The Jacksonville Jaguars are in search of a new offensive coordinator after firing Jedd Fisch last week, but who they will hire is anyone's guess. People like Marc Trestman and Aaron Cromer have been linked to the team, as well as someone like Greg Roman speculated but so far there is nothing concrete. The Jaguars new offensive coordinator doesn't necessarily have to be an established coordinator however, at least according to head coach Gus Bradley.
"I don’t want to limit ourselves to that," Bradley said when asked if the new coordinator had to have experience as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. "I think that would be a great quality to have if they have some, but not if it deters us from getting the right guy."
We do have a little bit of an idea of what Gus Bradley wants out of the new offensive coordinator, as he touched on it a bit in his end of season press conference were the move was announced.
"I want an offense that we execute, we play with precision and we play fast," Bradley said. Does that mean a simple offense? I’m not saying that. It can be as complicated as we want to be, but we don’t want to lose those things, those qualities."
There was one key however that might have shown their hand a bit, to the point we can look for some candidates who might fit the bill.
"No," Bradley said when he was asked if the team will move away from zone blocking on the offensive line. "I think that’s important because that’s what our personnel is."
This tells me that it's likely the Jaguars will be looking to pull a coordinator from a team that runs a zone blocking scheme, or has experience in an offense that utilized zone blocking in the past. You also have to consider the fact that some of these candidates the Jaguars have to wait on, as they're employed by teams still in the playoffs. There was also this tweet from Tony Khan, which may or may not have been a hint as to what the team is looking for.
The 2014 Arizona Cardinals, who went 11-5, ranked 3rd out of 288 NFL teams since 2006 at vertical yards in the air per pass attempt (10.4).— Tony Khan (@TonyKhan) January 3, 2015
@MRPrice87 272 out of 288 (6.73). Bingo, sir.— Tony Khan (@TonyKhan) January 3, 2015
So, who could the Jaguars look at? Outside of the names already mentioned above, I found some names that could be in the mix.
Rick Dennison, QB Coach, Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens have run a zone blocking scheme in some capacity for at least this past season, when Gary Kubiak was hired as their offensive coordinator. One guy that Kubiak brought with him from the Houston Texans was Rick Dennison, who was the offensive coordinator in Houston and currently serves as the Ravens quarterbacks coach. Dennison also served as the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator from 2006 through 2008, in which two of those years were for Jay Cutler's first two seasons in the NFL, so he has experience working with a young quarterback. In Cutler's first season he threw for nearly 4,000 yards with 7.5 YPA and in his second season he threw for 4,500 yards with 7.3 YPA. That offensive success continued when Dennis moved on to the Houston Texans with Gary Kubiak. I don't know how much Dennison called the plays in his tenure with both Denver and Houston, but he has quite a bit of experience in a zone running scheme as well as offenses that did a nice job throwing the ball vertically. Last season with the Ravens, while Kubiak was the coordinator, they still threw the ball vertically and ran efficiently with a castoff running back.
Randy Fichtner, QB Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
Another person who stood out to me when I went fishing around teams that run zone blocking to some extent was Steelers quarterback coach Randy Fitchner. He's never been a play caller in the NFL, but he did run an explosive offense in college at Memphis before he joined the Steelers with Mike Tomlin's staff in 2006. From 2007 through 2010 he served as the wide receivers coach for the Steelers. He was credited with the development of Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. He also worked directly under Bruce Arians who became the offensive playcaller, where the Steelers had some of the most explosive offenses in their franchise's history. When Arians left in 2011 to become the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers hired former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley as the team's play caller. Now, it might be a red flag that Fichtner was passed up in favor of Haley in 2012, but Haley had ties to the Steelers organization and was lauded around the league as an offensive mind. The plus side for Fichner however, is he's worked directly under two of the better NFL play callers for the past eight seasons and could be ready to make that jump to calling plays in the NFL. The Steelers have been an efficient running team during Tomlin's tenure, but the big change was how much more of a vertical passing team they've become.
Randy Fichtner's former boss said three words best describe the coach that could become the Steelers' next offensive coordinator: energy, enthusiasm and passion.
"It's not just a day at the office with Randy, and I think it's contagious," said Tommy West, who was the head coach at Memphis University when Fichtner was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach there. "He has 'it,' and players respond to it."
Who's that sound like?
Rob Chudzinski, Indianapolis Colts special assistant
Chudzinski at one point in time was one of the hottest head coaching candidates in the NFL, partly because of his success as an offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and the Carolina Panthers. Chud was also the offensive coordinator for the University of Miami from 2001-2003, when "The U" was one of the most dominant football teams in the country. In 2011 Chudzinski took what was one of the worst offenses in the NFL the year prior and made the Panthers with rookie Cam Newton a Top 10 offense in the NFL. Two seasons later Chud was hired as the Browns head coach and subsequently fired after the season and a 4-12 record.
Scott Linehan, Passing Game Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
When I went thumbing around for potential offensive coordinators, I was a little surprised Scott Linehan wasn't officially a coordinator somewhere. Linehan was the play caller for the Minnesota Vikings offense in 2003 that ranked tops in the NFL and ranked as the fourth best in 2004 before he joined Nick Saban with the Miami Dolphins in 2005. Saban in Miami was a disaster, but the Dolphins still had a Top 15 ranked offense with Linehan calling plays. Linehan was then hired as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams where he made the playoffs with an 8-8 record his first season. It went down hill from there however and Linehan was fired early in the 2008. The Rams had a Top 10 offense Linehan's first season, but it went downhill from there. In 2009 Linehan was hired as the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator and with a struggling rookie Mathew Stafford at quarterback, the Lions ranked 26th in the NFL in total offense. The Lions offense improved the next season and then jumped to being one of the best in the NFL, remaining a at least a Top 6 ranked offense in his final three seasons as offensive coordinator before he was let go when Jim Schwartz was fired.
Tom Cable, Offensive line coach, Seattle Seahawks
I know a lot of people will immediately scoff at Cable because of some of his off-field history, but after reading up on it I'm not all that concerned with it, personally. Cable in his career has predominantly been an offensive line guru, though he has called plays in the past at UCLA and had a stint as the Oakland Raiders head coach. During his time with Oakland he went 5-11 (taking over for Lane Kiffin), 5-11, and then lead the Raiders to their first non-losing season since 2002 going 8-8 in 2010. That Raiders team was ranked 6th in points scored and 10th in overall offense. Cable has spent the past four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks as their assistant head coach/offensive line coach. He could hold a similar title in Jacksonville if Gus Bradley is keen to hand over the offense to someone else to handle.
Bill Callahan, Offensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
Once the Cowboys were bounced out of the playoffs, most of their staff technically became free agents. Callahan had some success historically as an offensive coordinator during of his time with John Gruden and Marc Trestman, but he has done a good job building and molding the Cowboys offensive line and designing their running game. Callahan served as the offensive coordinator under John Gruden with the Oakland Raiders from 1998-2001 and the head coach from 2002-2003 after John Gruden left. After a failed stint as the Nebraska head coach, Callahan spent time with the New York Jets as their offensive line coach before being brought to the Cowboys.
I don't know if any of these coaches are targets for the Jaguars, but they would seem to fit some of the criteria that the Jaguars appear to be looking for in an offensive coordinator. Personally, after doing some of this research my vote would be for Fichtner.