The Jacksonville Jaguars have officially begun requesting interviews with a shortlist of intriguing names as they look to fill their head coaching vacancy. The news arrived in rapid-fire fashion on Tuesday afternoon, with reports of Jacksonville requesting interviews with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coordinators Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles, Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Dallas Cowboys coordinators Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn, and Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is also expected to interview for the role.
The Jaguars fired Urban Meyer on Dec. 16, and are now moving forward thanks to a recent rule change. NFL teams can begin to interview head-coaching candidates during the final two weeks of the regular season, provided they have an “open” head coach vacancy, which the Jaguars do. This significant change was made official in early December at the league meetings in Dallas after being recommended by the NFL’s Workplace Diversity Committee. Jacksonville is the first team to take advantage of this opportunity.
Jacksonville must absolutely knock this hire out of the park following the Meyer disaster. Trevor Lawrence's development and fate likely hinges on the quality of their next head coach. There is some good news to be had here for Jaguars fans. This shortlist is absolutely fantastic. You'd be hard-pressed to single out any one of these coaches as an undeserving candidate.
One candidate manages to stand above them all despite the impressive amount of competition, and that's Leftwich.
With all due respect, no other candidate checks all the boxes Leftwich can. The 41-year-old Leftwich has been groomed for this moment by two of the most brilliant offensive minds and personalities in the entire league: head coach Bruce Arians and Tom Brady. His stint as a play-caller in Tampa Bay has been nothing short of superb.
Leftwich quickly earned the trust and respect of Arians and Brady, something that's not considered easy to achieve. On top of that, Leftwich is undeniably a young and ascending coach while also miraculously being a well-liked former Jaguars quarterback. His appointment makes sense from all perspectives, including the damage control mission owner Shan Khan must now partake in if he hopes to win the fan base back.
The other candidates feature some impressive names in their own right, including the three retreads. Bowles has done excellent work in Tampa Bay as their defensive coordinator while helping lead the Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl title in nearly 20 years in 2021. Bowles has done an admirable job healing a damaged reputation while overseeing one of the best defensive units in the league over the past three seasons. It would represent Bowles' second opportunity to lead a franchise after he compiled a less-than-desirable 26-41 record in three seasons as the head coach of the New York Jets. The Jets didn’t exactly set Bowles up for success, nor have they found any since his departure. A lot has changed since then, and Bowles has earned a second opportunity.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Quinn finds himself in similar territory. It ultimately didn't end well for Quinn in Atlanta, who will unfortunately be best remembered for being at the helm of a Falcons team that blew a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI. Quinn had moderate success as Atlanta's head honcho, compiling a respectable 46-44 record and the aforementioned Super Bowl appearance in six years as their head coach. Like Bowles, Quinn has reinstated his reputation while leading a massive defensive turnaround in Dallas. Quinn's creativity with the usage of shoo-in Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons speaks well to Quinn's newfound willingness to adapt to his surroundings while putting his players in the best possible situation to succeed.
Pederson is an excellent offensive mind that experienced a resounding amount of success in Philadelphia, including the capturing of a historic Super Bowl ring. The idea of allowing Pederson to groom Lawrence is an intriguing one.
A pair of potential first-time head coaches in Moore and Eberflus would also make for intriguing hires. The 33-year-old Moore is a young, hotshot offensive mind that is currently overseeing a Cowboys offense that's averaging league-highs in yards (409.5) and points (30.5) per contest. His candidacy falls in line with the direction the league has been trending towards for years now.
Eberflus has been mentioned as a potential head coach for years, and his resume continues to improve. The 51-year-old Eberflus is currently in his fourth season as Indianapolis' defensive coordinator. In 2021, he’s thus far overseen a stingy defense that's playoff-bound and allowed a shrewd 21.1 points per game.
Jacksonville's search is off to an ideal start. There are several intriguing candidates, but Leftwich is ultimately the right one.