Top offensive coordinator candidates for New York Jets
Mike LaFleur and the New York Jets have mutually agreed to part ways. The Jets will now begin their search for a new offensive coordinator.
Here are some names to keep an eye on.
The Jets have built their offense around the wide-zone running scheme, which LaFleur brought over from San Francisco. If they want to continue running that scheme, then why not turn to one of its founding fathers?
Gary Kubiak was the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach throughout the late-1990s and early-2000s, under head coach Mike Shanahan. These Broncos teams were the early popularizers of the wide-zone scheme and used it to win two Super Bowls.
Shanahan’s son, Kyle, would later bring the scheme to the 49ers as their head coach. LaFleur was coaching under Kyle Shanahan before joining the Jets.
Kubiak, 61, also has a close connection to Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
Saleh got his first NFL job as a defensive intern with the Houston Texans in 2005. One year later, Houston hired Kubiak as its head coach, and Kubiak promoted Saleh to defensive quality control coach. Saleh would spend five years coaching under Kubiak in Houston.
Additionally, Jets offensive line coach John Benton was the Texans’ offensive line coach throughout the entirety of Kubiak’s eight-season tenure in Houston.
Kubiak most recently served as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator in 2020. He announced his retirement from coaching after the season. However, ESPN’s Rich Cimini recently floated Kubiak as a potential option for the Jets, citing New York’s interest in adding a veteran coach to the offensive staff. Perhaps Saleh can lure Kubiak back into the game.
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Frank Reich, 61, was in his fifth season as the Colts’ head coach when they fired him nine games into the 2022 season. All told, Reich did a respectable job in Indy. Despite a nonstop quarterback carousel, Reich went 40-33-1 while earning two playoff appearances.
Reich is best known for his work as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator, a role he held from 2016 to 2017. In 2017, Reich’s Eagles offense ranked third in scoring and went on to average 31.3 points per game in the playoffs on the way to a Super Bowl title. Reich impressively helped Philadelphia’s offense remain dynamic even when backup quarterback Nick Foles was under center.
Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz both played the best football of their careers under Reich.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas was the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel while Reich was in Philadelphia, so there is a connection here.
However, Reich may land himself another head coaching job. The Panthers have already requested to interview him for their head coach vacancy.
Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan has been rumored to be a potential under-the-radar offensive coordinator candidate, said to have “a strong reputation in NFL coaching circles”, per The Athletic. This past season, Morgan helped Chicago lead the NFL in rushing yards per game with 177.3.
Morgan has been coaching offensive lines in the NFL since 2009. His age is unknown but he played offensive line at Colorado from 1995 to 1999, so he is on the younger side for a coach. I could envision Joe Douglas seeing eye-to-eye with Morgan, as Douglas is a former college offensive lineman himself.
Morgan has a wide-zone background, making him a good fit for the Jets.
In 2022, Morgan worked under Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who previously worked under Packers head coach Matt LaFleur as Green Bay’s passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2019 to 2021. Matt LaFleur comes from the same coaching tree as his brother Mike.
From 2015 to 2020, Morgan served as the Falcons’ offensive line coach. He was brought in alongside Kyle Shanahan when Shanahan was hired as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator in 2015. Mike LaFleur also served on that staff as an offensive assistant from 2015 to 2016.
Current Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was also in Atlanta throughout the duration of Morgan’s time with the Falcons.
From 2011 to 2013, Morgan worked as an assistant offensive line coach in Washington, where Mike Shanahan was the head coach and Kyle was the offensive coordinator.
Chris Forester, 61, is a longtime offensive line coach who has also had stints as an assistant head coach and a run game coordinator.
Forester has been with the 49ers since 2019, so he has shared time with Robert Saleh and various other members of the current Jets coaching staff.
Despite his age, Forester has only been working his way upward on San Francisco’s staff in recent years. He was brought in as a consultant in 2019, was promoted to assistant offensive line coach in 2020, was promoted to offensive line coach in 2021, and then served as both the offensive line coach and the run game coordinator in 2022. The run game coordinator position was previously held by Mike McDaniel before he was hired as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach.
Forester also worked as the offensive line coach for Washington from 2010 to 2014, spending time under Mike Shanahan.
Joe Douglas also has a connection with Forester. From 2005 to 2007, Forester was the Ravens’ offensive line coach and assistant head coach. Douglas was a scout for Baltimore during those three years.
Darrell Bevell, 53, is the Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. He has played an integral role in the breakout of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Bevell shared time in Seattle with Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich, as he was Seattle’s offensive coordinator from 2011 to 2017. Saleh was with the Seahawks from 2011 to 2013 while Ulbrich was there in 2011.
An OC in the NFL from 2006 to 2021 (every year over this span save for 2018), Bevell was generally successful. Over those 15 seasons, Bevell led his offenses to an average ranking of 15th in points per game. Bevell was the offensive coordinator for Minnesota from 2006 to 2010, for Seattle from 2011 to 2017, for Detroit from 2019 to 2020, and for Jacksonville in 2021.
Greg Olson, 59, has spent 14 seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator, most recently with the Raiders from 2018 to 2021.
Olson did good work with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who figures to be a prime quarterback target for the Jets this offseason. Olson was the Raiders’ offensive coordinator for Carr’s 2014 rookie season before heading elsewhere for the next three seasons. He returned in 2018 and Carr had the best stretch of his career with Olson as his offensive coordinator.
Over four non-rookie seasons with Olson, Carr completed 68.7% of his passes, averaged 7.7 yards per attempt, and had a 97.3 passer rating. He averaged 4,252 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions per season.
Each of Carr’s four best seasons in terms of yards per attempt came under Olson. Carr averaged at least 7.3 yards per attempt in all four of his non-rookie seasons under Olson and averaged no more than 7.0 yards per attempt in any of his other five seasons.
Robert Saleh spent two years with Olson in Jacksonville from 2015 to 2016, when Saleh was the Jaguars’ linebackers coach and Olson was the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator. Ron Middleton, who is the Jets’ tight ends coach and assistant head coach, was also in Jacksonville during that time.
Olson was an offensive assistant for the Rams in 2022. Prior to joining the Raiders in 2018, he spent one year as the Rams’ quarterbacks coach in 2017, helping Jared Goff recover from a historically bad rookie season to have a breakout second year.
Dava Canales, 41, is the Seahawks’ quarterbacks coach. Under Canales, Geno Smith enjoyed one of the most impressive late-career breakouts by a quarterback in league history.
Canales has been with the team since 2010, so he has a connection with Saleh and Ulbrich.
Canales has served various offensive roles for Seattle. He was the wide receivers coach from 2010 to 2017, the quarterbacks coach from 2018 to 2019, and the passing game coordinator from 2020 to 2021.
Tanner Engstrand, 40, is the Lions’ tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. He was promoted to the role after serving as an offensive assistant in Detroit from 2020 to 2021. Dan Campbell kept Engstrand as a holdover from the Matt Patricia era, so that certainly speaks volumes.
After the Lions shocked the world by fielding an elite offense despite a roster that doesn’t look amazing on paper, it seems likely that teams around the league are going to take aim at the Lions’ offensive coaching staff. This is already happening – three teams have requested to interview Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson for their head coaching position.
Perhaps Engstrand could be a hidden gem coming from a lower spot on the Lions’ coaching ladder, such as Zac Taylor with the Rams, who went from Los Angeles’ quarterbacks coach to Cincinnati’s head coach.
Brian Johnson, 35, is the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach.
Johnson took the role in 2021 after a decade in the college ranks, most recently serving as Florida’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2020. That year, Johnson helped the Gators average 40 points per game. Johnson helped Gators quarterback Kyle Trask achieve a breakout season, which led to Trask being drafted by Tampa Bay in the second round of the 2020 draft.
Since joining Philadelphia, Johnson has helped Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts develop into a star. Hurts took a sizable leap in his second season and then took an even bigger leap in his third season, developing into an MVP candidate.
If the Jets want an up-and-coming candidate who has proven he knows how to develop the quarterback position, Johnson is an intriguing option.
The last two names on this list don’t necessarily have connections to the Jets. I just included them because they are among the most well-known options that will circulate in the rumor mill.
Eric Bieniemy, 53, has been the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator since 2018. Prior to that, he served five years as Kansas City’s running backs coach.
Bieniemy is a hot name in the NFL’s head coaching cycle seemingly every year, but he is yet to make the leap. Part of that is due to the fact that he doesn’t call plays for the Chiefs. An opportunity to call plays as the offensive coordinator for another team could be enticing to him, as it might be the springboard he needs to become a head coach.
Kansas City signed Bieniemy to a one-year deal for the 2022 season, so he will be searching for employment once more this offseason.
Jets running backs coach Taylor Embree shared a year in Kansas City with Bieniemy in 2016, though Embree was a defensive assistant.
Kliff Kingsbury, 43, served as the Cardinals’ head coach for three seasons until he was fired following the 2022 season. This was his only stint as an NFL coach – he had only worked in college prior to joining Arizona. Kingsbury served six years as the head coach at Texas Tech.
Kingsbury had a cup of coffee with the Jets as a player in 2005. He made his only NFL regular-season appearance with the Jets, completing 1-of-2 passes in a shutout loss to the Broncos that season.
As I posted under Robbie Sabo’s piece, I question why an elite OC would come to the Jets since (1) they have no workable starting QB on the roster and (2) there is a serious risk of regime change at the end of the 2023 season.
One thing is for sure, if a proven veteran OC cannot markedly improve Zach Wilson’s play, the Jets will have no choice but to move on from him. If the Jets get him, the “newest sensation” and he still fails, we will have the Zach Wilson deniers claiming it was the “rookie OC’s” fault. As someone suggested, Jim Caldwell may be a great choice.
Coming off a bad experience with a rookie OC, I’d prefer to get someone with proven experience.
I like Kubiak, but I’m concerned that he retired. Parcells used to say, “when you’re thinking about retiring, you’re retired.” Hopefully he just needed year away and has renewed desired.
I would also like Bevell, who has lots of experience, and was on the same staff as Saleh in Seattle.
Reich is an obvious choice, but I think he will more likely get a head coaching offer. I like that both Reich and Kubiak actually played QB in the league.
I don’t see why Bienemy would leave one of the most successful teams in the league, with an elite QB to execute his plays, to make a lateral job move into the pressure cooker of the NY media, with no viable QB currently on the roster, and a GM who has whiffed in free agency more often than he’s hit. If I were him I’d stay in KC until Reid retires and hopefully be the heir to the throne.
Honestly, I’d like to see us get away from all the “stretch”, wide run zone scheme.
I think our RB are better suited to quick-hitting traps, counters and combo blocks. The most remembered run of the year is probably Breece’s TD against the Packers. It was a failed reverse that ended up looking like a counter; he put his foot in the ground, made a cut and was gone. Neither he or Bam are LeVeon type runners…M Carter is different.
Then there is the O Line skillset required to run the stretch. We don’t currently have it.
Along those lines, while I like Kubiak’s experience and temperment I don’t want a West Coast disciple.
One of the JetsX writers even alluded to the fact that Shanahan himself is moving away from it.
I’m in on Reich or Bieneimy (though I don’t see him leaving KC except as a HC).
I don’t want Darrell Bevell. Kubiak is my preferred choice considering Zach needs help, and the offense needs an experienced coach. I also think Reich would be a great choice. The only other guy on that list that is interesting is Bieniemy. Why would they get rid of Lafleur for another young guy who MAY be a good coach some day. I wonder if Benton’s job is also on the ropes, depending on who they bring in as OC?
I feel badly for LaFleur, he was supposed to have Knapp, which I think would have made a HUGE difference but he didn’t. They made an enormous miscalculation by not finding a replacement for Knapp last offseason, and that’s not LaFleur’s fault. Calabrese also has to go.
Do you have any thoughts on Pep Hamilton or even perhaps Jim Caldwell? Pep has Jets’ connections, not so much Saleh/Douglas connections, not sure about Caldwell but I think he’d be a great get for the offense.
Caldwell is interesting, I think he could be a good choice if you’re looking for a high floor veteran OC. He’s been out of the league since 2019 though so I wonder if he’s done with coaching
I heard his name kicked around for HC jobs…maybe Denver? I’ve always liked him, and certainly would bring some additional HC experience that may be beneficial to Saleh.