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Potential candidates to replace Urban Meyer with Jaguars: Eric Bieniemy, Raheem Morris on list

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When the Jacksonville Jaguars lured him from the broadcast booth to the NFL last offseason, Urban Meyer stepped into a highly attractive job.

It came with the first overall pick of the draft (Trevor Lawrence), a bevy of other high picks, roughly $80 million in cap space to invest in free agency and an owner willing to provide the support and resources it would take to transform the team into a championship contender.

However, through a series of missteps on and off the field, Meyer failed miserably, and Wednesday night got the axe with Jacksonville owning a 2-11 record and Meyer embroiled in controversy.

Now, Jaguars owner Shad Khan will try to make amends for a bad hire and attempt to once again get the franchise back on track. Working in his favor are the prospects of working with Lawrence and plenty of cap room to help rebuild.

Last winter, Khan hired Meyer over Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, then-San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh (now the Jets’ head coach), then-Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith (now the Falcons’ head coach) and now-Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes hugs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy during a game this season.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes hugs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy during a game this season.

It’s believed Bieniemy and Morris could again receive consideration. However, other teams with head-coaching openings likely will pursue both men. League insiders say there are several other candidates who seemingly would be good fits in Jacksonville.

Khan has many decisions to make. Does he pursue someone with extensive head-coaching experience or a newcomer? The Jaguars need a coach with strong leadership skills and credibility, particularly after Meyer destroyed the trust of his players and assistants and cultivated a toxic culture that extended beyond the locker room and coaches' rooms.

Khan also must determine the fate of general manager Trent Baalke. Three people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports that he helped fuel the toxic environment while berating and clashing often with players. The individuals spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject.

Some league insiders believe coaching candidates may have reservations about joining forces with Baalke, who left his previous GM stint (San Francisco) on bad terms. If that's the case, Khan could wind up making a clean sweep of the leadership positions and opt for a coach with a strong personnel track record, or one who would bring with him a talent evaluator with whom he already shares a good working relationship.

Here’s a rundown of some of the men expected to draw interest for the job.

Jim Caldwell

One of the most experienced candidates the Jaguars probably could find, Caldwell would make a lot of sense both because he is well-respected around the league by coaches, talent evaluators and players, and he boasts a strong track record for developing quarterbacks. The Jaguars' hire will most certainly be made with the future of Lawrence in mind. Priority No. 1 will involve helping the quarterback live up to expectations that had many NFL people describing him as a generational talent. Caldwell had success as both a coordinator and head coach in Indianapolis, and he was one of the few to have led the Detroit Lions to winning campaigns. Caldwell’s desire to coach again remains unclear. He joined the Miami Dolphins’ coaching staff in 2019 but abruptly resigned for health reasons and has not coached since.

Leslie Frazier

The Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator is another longtime NFL coach (23 years of pro experience) with a head-coaching stint on his resume. He has a defensive background but as a well-respected veteran, would have no trouble assembling a talented coaching staff to develop a young quarterback and roster.

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Marvin Lewis

The former Cincinnati Bengals head coach brought stability to a one-time laughingstock. Another defensive-minded coach, he has experience with young quarterbacks as well. Lewis has spent the last three seasons working with Herm Edwards as an advisor at Arizona State.

Eric Bieniemy

Passed over for head-coaching positions in each of the last two offseasons, Bieniemy’s time is coming, NFL insiders believe. Andy Reid’s right-hand man in the designing, game-planning and play-calling of Kansas City’s offense, Bieniemy draws praise from players and fellow coaches for his communication and leadership skills.

Raheem Morris

Hired in 2009 as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 33, Morris helped lead the team to a 10-6 record in Year 2. Last season, he served as interim head coach of the Falcons and has coached on both sides of the ball in his 12 NFL seasons. He’s a strong communicator, charismatic leader with an ability to connect with players, and he’s an aggressive play-caller.

Kellen Moore

The Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator would bring a steady presence and be good for Lawrence. He has no head-coaching experience, however, and would likely need a veteran defensive coordinator/assistant head coach to lean on while encountering a variety of firsts as a coach.

Jerod Mayo

The former Pro Bowl linebacker won a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots and has served as Bill Belichick’s defensive play-caller the last three seasons. He brings a winning pedigree and an energy that would represent a 180-degree change from Meyer.

Kevin O’Connell

A former journeyman quarterback who also spent time with the Patriots, O’Connell has been working his way up the coaching ranks. He has worked as an assistant in Cleveland, San Francisco, Washington and the L.A. Rams organizations, serving as offensive coordinator at his last two stops. Those familiar with him describe O’Connell as extremely poised, polished, creative and a natural leader.

Todd Bowles

The former Jets head coach helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl last season and is regarded as a strong leader and man of integrity. He brings 22 years of NFL coaching experience and nine years of NFL playing experience.

Doug Pederson

Pederson led the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl win despite losing QB Carson Wentz to injury during the 2017 season. However, clashes with the front office led to his dismissal following the 2020 season despite having produced three playoff appearances in five years.

Brian Daboll

The Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator has helped Josh Allen develop from apparent bust in Year 1 to MVP candidate and one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league just three seasons later. Daboll also brings a winning mindset, having spent 11 years under Belichick while coaching on both sides of the ball.

Dan Quinn

Currently Dallas' defensive coordinator, Quinn has transformed a historically bad unit into a juggernaut in just one season. Quinn guided the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2016 and has experience as a defensive coordinator from his days in Seattle prior to his head-coaching stint.

Demeco Ryans

He may only be in his first season as defensive coordinator for San Francisco, but the former linebacker draws rave reviews from veteran coaches, talent evaluators and players for his ability to communicate, inspire and lead.

Pep Hamilton

The Houston Texans’ offensive coordinator has a strong track record with young quarterbacks, including Andrew Luck and Justin Herbert. He has 24 years of experience on the college and pro levels, working primarily as a quarterbacks coach. His tutelage would benefit Lawrence. Hamilton also served as head coach of the D.C. Defenders of the XFL.

Dabo Swinney

It’s unclear whether Khan would go for a college coach in back-to-back attempts. But Swinney has the ultimate familiarity with Lawrence, having coached him at Clemson, where he has won two national championships.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Urban Meyer out; here are potential candidates to replace him on Jags