With all the dumb things Urban Meyer did in his lone (almost full) NFL season with the Jaguars, one wonders what took team owner Shad Khan so long to drop the hammer.
The NFL owners meetings this week might provide the answer. On Wednesday, the owners passed a resolution allowing teams to interview potential replacement head coaches during the last two weeks of the season. It’s a one-year rule at this point, and there’s an interesting poison pill: Only teams who have fired or otherwise lost their coaches in-season are allowed to “pre-interview,” or at least request permission to interview. So, at this point, only the Raiders (Jon Gruden resigned in October), and now the Jaguars are eligible to get first shot at the guys they may want.
Since the new resolution just went into effect, Black Monday might come a couple months early.
With that in mind, who might Khan and his people look to hire to replace Meyer, perhaps the worst coaching hire in NFL history? Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will serve as interim head coach, but given the state of Jacksonville’s offense, Khan may want to look elsewhere.
Here are six qualified candidates.
Byron Leftwich, offensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(AP Photo/Alex Menendez)
Part of the reason Khan hired Meyer in the first place was that it was thought that Meyer, as a big name overall and a bigger name in the state due to his time as Florida’s head coach from 2005-2010, would put butts in the seats. Well, Leftwich’s cred is closer to home, as the former Marshall quarterback was the team’s first-round pick in 2003, and played for the Jags until 2006.
Now, Leftwich has morphed into one of the NFL’s best offensive minds as Bruce Arians’ consigliere in the care of Tom Brady and one of the league’s more explosive offenses over the last two seasons. Arians may have been the first to see Leftwich’s true potential as a coach, but he won’t be the last, and there might not be anyone better on this list to help Trevor Lawrence through what has been a truly ridiculous (not in a good way) professional career so far. If Leftwich is good enough to gain Brady’s respect, what else do you need?
Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
The former Boise State Fiesta Bowl hero and Lions and Cowboys quarterback seemed to always be preparing to run an offense. Those in the know in and around the league are very aware that Dallas’ run/pass balance, exotic formations, and route combinations that open up explosive plays do not come from head coach Mike McCarthy — Moore’s in charge of that thing.
“Dallas was the one opportunity that it was something I thought it was important to keep the current offense in place,” McCarthy said at this year’s scouting combine in February, soon after he was hired. “Because of the success they had at the past, the productivity on offense was very high. There will always be things that are different … [but] I’m excited to work with Kellen and I’ve really enjoyed our meetings. I really like the way he looks at the game.”
McCarthy had better enjoy that opportunity while it lasts. And Moore would be another great mentor for Lawrence.
Brian Daboll, offensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills
(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Daboll started his coaching career as a “restricted earnings coach” for William & Mary in 1997. What the heck is a “restricted earnings coach,” you may ask? Well, it was a coaching category created by the NCAA in 1991 to stem the cost of athletic departments by forcing graduate assistants to work for no more than $16,000 per year. The reason you don’t hear about this position anymore is that it’s now illegal.
Ah, the NCAA. In any event, after two seasons as a graduate assistant at Michigan State under Nick Saban, Daboll worked for Bill Belichick’s Patriots as a defensive coaching assistant and receivers coach from 2000-2006 before becoming the Jets’ quarterbacks coach in 2007. He had short stints as the offensive coordinator for the Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs before another stint with Belichick from 2013-2016, and a second go-round with Saban as Alabama’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2017.
The Bills made Daboll their offensive coordinator in 2018, where he has done a tremendous job of turning Josh Allen into a reliable and consistent NFL quarterback — not to mention fielding one of the NFL’s better offenses despite the fact that the Bills have no discernible run game. Daboll was a hot name last year, and though the Bills have cooled off on both sides of the ball recently, his ears are probably burning right now.
If you’re sensing a trend that we want a quarterback developer in Jacksonville for Mr. Lawrence, you are correct.
Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)
We’re way past the point where Bieniemy’s exclusion from the head coaching ranks makes any sense at all, unless teams are weighing his talent against issues he had with the law years ago. Which, of course, teams have every right to do. And that past might take him out of Khan’s sights; one imagines the Jaguars’ owner wants as drama-free a hire as possible after the Meyer mess.
That said, Andy Reid’s last two offensive coordinators (Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy) got head coaching gigs from that experienced, and though Pederson was fired in January, and with Nagy, it’s just a matter of time before Bieniemy is seen as an attractive candidate for a team in need of — there it is again — quarterback development.
Jim Caldwell, former head coach/offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Caldwell replaced Tony Dungy as the Colts’ head coach in 2009, leading the team to a 14-2 record in his first season. That record flipped to 2-14 in 2011, but that was because Peyton Manning suffered a neck injury that put him out for the entire season, leaving Caldwell with a rather unremarkable battery of quarterbacks. He won Super Bowl XLVII with the Ravens at the end of the 2012 season as quarterbacks coach and interim offensive coordinator, which prompted the Lions to hire him as their head coach in 2014, after Caldwell had one full season as Baltimore’s OC.
Caldwell amassed a 36-28 regular season record in four seasons with the Lions, but after two playoff losses, the team moved on to Matt Patricia because Caldwell “couldn’t get them over the hump.”
We know how that worked out.
Known as a calm, patient manager of people, and a dynamite offensive mind and quarterback coach, Caldwell might just have the combination of calm and acumen this team desperately needs right now.
Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
(Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports)
Quinn was Florida’s defensive coordinator and defensive line coach in 2011 and 2012, so if Khan is looking for that connection again, Quinn’s got it. More importantly, Quinn was one of the architects of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defenses that terrorized the NFL in the early 2010s. Seattle’s two Super Bowl seasons under Pete Carroll (2013 and 2014) were with Quinn as his defensive coordinator.
The Falcons hired Quinn as their head coach in 2015, and he led the Falcons to a Super Bowl in his second season. But you never really get over blowing a 28-3 lead in the biggest game of your life, and things went downhill from there. Quinn was fired five weeks into the 2020 season.
The Cowboys made him their defensive coordinator, and all Quinn’s done is to turn a defense that finished 23rd in Defensive DVOA under Mike Nolan in 2020, and made it the third-best in the NFL in that very same metric in 2021.
Quinn will never fully get 28-3 off his resume, but he deserves another chance with a head coaching role. Positive, encouraging, and relentless in his pursuit of defensive excellence, Quinn would obviously need a great offensive coordinator to match him, but that could be a great hire for the Jaguars — or any other team in need.