Well, here we are again.
One year after the Jacksonville Jaguars conducted a search for a new head coach to replace Doug Marrone, the team finds itself in the same situation this winter, now looking for a replacement for their replacement.
Names have been thrown around with vigor as potential candidates to replace Urban Meyer, while several interviews have been officially set up between coaches and the Jaguars' brass.
But who is the best candidate for the Jaguars? What does each of them bring to the table, on and off the field? From Jim Caldwell to Kellen Moore and everyone in between, we examine the pros and cons that come with each coach and their potential impact on the Jaguars.
Next up in our review of this year's candidates: Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, who reportedly has been scheduled for a second interview with the Jaguars.
- Toledo (1992): Student assistant coach
- Toledo (1993): Graduate assistant
- Toledo (1994–1995): Recruiting coordinator and outside linebackers coach
- Toledo (1996–1998): Outside linebackers coach
- Toledo (1999–2000): Defensive backs coach
- Missouri (2001–2008): Defensive coordinator
- Cleveland Browns (2009–2010): Linebackers coach
- Dallas Cowboys (2011–2015): Linebackers coach
- Dallas Cowboys (2016–2017): Linebackers coach and passing game coordinator
- Indianapolis Colts (2018–present): Defensive coordinator
A three-year starting linebacker at Toledo, Matt Eberflus quickly found himself on Toledo's coaching staff at the conclusion of his playing career. After several years as an assistant at Toledo that saw him function in multiple different roles, Emerflus took a massive step and became defensive coordinator of Missouri in 2001 by Gary Pinkel, a stop that also saw Eberflus coach the secondary.
Eberflus coordinated several of the Big 12's top defenses while at Missouri, while also putting multiple defenders and top-100 picks into the NFL with linebacker Sean Witherspoon and defensive back William Moore. Missouri won division titles in Eberflus' final two seasons, with Eberflus then taking a leap to the NFL in 2009 with the Cleveland Browns.
After two seasons with the Browns and five years as Dallas' linebackers coach, Eberflus got another title added to his responsibilities when he was named Dallas' passing game coordinator. During his time with Dallas, he helped develop linebackers such as Sean Lee, Rolando McClain, Jaylon Smith, and Anthony Hitchens.
After several years in Dallas, Eberflus was tabbed by Josh McDaniels as the Colts' defensive coordinator. In an unusual turn of events, McDaniels backed out of the job but Eberflus was retained on the new staff led by head coach Frank Reich, with general manager Chris Ballard going to bat for Eberflus to remain on the staff even after McDaniels' departure.
In the four years Eberflus has been with the Colts, he has spearheaded the development of linebacker Darius Leonard and nickel cornerback Kenny Moore, while guiding the Colts to years in which they finished No. 10, No. 18, No. 9, and No. 10 in points allowed and No. 11, No. 19, No. 7, and No. 8 in defensive DVOA.
When looking at the players who Eberflus has had a direct influence on during his NFL coaching career, it is hard to not be impressed. He has helped several linebackers of different backgrounds become Pro Bowl and even All-Pro players, ranging from high second-round picks to mid-rounders to castoffs from other teams. For a coach to help so many different players under his tutelage find success -- especially at linebacker, a position the Jaguars have struggled at since 2017 -- then there is a clear pattern that says he knows what he is doing.
Eberflus' time as a coordinator is also a big feather in his cap. It would be unwise to hold his performances against the Jaguars in recent years against him considering those games represent merely a small fraction of his sample size. Instead of looking at how Gardner Minshew and Trevor Lawrence found success against him at TIAA Bank Field, it is more important to consider the improvements he brought to a Colts defense that was No. 30 in points scored and No. 27 in defensive DVOA the year before Eberflus took over.
In his time with the Colts, Eberflus has helped foster a defensive system that prides itself on its ability to create turnovers and stop the run. While the pass-rush has yet to fully take shape, the Colts' defense has outplayed its talent level in each of the four seasons Eberflus has led it. The Jaguars, meanwhile, have lacked teeth on defense since the 2018 defense and are among the worst teams in creating turnovers and stopping the run during that time.
There is also the fact that Eberflus is a well-respected coach who has been seen by many as a head coach in waiting for several years. Eberflus is considered by many to be a player's coach who can command a locker room with respect, while also thriving in terms of organization. He has had complete control of the Colts defense during his tenure and has formed a strong partnership with head coach Frank Reich even though he wasn't Reich's first choice as coordinator, which speaks to the high regard he has been held in within the Colts' organization.
There is also some credence to the argument that Eberflus knows the Jaguars, their personnel, and their challenges better than Eberflus. Eberflus has coached against the Jaguars eight times, including two bouts against Trevor Lawrence last season. Eberflus likely knows exactly where the Jaguars' deficiencies are, at least in comparison to his counterparts.
The biggest question with Eberflus' candidacy is the question of what he can bring to the table for Trevor Lawrence's development. It doesn't take an offensive-minded head coach to be a positive influence on a young and developing quarterback like Trevor Lawrence, but it does make the dynamic a bit more complicated.
For example, look at the Colts with Andrew Luck. Luck found immediate success with Bruce Arians as his offensive coordinator and Chuck Pagano as his head coach, but Arians lasted one season as play-caller before taking a job with the Cardinals. From that point on during the Pagano tenure, Luck was coached by Pep Hamilton and Rob Chudzinski, neither of whom found the same success as Arians. When you hire a defensive head coach, though, these are the type of scenarios that are on the table. Eventually, teams are going to want to hire the offensive coordinator of the shining young quarterback.
So, who ultimately would be Eberflus' offensive coordinator and essentially the most important piece of Lawrence's development? Current coaches on the Colts' staff with Eberflus who would make sense are Press Taylor and Mike Groh, each former top offensive lieutenants with the Eagles.
Neither Groh or Taylor had a successful tenure as offensive or passing game coordinator, however, and neither would exactly be a convincing and positive hire for Lawrence. Eberflus could look to his past days with the Cowboys in search of a play-caller, but the fact that he doesn't have a clearly engaging name tied to him as coordinator is a red flag.
There is also the fact that Eberflus would be working with a bit less in Jacksonville than with the Colts. While the Colts' defense isn't loaded with talent, the Jaguars don't have any defenders on the level of Leonard, Moore, or DeForest Buckner. Can Eberflus make his scheme work without blue-chip talents along the defensive line and at linebacker? His 2018 season suggests he can, but it is a legitimate concern.