Matt Cavanaugh, after 22 NFL seasons, sensed retirement was close to. He didn’t coach in 2020. He’ll flip 65 in October. He was comfy at his dwelling in South Carolina.
He was leaving a golf course when the information was relayed to him.
“I used to be so shocked when the accident occurred,” Cavanaugh, the Jets’ new senior offensive assistant, stated about listening to that Greg Knapp, the workforce’s passing sport coordinator, had died in July after a automobile hit him whereas he was on his bicycle.
Knapp and Cavanaugh had been coaches with the 49ers in 1996 and remained shut, reaching out typically. They didn’t work collectively once more, however they’d hang around on the NFL Scouting Mix in Indianapolis every year.
Cavanaugh met with new Jets head coach Robert Saleh within the weeks after Knapp’s demise to get a really feel for the brand new regime, the employees, the gamers. And he thought-about primarily taking the spot his good friend vacated, which weighed on him.
“I’m not right here to exchange [Knapp]. I don’t assume I can change him,” Cavanaugh stated after observe Thursday, his first time talking publicly since he formally took the job final week. “However I promise that I’ll simply attempt to characterize him nicely. Work onerous, do the very best I can and hopefully make him proud.”
He’ll strive to take action by being one other voice in rookie quarterback Zach Wilson’s ear. Cavanaugh won’t be the only real voice, however he can be a uncommon, skilled voice.
The Jets have a rookie quarterback and head coach. Their play-caller, Mike LaFleur, has by no means held that job full-time within the NFL. Their quarterbacks coach, Rob Calabrese, is in his first season, too, after serving as an offensive high quality management coach with the Broncos.
Saleh wished an assistant who had been right here earlier than to take over for Knapp, who had coached for 25 years.
And Cavanaugh, who was Mark Sanchez’s quarterback coach from 2009-12, actually had been right here earlier than. Regardless of two AFC Championship sport appearances, it didn’t work out for Sanchez in New York, however Cavanaugh has larger hopes for the latest way forward for the Jets.
“You see lots of younger quarterbacks that come into the league which have arm power and mobility. … What I’ve observed, he’s bought an actual good consciousness of what goes on on the opposite facet of the ball, which is uncommon,” Cavanaugh stated of the No. 2-overall decide.
Three names got here up as analogues for Wilson, which hints at simply how excessive his ceiling is and what number of variables are at work: Joe Montana, Steve Younger and Trent Dilfer.
“He’s bought an incredible understanding of how defenses work, the place their strengths are, a few of their vulnerabilities, assault them,” Cavanaugh stated. “And that’s been spectacular.”
Cavanaugh, who focuses extra on fundamentals, and Sanchez had been each out after the 2012 season. The coach went to Chicago for 2 years earlier than 5 seasons with Washington, two as offensive coordinator.
The Jets’ offensive scheme ought to be acquainted, because it has its roots in Kyle Shanahan, who Cavanaugh coached with in Washington.
Nonetheless, it’s catch-up time for Cavanaugh, who’s making an attempt to soak up as a lot about Wilson as doable.
“What I’ve seen within the final two or three weeks is progress every day,” stated Cavanaugh, himself a former quarterback who was a backup in 1990-91 with the Giants. “Some days are actually, actually good. Some days he’s off just a little bit. However he’s bought an angle that’s contagious. He works.
“He places the time in within the movie room. He’s not afraid to ask questions. He’ll take accountability if one thing isn’t finished proper by him.”
It’s an encouraging begin to a reunion that started with tragedy. On July 17, when Knapp was struck in California, Cavanaugh stated he texted, “Bro, I’m praying for you, you’ll be able to pull via this.”
The circumstances are crushing, however after a while to assume, Cavanaugh desires to make his good friend proud.
And Saleh desires his younger quarterback to have an older pair of eyes.
“His expertise, his information,” Saleh stated relating to what appealed to him about Cavanaugh. “Identical to, God relaxation his soul, Knapper.
“He simply has that very same presence, that very same calm, not just for Zach, however for Mike [White]. He’s an amazing asset.”