The Urban Meyer era (and error) is over in Jacksonville. Jaguars owner Shad Khan fired Meyer early Thursday morning, just hours after former Jacksonville placekicker revealed to the Tampa Bay Times that Meyer once intentionally kicked him after Lambo had missed a number of attempts. So who’s next? We explore the seven most likely coaching candidates for the Jaguars’ head coach vacancy.
Seven Jacksonville Jaguars head coaching candidates
Khan announced the firing in a scathing statement released just after midnight on Thursday. It read:
“Darrell Bevell will serve as interim head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the balance of the 2021 season. Darrell succeeds Urban Meyer. After deliberation over many weeks and a thorough analysis of the entirety of Urban’s tenure with our team, I am bitterly disappointed to arrive at the conclusion that an immediate change is imperative for everyone. I informed Urban of the change this evening. As I stated in October, regaining our trust and respect was essential. Regrettably, it did not happen.
“Trent Baalke continues as our general manager and will work with Darrell to ensure that our team will be inspired and competitive while representing Jacksonville proudly over our final four games of the season. In the spirit of closure and recharging our players, staff, and fan base, I will not comment further until some point following the conclusion of the NFL season.”
Coincidentally, the NFL decided Wednesday to change its interview process and allow teams to interview external candidates in the final two weeks of the season. So, beginning December 28, the Jaguars can begin work on deciding who will be their seventh head coach — including the fifth hired since Khan bought the team in 2012.
Job No. 1? Restore legitimacy to a franchise that has little of it. But the first order of business is to turn No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence into an elite quarterback.
Josh McDaniels, Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots
You’ll sense a theme in most of these candidates. Young-ish. Offensive-minded. Quarterback-friendly.
If not for his doomed time in Denver and his bait-and-switch with the Colts, Josh McDaniels would be far and away the most intriguing name. He is a six-time Super Bowl champion who has run the Patriots’ highly efficient offense off and on for the better part of two decades.
And he meets a hugely important criteria — he can develop young quarterbacks. Mac Jones is the front-runner to be Offensive Rookie of the Year, and much of his success is attributable to McDaniels’ tutelage.
McDaniels, however, is already a failed NFL coach, going 11-17 in an ugly stint with the Broncos. But that was more than a decade ago. He’s older and (we presume) wiser.
Byron Leftwich, Offensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Byron Leftwich has many of McDaniels’ pros, but none of his cons. Plus, he’s a former Jaguar, a top-10 pick who played 10 years for Jacksonville in the early part of the century.
Leftwich, 41, is less than a decade removed from his playing days. But he has quickly risen the ranks of NFL coaching, going from an intern under Bruce Arians to the play-caller of the winning team of Super Bowl 55 within five years. Arians was frustrated that Leftwich didn’t get an interview last cycle. That oversight will be corrected in the coming weeks.
The Buccaneers rank first in total yards (410.2), scoring (31.5), first downs (24.5), and passing yards (314.2) this year, while being second in yards per play (6.1).
Luke Fickell, Head Coach, Cincinnati Bearcats
Luke Fickell isn’t a quarterback whisperer. But he’s got a proven track record of building a winner at a place that isn’t accustomed to winning. Fickell’s Bearcats are the first non-Power Five team to reach the College Football Playoff, and he doesn’t seem interested in leaving Cincinnati for another college job. But the right NFL opportunity could potentially lure him away.
He interviewed with the Lions last cycle for a job that ultimately went to Dan Campbell. As was the case with Meyer, he has no NFL coaching history. Nonetheless, he’s widely viewed as a leader of men. Prior to taking the Cincinnati job in 2017, he served nearly 20 years as a collegiate assistant, almost exclusively at Ohio State.
Kellen Moore, Offensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
Sean McVay shifted the paradigm when it comes to NFL coaches and age. He was just 30 when the Rams hired him to lead their franchise. So in comparison, Kellen Moore, 33, is downright seasoned.
Moore was still an active NFL player four years ago. But he’s had a meteoric rise since, serving the last three years as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator. The Cowboys rank second in yards (409.1) and points (29.2) and fourth in yards per play (6.0). He should absolutely get an interview. The bigger question is will Jerry Jones let him leave? We could envision a scenario in which, given the choice between keeping Moore or coach Mike McCarthy, he picks Moore.
Eric Bieniemy, Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid has long advocated for Eric Bieniemy to get a top job, and this could finally be the cycle it happens. Bieniemy has been a Chiefs assistant since 2013, serving as their offensive coordinator the last four years (Reid still calls the offensive plays).
Khan already has a file on Bieniemy. He was a candidate for the same job a year ago, but Meyer was always the Jacksonville owner’s preferred pick.
Bieniemy also met with the Texans, Lions, Falcons, Chargers, and Jets last January.
Nathaniel Hackett, Offensive Coordinator, Green Bay Packers
Another name with Jaguars ties. Nathaniel Hackett has not only been a Jacksonville assistant, but he also survived Gus Bradley’s termination in 2016. Doug Marrone not only kept Hackett on staff but gave him a promotion from interim offensive coordinator to permanent.
Hackett managed to get to the AFC Championship Game with Blake Bortles as his quarterback in 2017, only to be unceremoniously fired less than a year later.
Like Bieniemy, Hackett is currently an offensive coordinator but not an offensive play-caller. Head coach Matt LaFleur handles those duties in Green Bay.
Brian Daboll, Offensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
The Jaguars’ blueprint not only exists but has been executed pretty successfully in Buffalo. Brian Daboll molded an immensely talented but very raw Josh Allen into an MVP candidate and a conference title game participant, and it only took a couple of years.
Daboll interviewed with the Jets and the Chargers in early 2021 and would have had a meeting with the Eagles too if Buffalo didn’t block it.