By Ernie Palladino
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It didn’t take long after Woody Johnson jettisoned Rex Ryan for a list of head coaching prospects to hit the internet. If the reports are correct, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Seahawks assistant head coach Tom Cable, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, and Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich have all been requested for interviews.
It’s not an earth-shattering list. Aside from its decidedly defensive slant — the same side of the ball, by the way, the dearly departed Ryan came from and never left — it’s a major yawn.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A little bit of earthbound but upbeat humility around Florham Park might be just what the Jets need. Actually, Johnson’s blue-ribbon search committee of himself, Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf should zoom in on a couple of particular traits as they search out Johnson’s next victim disguised as a head coach.
Or just shorten everything up and pry Jon Gruden away from ESPN. Of course, Gruden, who says he doesn’t want to be considered for any openings, would need to be convinced, too.
The ideal candidate should be colorful enough, but not outrageous. We’re certainly not talking meek. But after seeing what six years of Ryan blowing hard about Super Bowl promises and turning tables on his bigger coaching brothers bought him, hiring a more modulated personality might work. It won’t be as entertaining for the media, whose notebooks and microphones Ryan filled daily with quotes and sound bytes. It may not be as interesting for the fans who ate up all the back-page stories those purple quotes generated.
But if the new guy brings a better record than the 46-50 Ryan compiled and, heaven forbid, a Super Bowl title or two, those PSL holders will build statues to him. It won’t matter a darn if he utters a single, memorable thought other than “I accept this Lombardi Trophy on behalf of my franchise and all our fans.”
Consider that Tom Coughlin has never been the world’s most eloquent spokesman. Yet, John Mara and Steve Tisch couldn’t wait to bring him back after another losing season.
Johnson should also choose someone from the offensive side of the ball, which would immediately eliminate Quinn and Bowles from the current list. That side could use a little love after Rex alternately ignored it and made a mess out of it throughout his tenure. Actually, the Jets’ real problems started the year after the second Championship game, when Ryan got it into his head to turn a successful “Ground-and-Pound” into “Air Sanchez.” He should have stayed with his beloved defense.
Johnson should also throw in prior NFL head-coaching experience, if only because hot assistants have a rather mediocre record at their first stops. Remember, it took the disasters of Cleveland to turn Bill Belichick into the New England genius of today. They may someday say the same about Ryan if he doesn’t go the TV route.
So, let us eliminate again. Tom Cable coached three years in Oakland with miserable results. He carries a lot of back-page baggage with an alleged practice field fight and allegations of spousal abuse from his time in Oakland. He’s probably not worth the risk, even though he has reportedly become a solid citizen in Seattle.
Gary Kubiak? Bland enough. But the former quarterback’s offenses in Houston never bowled anybody over. Not him.
Frank Reich? Never a head coach. Out.
Dan Quinn? Never a head coach. Also out.
That’s the list. Jim Harbaugh might have appeared on it had he not agreed to coach his alma mater, Michigan, for a reported $48 million over six years. He might have been ideal, too, but it’s unlikely Johnson would have forked over that kind of dough.
One columnist suggested Nick Saban. Interesting, but no. He left a fiefdom in LSU for Miami, didn’t do well, and retreated back into another cushy deal in Alabama. He’d be crazy to repeat the LSU mistake and leave $7.1 million per year and legend status to join the Jets’ dysfunctional family. Saban is a lot of things — some of them unflattering — but he’s no dummy.
Johnson should actually get rid of the list for now and make a one-man foray into TV-land. Throw some money at Gruden and see what happens. At 51, he’s about the same age as Ryan. He’s an offensive coach. He’s colorful enough, but not so outrageous that he’s going to create a constant media stir.
And, oh, yeah, he’s already won the big hardware with Tampa Bay. And that was the year after he rebuilt Oakland into a power that would face him in that Super Bowl.
If he’s lucky enough to get that far, he’ll act like he’s been there before.
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