The New York Jets began the 2020 season with a record of 0-13, but thanks to a two-game win streak, they don’t even have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. That, of course, belongs to the Jaguars, who went on a 15-game losing streak.
Immediately following their final game of the 2020 season, head coach Adam Gase was fired, as expected. Now, the Jets are one of seven current head coaching vacancies. With multiple first-rounders — including the second overall selection — and plenty of cap space, the Jets job looks more appealing than in recent years.
While it's not the best job on the market, it's still rather appealing. But who is the best fit among the coaching candidates? We've ranked the six best men for the job.
6. Jim Harbaugh
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh recently agreed to a contract extension with the Wolverines — that reportedly includes a low buyout — but that doesn't mean he wouldn't make the jump back to the NFL.
Harbaugh had instant success with the 49ers, leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl in just his second season. While the Jets are a little further off than that, the prospect of Harbaugh coming in and making the Jets a winning franchise again is something New York needs. And the Jets know it. They have been interested in Harbaugh for previous openings.
Of course, Harbaugh was a lot sexier hire after coaching up Andrew Luck. Now that Harbs' Wolverines have struggled under his watch, there are better candidates on the market.
5. Arthur Smith
The architect of the Titans' high-powered offense appears to be poised to get a head coaching job. Arthur Smith, whose father is the founder of Fed-Ex, is one of the hottest candidates in this year's coaching carousel.
The Jets would be smart to hire Smith and let him pick which QB he wants to coach for the next decade.
4. Brian Daboll
Brian Daboll is the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. The 45-year-old doesn't have any head coaching experience, but he's helped develop Josh Allen into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. And the league is always desperate to find the next quarterback whisperer.
Daboll is part of a coaching tree that includes arguably the two best coaches in football history, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick.
That's quite the resumé. But what about on the field?
Daboll has the Buffalo offense playing as well as any team in the NFL. While the future in Buffalo is bright, if Daboll decides to leave the Bills in search of a head coaching spot, he may elect to stay in the AFC East and take the Jets opening.
It would be interesting to see which direction Daboll would elect to take with the Jets' offense. Roll with Darnold, use the second overall pick on Justin Fields or Zach Wilson.
3. Eric Bieniemy
It's finally time for Bienemy to get a head coaching gig. The offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs has helped coach the league’s most explosive offense.
While the Jets’ offense is the complete opposite of what Bieniemy has in Kansas City, the prospect of getting to turn this franchise around has to be appealing. If Bieniemy is able to come into New York and get this franchise aimed in the right direction, he will be the biggest NFL hero in New York since Eli Manning.
Pairing up Bieniemy with Fields or Wilson would give Jets’ fans, if nothing else, a new sense of hope for the future. Regardless of who comes in as coach and who the Jets draft with the second overall pick, the playoffs are years away. Still, giving the fanbase something to be excited about is a great start.
2. Robert Saleh
Robert Saleh is the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. What Bieniemy is to offense in Kansas City, Saleh is to defense in San Francisco. After a Super Bowl run in 2019 that saw the 49ers sport the best defense in the NFL, expectations were high again in 2020 before injuries derailed their season.
Despite the numerous injuries to top defensive players like Nick Bosa and Richard Sherman, the 49ers' defense still performed well throughout most of the season. Saleh is the type of coach who gets his players respect and that is exactly what the Jets needs right now.
New York’s defense was atrocious this season and Saleh is the best candidate to come in and help change that. While many expect the Jets to go offensively in the 2021 NFL Draft, perhaps Saleh decides to roll with Darnold and instead attempt to rebuild the defense with two first-round picks.
1. Doug Pederson
The newest coach on the market is also the best fit for the Jets.
Whether you like him or not, Doug Pederson is a Super Bowl-winning coach and those guys aren't available very often in the NFL. Throw in the fact that Pederson reportedly has a great relationship with Jets general Manager Joe Douglas and you have what appears to be a perfect match.
It'd also be quite the upgrade for Pederson. Instead of dealing with a QB controversy surrounding the potentially washed Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts, he could get to choose his QB of the future with the No. 2 pick.
Pederson will need to get back to his Super Bowl coaching form or New York will turn on him just as quickly as Philadelphia fans did.
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