FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The entire NFL universe is in search of the next Sean McVay, the 32-year-old whiz kid who two years ago went quickly from unheralded Redskins assistant to the brilliant mind who turned around the Los Angeles Rams. Finding the next young genius is what every team with a coaching vacancy is going to want.
The problem with that is for every McVay, there's a Ben McAdoo. For every Matt Nagy, the 40-year-old who turned the Chicago Bears into a contender, there's a Steve Wilks, who is about to be one-and-done with the Cards.
The Jets, with a promising, young quarterback in Sam Darnold, could go that route if Todd Bowles is fired, as expected, after the season finale in New England on Sunday. The problem with that is they can't afford to be wrong with their next hire. They can't miss on a coach who isn't ready for the big chair. They can't waste Darnold's formative years on a coach who is learning on the job.
What CEO Christopher Johnson and GM Mike Maccagnan need to understand is that experience matters. In fact, in their case, experience is necessary. They need to hire a coach who has already proven he knows how to handle the big job.
There are signs that they understand that. There was a report that they have already begun investigating Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who spent four years in the NFL turning the San Francisco 49ers into a power. They also are believed to have begun doing some preliminary research on Mike McCarthy, the former Packers coach who took his team to four NFC championship games in 13 years.
Sure, they may still look into young minds like former Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo or Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, and they are certainly worth investigating and maybe even interviewing. But after a Bowles Era that was defined in part by a lack of player discipline on and off the field, and too many game-day coaching mistakes, they need to remember that being a head coach is complicated and not every hot, young assistant is capable of figuring it out.
The Jets haven't had a coach with previous NFL head coaching experience since Bill Parcells left after the 1999 season. They need to break that streak because this time they need a coach who has already had a chance to learn from his mistakes.
That's why looking into Harbaugh made sense, and why McCarthy should be at the top of their list - assuming he wants to coach in New York, which some NFL sources aren't so sure about. The Jets also should consider former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who had tremendous success with quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford and reached the playoffs four times in his seven NFL seasons.
In fact, Caldwell took the Lions to the playoffs twice in four seasons which is pretty much a miracle considering they've only been to the postseason three times in the 19 years. His only truly bad year was 2011 in Indianapolis - the year Manning missed the entire season due to his injured neck.
Either McCarthy or Caldwell would be a terrific hire for the Jets. Harbaugh would be fantastic too if they don't mind the organizational turmoil that comes with him. But there are other candidates out there who have done it before in the NFL and some of them might even be worth a look.
Here are a few experienced candidates on the market:
Simply the best available candidate. In 13 seasons in Green Bay he had eight seasons with double-digit wins, nine trips to the playoffs, four trips to the NFC championship and a Super Bowl championship. What's unknown is whether he wants to coach in New York. His destination might be Arizona.
At 63 he's not a young offensive mind, but he's a good one. He was excellent with the Colts until Peyton Manning got hurt and two playoff trips in four years with the Lions is beyond remarkable. The Packers have already interviewed him, and coaching Aaron Rodgers is probably more appealing than coaching Darnold.
In his first three years in San Francisco he got the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. They fired him in Year 4, which is all you need to know about the chaos he caused there. He says he's not leaving Michigan, but everyone knows he's open to it. But would the Jets want to invite that kind of chaos?
A noted disciplinarian and tough guy, he's probably not the offensive mind the Jets need. He did have a brilliant season in Oakland in 2016, leading the Raiders to a 12-4 record. They were a Super Bowl threat too until quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg in Week 16. One year later, the dysfunctional Raiders fired him months after he signed a four-year contract extension.
He's 66 and supposedly retired, but he is a great offensive coach and he had success in Arizona, even reaching the NFC championship game. He'd probably be great for Darnold. He's on record saying he'd only unretired to coach the Cleveland Browns, though.
He's still well-respected around the league, especially as an offensive coach. But he'd be an impossible sell in New York after he went 3-36-1 in Cleveland and then watched the Browns take off after he was fired.
At 42, he's probably the best young, offensive assistant available and teams are counting on the fact that he learned some lessons from his brief tenure as coach of the Denver Broncos. Two problems, though: Everyone is wary after he took the Colts job last year and then backed out. Also, you can bet Bill Belichick is advising his offensive coordinator to steer far of the Jets.
He's the other coach to take the Detroit Lions to the playoffs over the last two decades, though his one trip came in his only winning season there in five years. Quarterback Matthew Stafford did have his best season that year, though. Schwartz is another tough, discipline-oriented, defensive coach - and the Jets are more likely to lean towards the other side of the ball.