Having fired Urban Meyer after just 13 games, the Jacksonville Jaguars are out in front on the search for their next head coach.
With the NFL's new rules allowing clubs to begin interviewing candidates on Tuesday, Dec. 28, the Jags can start their search in earnest this week.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday on NFL GameDay Morning that the initial list of candidates the Jags are interested in interviewing includes Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, and former head coaches Jim Caldwell and Doug Pederson.
Leftwich, the former Jaguars first-round pick in 2003, has ties to Jacksonville from his playing days. The OC is expected to be a hot candidate this year after helping lead a Bucs offense that enters Week 16 ranked first in the NFL in scoring.
A fast-rising coaching candidate, Leftwich got his start under Bruce Arians in Arizona before following him to Tampa in 2019 as the full-time OC. Arians has authored unending glowing praise for Leftwich, who calls the play and has autonomy on offense.
With a young signal-caller in Trevor Lawrence at the helm, Leftwich's experience as a player and coach could be something the Jags might consider an ideal combo in their next head coach.
Caldwell has a wealth of coaching experience, including swiftly turning a struggling Lions team into a playoff squad in his first year in Detroit. The 66-year-old is well respected by players and in coaching circles. If a revamped culture is owner Shad Khan's primary goal after the Meyer debacle, Caldwell could be the choice. He has won two Super Bowls as an assistant and helped the Colts win the AFC championship in his first season.
The assistant hires would be the key for Caldwell in Jacksonville. Working with two former No. 1 overall picks in Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford, Caldwell's experience and respectability would make him an intriguing option in Jacksonville.
Pederson owns a Super Bowl championship as both a player and a coach. His work with QBs, including Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, among others, provides optimism he'd make a good pair with Lawrence. Pederson helped Philly win its first Super Bowl and advanced to the postseason in three of his five seasons in charge.
An offensive mind with a career .541 winning percentage, Pederson knows what it's like to pick up the pieces of a franchise after a former hot college coach bombed in the NFL -- he replaced Chip Kelly in Philly. The ending wasn't pretty in Philly, but there is no question Pederson can coach winning football.
It's clear from the initial names that the Jags want an offensive mind to pair with Lawrence, which makes perfect sense. The former No. 1 overall pick was championed as a franchise-altering prospect. He's the main reason Meyer took the job in the first place. Finding a coach to mesh with the QB is the most vital part of Khan's next decision.