The New England Patriots are casting a wide net in the search for a new offensive coordinator. The latest candidate linked to the team is Arizona Cardinals assistant Shawn Jefferson, who will reportedly interview with the team on Friday.
A former NFL wide receiver and 17-year veteran as a coach, Jefferson’s experience on the offensive side of the ball is immense. It is therefore not hard to see why the Patriots have expressed interest in him. So with that said, let’s find out a bit more about him.
Who is Shawn Jefferson?
Current position: Arizona Cardinals associate head coach/wide receivers coach
Playing background: If Shawn Jefferson’s name rings a bell, it is probably because prior to coaching he spent 13 seasons as a wide receiver in the NFL — including for four years in New England.
Coming out of UCF, he originally entered the league as a ninth-round draft pick by the Houston Oilers in 1991. He never actually played for the team, though, and instead moved to the then-San Diego Chargers as a rookie. While he saw only marginal action early on, he developed into a productive player over his subsequent four years in the organization.
His development caught the Patriots’ eye, and they signed him to a four-year, $6.4 million contract in free agency in 1996. Jefferson spent four years in New England and played his most productive football for the team. Appearing in 69 regular season and playoff games for the club, he caught 202 passes for 3,365 yards and 14 touchdowns and was later named to the Patriots’ Team of the 1990s.
Jefferson left New England in free agency to finish his active career with a three-year stint in Atlanta and a final season in Detroit. He retired after the 2003 campaign.
Coaching background: Two years after his retirement, Jefferson rejoined the Lions in a coaching capacity. He first served as an offensive assistant before taking over as assistant wide receivers coach and eventually wide receivers coach. He held the latter position for five years before leaving for Tennessee in 2013.
After three years working with the Titans, Jefferson returned to the AFC East. A three-year stint with the Miami Dolphins was followed by a two-year stint with the New York Jets. He continued coaching wide receivers at both of those stops, but also was given the “assistant head coach” title in New York. When Adam Gase, who also brought him to Miami, got fired by the Jets, Jefferson left as well.
It did not take him long to find a new job, joining the Cardinals shortly after his departure from New York. He spent the last two seasons in Arizona, first as wide receivers coach and later in his current role as associate head coach/wide receivers coach. With head coach Kliff Kingsbury fired, however, his future is uncertain as well.
His career brought him in contact with several noteworthy coaches. Jefferson did not just coach under Gase and Kingsbury, he also worked with Rod Marinelli, Jim Schwartz and Scott Linehan, as well as Mike Munchak and Ken Whisenhunt.
Why do the Patriots see him as a potential offensive coordinator?
In order to assess this question, we touched base with Walter Mitchell of SB Nation’s Cardinals blog, Revenge of the Birds. The answers below give some insight into Jefferson’s time in Arizona, and what he might bring to the Patriots’ offense if hired.
How would you assess the job Jefferson has done in Arizona? “It was difficult to assess the job that Shawn Jefferson did this year due to Hopkins’ suspension, Hollywood’s foot injury and Rondale Moore’s season-ending injury. Jefferson has certainly paid his dues as a WR coach. But, to be honest, it’s hard to say one way or another what kind of impact he had. The best RAC WR on the team this year was Greg Dortch, so give Shawn some credit for that. But he wasn’t able to get much production out of Andy Isabella, A.J. Green and Robbie Anderson.”
Do you think he is ready to become an NFL offensive coordinator? “Jefferson likely had some of his favorite plays installed in the Cardinals’ offense because former GM Steve Keim was encouraging Kliff Kingsbury to make the playbook a conglomeration of all of the offensive coaches’ favorite plays. We just don’t know what plays, if any, were his. His forte is in implementing and teaching well-timed combination routes that can be run against both man and zone. From a knowledge and experience standpoint (both as an NFL player and long-time WR coach), Shawn Jefferson is qualified to be an NFL offensive coordinator. The Cardinals front office thought so highly of the job the did in 2021 (11-7) that they promoted him to associate head coach this year. “
What kind of offense do you think he would bring to New England? “Having coached the last couple of years with Kliff Kingsbury, Shawn Jefferson would likely run the type of offense that favors a strong, physical running game that is complimented by an up-tempo, diverse, quick-hitting passing attack. Essentially, it would be an offense very similar to what you had with Josh McDaniels.”
Walter also added one note to keep in mind: “One might imagine that DeAndre Hopkins would be very pleased to see Shawn Jefferson (or Kliff Kingsbury) get the OC job, particularly if a potential Hopkins-to-New England trade could materialize.”