Staffing, staffing, staffing. That has been the emphasis of the first few days of Urban Meyer's tenure as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Meyer didn't undersell just how important his coaching staff decisions will be for the future of his team on Friday,
“That’s what’s going on right now. I’ve actually been going through [that]. This a deep, deep dive into this. I know all coaches say that. The next week will be a critical time for the Jaguars organization," Meyer said on Friday.
Meyer has already detailed how his top assistants will function in Jacksonville. Much like at Ohio State and Florida, Meyer will delegate a large number of responsibilities to his offensive and defensive coordinators, choosing to find a scheme to fit his players as opposed to finding players to fit a scheme.
"I’m not going to be the playcaller. I’ve been very active in play calling throughout my career on offense and kicking game. On defense, I’m not. I’m going to hire the best defensive coaches," Meyer said. "I think something I’ve done halfway decent is I know what it’s supposed to look like and feel like and the fundamentals, but schematically the NFL is different."
So, who will Meyer select as his offensive and defensive coordinators at the NFL level? That is the key question as Meyer begins his NFL coaching career.
To give an idea of a few names to look for at both offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, we are going to list a few coaches who are logical fits with Meyer. First, we start with five names on offense.
It certainly appears as if Scott Linehan is the early favorite to be Meyer's first offensive coordinator. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Todd Archer first reported Thursday that Linehan had emerged as a candidate, while NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said Saturday that Linehan will interview with the team next week.
Linehan isn't a hire that would likely create much excitement due to his overall lack of innovation, but it isn't hard to see why Meyer may want to bring him to his first NFL staff. Meyer desperately needs a coordinator with vast NFL experience, and that is what he would have in Linehan.
Linehan has been an offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions from 2009-2013, guiding Matthew Stafford through the first five years of his career. His offenses finished 27, 15, 4, 17, and 13th in scoring during that period. Their offensive DVOA rankings were 31, 19, 10, 8, 18th.
Linehan also has experience working with Dak Prescott and Tony Romo, so it isn't like Trevor Lawrence would be the first high-profile quarterback he would be given the responsibility of developing. He was offensive coordinator in Dallas from 2015-2018 and oversaw offenses that finished fifth in points and second in rushing yards in 2016, but he was eventually let go by Dallas after their offense failed to evolve. He then spent 2020 with LSU as its passing game coordinator but his tenure lasted just a season after an underwhelming year.
Linehan isn't a sexy or innovative hire, but the logic for Meyer adding him is at least clear. He hasn't found consistent success at the offensive level, though, so there should be some wariness.
Another name that would bring a ton of experience as a playcaller and as a quarterback developer to Meyer's staff is another former Lions coach. Jim Caldwell was head coach for Detroit from 2014-2017 and also spent three years (2009-2011) as the head coach for the Indianapolis Colts. All in all, Caldwell has been either a head coach, offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach in the NFL in every year since 2001 outside of 2018 and 2020.
Caldwell certainly has experience running NFL offenses. He took over in Baltimore as its offensive coordinator in the 2012 season and helped the unit turn things around en route to a Super Bowl victory. That is his second ring, too, since he won one with the Colts as the team's assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. Any coach who is Peyton Manning's position coach for as long as Caldwell was likely has picked up a thing or two. Caldwell wasn't in the NFL in 2020 so it remains to be seen if he would be interested in leading an offense, but he has the track record with quarterbacks and scheming up passing games that he should be an attractive option to pair with Trevor Lawrence.
Not many position coaches did a better job in 2020 than Pep Hamilton. Despite the Los Angeles Chargers' poor record, Hamilton was one of the league's top assistants this season thanks to his rook with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. There was no real reason for Herbert, who was raw coming out of Oregon, to be able to thrive as a rookie considering the rare circumstances created by COVID-19, but he did just that. Hamilton was his quarterbacks coach along the way, helping develop Herbert as he threw an NFL record 31 touchdown passes and 4,336 passing yards.
Hamilton has past experience as an offensive coordinator at the NFL level, also, as he was the Colts' offensive coordinator from 2013-2015. He wasn't there for Andrew Luck's rookie season, but he was by the quarterback's side for years two through four. The team finished 12, 18, and 31st in offensive DVOA during that period. Hamilton's stock has risen since then, however, and Meyer is likely well aware of his credentials due to Hamilton's time in college football.
A member of the Andy Reid tree, there might not be a coach on this list who has a scheme that fits Trevor Lawrence's skill set more than former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. Pederson centers his scheme around the quarterback, tempo, and has never been afraid to rely on RPO concepts. Pederson may want a head coaching gig after he won the Super Bowl just a few years ago, but those options are quickly dwindling.
Pederson spent three years as Reid's offensive coordinator with the Chiefs before landing the Eagles job in 2016. For a short while, Pederson looked to be one of the NFL's top developers of quarterbacks due to Carson Wentz' fantastic 2017 season and Nick Foles' improbably playoff run that same year. The question here would be if the Jaguars could trust Pederson to stay on the same page as his quarterback and prevent regression after progress has been made, two areas he struggled with in regards to Wentz.
People likely wouldn't have thought of Brian Schottenheimer as a forward-thinking, innovative, and daring offensive mind a few years ago. But after his three-year tenure with the Seattle Seahawks, a tenure that ended earlier this week due to a clash of offensive philosophies between him and Pete Carroll, this has changed. Despite the Seahawks moving on from the veteran coordinator, who has a total of 12 years of coordinating experience in the NFL, Schottenheimer still has a background worth looking into.
Schottenheimer's offenses in Seattle finished 6, 9, and 8th in scoring and always finished top-5 in the NFL in passing scores. The reason why Russell Wilson had MVP hype earlier this season was because the Seahawks finally unlocked his skill set and let him dictate the terms of the offense, instead of letting him be a background figure in the scheme. This was their evolution with Schottenheimer, and he likely picked up a lot from Wilson that he could carry over to Trevor Lawrence if given the chance.