Eric Mangini's name is probably still on his parking spot at Jets headquarters, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start handicapping the field of potential candidates for his old job. Attempting to prognosticate the front-runner isn't too difficult, given the way that one man stands out ahead of the rest of the field.
Pros: Cowher won a Super Bowl with the Steelers and spent the last two years extending his brand even further on television. Widely respected for his football acumen and, perhaps more importantly to a Jets ownership that wants Brett Favre back, widely known. Unlike Favre, Cowher may still be at the top of his game. Working in television means Cowher's stayed on top of players and teams, including the Jets. That knowledge, plus the already in place 3-4 defense, means the transition wouldn't be all that difficult.
Cons: The only one that matters is that Cowher may not want to get back into coaching. Browns owner Randy Lerner said that's what Cowher told him, but there have been indications that Woody Johnson's money could change his mind.
That said, there could also be some friction with GM Mike Tannenbaum over personnel matters. Though Tannenbaum expertly navigated his way around the hole Mangini fell into, if Cowher's got Johnson's full support battles over personnel changes could become contentious. Simply put, Cowher's too good a coach to let Tannenbaum get in the way, and that goes double for Favre.
Pros: The Jets have already asked for permission to interview the Giants defensive coordinator. He's built one of the league's finest and most aggressive defenses. Spagnuolo's defenses get after the quarterback, something the Jets have struggled to do for years. Although he's an assistant, he's well known to New York football fans and has a winning pedigree.
Cons: The Giants play a 4-3 scheme that would require some changes to current Jets personnel. The last three Jet coaches have been first-timers, and it might be time to try a different way to skin the cat. Furthermore, hiring a Giant assistant would only reinforce the notion that the Jets live under the shadow of their more successful stadium mates.
Pros: His teams win in the regular season. He's got the emotional investment some felt Mangini lacked and comes with a long resume of success in several NFL stops. All those stops mean that every football fan knows who he is. He's familiar with the Jets, as his son Brian has been offensive coordinator for the last three years.
Cons: It may be time to get away from first-timers, but that doesn't make fifth-timers attractive. Despite his resume, Schottenheimer would be seen as a retread hired only because Cowher said no. If Schottenheimer gets the job, it would likely mean a return for Brian as offensive play caller, something that hasn't worked all that well the past two seasons.
Pros: The Vikings defensive coordinator has learned at the feet of Tony Dungy and built a strong unit in Minnesota. He's African-American, and the Jets will have to interview at least one minority candidate to satisfy the Rooney Rule.
Cons: He'll need to blow them away in that interview. Frazier's not a big name, doesn't have the local cachet of Spagnuolo and has no connections to anyone currently with the Jets.
Pros: The Patriots offensive coordinator made sure the team didn't miss a beat with Tom Brady out for the entire season.
Cons: A very young, Bill Belichick disciple with no head coaching experience. Sound familiar?