A late-week flurry of hires pretty much closed the book on the NFL’s coaching offseason after two weeks.
Six teams hired new head coaches (all with offensive play-calling backgrounds), the Titans had the only vacancy left as of Friday afternoon, and three other teams seriously considered moving on from their current coaches before deciding against it.
Let’s take a look at the 10 teams and where each one stands with their new leadership:
49ers — After reeling in but then losing Adam Gase last offseason, the 49ers punted on 2015 with Jim Tomsula but found an interesting and unexpected candidate this year in Chip Kelly, who got the job over Mike Shanahan.
If this works out, the 49ers may have found an organizational life raft after the debacle of Jim Harbaugh’s departure — an innovative offensive coach in Kelly who can potentially fix Colin Kaepernick and even maximize his talents. The idea of a healthy and happy Kaepernick running Kelly’s zone-read offense is intriguing.
But there are many questions to be answered here. Can Kelly connect better with his players and, more importantly, with Jed York, who clashed often with Harbaugh and eventually drove him away? And the dynamic between Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke will be interesting to monitor, with Baalke still perceived to be on the hot seat. The 49ers need a roster overhaul after several retirements last year led to a 5-11 record, but will they go for the quick fixes to try to win now?
Eagles — It’s back to the glory days, with Jeffrey Lurie set to hire Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, who will bring the Andy Reid era back to Philly.
Pederson was a quarterback for Reid from 1996-99 with the Packers and Eagles, then served as Reid’s offensive quality control coach (2009-10) and quarterbacks coach (2011-12) with the Eagles, and the last three years as his offensive coordinator in Kansas City.
The hiring means Lurie gets a friendlier, perhaps more cooperative head coach in Pederson over Kelly. And Howie Roseman reclaims his spot atop the Eagles’ power structure after being replaced last year by Kelly and Ed Marynowitz, who also was fired. The big question Pederson and the Eagles have to sort out is what to do at quarterback, with Sam Bradford set to hit free agency.
Giants — They parted ways with Tom Coughlin after three straight losing seasons. But they promoted Ben McAdoo, the offensive coordinator, to head coach. They’re keeping defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. They’re keeping most if not all of the assistant coaches. And they kept GM Jerry Reese.
So it seems like the Giants are pointing the arrow squarely at Coughlin for the 19-29 record the last three seasons. We’ll see. The continuity certainly should help Eli Manning, who at 35 probably doesn’t want to waste another season or two learning a new offense.
|Team||New coach||Old coach|
|Browns||Hue Jackson||Mike Pettine|
|Buccaneers||Dirk Koetter||Lovie Smith|
|Dolphins||Adam Gase||Dan Campbell|
|Eagles||Doug Pederson||Chip Kelly|
|49ers||Chip Kelly||Jim Tomsula|
|Giants||Ben McAdoo||Tom Coughlin|
Buccaneers — The Bucs had the plan to promote Dirk Koetter from offensive coordinator when they fired Lovie Smith last week, but had to go through the process of interviewing other candidates and satisfying the Rooney Rule before making it official. Koetter, 56, has always had success with quarterbacks — helping Andrew Walter set Pac-10 records at Arizona State, and getting productive seasons out of David Garrard, Matt Ryan, and Jameis Winston as a coordinator in the NFL. The Bucs didn’t need to blow up the coaching staff after Winston had a promising rookie season (4,042 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions), they just wanted better leadership at the top after the team dropped from 6-6 to 6-10.
Dolphins — The Dolphins moved quickly on Gase, this year’s hot name. Only 37 years old, Gase has had success coaching three very different quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler, and Tim Tebow. He was obviously hired to improve Ryan Tannehill, who has thrown for 8,253 yards and 51 touchdowns the last two years but whose performance has been too inconsistent. Gase was Josh McDaniels’s wide receivers coach in Denver in 2009-10, and learned from the School of Belichick: “The time I spent with Josh, that’s where it really hit me that it’s always about what’s best for this week, winning this game with this group of players — whatever you have to do,” Gase told The MMQB.
Browns — The Browns hired Hue Jackson to be their sixth head coach since the start of the 2008 season. Jackson, 50, gets his second chance to be a head coach after leading the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2011 and taking Andy Dalton to new heights the last two seasons as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator. The Browns have been a black hole for coaches over the last decade-plus, and Jackson’s success will hinge on A) whether he can buy into the Browns’ new analytical approach led by Paul DePodesta, and B) figuring out an answer at quarterback. Johnny Manziel probably isn’t in the plans, but they do hold the No. 2 draft pick.
Titans — The Titans were the slowest to move this offseason, and looked like a potential landing spot for McDaniels after they hired former Patriots executive Jon Robinson as GM last week. But the Titans opted for the safe hiring, announcing Saturday night that they were retaining Mike Mularkey on a full-time basis despite his 2-7 record as interim coach in 2015. The Titans job looked enticing, with a promising young quarterback in Marcus Mariota and the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, but an uncertain ownership situation likely scared away most candidates.
Lions — The Lions were another logical landing spot for McDaniels with former Patriots executives Bob Quinn and Kyle O’Brien hired as the top two football bosses, but on Friday morning they ended two weeks of speculation and decided to retain Jim Caldwell after finishing the season on a 6-2 stretch. This is another team that could have a strange dynamic for 2016, with Quinn brought in to overhaul the roster and draft but Caldwell needing to win now.
Colts — The Colts kept coach Chuck Pagano, GM Ryan Grigson, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, and QB coach Clyde Christensen, but fired just about everyone else on the staff. Despite Jim Irsay’s renewed commitment to Pagano and Grigson, there are few in the NFL who believe either of them have long-term stability.
Saints — The Saints and Sean Payton danced briefly with divorce papers, but both sides came to their senses. Payton has a franchise QB and control of his own franchise, and the Saints aren’t going to do much better at coach than Payton.
Chargers, Raiders face uncertainty
The Rams won the right to plant their flag in Los Angeles, with NFL owners approving Stan Kroenke’s proposal to move his team from St. Louis back to Southern California and build a stadium/retail/NFL West headquarters that could cost as much as $3 billion.
But what now becomes of the two other contestants, the Chargers and Raiders?
Despite all the talk of the NFL wanting two teams back in LA, the plan adopted by the owners sure seems to give the Chargers and Raiders more incentive to stay in San Diego and Oakland.
The Chargers are under the most pressure to make a decision soon.
The NFL’s resolution gives the Chargers first right of refusal to join Kroenke as either a tenant or partner in the new Inglewood stadium, and they have until next January to exercise that option. Realistically, they’d have to make a decision by this spring, as the idea of a lame-duck season in San Diego could be disastrous for attendance.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos has tried unsuccessfully to get a new publicly funded stadium from San Diego for more than a decade, but isn’t thrilled about the prospect of playing second fiddle to the Rams in their new stadium, either. And the NFL’s LA resolution called for both the Chargers and Raiders to be eligible for another $100 million from the league office to go toward building a new stadium in their home markets, on top of the $200 million that’s already available.
On Dec. 30, the city of San Diego submitted a $1.1 billion stadium proposal that includes $350 million in public money that would be put to a public vote this summer. Spanos didn’t love the proposal, but it at least shows that the city is willing to play ball.
And the $550 million franchise relocation fee is a significant hurdle for Spanos, as well. With the NFL now willing to kick in extra money, the tea leaves are there for the Chargers and San Diego to find a middle ground and keep the team in town.
The Raiders have fewer options for now.
If the Chargers decline the offer to join the Rams in Inglewood, the Raiders would then get the same opportunity to move to LA. The cash-poor Raiders could find a move back to LA enticing, especially if they can simply be a tenant in Inglewood.
The Raiders say they’re exploring other options, but it’s hard to see what they are — Mark Davis said he’s not interested in St. Louis, the two Texas teams would block a move to San Antonio, and if the Chargers can’t get a stadium in San Diego, how would the Raiders? The $550 million relocation fee is also a major hurdle for Davis.
The city of Oakland hasn’t come up with a formal stadium proposal, but now the NFL is willing to kick in $300 million to any potential stadium, and there are rumblings that Kroenke would be willing to kick in more to keep the Raiders away from LA and make the Rams the only team in Los Angeles.
The NFL arguably should want the Chargers and Raiders to return home. San Diego has been a great pro football town since 1961, and the league doesn’t want to abandon the market if it doesn’t have to.
And having two teams return to Los Angeles simultaneously would split loyalties among the fans and make it difficult for either team to establish a footprint.
Bizarre episode will cost Jones
Two leftover thoughts from the Chandler Jones situation:
■ Jones certainly picked the wrong time to have a bizarre off-field episode. Jones is in the final year of his rookie deal, and he technically is under contract for next year on the fifth-year option for former first-round picks. But the option, worth $7.79 million, doesn’t become guaranteed until March 9, and the Patriots can cut Jones at any time before that for no penalty. And he’s also in the window of being able to negotiate a long-term contract extension with the Patriots. No matter how you slice it, this incident will work against him.
■ Foxborough police chief Ed O’Leary is NOT the “head of security” at Gillette Stadium, as some have reported or speculated. Since 2001 the Patriots’ head of security has been Mark Briggs, who previously worked the Sydney Olympics and Wembley Stadium. The Patriots’ deal with the town of Foxborough is that the team pays an hourly rate to use the town’s police officers for security (along with state police and FBI for certain events) and fire department for emergency medical services at all events at Gillette Stadium. Briggs, a civilian, cannot give orders to local police officers. So before each event Briggs relays the security plan to the heads of each department (the Foxborough police chief, fire chief, state police chief, etc.), and they then relay the orders to their people. O’Leary is not on the Patriots’ staff or their payroll.
The reputation of Bill Belichick’s coaching/football tree certainly has improved over the last couple of years. Four ex-Patriots scouts/executives are now running teams: Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta), Jason Licht (Tampa Bay), Bob Quinn (Detroit), and Jon Robinson (Tennessee). Scott Pioli (Atlanta) and Kyle O’Brien (Detroit) are No. 2 in their organizations. And Matt Patricia had his first head coaching interview last week with Cleveland . . . Braintree’s Jim Turner, the offensive line coach who was fired in 2014 due to his involvement in the Dolphins’ bullying scandal, was hired by the University of Cincinnati as running backs coach. Turner filed a defamation lawsuit against Ted Wells in August. Meanwhile, Jonathan Martin, the bullying victim who retired from the NFL in July, has teamed up with a San Francisco-area nonprofit called Beyond Differences, whose mission is to empower youth to end social isolation with middle school students . . . Dan Campbell didn’t get the Dolphins’ coaching job on a permanent basis, but by leading the team back to respectability after getting the interim title, he earned a position as an assistant head coach with the Saints in addition to tight ends coach, and probably a higher salary than he otherwise would have commanded . . . Best stories of the week: Leah Still, the 5-year-old daughter of Texans defensive tackle Devon Still, appearing on “Good Morning America” with a full head of hair and announcing she is cancer-free and finally leaving the hospital. And the Tim Tebow Foundation announced that it will host more than 200 proms in 48 states in eight countries this year for kids with special needs. The students will arrive on a red carpet, visit hair and makeup stations, and sing karaoke, and each person will be named prom king or queen . . . Best of luck to Texans ace PR man Kevin Cooper, who left the team to take a job with the Houston Super Bowl committee. The Texans annually had one of the league’s best and most professional PR departments under Cooper’s watch.
Quote of the week
“I told him I don’t know what kind of cheese was in those mozzarella sticks, please don’t eat those again,’’ Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who apparently doesn’t know there’s only one type of cheese in mozzarella sticks, on his advice to teammate Von Miller, who missed a day of practice with a stomachache.Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.