and Cowboys, immediately found a post-retirement role as Dallas' quarterbacks coach in 2018. He was promoted to offensive coordinator a year later and has led some impressive offenses since.
The Cowboys led the league in total offense in 2019, averaging a whopping 431.5 yards per game—over 20 more than the next-most prolific attack that season—while scoring 27.1 points per game.
Moore has accomplished his best work yet with this year's Cowboys. The team ranks No. 2 in both total offense and scoring, trailing the defending champion Buccaneers only slightly in both categories.
Although Dallas had a down year in 2020, the team still managed to hover around the league average despite losing starting QB Dak Prescott after just five starts.
Moore's offenses have reached these heights by remaining balanced.
The Cowboys are only throwing on 59 percent of their offensive plays this year, ranking 15th in the league in that category. The team is No. 4 in passing offense and No. 6 in rushing offense, maximizing the talent of nearly all its skill position players.
With the Jaguars boasting a quality QB in Lawrence, one of the league's most promising young running backs in James Robinson and some up-and-coming wideouts, Moore might be the right man to put it all together.
The Jaguars could turn to one of the franchise's former starting quarterbacks for their next head coach.
Byron Leftwich—a first-round pick and the signal-caller who ran Jacksonville's offense from 2003 to 2006—has emerged as one of the NFL's top offensive coordinators early in his coaching career.
The 41-year-old has already captured a Super Bowl title in his current role and is poised to help the Bucs defend their championship after an incredible start to the 2021 campaign.
Leftwich has worked well with Bruce Arians ever since the Buccaneers head coach hired him as an intern on his Cardinals staff in 2016.
While Leftwich rose to interim offensive coordinator in Arizona's ranks, the former QB didn't find immense success until teaming back up with the head coach, who left the Cardinals after the 2017 season, in Tampa Bay in 2019.
Arians' decision to hire Leftwich as his offensive coordinator has paid off in a big way.
The team has ranked near the top of the league in both total offense and scoring in all three seasons, including his first, when future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady wasn't on the roster.
The Bucs offense hasn't skipped a beat since lifting the Lombardi Trophy last year, even improving to lead the league with averages of 410.2 yards and 31.5 points per game.
While Leftwich doesn't have years of experience like some of the other potential head coaching candidates, his resume is already on par with some of the best offensive coordinators the NFL has to offer.
Stats via TeamRankings and Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.