Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The first list and what it means to the Jets

With Eric Mangini gone the search for a new head coach begins. According to Mike Francesa of WFAN and numerous other sources, the three names to surface as the Jets' top choices are Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer, and Steve Spagnuolo. Let's take a preliminary look at these and other rumored candidates.

Bill Cowher

Cowher is the Jets' first choice, but will he want to come out of retirement to coach this team, especially with the Favre situation looming?

Francesa reports that the Jets have contacted the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach's agent, and Cowher is not making any demands of the Jets. ESPN's John Clayton had reported that Cowher wanted to name his own GM if he were going to come back, but WFAN says that is not the case.

In his 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, he made the playoffs ten times, winning the Super Bowl in his second to last season in 2005. He compiled a 149-90-1 overall record in the regular season and was 12-9 in the postseason.

Considering his experience and winning pedigree, Cowher is obviously a hot commodity. What makes him particularly appealing to the Jets is his history running the 3-4 defense. He runs a more aggressive 3-4 blitzing defense than what Mangini and Bob Sutton used, and offensively he uses the run to set up the pass in a more traditional manner.

Don't believe that Cowher is super conservative though. He's known for throwing some wrinkles in the offense. After all, this guy drafted Kordell Stewart, Hines Ward, and Antwaan Randle-El, all slash type players. The Jets actually have Brad Smith to use in a similar fashion, though that experiment has not worked nearly as well.

However, don't overestimate Cowher's coaching ability. He's a very, very good coach, but for the first 13 years of his career, he did not win a title, and his teams had often been known for disappointing in the playoffs.

Still, by the end of his career, his record includes ten playoff appearances, eight division titles, six AFC Championship appearances, two Super Bowl appearances, and one title. That is the type of success the Jets yearn for, and Cowher would bring respect to the head coach position.

Marty Schottenheimer

Speaking of disappointing in the playoffs...

Marty Schottenheimer, in many ways, is Cowher without the Super Bowl appearances. His regular season record is 200-126-1, but he has always been the victim of expectations. His teams are always very good, but they never get over the hump, and a 5-13 postseason record is the proof.

Look at his last season as a head coach. He led the Chargers to a 14-2 record, but they lost in their first playoff game to the New England Patriots, and he was let go.

After looking at Cowher, Schottenheimer is a much less alluring candidate, but while the Jets will need to wine and dine Cowher to get him to be their coach, Marty will likely jump at the chance to get back in the game.

He's known for Marty-ball: running as much as possible on first and second downs, and not throwing a whole lot. His coaching tree is vast, including Cowher and, brace yourselves, Herman Edwards. The former Jets coach is probably most similar philosophically to Schottenheimer, which I'm sure many Jets fans will hate to read.

But if the Jets hire Marty Schottenheimer, the offense probably will not change that much because of the presence of Brian Schottenheimer, who is still under contract and would certainly remain the offensive coordinator under his father.

If the Jets are sold on bringing back Brett Favre, thinking he'll play better next year, they'll probably want to keep a similar offense in place. This scenario would definitely allow that.

He has also run the 3-4 at many points in his career, so the Jets would not need to overhaul their personnel.

It comes down to this. Would you sign up for being one of the perennial best teams in the AFC in the regular season but not making the Super Bowl? That's what Schottenheimer has been his entire career, so if the pattern holds true, that's what you would get from him as coach.

Steve Spagnuolo

If the Jets ran a 4-3 defense, Spagnuolo would be my guy. As appealing as bringing back an experienced coach is, unless Cowher is coming in, every other coach available would seem to be a retread. After the success of John Harbaugh, Mike Smith, and Tony Sparano in their first seasons, I would prefer to handpick our own guy.

The Giants coach is the highest paid defensive coordinator in football and for good reason. He's beloved and respected by his players, and his defenses have been phenomenal. Don't believe me? Watch last year's Super Bowl again and see Tom Brady get smacked around for seemingly the first time in his career.

He's a fiery, aggressive coach, and his defense reflects that. He's a former Eagles assistant, and Jim Johnson's influences are clear. His two seasons with the Giants completely revamped the defense.

The biggest knock on Spagnuolo is experience. He has never been a head coach at any level. But in his 26 years of coaching football, he has spent time coaching each defensive unit, and he is a lot more qualified than Eric Mangini was.

The other question would be how his 4-3 defense would translate to New York. After three seasons of finally getting the personnel for the 3-4, is switching back really prudent?

In this system it might be. Spagnuolo's defense was predicated on pass rushers, as his Super Bowl winning defense had Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Matthias Kiwanuka. The Jets have Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, Shaun Ellis, and Vernon Gholston. All of those guys were drafted or acquired to rush the passer, and all could play defensive end in a 4-3 defense.

Are they as effective as the guys the Giants had? Absolutely not, but Tuck, Kiwanuka, and to a lesser extent Umenyiora all flourished under Spags's defense.

Will the Jets have the courage to go for a coach with just two years as defensive coordinator after how the Mangini era ended? It remains to be seen, but Spagnuolo is a very intriguing candidate.

Other Possibilities

Here's a list of some names that I've seen rumors for.

Leslie Frazier: Vikings defensive coordinator for past two seasons.

Mike Tice: Jaguars assistant coach. Great offensive line coach, but his first term as a head coach was unsuccessful.

Brian Schottenheimer: Jets offensive coordinator. It might appease Favre, but this would infuriate me.

Bill Callahan: Jets offensive line coach. Failed in Oakland and in Nebraska, but looking back on the Raiders situation, will anyone ever be able to succeed there?

The first three names are definitely going to be interviewed. The "other possibilities" were taken from the Star Ledger.

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