This morning, we took a look at where the ongoing offensive coordinator searches stand, and this afternoon we’ll shift our focus to the remaining defensive coordinator vacancies.
While the OC openings are fairly clear cut, three potential defensive coordinator positions are still up in the air due to the Falcons’ head coaching search. No matter which head coach they hire, the Falcons will likely be in the market for a new defensive coordinator, and both of their finalists are current DCs for another team — if Atlanta hires Dan Quinn, as expected, the Seahawks will have to find a new coordinator. If their arrangement with Quinn falls through, the Falcons would likely turn to Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, leaving Detroit to find a replacement.
In addition to those clubs, three more clubs are also currently hunting for a new defensive coordinator, so there are plenty of situations to examine. Let’s dive right in, with the help of our OC/DC search tracker….
After Todd Bowles landed in New York as the Jets’ new head coach, the early word out of Arizona was that the Cardinals would likely promote an internal candidate to replace Bowles, with James Bettcher, Brentson Buckner, Kevin Ross, Nick Rapone, and Tom Pratt as potential options. However, that report was published over a week ago, and there’s been no indication that the Cardinals are much closer to hiring Bowles’ replacement.
The team is reportedly interested in bringing aboard Dick LeBeau, but it appears it would be as a linebackers coach or perhaps as a senior defensive assistant. A report on Wednesday suggested that LeBeau was still interested in a coordinator position, so perhaps that’s why nothing has been finalized with the Cards yet. Arizona has also been linked to Mike Nolan, but it’s not entirely clear what Nolan’s situation is in Atlanta. Presumably, the new head coach will look to replace Nolan, but he remains under contract with the Falcons for now, having signed a two-year extension a year ago.
Speaking of those Falcons, there’s not much we know about their defensive coordinator job at this point. If Dan Quinn gets the head coaching job – and every indication is that he will – he could bring a coach from Seattle with him, particularly since most of the most attractive outside candidates will have found work by the time Quinn officially comes aboard (after the Super Bowl). It’s possible that Mike Nolan sticks around in Atlanta, but it seems unlikely at this point.
The Broncos targeted Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph early in their search. Denver actually interviewed Joseph for its head coaching opening, though it’s not clear if he was ever a viable candidate for that spot — I expect that interview served the dual purpose of ensuring that the Broncos adhered to the Rooney Rule and allowing the team to get a feel for Joseph as a DC candidate. The only problem? While the Bengals were willing to let Joseph interview for a HC job, the club is now unwilling to let him out of his contract for a DC position.
Denver hasn’t given up on its No. 1 target — Mike Klis of the Denver Post, who wrote earlier this week that the Bengals and the NFL should do the right thing and allow Joseph to leave Cincinnati for a promotion, says the Broncos continue to monitor the situation. If the Bengals don’t budge though, the Broncos will have to move on to other options, and that could mean speaking to former head coach Wade Phillips, who has been mentioned as a candidate.
Like the Broncos, the Raiders appear to have a clear preference for the coach they’d like to hire. Former Falcons head coach Mike Smith has been cited as Jack Del Rio‘s top candidate since Del Rio landed Oakland’s head coaching job, and the two sides have been in contact, but it seems Smith isn’t fully sold on the opportunity. If he was, the Raiders would likely have locked him up already.
With Smith no sure thing, the Raiders have former Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker on their radar and have also been linked to Wade Phillips. The club may ultimately turn to the NCAA ranks, as a Thursday report suggested, though no specific college candidates have been reported yet. Bill Williamson of ESPN.com wrote that if the Raiders do hire a coach from a college program, that would probably signal that the team was turned down by other candidates, and that Del Rio intends to call defensive plays, meaning that the new coordinator would have less latitude.
We’re including the Seahawks here rather than the Lions because it looks like a near-lock that Dan Quinn will head to Atlanta, with Teryl Austin returning to Detroit. Still, there’s no indication yet who would replace Quinn for the ‘Hawks. With so much talent on the defensive side of the ball in Seattle, the position could intrigue some big-name candidates who perhaps haven’t been interested in the other openings, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the club ultimately opts for an in-house promotion — of course, that’s assuming that Quinn doesn’t take the best internal candidates with him to Atlanta.