During the 2020 NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Detroit Lions all let go of their respective head coaches. As those teams began their head coaching search early, three more NFL teams fired their coaches after the regular season concluded, leaving six current head coaching vacancies. Here are my thoughts on each of the three situations.
Hours after the Jets lost 28-14 to the New England Patriots, team CEO Christopher Johnson announced they fired head coach Adam Gase after his second season with the team. This came as no surprise after the Jets started the season 0-13, then won two consecutive games against playoff teams in the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns to lose the first-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. There was a lot of dysfunction in his tenure as All-Pro safety Jamal Adams pushed to be traded this past summer and Gase fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams after losing on a long-touchdown pass to the Las Vegas Raiders back in December. The cherry on top was the regression of quarterback Sam Darnold, leading to the Jets finishing last in total offense in each of the past two seasons. Gase finished 9-23 as the Jets’ head coach.
The Jets head into the offseason with about $68 million in cap room, the second-overall pick in the NFL Draft and multiple picks in the first and third rounds. The team has some solid pieces in defensive tackles Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Meyers, left tackle Mekhi Becton and safety Marcus Maye. As the Jets search for their next coach to rebuild the team with general manager Joe Douglas, a decision will need to be made: do they keep Darnold and draft pieces around him, or will they draft Ohio State star QB Justin Fields and trade Darnold.
They have requested to interview Indianapolis Colts’ defensive coordinator and are expected to request an interview with Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. I think they should focus on hiring an offensive-minded coach like Smith, so they can either re-develop Darnold or mold Fields into a star at the NFL level.
The Jaguars finally let go of head coach Doug Marrone after a season which saw the team lose their last 15 games. Marrone’s tenure was a tumultuous one as in his first season in 2017, he helped lead a dominant and young Sacksonville defense to the AFC Championship game. While they lost 24-20 to the Patriots, that game seemed to indicate a bright future ahead for the team. However, everything unraveled as the entire core (aside from linebacker Myles Jack), was either cut or traded in the three seasons after 2017 as the team went 12-36 during that stretch, leading to the dismissal of GM Dave Caldwell and Marrone. Marrone finished 23-43 as the team’s head coach.
The Jaguars will go into this offseason with the top pick in the NFL Draft (for the first time in franchise history), the most cap room in the NFL with $78 million and multiple picks in the first, second, fourth and fifth rounds. Whoever takes the GM and head coaching roles will have an opportunity to build the roster to their liking with a lot of money and draft capital at their disposal. However, they will have to work with owner Shad Khan as he wants more say in roster decisions. No interviews have been set up, however former Florida and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been brought up as an option.
Hiring Meyer would be a fantastic decision as his brilliant offensive mind can help utilize they sky-high potential Trevor Lawrence will bring to the team as he is the clear top prospect in the draft. The Jaguars have sorely lacked a franchise QB and Lawrence can change that. They just need to support him as much as they can.
Unlike the Jets or Jaguars who are in search of their franchise QB this offseason, the Chargers have already found their QB in Justin Herbert. Herbert broke many rookie records for passing touchdowns (31), total touchdowns (36), completions (396) and more. He fell 39 yards short of the passing yards record. However, coaching was an issue as due to poor clock management, questionable play-calling and lackluster special teams and defense. The Chargers finished 7-9, losing seven of those games by one possession, including a loss to the Denver Broncos that saw them blow a 24-3 second half lead. Head coach Anthony Lynn was fired on Monday after four seasons with the team, finishing with a record of 33-31. Lynn led the Chargers to 12-4 and the divisional playoff round in 2018, but missed the playoffs every other season despite having a talented roster.
The Chargers will have $22 million in cap space, but the main appeal for the job is having a generational talent in Herbert. The priority should be giving Herbert as much help as he needs to deliver the Chargers their first Super Bowl championship. They will interview former Dallas Cowboys’ head coach and current New York Giants’ OC Jason Garrett for the job.
With Garrett’s constant underachieving in Dallas, I don’t think this is an ideal option going forward. They should hire a defensive minded coach with discipline to take the pressure off of Herbert. They should look at San Francisco 49ers’ DC Robert Saleh and Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald.