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Assessing the New York Jets head coach candidates

On the back of a dismal season, the New York Jets are now looking for a new head for the first time since 2009. With Rex Ryan paying the price for a ...

06 Jan 2015, 11:58 IST
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Rex Ryan as Jets HC

On the back of a dismal season, the New York Jets are now looking for a new head for the first time since 2009. With Rex Ryan paying the price for a regular season in which the Jets went 4-12, the head coach and general manager John Idzik are now set to be replaced by the franchise as they look to end a run of four straight years without making a post-season. While Ryan’s time in New York hasn’t been without success, there are very few Jets fans who don’t feel a change is needed after such a tough season.

Ryan guided the Jets to back-to-back AFC title game appearances in his first two years as head coach after impressive regular seasons, but it’s been four years since the franchise finished the regular season with an above .500 record. While 2013’s 8-8 season showed signs that there could be some hope for Ryan this season, that feeling was short lived in 2014 and the writing was on the wall for a long time that the Jets would be looking to make some serious changes ahead of next season.

So what can Jets fans expect from those names linked with the head coach’s position? There certainly isn’t a shortage of candidates for the Jets management to consider, and the betting lines with the likes of Betfair are already buzzing with possible contenders for the position.

Kyle Shanahan (Cleveland Browns – Offensive Coordinator)

Kyle Shanahan has achieved more at the age of 35 than a lot of coaches twice his age, and the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator’s impressive stats haven’t gone unnoticed by teams throughout the NFL looking for a head coach.

Perhaps the 35-year-old’s best achievement as a coach was when he managed to help Robert Griffin III look like a top-class quarterback during his time with the Redskins in 2012. Shanahan has been singled out as one of the main reasons behind the Browns’ productive offense this season, particularly during an explosive start to the season.

As far as tactics go, Shanahan’s offense is similar to the one adopted by Gary Kubiak, predominately using zone-blocking, roll-outs and play action in order to get the offense up the field – all ideal for helping the young quarterback, who the Jets will add to their roster sooner or later, settle into the NFL.

But while his offensive abilities are perfect for what the Jets are looking for, his inexperience as a head coach will be a factor the franchise need to take into consideration when it comes to naming Ryan’s replacement. While a drastic change is clearly needed, it remains to be seen just how big a risk the Jets are willing to take and whether Shanahan will become the youngest head coach in the league.

Jim Harbaugh (Former San Francisco 49ers – Head Coach) — Signed w/Michigan

Despite achieving so much success during his time in San Francisco, Jim Harbaugh’s time with the 49ers is at an end – and the possibility of bringing the 51-year-old to New York hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Jets management.

During his time with the 49ers, Harbaugh guided the team into the play-offs three years in a row, winning the NFC Championship in 2012 and leading the team to the brink of winning the Super Bowl that same season. But things didn’t go well for Harbaugh at San Francisco this season and Harbaugh is moving on.

Harbaugh is everything the Jets need in their next head coach; an offensive-focused coach with a proven track record of fielding both a formidable defense and an offense capable of causing serious damage. Perhaps more importantly for the Jets would be Harbaugh’s ability to get the best out of his quarterbacks.

From Andrew Luck to Alex Smith, and more recently Colin Kaepernick, Harbaugh has been responsible for a who’s who of some of the game’s best quarterbacks, and the Jets would be the perfect project for the coach to get his teeth in to.

Dave Toub (Kansas City Chiefs – Special Teams Coordinator)

Special team coordinators are often overlooked when it comes to the head coach position but Dave Toub could be set to buck that trend soon. While it’s often the offensive and defensive coordinators who make the headlines, the special team coaches have to find a way of linking the two areas – something not every coach is capable of doing. Rex Ryan was a coach who often failed to achieve that balance, fielding a dominant defense without an offense that could match it.

John Harbaugh proved special team coaches can make the step up to being a head coach successfully when he guided the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl title a couple of years ago, and there are some who feel Toub could be the next coach to make the transition.

The 52-year-old initially made his name in the NFL during his time with the Chicago Bears, where his special team played a massive role in the franchise’s run to the Super Bowl in 2006. While his arrival might not be the most exciting for Jets fans, it could be an excellent appointment if Toub could go on and replicate Harbaugh’s achievements.

Brian Kelly (Notre Dame – Head Coach)

Tasked with reviving the fortunes of one of college football’s most iconic names, Brian Kelly has more than earned his NFL shot during his five years as Notre Dame head coach, not to mention his previous achievements in the college game. After starting off as the defensive coordinator with Grand Valley State, Kelly really made his name for his offensive game with Cincinnati before leading the famous Fighting Irish back to the BCS National Champions Game in 2013.

Last season might not have lived up to the previous year’s achievements but Kelly’s time with Notre Dame has undoubtedly been a monumental success and one that has spawned some very attractive football.

On the back of an ordinary 7-5 season, Kelly may feel this is the best time to end his time with the Fighting Irish to ensure his legacy remains, and there certainly doesn’t appear to be a shortage of options should the 53-year-old make the step up. While he is untested in the NFL, the pressures that come with running the most high-profile college football program in the country will have definitely prepared Kelly for the stresses and strains that come with working in the big leagues.

Adam Gase (Denver Broncos – Offensive Coordinator)

Adam Gase isn’t the first Denver Broncos offensive coordinator to gain a lot of hype in recent years but the 36-year-old might yet be the most talented. The young coach was tipped with a number of head coach positions at the end of the 2013 season but made it clear he wanted to continue to learn his trade. However, that might not be the case if NFL sides come calling during this offseason.

While Peyton Manning has been the key reason behind the Broncos’ success over the past couple of years and a massive reason why Denver continue to be tipped by a lot of betting fans when it comes to winning the Super Bowl, Gase’s role in the franchise’s run shouldn’t be underestimated and certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The Bronco’s offensive coordinator has proved he can get the best out of one of the greatest quarterbacks in the modern game. The question is whether he can do the same with a young quarterback just stepping into the NFL. But while there is an element of risk in appointing Gase, there could be a chance the Jets decide it’s one worth taking as they prepare to welcome a new quarterback to the franchise.

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