Sizing up Jets' coaching candidates, from McCarthy to Bieniemy

Former Packers coach Mike McCarthy is perhaps the most qualified coach on the Jets' list, but there are some hurdles to clear. Mike Roemer/AP Photo

1. Magnificent seven: Some quick-hit thoughts and a ranking of the New York Jets' head coach candidates:

Mike McCarthy: One league source told me Jets CEO Christopher Johnson is "enamored" with McCarthy, who certainly is the most accomplished coach on the team's list. His offensive background appeals to the Jets, who want someone who can nurture quarterback Sam Darnold. It'll cost a bundle -- he averaged $8.5 million annually on his Green Bay Packers contract -- but Johnson wouldn't be sitting at the table unless he agreed to ante up. I hear McCarthy doesn't want to uproot his school-age kids in Green Bay, so it might be incumbent upon the Jets to shorten the distance, so to speak. Did someone say private jet? He also has an interview with the Cleveland Browns.

Another league source questioned whether McCarthy, after a 13-year run in Green Bay, still has the passion, saying, "Coaches hit walls, too. He should be the first guy hired, based on his resume, but there's a reason why they were floundering the last two years. When you have a franchise quarterback, you can't be that bad. That's on him."

Eric Bieniemy: The Jets interviewed the Chiefs' offensive coordinator Wednesday in Kansas City, but they wouldn't be able to hire him until his playoff run is over. He comes highly recommended by coach Andy Reid, who has produced Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson. As one source said, "When you come out of there, you're pretty good."

The knock on Bieniemy is his lack of experience. He's a first-time offensive coordinator who doesn't call the plays, but that's not always an accurate predictor of head-coaching success. Exhibit A: Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, who made his bones as a running backs coach. Bieniemy also has interviewed with the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Adam Gase: The former Dolphins coach interviewed on Friday. Gase did a decent job in Miami (23-25), considering the roster and the quarterback situation, so his ouster surprised some folks around the league. Like McCarthy, he has a background with quarterbacks. One of his former quarterbacks, Peyton Manning, swears by him. That appeals to the Jets.

In Miami, Gase had control of the 53-man roster. He wouldn't have that power with the Jets because it belongs to general manager Mike Maccagnan. Is that a deal-breaker? Could it lead to disputes? The Jets need to do their homework on Gase's personality. There was friction at times with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, according to the Miami Herald, which reported Gase once yelled at Ross when the owner offered input on a football-related matter. Gase also is drawing interest from the Arizona Cardinals.

Kris Richard: The Jets are expected to interview the Dallas Cowboys' defensive backs coach on Sunday. He was kind of busy all week, as the Cowboys played a wild-card game on Saturday. Richard, a former player, is a charismatic leader who would excite the Jets' players and fan base. After getting fired by the Seattle Seahawks -- he coached at the end of the "Legion of Boom" era -- Richard became the Cowboys' playcaller and did a terrific job.

There's a lot to like about him, including a winning pedigree, but his defensive background is a big hurdle. The Jets have gone with defensive-minded coaches for 20 years and they'd like to break the trend, especially with Darnold. To get the job, Richard would have to crush his interview and convince the Jets' brass that he'd be able to hire a strong offensive coordinator. He's also interviewing with the Dolphins and Bucs.

Todd Monken: The Bucs' offensive coordinator put up big numbers in his first season as the playcaller, squeezing a few monster games out of Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's a well-regarded offensive mind with head-coaching experience on the college level (Southern Miss), which begs the question: If he's such a whiz, why don't the Bucs hire him as Dirk Koetter's replacement? The Jets will interview him Monday or Tuesday. The Cincinnati Bengals are interested, too.

Matt Rhule: The Baylor coach has emerged as a wild card. He’s on their radar and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Jets meet with Rhule while in Texas for the Richard interview. They will try to keep it quiet because it’s a sensitive time for college coaches (see: recruiting), but there’s interest. The native New Yorker, who interviewed with the Colts last offseason, is a bright offensive coach who spent one season in the NFL (2012, New York Giants).

Jim Caldwell: Well, he took the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl and he actually posted a winning record with the Detroit Lions (36-28). He's good with quarterbacks, good with offense and an all-around good guy, but he's not right for this job. Caldwell, 63, lacks presence and can't manage the clock. Remember that infamous timeout in the final seconds of the Jets-Colts playoff game after the 2010 season? Manning was so befuddled that he shook his head in disbelief. Caldwell already has interviewed with the Browns and Cards.

2. Question at the top: Johnson is running the Jets on a day-to-day basis, but what happens when older brother/owner Woody Johnson returns from his diplomatic gig overseas? His three-year term as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom ends in August 2020. One agent who represents a coaching candidate said he'd like to know which Johnson will be in charge for the long term.

Does it matter? Well, yeah, kind of. Current and former employees describe Christopher as more coach- and player-friendly than Woody, who was known to make impulsive decisions. Christopher is inexperienced in the big chair, but he doesn't sound like he's texting big bro in London for advice.

"He has no role in the final [coaching] decision," Christopher Johnson said. "The decision is mine."

As for his future role, Johnson has said he expects to remain heavily involved when Woody returns, and his brother is on board with that arrangement.

3. Leo on the move? I think one of the storylines that will emerge around the scouting combine in February is the future of defensive end Leonard Williams, whose salary balloons in 2019 to $14.2 million (the amount of his fifth-year option). From what I hear, the organization will consider the possibility of shopping him to see if he could bring a second-round pick or better.

With his '19 salary and a possible franchise tag in 2020, Williams would make an estimated $32 million over the next two seasons -- top-10 money for a defensive lineman, based on average per year. With that kind of money in his future, it makes sense to be proactive -- extend his contract or trade him. If they wait a year, they could lose him for nothing or get stuck overpaying for the franchise tag.

4. Woe is the O: While offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates did a commendable job with Darnold in the latter portion of the season, his overall handling of the offense caused angst among some players. Heard around the locker room: He wasn't receptive to input from players. He was too focused on Darnold. The passing game was predictable (Robby Anderson ran the deep routes, Quincy Enunwa the short routes). His planned scripts, usually the first 15 plays, were flawed; the Jets were the only team without an opening-drive touchdown.

When the season ended, two wide receivers aired their frustrations.

"I felt like I kind of got put on the back burner a little bit, which can happen," Jermaine Kearse said. "For me, coming off my best year -- statistically, the year before -- I had some really high expectations. It's just really frustrating and unfortunate that things didn't go the way I expected. ... It just wasn't a match. It just didn't match the year before, when I was able to showcase a little more than I was able to do [this year]."

Enunwa told the New York Post, "Guys were put in boxes, and I think that it kind of affected how defenses played against us. It’s not easy as a receiver when you’re told that this is the only route you’re gonna run, and then the defense also knows that. It didn’t lend to a lot of variety."

The offense produced 29 touchdowns, three fewer than its 2017 total. The Jets also regressed in the red zone and on third down.

5. Weighing options: Todd Bowles has stayed out of the news since his ouster, but my understanding is that he's interested in coaching in 2019. He's still owed the final two years of his contact, so he's under no financial pressure to work, but he hasn't missed a year since he started coaching in 1997 at Morehouse College -- and I don't think he wants to start now.

6. The last word: "Mike is a very good coach in regard to discipline and toughness. He's going to ingrain toughness into his players. I think he's a great choice for any of these teams, but those two in particular because of the quarterback situations." -- Hall of Famer Brett Favre, who played under McCarthy in Green Bay, on what might make his former coach a match for the Jets or Cleveland Browns (via SiriusXM NFL Radio).