Mike McCarthy has made it known that he only wants to coach the Jets next season. Now it's up to the Jets to decide whether they want him.
The 55-year-old former Packers coach still appears to be one of the favorites to land the job -- if not the favorite -- as the Jets move on to Phase 2 of their search. They are known to have interviewed eight candidates so far, and seven of them are still available to be hired. Only one - former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is the new coach of the Arizona Cardinals - has been hired by someone else.
Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan and CEO Christopher Johnson are believed to be huddling with other team executives on Wednesday to determine what comes next - whether they want to interview more candidates, bring in some for a second interview, or just make their final decision.
So the news about McCarthy was interesting for his timing. On Wednesday night, ESPN reported that McCarthy "doesn't want to be considered and isn't pursuing" any head coaching job other than with the Jets. Of course, the Jets seemed to be the only one pursuing him at that moment. McCarthy had reportedly declined an offer to interview with the Cardinals before they hired Kingsbury, and his scheduled interview with the Cleveland Browns had been postponed twice before news broke that McCarthy wasn't in their final two.
In other words, it already seemed to be the Jets or bust for him - at least for this upcoming season.
"If McCarthy didn't think he had a great shot at the Jets job, wouldn't he have just leaked that he's sitting out 2019?" one NFL agent asked. "He must know they want him."
Maybe. But the Jets do appear to be conducting a wide-ranging, open-minded search. They also like Baylor coach Matt Rhule, according to one source, who reportedly talked with them about their job (He's the only one of the eight candidates not to have an interview officially announced by the team). Former Dolphins coach Adam Gase and Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken seem to be getting serious consideration for their offensive minds. And one NFL source believes former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell is a "stealth" candidate - an under-the-radar choice who may be higher on the Jets' list than many believe.
The Jets have also interviewed Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Cowboys defensive coordinator Kris Richard. With both of their teams in the playoffs, the Jets couldn't talk to them again until their teams are eliminated. If the Jets' search drags through the weekend, that could be a good indication for one of them.
McCarthy, meanwhile, keeps hanging around. Initially, many around the NFL were skeptical that he would want to coach in New York or coach at all in 2019 after spending 13 mostly successful seasons in Green Bay. But after he interviewed with the Jets last week, SNY reported that McCarthy had "warmed" to the idea of coaching the Jets and not taking a year off.
One NFL source said McCarthy is a favorite of Johnson, who is the one making the final decision for the Jets, but that Maccagnan wanted to make sure that they consider all options before jumping at the biggest name in the field. That's the outside perception, though. The Jets have been keeping a tight lid on their thinking throughout the search, which is now in its 10th day.
It likely is nearing a conclusion, though. McCarthy and everyone else should find out exactly what the Jets are thinking soon.