By Glenn Naughton
It’s the worst kept secret in the NFL. The New York Jets are in search of a brand new Head Coach and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is sitting firmly atop their wish list. Countless reports have linked Quinn, a New Jersey native, to the Jets vacancy. Team owner Woody Johnson is so set on hiring Quinn that he was reportedly ready to fly out to Seattle in the event of a Seahawks loss to the Carolina Panthers this past weekend. As it turns out, Johnson had to cool his jets as Seattle avoided the upset at home and will head to the NFC Championship game to face the Green Bay Packers. This of course means Gang Green will continue waiting for Seattle’s season to come to a close, at which point they can officially make Quinn an offer.
If Quinn doesn’t work out, or if the Jets are concerned about the high level of interest from other organizations for his services, they could look to hire another hot candidate, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles who they’re bringing in for a second interview as they jockey for position with the Atlanta Falcons.
Johnson is one week away from the fifteen year anniversary of his purchasing Jets for $635 million in 2000. This will be his fifth attempt at finding a head coach who can deliver a championship to long-suffering Jets fans, some of whom just had a special anniversary of their own. It was 46 years ago this week, January 12th, 1969 to be exact, that a Jets head coach delivered the Lombardi Trophy to the Jets faithful. Will head coach number five deliver championship number two? While that remains to be seen, this hunt for a head coach has one notable difference from Johnson’s prior attempts, and it’s one that Jets fans should be happy about.
For the first time during his tenure, it appears that Johnson and the Jets will be pursuing a head coach that is highly thought of and/or being pursued by other teams. In no way does this guarantee success, but Jets fans should take some solace in the fact that the Jets’ next head coach isn’t likely to be another “head scratcher”.
When Johnson purchased the Jets in 2000, the team was being guided by Hall of Fame Head Coach Bill Parcells. With Parcells’ future role with the organization unclear, Johnson had a fallback option with then-defensive coordinator Bill Belichick under contract to succeed Parcells in the event of his departure. When Parcells did step aside, Belichick did take over, for one day.
Belichick’s unexpected and rapid exit left the Jets in a state of flux. Parcells, who had moved from the sideline to the front-office vowed to fix the problem. His solution was the promotion of linebackers coach Al Groh to the Head Coach position. Parcells and Groh had worked together since the late 80’s with the Giants and later with the Patriots, but Groh was never known to be a candidate elsewhere. His only head coaching experience was a stint at Wake Forest from 1981-1986, but Parcells wanted continuity within the organization and convinced Johnson to elevate Groh. Eventually Groh would leave to coach at the University of Virginia, his alma mater, after just one season at the helm for the Jets. Groh’s Jets posted a 9-7 record after a late-season collapse, and went home without a playoff berth.
By the time Johnson was looking for Groh’s replacement, he would be doing so with a new General Manager. Terry Bradway was hired away from the front-office of the Kansas City Chiefs and would pair with Johnson in the coaching search. Few big-name candidates were brought in, and in the end the Jets hired Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive-backs coach Herm Edwards. For the second time in as many tries, Johnson deferred to his GM and hired a defense-oriented position coach with no NFL head coaching experience. Many fans were stunned by the move, but were also swayed by Edwards’ enthusiasm. He was a high-energy optimist who had worked with Bradway in Kansas City several years earlier. He would spend a total of five seasons on the Jets sideline, and compiled a record of 39-41 (.488) with a 2-3 record in the post-season.
After years of coming up short, and too often at the hands of the New England Patriots, Johnson went poaching. In search of head coach number three, the Jets looked north and hired 35 year-old Eric Mangini away from Bill Belichick’s Patriots. What Mangini lacked in personality, he was said to make up for in football acumen. A detail-oriented disciplinarian who had just one year of experience as a defensive coordinator was thought to be a respected up and comer, but the Jets hoped he was ready now. As it turned out, he wasn’t. In three seasons Mangini finished with a 23-25 (.479) record and managed to make the post-season just once. That appearance would be against his old team as the Jets traveled to New England to take on the Patriots and were trounced 37-16. In his final season with the Jets, Mangini was armed with Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre but even that wasn’t enough. Another Jets late season collapse sent them packing early, and Mangini, Johnson’s third hire did the same. Mangini still garners praise from some of his former players, as former Jet Pete Kendall did in an interview earlier this season with JetNation.com, but despite that, he compiled a 10-22 record with the Cleveland Browns after his departure from New York and has yet to land another head coaching job.
As was the case when the Jets replaced the high-energy Edwards with the monotone Mangini, Woody Johnson went polar-opposite once again, naming Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan his new head coach. Woody did so despite Ryan being passed over for the same position by his own team who chose John Harbaugh over the boisterous Ryan. The initial success Ryan experienced in New York had many thinking Johnson finally got his man. Back-to-back trips to the AFC Championship game in years one and two, combined with more post-season wins than any coach in Jets history had Johnson and the Jets on cloud nine. The euphoria however, eventually wore off. Four consecutive seasons without a playoff berth and Ryan’s inability to grow as a head coach or field a competent offense led to his dismissal at the conclusion of this season and leaves the Jets where they are today.
Johnson is heavily engaged in a search for a new leader, but he’s doing so in a manner that may require a great deal of persuasion, and an even greater amount of money. Woody Johnson, in a bidding war for a highly sought after head coach? It would be a first for the owner, but should undoubtedly be welcomed by Jets fans.
What do you think about the Jets head coach search? Fans are sounding off in our New York Jets forum.