JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars are still waiting for Urban Meyer to decide if he will be the franchise’s next head coach. But it makes sense that Shad Khan’s owner would come up with a plan B if Meyer drops him.
The Jaguars interviewed four other people besides Meyer to replace Doug Marrone: Eric Benimi, offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, Raheem Morris, acting head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and Arthur Smith, offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Unless the Jaguars wait until after this weekend’s games to interview other candidates (like Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll), the new coach will be one of those names.
– How Daboll revitalizes Buffalo’s offense
– Marcus Peters’ Inside of the Pig
– What Lurie thinks of Wentz, Brood
– Why Jones won’t get Elway out of Dallas
– How Kamara always stays two steps ahead
Here’s a rundown of each candidate who could be the best and will likely be at the top of the Jaguar list after Meyer:
Eric Benimi: Chiefs coach Andy Reid is still in charge, but Benimi has refereed games at times, including the 2020 regular season finale. Reed said he would put Beniemi on the same level as any of his 10 former assistant coaches who became head coaches. He also said he hadn’t seen many people as tall as him.
That’s high praise, and it should outweigh any reservations about the game. The Jaguars have not survived nearly all nine years of Khan’s tenure – losing at least 10 games in eight of those seasons and breaking the record just once (2017) – and the Jaguars need someone with the confidence and vision to change the direction of the franchise.
And then there’s this: The Jaguars will almost certainly go with Clemson’s quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and Benimi has learned how to develop and manage quarterbacks over the past eight seasons with Reed. Reed helped Alex Smith turn his career around. He turned Smith into a player who had won just once in his first seven seasons and became the starting quarterback in his five seasons with the Chiefs.
Error! The file name is not specified. Eric Benimi has been considered a strong candidate for the Head Coach position in recent years. Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sports Wire
Arthur Smith: Remember when Ryan Tannehill’s career as a quarterback was essentially over? In March 2019, when Miami traded him to the Titans with a 2019 sixth-round draft pick for a 2019 seventh-round draft pick and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick?
The Titans were looking to compete with Marcus Mariota, who hasn’t developed as much as they had hoped since the Titans placed him second in 2015. Mariota lasted the first six weeks of the 2019 season, and the Titans ultimately chose Tannehill.
Since then, Tannehill has combined for the third-best QBR, launched the third-best TD and led the Titans to a record 18-8 regular season record and two playoff appearances, including a race for the 2019 AFC Championship.
Smith was the Titans’ offensive coordinator (2019 was his first season) and made their offense one of the best in the league. Derrick Henry was a sure bet, and although James Robinson is not in Henry’s class, he has proven himself to be a 1,000 yard runner and should be better in 2021 with improved QB play.
Smith is expected to have similar success with Lawrence, Robinson and DJ receivers Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr.
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He recently had his second interview with the New York Jets, so he may be out of the game pretty quickly, but the former Jaguars coach has quickly become one of the best defensive coordinators in the league.
The 49ers have suffered season-ending injuries – including the loss of D Nick Bosa and D Solomon Thomas in September – but Saleh has still put together one of the best teams in the NFL. The 49ers placed seventh or better in total defense, with a running defense, a passing defense and a third down defense. And it was clear that his players loved playing for him too.
Saleh would immediately bring some energy and enthusiasm to a franchise that, frankly, has failed in this area for the past three seasons. From players who wanted to attack the team on social media to arguments, there was a terrible atmosphere around the Jaguars.
The biggest question Khan wanted an answer to was what Saleh planned to do in the event of an attack. Who would be his coordinator and what crime would he commit?
Raheem Morris: Morris led the Falcons to a 4-7 record after replacing Dan Quinn, but received the support of the players to remain in Atlanta as a permanent replacement.
One of the interesting aspects of Morris is that he has coached on both sides of the ball (DB, defensive coordinator, wide receiver) and on special teams, which gives him a better idea of how he wants to proceed as a second-year head coach (17-31 in three seasons with Tampa Bay in 2009-11).
Morris is considered one of the best defenders in the league, so he needs to have a good plan for what he wants to do offensively and who he wants to recruit. Like Saleh, the QB coach and offensive coordinator will be essential recruits as the team looks for a franchise quarterback.