CINCINNATI — When the Cincinnati Bengals brought back Hue Jackson as a special assistant to Marvin Lewis in Week 10, speculation immediately surfaced that he was lining up to be the team’s next head coach.
On Monday, the Bengals and Lewis “mutually decided to part ways after 16 seasons,” per a team news release. Jackson is just one of many possible replacements on a list that likely will include NFL coaches who have been fired, assistants with former head coaching experience or those ready for that next step.
Here is a look at some potential candidates for the Bengals' head coaching vacancy.
Hue Jackson: Jackson has served in various roles over eight seasons with the Bengals, including a successful run as offensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015, and he had been considered Lewis’ potential successor before leaving to become Cleveland’s head coach in 2016. He went 3-36-1 with the Browns before getting fired midseason and it’s still up for debate whether he was at fault, but it didn’t look good when the team suddenly caught fire under interim coach Gregg Williams.
The Bengals players seem to like Jackson, though, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap defended Jackson in saying he built the foundation for Cleveland to be successful in the second half of the season.
Vance Joseph: The Denver Broncos fired Joseph on Monday, after ending their first consecutive losing seasons since the 1970s. According to ESPN reporter Adam Schefter, Joseph, who previously worked in Cincinnati as defensive backs coach (2014-15), still has the Bengals’ attention.
Darrin Simmons: Simmons has worked with almost every player on the roster at some point while serving as Bengals special teams coordinator for the past 16 years. He has been an NFL coach for 21 seasons overall, previously working in Baltimore and Carolina. And it is worth noting that when Lewis missed a practice during training camp last year because of a health issue, Simmons was the coach that Brown put in charge of the team for the day.
Bill Lazor: At age 46, Lazor, the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, could be another internal candidate ready for his first head coaching job. The Bengals were one of the top scoring offenses in the league during a 4-1 start to the season before injuries set them back. Lazor has now been coaching in the NFL for 19 seasons.
Jay Gruden: The former Bengals offensive coordinator (2011-13) is under contract as the head coach of the Washington Redskins through 2020, but the team missed the playoffs for the third straight season and owner Daniel Snyder has a history of firing coaches with time remaining on their deals. Gruden, an Ohio native, was well liked in Cincinnati, and he was a big reason the team drafted Andy Dalton.
Mike McCarthy: The Green Bay Packers fired McCarthy in Week 13 after an embarrassing loss to the Arizona Cardinals dropped the team to 4-7-1. He failed to take the Packers to the playoffs last year and didn’t do enough with quarterback Aaron Rodgers back in the lineup this season, but McCarthy did win a Super Bowl in Green Bay and likely will land on his feet somewhere in 2019.
McCarthy was 125-77-2 and took the Packers to the playoffs nine times in 13 years. He is among the NFL Career Development Advisory Panel’s list of first-tier coaching candidates for next year.
Josh McDaniels: The former Broncos coach and current New England Patriots offensive coordinator might have lost some credibility when he agreed last offseason to become the Colts’ head coach and then changed his mind after the Super Bowl. He remained in New England, and Indianapolis made strides under Frank Reich.
The 42-year-old Ohio native was Denver’s head coach in 2009-10 and has spent the past seven years with the Patriots, where he also began his NFL coaching career as personnel assistant in 2001 and then defensive assistant before switching over to the offense.
McDaniels also is among the NFL Career Development Advisory Panel’s list of first-tier coaching candidates for next year.
John DeFilippo: A rising star in the coaching ranks, he was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia under Reich and coach Doug Pederson before becoming Minnesota’s offensive coordinator this year. The Vikings have been up and down after spending to get quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency, but with offenses dominating the league, every team is looking for the next young offensive genius and DeFilippo could be the next one.
Eric Bieniemy: Bieniemy succeeded Matt Nagy as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator when Nagy left to become the Bears’ head coach, and the Chiefs’ offense has become more dynamic than ever. Patrick Mahomes has flourished in his first season starting at quarterback, and suddenly Bieniemy is a hot candidate for a head coaching job.
The former NFL running back also is among the NFL Career Development Advisory Panel’s list of first-tier coaching candidates for next year.
Ken Whisenhunt: The Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator was the head coach in Arizona for six seasons, guiding the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII, and he spent two years as head coach in Tennessee. His Chargers’ offense ranked in the top 10 for scoring and total yards the past two years, and the NFL Career Development Advisory Panel included him as a first-team coaching candidate for 2019.
The 56-year-old has worked for every other AFC North team besides the Bengals in his 21-year NFL career.
Brian Flores: The 15-year Patriots assistant became the team’s defensive play-caller this season after Matt Patricia left to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions, and Flores has a good reputation around the league. He has coached offense, defense and special teams for New England and is considered a likely target for head coaching vacancies next year. He also was included in the NFL Career Development Advisory Panel’s list of coaching candidates.