Sometime after Todd Bowles walks across the field for the final time as Jets head coach Sunday in Foxborough to shake hands with Bill Belichick, Mike Maccagnan needs to put his coffee container down and place a call to Lincoln Riley.
And the Sooner the better.
Mike McCarthy is the safe choice, a no-nonsense presence who has been there and done that, won a Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers, before their honeymoon ended in an inevitable divorce.
Jim Harbaugh is the Hail Mary, but the Bros. Johnson should know that they will have to make him an offer — no less than $7 million a year — he can’t refuse for him to leave his beloved Michigan alma mater without having once beaten Ohio State. Of course you don’t know if he’s ready to scratch his recurring NFL itch unless and until you ask him. And you don’t know for certain whether his intense temperament would play in this market. Or how much control he might want after the friction he endured with then-GM Trent Baalke with the 49ers. He’s a wild card until proven otherwise, albeit a compelling wild card who knows quarterbacks and knows how to win.
It’s a notion Jets CEO Christopher Johnson denied on Monday, saying there’s no truth to the Harbaugh speculation.
It makes a ton of sense that after the string of first-time head coaches the Jets have hired and fired, they need a CEO type with experience.
But you are not doing your due diligence if you do not research whether Riley can do for Sam Darnold what Sean McVay has done for Jared Goff, what Matt Nagy is doing with Mitch Trubisky, what Kyle Shanahan was doing at the end of last season with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jerry Jones was said to have his eye on Riley, who last spring received a five-year, $25 million deal, before Jason Garrett steadied the ship and won the NFC East, which ought to make you pay attention because he gambled and won once in a college coach named Jimmy Johnson.
If Garrett does not have to win a playoff game to keep his job, then Riley would be in play, in places like Cleveland, where his former Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield is killing it, in Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay, and in Florham Park, N.J., among others.
And one of his former players believes that some NFL team should make a play for him.
“He relates well to players, and he’s an offensive genius in my eyes,” Giants receiver Sterling Shepard told The Post. “He’s an all-around great guy.”
Asked what makes Riley an offensive genius, Shepard said: “What makes him an offensive genius? Have you seen the scoreboard on Saturdays,” he said with a chuckle. “That’ll tell you right there. He knows how to put up points.”
No one averages more than the Sooners (49.5 ppg). Shepard, who played at Oklahoma when Riley was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2015 and ‘16 under Bob Stoops, doesn’t doubt that Riley can be a disciplinarian.
“I feel like if he has to lay the law down, he’ll do it,” Shepard said.
Riley, 35, grew up in a two-traffic light farming town of 5,000 called Muleshoe in West Texas. Shepard doesn’t think New York would scare him.
“I feel like he’d be great if he chose to do that,” Shepard said. “He’s way beyond his age. He’s a young guy, but you ask anybody, you think he’s been doing this forever.”
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray became his latest Heisman winner earlier this month.
“Lincoln’s been ready,” Mayfield said earlier this month. “Just who he is, how he coaches, the respect level he’s had from all of his players. How detailed he is. He’s ready. … He’s got something special there. I don’t think anybody’s going to blame him if he stays there for the next 20 years.”
Riley has No. 4 Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl semifinal Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens against No. 1 Alabama.
From a piece he wrote for the Players’ Tribune 18 months ago:
“Adaptability is one of the most important traits a coach can possess. Not just a willingness to change, but finding a true enjoyment in it. But beyond being ready to embrace change, you — at your core — have to be a people person. Not just when it comes to talking to people related to the program, but anybody.”
Christopher Johnson shouldn’t talk to anybody. But before he reaches a verdict on his next head coach, he should talk to Lincoln Riley.