The Tennessee Titans for once find themselves in position to get ahead of the competition. Sadly, its not in the race for a playoff spot but rather a race for their desired head coach. The Titans and Dolphins are the only two teams that have an interim coach and with that comes the ability to really start thinking about the 2016 season and beyond.
The smart thing for the organization to do is to compile a list of candidates and track them through the rest of the season. So with that in mind I figured it would be a good exercise to do the same. Today's post will focus on current NFL offensive coordinators, and there will be one later to rank defensive coordinators. At the end of the season we will re-evaluate the coaches and see if the rankings have changed much.
This is just my short list, so feel free to add in other names in the comments.
1) Hue Jackson, Cincinnati Bengals
Its no secret that I'm a Hue Jackson fan. He's getting the most out of the Cincinnati offense and has Andy Dalton playing up to his potential. I think he's an ideal coach for the Titans and has a system perfect for Marcus Mariota. Apparently, the Titans already have some interest too. It'll take a strong push from some of the other candidates on this list to take over the top spot.
2) Adam Gase, Chicago Bears
This is where it gets interesting. I like Gase, but his resumé is smaller than a lot of other candidates. Of that limited work, its been very good. Gase worked for three seasons as Peyton Manning's offensive coordinator and helped tailor the offense to him. Manning raved about the new ideas Gase had to maximize his production. As always with a Manning-led offense though, its hard to determine how much credit should go to the offensive coordinator. In Chicago, Gase has helped Jay Cutler to new levels. Cutler's INT% is the lowest of his career. Will that continue? I don't think so, and I don't completely buy Gase's impact on Cutler. His impact on the rest of the offense shouldn't be underestimated though, and in comparison to Jackson has a much weaker roster.
3) Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots
I realize this is not going to be a popular selection. It all depends on how you view his Denver head coaching stint. In my opinion he built a good offense with Kyle Orton as his quarterback. Many of his personnel moves turned out to be good ones, but there is no question he made mistakes too (Tim Tebow, as the headliner). As an offensive coordinator McDaniels is once again proving his worth in New England. I think its likely he'll get another shot somewhere eventually, and I think a McDaniels-Mariota offense would be outstanding. The question is whether he's head coach material, or simply a good offensive coordinator.
4) Kyle Shanahan, Atlanta Falcons
Much like the Falcons, the younger Shanahan's stock has has dropped recently. Despite being younger than Adam Gase, he comes with much more offensive coordinator experience, holding the title in Houston, Washington, Cleveland, and now Atlanta. In five of his ten seasons as an OC (including Atlanta so far), the team has been top-10 in yards. Like Josh McDaniels, the question with Shanahan is not about his work as a coordinator, but rather if he has the people skills necessary to be a head coach. His time in Washington ended horribly.
5) Mike Shula, Carolina Panthers
This might be a little low on the list for the man in charge of the offense for the last undefeated team. Shula's created a fascinating run game in Carolina, particularly with how he uses Cam Newton. I don't think there is a quarterback in the league that has as much impact on the his team's run game as Newton does for the Panthers. Newton's development into a more complete player also reflects well on Shula.
6) Darrell Bevell, Seattle Seahawks
This is the turning point on the list where the candidates become far less exciting. Maybe I am just too tough on Bevell, but it sure seems like his offense relies way too much on the run game, particularly in Seattle with Lynch. In ten seasons as an OC, Bevell's teams have only finished top-10 in pass yards once. To his credit, the Seattle offense has gotten production out of UDFA receivers. I also think Bevell has a chance to leapfrog some candidates ahead of him down the stretch. The Seahawks' offense has started to focus more on passing and that'll give Bevell a chance to show off his schemes.
7) Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I'm not much of a Koetter fan but I'll give him credit for having Jameis Winston look better than I anticipated this early in his career. You can judge for yourself the impact he's had in Tampa and how much credit should go to Winston.
The addition of OC Dirk Koetter and Jameis Winston has made a huge difference for the @TBBuccaneers offense.. pic.twitter.com/QZkI7BXwHf— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) November 29, 2015
8) Greg Roman, Buffalo Bills
A couple of years ago I would have been thrilled with this hire. Roman's offenses feature a strong ground game around a running quarterback. The fit here with Marcus Mariota would seem to be perfect, except that Mariota is much more of a pocket passer than the media believes. He's a mobile quarterback, not a running one, and that distinction is very important to me.
9) Frank Reich, San Diego Chargers
We have reached the "thanks, but no thanks" part of the list. Reich is already drawing some media attention, but it seems unwarranted. He's only been a coordinator for two years and had the advantage of taking over an established offense with a good quarterback. His experience behind that is limited. Prior to his promotion in San Diego, he was a QB coach there for a year. Before that he was an intern and assistant in Indianapolis. Its probably not fair to Reich, but the Titans also just fired his San Diego predecessor and I'm not ready to go that route again.
10) Tom Clements, Green Bay Packers
He's spent ten years in Green Bay working with and learning from Mike McCarthy, which is a huge plus. He'll be 63 next year, and there's just not a lot of coaches that are given a head coaching shot at that age (though Pete Carroll recently was hired at 60).