The Jacksonville Jaguars’ search for their next head coach is rolling on through Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season. However, a surprising name and familiar face could be in the mix in the form of current Alabama offensive coordinator and former Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. Let’s take a look at the latest news that Pro Football Network’s NFL Insiders Adam Beasley and Tony Pauline are hearing regarding O’Brien’s potential return to coaching in the NFL and the AFC South.
Could the Jacksonville Jaguars look to Bill O’Brien as their next head coach?
Early in Week 18, sources told Pro Football Network that the Jaguars had a real interest in O’Brien as their next head coach. General manager Trent Baalke has reportedly been pushing O’Brien as a potential candidate, as reported by CBS Sports Jason LaCanfora. However, PFN has learned that Jaguars owner Shad Khan is also reportedly intrigued by O’Brien.
It appears Khan is still on friendly terms with former head coach Doug Marrone, who is on the staff at Alabama with O’Brien. Sources tell PFN they believe that Marrone is advocating for O’Brien to be the next head coach in Jacksonville.
O’Brien would certainly be attractive to Jacksonville, especially given the recent report by Pauline that the Jaguars were looking at potential head coaches who could help develop Trevor Lawrence, such as Doug Pederson and Jim Caldwell. O’Brien certainly fits that mold. The current Alabama OC has a good history of crafting quarterbacks. In recent years, O’Brien has been credited with the development of Christian Hackenberg, Deshaun Watson, and Bryce Young.
Several sources tell PFN while they agree O’Brien would do wonders for Trevor Lawrence, his effect in the locker room may not be the direction the Jaguars are looking for. Caldwell and Pederson are looked upon as high-character options with the personality that the franchise is looking for. There are many who believe O’Brien does not fit that side of the criteria.
O’Brien was the OC for the successful 2021 Alabama offense
After a turbulent end to his time as the head coach of the Houston Texans, O’Brien returned to college football as Alabama’s OC. The Crimson Tide were coming off a national championship but had lost QB Mac Jones to the draft. Thus, it was tough to judge what the Alabama offense would look like.
Despite being a highly-touted recruit, sophomore QB Bryce Young was a relative unknown after throwing just 22 passes in 2020. However, under O’Brien’s tutelage, Young won the Heisman Trophy after throwing for 4,503 yards and 46 touchdowns. The Jaguars would hope O’Brien could develop Lawrence — in 2022 and beyond — exactly as he did Young.
The numbers for the Alabama offense are impressive. They ranked third in the country in points per game (41.4). Ohio State was the only Power Five school to post a better number. The Crimson Tide offense was also extremely balanced. They ranked third in the nation in passing touchdowns (3.4) and eighth in passing yards (336) per game. However, they still managed to average 1.5 rushing touchdowns and 158.1 yards per game on the ground.
O’Brien is a controversial figure in the NFL, but his record with QBs speaks for itself. If the Jaguars feel they can handle O’Brien’s personality, then he certainly makes sense as the type of experienced head coach Jacksonville is looking for.
Who are the other head coaching candidates for the Jaguars?
The Jaguars have been linked with a handful of names for their vacant head coaching role. They requested interviews with four current NFL coordinators. On that list were Dallas Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich, and Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles.
According to a report by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Quinn declined to interview during the season. Pelissero also reported that the Jaguars are set to interview Moore and Bowles at some point during Week 18. However, he did not specify when those interviews would take place.
The Jaguars have completed two interviews. Both Caldwell and Pederson, who are currently without roles in the NFL, have interviewed for the head coaching position. Sources tell PFN that Pederson is still considered the favorite for the job. Nevertheless, it would seem the Jaguars are going to exercise due diligence before making a final decision.
Assuming O’Brien is a candidate, the Jaguars likely will now wait until after the College Football National Championship game on Monday, January 10, to interview him. Jacksonville has had the chance to have a head start on interviewing candidates thanks to the NFL’s new extended window.
However, O’Brien, Pederson, and Caldwell would not have been impacted by that rule. With other teams expected to move on from their head coaches after Week 18, it will be interesting to see how much longer the Jaguars are willing to take before making their decision.
Could the presence of Trent Baalke be hindering the Jaguars’ coaching search?
Whenever a coach or GM is fired, it can always be tough to bring in a new face if the old HC or GM remains in place. That is the situation the Jaguars are facing, with Baalke expected to remain in Jacksonville this offseason. Sources have told PFN that the presence of Baalke is limiting the pool of candidates open to the Jaguars. Reportedly, a number of prospective coaches do not want to go to Jacksonville if Baalke remains the GM.