Tom Brady’s Non-Answer About Return

Tom Brady‘s 2021 season is over. Following a thrilling loss to the Rams in which the Buccaneers just fell short of their comeback bid, Brady was asked about how he will contemplate whether to come back or not. Brady’s thoughts were clearly still centered on the loss he had endured moments before. 

“I haven’t put a lot of thought into it. So, we’ll just take it day by day and see where we’re at,” Brady replied. He continued, “Truthfully, guys, I’m thinking about this game and not thinking about anything past 5 minutes from now.”

Our staff writer, Rory Parks, expanded quite a bit on Brady’s non-committal attitude going into the Divisional Round game, and it appears his attitude has not changed quite yet.

As a result of the one-year extension Brady signed last March, he is under club control through 2022, and he affirmed several months after he put pen to paper that he would honor his commitment. Indeed, he has long said that he wants to play until he is 45, and 2022 would be his age-45 season.

In brighter news for the Buccaneers, head coach Bruce Arians has already spread the news that he is not retiring. Through three years in Tampa Bay, Arians has already added a Lombardi Trophy to the case. The 69-year old plans to coach until he can’t anymore. He also told reporters (before today’s loss) that he would be “shocked” if Brady called it quits after this season. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see just how well Arians knows his veteran quarterback.

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Buccaneers’ Bruce Arians Won’t Retire

The Buccaneers are done, but head coach Bruce Arians isn’t. Moments after the Bucs’ heartbreaking loss to the Rams, the Bucs head coach confirmed that he’ll be back this fall (Twitter link via Sara Walsh of FOX Sports). That jibes with what Arians has been saying for years now, including his latest comments just last week. 

[RELATED: Brady On Future, Possibility Of Retirement]

I’m coaching till I can’t,” said Arians, who will celebrate his 70th birthday in October (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).

However, it remains to be seen whether Arians will have Tom Brady under center next season. For what it’s worth, Arians told reporters on Friday (before today’s loss) that he would be “shocked” if Brady calls it quits.

The way he was at practice, I would be shocked if he didn’t (play next year),” Arians said (via the Tampa Bay Times). “You know they have that Friday quarterback challenge, and he came flying out of the locker room, sprinting two or three fields away and couldn’t wait to get into the challenge. He was like a little kid. I would be shocked.”

Meanwhile, Arians may need to make some new hires to his coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich are both up for head coaching jobs and they could be poached as soon as this week.

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Aaron Rodgers: No Interest In Packers Rebuild

Aaron Rodgers‘ season is over and it’s not a given that he’ll return for another. Still, amidst all the uncertainty, Rodgers has already ruled out the possibility of staying in Green Bay if the team isn’t built to win in 2022. 

I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing,” the 38-year-old quarterback said (via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky).

Rodgers is likely on the verge of capturing his fourth career and second straight MVP trophy. Unfortunately, he didn’t look the part on Saturday as the Packers lost to the 49ers with just ten points on the board.

I’m still supercompetitive, still know I can play at a high level, so it’s going to be a tough decision,” Rodgers said. “I have a lot of things to weigh in the coming weeks. But man, just so much gratitude for this city and this organization and such a long, long career here that I’m proud of and really thankful for all the men and women that work here, the men I’ve gotten to cross paths with, coaches and players over the years.”

To the surprise of no one, head coach Matt LaFleur later confirmed that the team wants Rodgers back for the 2022 season. Rodgers, meanwhile, says he’ll make the call sometime before free agency. Of course, the future Hall of Famer is still under control for another season, but that conversation will dictate the course of the Packers’ offseason.

The Packers are already projected to be over the salary cap by ~$45MM and that’s without a potential tag or extension for star wide receiver Davante Adams. With a serious numbers crunch looming, Rodgers isn’t particularly optimistic about what the future will bring.

This thing is definitely going to look different moving forward in Green Bay,” Rodgers said (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com).

On the plus side, Rodgers says that his relationship with GM Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the front office has improved (Twitter link via Mark Maske of The Washington Post). — a big step up from where things were this time last year.

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Broncos Down To “A Few” HC Finalists

The Broncos could be on the verge of naming their next head coach. Broncos GM George Paton has narrowed his search to just “a few” candidates, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter link). It’s not clear who the finalists are, but many around the league believe that Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is among the frontrunners. 

To date, the Broncos have interviewed at least ten candidates for their head coaching vacancy:

Quinn, 51, has become a consistent presence in this cycle, popping up with six of the seven clubs looking for a head coach. Beyond the Broncos, the Bears, Jaguars, Dolphins, Vikings, and Giants have had him in their sights. Quinn surely has his own shortlist of favorites, one that might exclude the Jaguars since he declined to interview with them during the season. Meanwhile, the Giants job could hold extra appeal for him since he grew up in nearby Orange, NJ.

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Vikings Interview DeMeco Ryans

The Vikings interviewed DeMeco Ryans for their head coaching position on Sunday afternoon, per a club announcement. The 49ers defensive coordinator, who is also in the mix for the Raiders’ vacancy, is one of ten candidates being considered by Minnesota. 

Ryans, a longtime NFL linebacker, has been with the Niners since 2017. After one season as SF’s defensive quality coach, Ryan coached the team’s inside linebackers for three seasons before graduating to defensive coordinator in 2021.

Now, he’s making a strong case for another step up, especially after his defense held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to just ten points on Saturday. In the regular season, his Niners D finished third in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed. While Ryans remains focused on the NFC Championship Game, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him land a head coaching job in the coming weeks.

For now, Ryans is one of just a handful of known candidates on the Raiders’ radar, alongside interim HC Rich Bisaccia, Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, and (possibly) Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ list includes:

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Justin Britt Wants To Stay With Texans

This wasn’t exactly a banner season for the Texans. But, on an individual level, Justin Britt enjoyed a bounce-back year. Now, with free agency on the horizon, the veteran center says he wants to stay in Houston. 

[RELATED: Texans GM Search Tracker]

I had a blast this year,” Britt said (via Aaron Wilson of Sports Talk 790). “This is kind of everything I would want other than wins. Coming to work every week with this group of guys and to see how we grew and the steps we took, would I come back here? Yeah, if everything was right and the way it needed to be, I would love to come back here and be around these men again.”

Britt missed all of 2020 with a torn ACL, leading him to settle for a one-year, $5MM deal with the Texans. He was mostly solid for them this past year, providing steady veteran leadership in a young and disorganized locker room. It stands to reason that the Texans would want him back, though they’ll have to take a good look at the injured knee that cost him several games this year.

For his part, Britt wants to stick around for the Texans’ next head coach, whoever that may be. He’s also hoping that the new hire retains offensive line coach James Campen.

I love James Campen,” Britt said. “If I could have it my way, I’d want to play for him for the rest of my career. He was someone who literally made every day enjoyable. The games we got shut out, didn’t score, we’d show up the next day and he would make those meetings enjoyable, which throughout a long season like this, it pays dividends and keeps your mental health in check…You don’t go down a rabbit hole, you just keep grinding, keep working. He’s someone like that who motivates his players and he knows this. I’ve told him this.”

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Ravens Request Interview With Joe Whitt Jr. For DC Job

The Ravens have an unexpected vacancy at defensive coordinator after electing to part ways with Don Martindale, and the club’s first interview request has gone out. Per Steve Wyche of the NFL Network (via Twitter), Baltimore has requested an interview with Cowboys defensive passing game coordinator/secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr.

This is the second interview request for Whitt, as the Seahawks also want to have a summit with the 43-year-old for their own DC post. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is generating plenty of head coaching interest for his efforts in revamping Dallas’ defense in 2021, but it seems rival clubs also appreciate Whitt’s role in that turnaround.

Of particular interest to the Ravens is the fact that the Cowboys forced a league-best 34 turnovers last season, including 26 interceptions. Though Baltimore’s myriad injuries — including an ACL tear suffered by takeaway savant Marcus Peters just before the season started — certainly contributed to the team’s meager 15 takeaways (tied for third-fewest in the league), head coach John Harbaugh obviously wants a coordinator with a plan for dramatically increasing that total.

Whitt joined the Falcons as an assistant DBs coach in 2007, then spent 11 seasons in Green Bay, first as a defensive quality control coach, then as cornerbacks coach, then as defensive passing game coordinator. His recent history has been more nomadic, as he spent one year each with Atlanta, Cleveland, and Dallas from 2019-21, all as defensive passing game coordinator/secondary coach. However, he would be in line for a promotion to Cowboys defensive coordinator if Quinn should leave for an HC gig.

In addition to some of the names mentioned as possible Martindale replacements in yesterday’s report on the matter — like Joe Cullen, Mike Macdonald, and Chris HewittJeff Zrebiec of The Athletic discusses the viability of candidates like Jim Leonhard and Mike Zimmer. Zimmer, recently fired as HC of the Vikings, has generally fielded top defenses throughout his tenure as an NFL coach, but it’s unclear if he wants to become a coordinator right away, especially as he has no prior ties to Harbaugh.

Leonhard, meanwhile, was a key contributor on Harbaugh’s first Ravens team in 2008, and he has established himself as a quality defensive coordinator over the past few seasons at Wisconsin, his alma mater. But Harbaugh may want someone with prior NFL coaching experience, and Leonhard may want to stay where he is; he reportedly turned down the chance to become the Packers’ DC last year.

In related news, it sounds like Wisconsin is trying to pry Ravens tight ends coach Bobby Engram from Baltimore and hire him as its new OC. Per Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.com (via Twitter), an agreement between the Badgers and Engram could be finalized soon, leaving the Ravens with a need for a new coach to lead Mark Andrews & Co.

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Steelers To Place RFA Tender On Dwayne Haskins

The Steelers have told QB Dwayne Haskins that they will be placing a restricted free agent tender on him, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (via Twitter). This jibes with a report from last week indicating that both Haskins and Mason Rudolph would be retained and given the chance to compete for the starting QB job in Year 1 of the post-Ben Roethlisberger era.

Haskins, of course, was a first-round pick of Washington in 2019, a selection that was not endorsed by then-HC Jay Gruden but that was reportedly pushed by owner Dan Snyder and then-team president Bruce Allen. In 13 total games with WFT, Haskins failed to impress, and his on-field struggles were exacerbated by poor off-field decision-making. A particularly rough outing in Week 16 of the 2020 season triggered his release, and he hooked on with Pittsburgh in January 2021.

Though Haskins did not see any regular season action in the 2021 campaign, he made a favorable impression on Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Pittsburgh is not expected to acquire an elite veteran QB this offseason, and while a trade for a player like Jimmy Garoppolo or signing an FA like Teddy Bridgewater probably can’t be ruled out, Haskins and his cannon of a right arm would seem to have a good chance to take over as QB1 if the only competition is Rudolph and a rookie passer.

Plus, as a rare first-round pick who becomes a restricted free agent, Haskins can be retained fairly cheaply. The Steelers can put the original-round tender on him for about $2.5MM — roughly half of the first-round tender — but because Haskins’ original round is, in fact, the first round, any other team that wants to sign him would have to give up a first-round choice to Pittsburgh to do so.

That obviously is not going to happen, so Haskins will remain with the Steelers with a real chance to start living up to his vast potential.

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Steelers Expected To Promote Teryl Austin To DC

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler is retiring, and Pittsburgh will replace him internally. Per Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, the club will promote senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin to DC (Twitter link).

After spending three years as the Ravens’ secondary coach, Austin left Baltimore for Detroit, where he became defensive coordinator for Jim Caldwell‘s first Lions staff in 2014. That team was the Lions’ best since 1991, finishing the season 11-5 and earning a wildcard berth. Austin’s defense finished second in the league in terms of both yards per game and points per game, and he garnered plenty of head coaching interest as a result.

He did not land an HC job in the 2015 cycle, and his defenses would regress over the rest of his Motor City tenure (though he would get at least one head coaching interview after each of his four seasons in Detroit). When Caldwell was dismissed following the 2017 campaign, Austin interviewed for the Lions’ head coaching gig, which ultimately went to Matt Patricia. He landed on his feet as the Bengals’ DC, but his time in Cincinnati was nothing short of a disaster.

Though the club’s talent (or lack thereof) certainly had plenty to do with the defense’s struggles, Austin did not even make it through the end of the 2018 season with the Bengals. His unit was the first in NFL history to give up 500 or more yards in three consecutive games, and he was fired in November 2018.

He joined the Steelers in his current capacity in January 2019, and he will now inherit a defense that had a disappointing 2021 in terms of yards allowed (361.1 per game, good for 24th in the league) but that led the NFL in sacks. Pittsburgh boasts a fair amount of high-end defensive talent, and Austin will be tasked with getting his group back to the form it displayed over the 2017-20 seasons. His secondary, at least, did a good job of limiting opposing passing games, as it was the Steelers’ run defense that let the team down more often than not.

Giants Interview Lou Anarumo For HC Post

The Giants are interviewing Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo for their vacant head coaching position today, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter). This appears to be the first time Anarumo has ever generated HC interest.

Anarumo, 55, began his coaching career as the RB coach at Wagner College in 1989, and he joined the NFL ranks over 20 years later, becoming the Dolphins’ defensive backs coach in 2012. He was briefly promoted to defensive coordinator partway through the 2015 season and resumed his role as DB coach for the 2016-17 campaigns under Adam Gase.

He served in that same capacity for the Giants in 2018 before being hired as the Bengals’ DC in 2019. When he took the job, Cincinnati was coming off a season in which it finished dead-last in total defense. In his first two years working under head coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals still fielded bottom-10 defenses, and Anarumo’s unit wasn’t much better in 2021 in terms of yards allowed. However, the defense did perform well this year when it mattered most, including last night’s divisional round win over the Titans, which featured three interceptions of Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill.

Anarumo, a New York native, has ties to the organization that go beyond his one year as DB coach. He and Big Blue’s new GM, Joe Schoen, spent a few years together with the Dolphins, and while Schoen’s connections to other head coach candidates — namely, Bills OC Brian Daboll and DC Leslie Frazier — are more recent and probably more meaningful, the new top exec clearly sees something in Anarumo worth exploring.

Here’s an updated list of the Giants’ HC candidates:

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