*We're still half a season away from Black Monday, but that doesn't mean the tea leaves aren't there for us to read. With every coaching success story, there is a strong coordinator toiling away in the background. Here is our list of five coordinators whose names will undoubtedly come up for jobs in 2015. *
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Heading into the season's second half, Adam Schein identifies nine head coaches who must win -- or face the consequences. READ
Reason for optimism: Ryan has listened to his critics long enough but maintains an authenticity about him. He has also watched his brother, Rex, closely and understands how he can avoid certain mistakes. (Rex sat down with Around The NFL this week to discuss if Rob's style can work as a head coach.) And even though the Saints don't look like it right now, they're on the cutting edge. NFL defenses will undergo a massive personnel shift in the coming years. If executed properly, New Orleans could be a top defense in a year or two.
Why now?: There are people in the NFL smart enough to realize that Ryan would be absolutely brilliant for a fan base without an identity. Just look at what he's been able to do for New Orleans in a short time. People only think of the final years of the Rex Ryan era in New York but neglect to remember what a star he was between 2009 and early 2011. There was a five-stop book tour with lines out the door at every location. There were free agents from every corner of the NFL -- Plaxico Burress, Bart Scott, LaDainian Tomlinson -- who wanted to play only for him, and there were numerous star players who voluntarily took pay cuts to build his roster. Rob is the same kind of coach and motivator.
Ideal destinations: Atlanta, St. Louis and Oakland. Preferably, Rob Ryan would go to a place with a franchise quarterback who has already been established. We think he could revitalize any of these three sleepy franchises in a heartbeat.
Recent history: Bowles grew as a coach during his time as a secondary coach in Cleveland but got his big break in Miami, where he was named the assistant head coach and, eventually, interim coach in 2011. From there, Bowles made a stop in Philadelphia and is now with Arizona as a defensive coordinator.
Reason for optimism: Bowles has the pedigree that players respect; an undrafted free agent who carved out a seven-year career in the NFL. Born in New Jersey and discovered out of Temple, Bowles has had to fight for just about everything he's earned in the league. As far as his resume goes, he's paid his dues. Bowles also has some interim head coaching experience on his records (the Dolphins finished 2-1 under him that season).
Why now?: The Cardinals have a top-five run defense, and, although their numbers against the pass must improve (Arizona is currently dead last in the league against the pass), Bowles is sitting on one of the hottest coaching staffs in football right now. The Bruce Arians way is in demand, and Bowles has a front-row seat. He's also young (50), energetic and smart enough to have surrounded himself with great people over the years.
Ideal destinations: Miami, Buffalo, Cincinnati and the New York Jets. We see Bowles as a great fit for a veteran-driven locker room that includes some established stars on defense. His reputation as one of the most respected assistants in football will keep him in high regard.
Recent history:Hue Jackson has been all over the NFL, gaining experience as a running backs coach and coordinator with the Redskins in the early 2000s before jumping to the Bengals, Falcons, Ravens and Raiders. After being let go as head coach in Oakland, Jackson coached defensive backs and running backs in Cincinnati before being named offensive coordinator prior to the 2014 season.
Reasons for optimism: Jackson has been through the cycle enough times to show that he has staying power in the NFL. The reason? Did you see Hard Knocks? The guy is a mentor, a coach who is willing to go the extra mile to develop young, impressionable players. The way he's mentored the likes of Giovani Bernard and some of Cincinnati's other young players has not gone unnoticed.
Ideal destinations: Miami, the Jets and St. Louis. We see Jackson as a great fit in a place that is in need of developing a young quarterback and has some promising skill position players that have yet to turn the corner.
Recent history: Just 36 years old, Gase latched on with the Broncos in 2009 as a wide receivers coach and climbed the ladder from there. He was named offensive coordinator prior to the 2013 season.
Reasons for optimism: Gase has spent the past few seasons working with Peyton Manning, which has been a king-maker among offensive coordinators. But more important than that, Gase has taken the responsibility to another level. In the latter stages of his career, Manning's preparation has become more maniacal than ever. Gase has been in lockstep, answering late-night text messages and trying to beat the first-ballot Hall of Famer to the facility.
Why now?: There are only a handful of teams that are well-quarterbacked in this league, and there are plenty more that are eyeing possible franchise cornerstones in the next two years via the draft. Gase will be a nice fit for a young quarterback coming into this league. He's engaging, smart and approachable.
Ideal destinations: Like Jackson, we see Gase as an ideal fit for a franchise that has a developing quarterback -- or plans on developing one. Oakland, Tennessee, Washington and Cleveland come to mind.
Recent history: After working with Brett Favre in Green Bay, Bevell ran his own offense in Minnesota before taking a job in Seattle, where he's been the offensive coordinator since 2011.
Reasons for optimism: Bevell has another year to show how he can work with changing talent and how he can further develop a franchise quarterback. Bevell saw the Seahawks part ways with some valuable weapons over the past two years but has managed to keep the offense viable. His ability to adjust the scheme for Russell Wilson will go a long way in the eyes of some owners who want to take a step forward offensively.
Why now?: The Seahawks were on such a roll last season that Bevell ended up missing out on the prime carousel season. If for some reason Seattle is bounced early from the playoffs this year or ends up missing them altogether, he'll be one of the first coaches to hear his phone ring on Black Monday.
Ideal destinations:Bevell has worked in a few different situations but would likely fit in a place where the groundwork for a strong run game is in place. We like him for the Jets, Miami, Carolina or St. Louis.