The Jacksonville Jaguars search for a head coach has been going on for nearly a month to this point. And if they want it to end sooner than later, they may just have a rooting interest in Sunday's playoff games.
The Jaguars are not considering any of the assistants in Sunday's Buffalo Bills-Kansas City Chiefs matchup, but the Los Angeles Rams-Tampa Bay Buccaneers bout earlier in the day will feature two assistants the Jaguars have given first interviews to in Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
And a day after another Jaguars head coach candidate suddenly had his schedule clear up with Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nate Hackett finding himself on the losing side of a divisional game vs. the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday's afternoon slate could prove pivotal to the Jaguars and their search.
The Jaguars to this point have given just one candidate a second interview: Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. The fact the Jaguars haven't yet conducted another second interview despite having candidates available to speak to such as Doug Pederson, Jim Caldwell, Bill O'Brien, Darrell Bevell, and Kellen Moore speaks volumes.
Just by reading the clues the Jaguars' own process has left, it is safe to assume most of the Jaguars' shortlist are coaches who were coaching in the Divisional Round this weekend. Logic would point to Leftwich and Hackett as the two most obvious names, with each having strong leadership qualities and experience working closely with quarterbacks.
As such, the Jaguars should now hope for Leftwich and the Buccaneers to have the same result that Hackett and the Packers had. The best-case scenario for the Jaguars is for the entire playing field to open up, not leaving them at the mercy of a continued playoff run by Leftwich and the Buccaneers, and also similarly not leaving them at the mercy of the other seven head coaching searches taking place in the NFL.
The Jaguars' job is already one that not all candidates love due to the status of incumbent and embattled general manager Trent Baalke, who has helped conduct the coaching search alongside Shad and Tony Khan to this point. For the Jaguars to have to play the waiting game on other candidates would be a potential negative to a process that has been wide-reaching to this point.
As such, the Jaguars should be the biggest Rams' supporters in the world on Sunday. They should root for Leftwich to immediately be able to take his second interview the same week that Hackett likely will.
If not, they run the risk of having to wait weeks longer to speak to Leftwich again, with the winner of Sunday's game having a home tilt against a badly-injured 49ers team that didn't score a single offensive touchdown against the Packers.
Perhaps the Jaguars don't have Leftwich or Hackett on their short list, but nothing about their process thus far suggests this is the case. If it wasn't, then the Jaguars wouldn't have had such a quiet week on the coaching front.
Hackett is now free from any restraints thanks to an abysmal showing from the Packers' offense and special teams on Saturday. The best thing for the Jaguars would be for the Rams to give Leftwich a similarly early exit.
The Buccaneers losing to the Rams on Sunday wouldn't be a knock against Leftwich, either. All coaches have resumes that are stronger than one-game sample sizes, but the injuries the Buccaneers are facing and the momentum of the Rams suggest there is a real chance Tampa Bay loses on Sunday.
This isn't a case where Leftwich still has to prove himself. He has already proven he is ready for a head coach job.
Now, he just needs his schedule to clear up for the Jaguars. And that is exactly what they should root for on Sunday.