Since the day Rex Ryan was fired, we’ve been hearing that Anthony Lynn is the top target to replace him. The talk has reaches such an extent that some wonder if the Buffalo Bills will conduct a coaching search at all, or if it will just be a “search”. If the Bills truly are giving a good look at some potential head coaches, however, we have a few names they might target, courtesy of NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport:
The #Bills job is OC Anthony Lynn's to lose, sources say. BUF is also doing homework on candidates Frank Reich, Teryl Austin, Harold Goodwin— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 1, 2017
Reich is a name most Bills fans already know, either first-hand or from their father’s stories. The third-round pick in the 1985 NFL Draft spent nine years backing up Jim Kelly, amassing a 4-4 regular season record and 2-0 playoff record as a starter. Of course, it’s not like it needs to be said, but one of those playoff wins was the greatest comeback in NFL history. He was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the 1995 expansion draft, and started the first three games in that franchise’s history (including a 31-9 loss in Buffalo in Week 2) before giving way to Kerry Collins. He also played for the Jets and Lions before retiring in 1998.
Reich’s coaching career began ten years later, in Indianapolis as an offensive assistant on Tony Dungy’s final staff with the Colts. He stuck around on Jim Caldwell’s staff, coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers until Caldwell was let go after the 2011 season. Reich spent 2012 coaching receivers under Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona, and then moved on to coaching quarterbacks with the Chargers under Mike McCoy. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2014, and spent two years in the role before joining Doug Pederson’s staff with the Eagles this season. The strengths of Reich’s offenses flipped when he changed teams: his passing offense went from 14th to second in his two years with the Colts, and ranks 21st this season in Philly with rookie Carson Wentz under center. Meanwhile, his rushing attacks were near the bottom of the league with the Chargers, but the Eagles are running a top-ten rushing attack this season.
Austin’s name has been floating around in league circles for a while now. Austin began coaching in the college ranks in 1991, working with defensive backs at Wake Forest, Syracuse, and Michigan (post-Charles Woodson). In 2003, Austin began coaching defensive backs in Seattle under Mike Holmgren, a spot he held through 2006. He moved to Arizona in the same role in 2007 on Ken Whisenhunt’s staff, before returning to the college ranks as the defensive coordinator in Florida under Urban Meyer. A year later, he was back in the pro ranks as John Harbaugh’s defensive backs coach in Baltimore. He finally earned his first chance as an NFL defensive coordinator from Jim Caldwell (who had Austin on his first staff at Wake Forest in 1993) with the Lions, where he’s been since 2014.
Austin burst into the national consciousness in 2014, when the Lions finished second in the NFL in defense. They’ve faded a bit over the last two seasons, going from second and third in yardage and points during 2014 to 18th and 23rd last year before rebounding somewhat to 15th and 13th this year. Unlike the other names on the list, Austin could be unavailable depending on the results of today’s contests, as the Lions are still competing for (and have a pretty good chance at) a playoff spot.
Goodwin is a name you’re probably not familiar with. He started off in the college ranks as well, beginning with a graduate assistant spot on Lloyd Carr’s staff in Michigan. He also coached at Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, coaching offensive lines at both stops. From 2004 to 2006, he was an assistant offensive line coach on Lovie Smith’s staff with the Bears. From 2007 to 2011, he was an offensive line quality control coach with Mike Tomlin and the Steelers. He finally earned the opportunity to coach an offensive line outright with Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians on the 2012 Colts, and when Arians was hired with the Cardinals he selected Goodwin as his offensive coordinator, where he’s been for the last four years.
In three of Goodwin’s four seasons, the Cardinals have finished in the top 12 in yardage, including the top spot last season when they also finished second in scoring offense. 2013 was a lean year, when they finished 24th in yardage and points, but that will happen when Drew Stanton is forced to lead your offense for half the season. This year, the Cardinals rank eighth and eleventh in yards and points, respectively. Interestingly, despite the presence of potential All-Pro running back David Johnson, the Cardinals only rank 20th in the league in rushing attempts while sitting at third in passing attempts.
Those are the names as they stand right now. There could be more added to the list, or some of these coaches could pass on the job, or Lynn could be named the head coach before any of them have a chance to interview. Still, at least we have a starting point beyond the man who will lead the team against the Jets this afternoon.