The Jacksonville Jaguars finally cut ties with head coach Gus Bradley on Sunday after a disappointing loss to the Tom Savage-led Houston Texans. Bradley finishes his career in Jacksonville with a record of 14-48 – the second-worst winning percentage in NFL history. This season has been a complete disaster for a team that was expected to at least compete for a playoff berth in the underwhelming AFC South.
He failed to develop quarterback Blake Bortles and the defense looked unmotivated for most of the year. Now, he’s in danger of never landing another head coaching job in the NFL, considering the lack of success he had in Jacksonville.
With Bradley out of the picture, the Jaguars will begin the search for their next head coach. Tom Coughlin is an obvious candidate, as are a handful of coordinators around the league.
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Tom Coughlin is one of the biggest names in not only Jaguars history but in all of Jacksonville sports. The Jagaurs were his first head coaching gig in the NFL, and he spent eight years in Jacksonville as the team's first head coach. He led the Jags to a winning record in four of those eight seasons, which is one more than they’ve had since. He’s obviously not a head coach in the NFL right now, but this could be the perfect situation for the 70-year-old to return to.
He can help motivate and inspire a team that’s looked anything but those things all season under Bradley. Despite his messy split with the Giants, Coughlin is still one of the top football minds out there. The Jaguars actually have a good core of players, particularly on defense, and they’re almost guaranteed to have a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft.
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Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
The second call Jacksonville makes should go to McDaniels. Many will argue that his success is merely the product of Tom Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick’s genius coaching, but what McDaniels did in the first four games of the season was remarkable. He helped lead the Patriots to a 3-1 record without Brady, game planning an offense around the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. That’s no easy task, particularly with the rookie Brissett under center, but the Patriots still had success thanks to McDaniels’ scheming.
He’s young and had a bad stint in Denver with the Broncos, but McDaniels is on the brink of becoming a great head coach. He can help shore up the quarterback position – whether it’s with Blake Bortles or his own guy – which would elevate the play of the entire offense.
Anthony Lynn, Bills offensive coordinator
Lynn was surprisingly elevated into a more prominent role this season when the Bills cut ties with offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Since then, he has improved the play of the offense in just about every category, particularly on the ground. The Bills once again lead the league in rushing behind LeSean McCoy, and it’s been Lynn’s creativity in the running game that’s helped the entire team.
The Bills will get the first shot at hiring Lynn this offseason, if not earlier. Rex Ryan is squarely on the hot seat and could be fired before the end of the season, at which point Lynn would likely be named the interim head coach. He’s been a running backs coach almost all his career, so he’s familiar with providing a spark to a lackluster rushing attack. T.J. Yeldon hasn’t had a great season, but he has the potential to be an every-down back.
Jim Schwartz, Eagles defensive coordinator
If there’s one coach out there who can maximize the output of a talented, yet inexperienced defense, it’s Schwartz. Just about everywhere he’s gone – from Detroit to Buffalo to Philadelphia – his defenses have ranked toward the top of the league. His Wide 9 front has had a ton of success in both generating a pass rush on the interior as well as improving edge rushers, of which the Jaguars have a solid core.
The Eagles aren’t likely to let him go, and though he could make the leap to Jacksonville for a head coaching gig, it will probably need to be for much more than he’s making in Philadelphia and with a good amount of control of the roster. Given his success this season with the Eagles, Schwartz should be one of the most highly sought-after coaches in the NFL.
Mike Smith, Buccaneers defensive coordinator
Smith got off to a rocky start in Tampa Bay, but the Bucs have completely turned around their season and improved greatly on defense. They rank at the top of the league in most statistical categories in the past month, which is a huge reason for their five-game winning streak. And Smith -- who coached the Falcons to a 66-46 record from 2008-14 -- is doing all of that without a great deal of prominent talent. Jacksonville isn’t loaded with Pro Bowlers, but it has up-and-coming stars such as Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler Jr. and Myles Jack – all of whom are likely to be playmakers for years.
Smith has been linked to the Jaguars lately, even before Bradley’s firing. Pro Football Weekly reported that the Jaguars are interested in the former Falcons head coach, and he could very well be their man. He’d bring experience and a defensive mindset to a team that’s struggled mightily on that side of the ball in recent years.