Month: January 2020

Patriots Hire Jedd Fisch

The Patriots are making a high profile addition to their coaching staff. New England is hiring Jedd Fisch to fill an as of now unspecified role on their coaching staff, a source told Jim McBride of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).

The Patriots are hiring him away from the Rams, where Fisch served as a senior offensive assistant under Sean McVay for the past two seasons. Right before joining the Rams, he was the offensive coordinator and then interim head coach at UCLA. Fisch has never been a full-time head coach, but he’s held a number of prominent assistant jobs. He served as the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator for a couple of years a handful of seasons ago, and he’s still only 43. He also served as Jim Harbaugh’s passing game coordinator at Michigan for two years.

Josh McDaniels currently serves as New England’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, so it’s possible Fisch is coming on under a similarly vague title that he held in Los Angeles. The Patriots have once again had some turnover on their staff, with special teams coordinator and receivers coach Joe Judge landing the head job with the Giants.

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Latest On Antonio Brown

As you’ve certainly heard by now, free agent receiver Antonio Brown turned himself into authorities last night on charges of battery and burglary. He has since been released on bond, and now we have more details. 

In addition to the bail money he had to put up, Brown will “be monitored by GPS and be required to release his passport and guns, go through drug and alcohol testing, and get a mental health evaluation,” per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com. Wolfe was in the courtroom, and he writes that there was a contentious battle between prosecutors and defense attorneys over the bail situation. Prosecutors alleged he was a flight risk due to his recent erratic behavior, and wanted him held without bail.

I don’t think there’s any mental health issues with him. Antonio Brown’s life right now is a reality show,” Brown’s attorney Eric Schwartzreich said. “He is misinterpreted and misunderstood. He’s not guilty of these charges. He did not commit a felony battery. In this case, when all the facts come out, you will see he will be vindicated and he will be found not guilty.

They overcharged him,” Brown’s other attorney Lorne Berkeley said. “Once a thorough investigation is done, we believe the charges filed will most likely be very different than they are right now.” Brown better hope that’s the case, as the current felony burglary with battery charge is punishable by up to life in prison. That’s obviously just a maximum sentence that is extremely unlikely, but it underscores the seriousness of the charge.

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Browns Notes: Hunt, Brown, Woods, Staff

The Browns’ scrutinized gamble on Kareem Hunt went fairly smoothly this season, with the running back playing in eight games after serving his suspension for his actions during his Chiefs run. But Hunt ran into some more off-field trouble this week. Rocky River (Ohio) Police pulled him over for speeding and found small amounts of marijuana in three locations in the vehicle, Kaylee Remington of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. Hunt was placed in the backseat of a police cruiser but only charged for speeding. The NFL is aware of the incident, per a statement. This would mean far less were it not for Hunt’s history. A video showed the former rushing champion shoving and kicking a woman at a Cleveland hotel in 2018, leading to Hunt’s Chiefs departure. Hunt signed a one-year Browns contract but can be retained via RFA tender. However, with John Dorsey out of the picture, the talented back’s standing with the Browns may be less certain.

Here is the latest out of Cleveland:

  • Joe Woods is expected to become the next Browns defensive coordinator, though the 49ers have not given up on keeping him. The Browns are not expected to have a finalized agreement with Woods until after Super Bowl LIV and are holding off on making some hires to their defensive staff, Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer adds. Woods becoming Cleveland’s next DC would stand to result in the ex-Denver DC and current San Francisco DBs coach bringing him some handpicked staffers.
  • On the subject of Browns staffers, Kevin Stefanski is bringing in one of his former Vikings coworkers. Six-year Minnesota staffer Drew Petzing will become the Browns’ new tight ends coach, Cabot reports. Petzing coached quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs in Minnesota. The 32-year-old coach worked under then-quarterbacks coach Stefanski in 2018 and moved from assistant QBs coach to wideouts coach last year. Prior to his Vikings stay, however, Petzing spent the 2013 season as a Browns intern.
  • Fired less than two seasons into the radical rebuild Jimmy Haslam green-lit, Sashi Brown expressed concern about the Browns’ constant turnover. Currently working with the Washington Wizards, Brown hopes the next Browns GM will have a chance to build something. “I hope they get the time to do it and that there’s true alignment throughout the building and some conviction and what I would say the organizational faith that maybe hasn’t been there across some of the rash of change that’s been spinning around here for the better part of the last decade,” Brown said, via the Akron Beacon Journal’s Marla Ridenour. The Browns have moved on from a staggering five regimes since Haslam took over in 2012, and the instability has shown no signs of slowing down. GM frontrunner George Paton withdrew his name from consideration for the job Friday afternoon.

George Paton Out Of Browns’ GM Search

Viewed as the frontrunner to become the Browns’ next general manager, George Paton removed his name from consideration for the position, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (on Twitter).

The Vikings’ assistant GM spent time in Cleveland this week going through a second interview, one that was expected to lead to his joining Kevin Stefanski as the key members of the next Browns power structure. But an organization that has struggled to form continuity under its current ownership will now have to make another plan.

Paton’s withdrawal partially stems from an uncertainty about how the Browns would divvy up power, Cabot adds. The GM, Stefanski and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta are set to report to owner Jimmy Haslam. The Browns operated that way during the Sashi BrownHue Jackson years and are set to return to that arrangement.

A 13-year Vikings executive, Paton has turned down multiple teams who have sought meetings with him for GM vacancies. The selective exec was initially contemplating doing the same to the Browns. His apprehension stemmed from former Browns front office staffer Andrew Berry‘s relationship with Haslam potentially making him the favorite for the job, but Paton took a meeting with Browns ownership because of Stefanski’s presence.

Berry is again the leading candidate for the job, Cabot reports. The Eagles exec is eager to prove he is not a “1-31 football GM,” according to TheLandonDemand.com’s Tony Grossi (Twitter link). It appears Berry is still interested in returning to Cleveland. Berry, who joined Paton and Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort in interviewing for the Browns’ GM role, spent 2016-18 with the Browns before joining the Eagles as VP of football operations last year.

Berry has received interest from the Panthers as well, but the Eagles blocked him interviewing for a non-GM job with Carolina. One of Sashi Brown‘s top lieutenants during the Browns’ new-age front office experiment, Berry remains close to DePodesta. The ex-MLB GM is running the Browns’ GM search. Stefanski and Berry also became acquainted during the Browns’ 2019 coaching search, and Cabot notes the two are still interested in working together.

While the Brown-DePodesta-Berry experiment produced historically terrible results — a 1-31 record from 2016-17 — Haslam retaining DePodesta and bringing Berry back in for an interview confirm the owner remains interested in this analytically geared vision.

The Browns have gone through amazing front office turnover under Haslam. Their most recent regime change involved parting ways with John Dorsey after barely two years. Brown received less time. So did the Michael LombardiJoe Banner power structure. Ray Farmer also did not get two full years on job. Haslam fired Tom Heckert, GM from 2010-12, in his first months as owner.

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Drew Brees: I’ll Only Play For The Saints

Drew Brees may consider retirement this offseason, but he says he won’t be changing teams. The future Hall of Famer tells NFL.com’s Jane Slater that he’d only suit up for the Saints. 

[RELATED: Tom Brady Unlikely To Re-Sign With Pats Before Free Agency]

I have never been in the situation where I was mulling over the thought of [returning],” Brees said. “To me, each one of these contracts, I don’t know how many it’s been with the Saints, I’ve played with them 14 years, it’s not a matter of if it gets done, it’s when. At this stage of my career, it’s not a given that I’m coming back every year, but when that time comes, I’ll always be a Saint.”

It’s no surprise to hear that the 41-year-old isn’t interested in starting over somewhere new. He’s reached the pinnacle of the sport playing in New Orleans, where he’s found unbelievable success in Sean Payton‘s offense. And, even though things didn’t go according to plan in 2019, the QB says the team’s heartbreaking loss to the Vikings has only fueled his fire.

You’ve got no other choice but to move on and get better as a result of it,” he said. “We learn something every time around. We’re not going to be discouraged. We’re not going to take the results of the last three playoffs — with some crazy things happening, obviously, kind of unprecedented things happening — and deter us from still striving to accomplish the ultimate goal. I feel like we have all the pieces in place. We have a great foundation. Great culture. We have all the makings of a championship team.”

If Brees walks away from the game, he’ll have ample opportunities to stay close to the game, including TV.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Meet With Ben McAdoo

On Friday, the Browns met with former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo at their team headquarters (Twitter link via Jake Trotter of ESPN.com). It’s not immediately clear whether McAdoo is a candidate for the team’s offensive coordinator position, or whether the Browns will be hiring an OC at all

I’m committed to adding the right people to our building,” new head coach Kevin Stefanski said recently. “That remains to be seen. We’re definitely looking at all avenues as we try to put a really good staff together.”

McAdoo’s run as the Giants’ head coach was a flop, but before all of that, he built a reputation as one of the league’s savvier offensive minds. McAdoo was a member of the Packers’ coaching staff in 2010, helping guide the team to a Super Bowl XLV victory. Then, as the Giants’ OC in 2014, he took the offense from No. 28 in scoring to No. 13. In 2015, they ranked sixth in the NFL in points, despite injuries to several key players.

Many say that McAdoo didn’t have the temperament to succeed as a head coach, but Stefanski & Co. may see him as an effective offensive coach that can aid in the team’s quest to turn things around. Despite all of their star power and hype, the Browns offense (and defense) fell short in 2019, posting a 6-10 record that led to the dismissal of first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens.

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Packers’ Jimmy Graham Expected To Continue Playing

It sounds like Jimmy Graham will suit up in 2020. On Friday, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said it’s his understanding that the tight end wants to play next year (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky). 

Graham is under contract with the Packers in 2020 at a $11.6MM cap figure, the final season of his three-year deal. In theory, the Packers could save $8MM by releasing the veteran, with $3.6MM in dead money.

The 33-year-old played in all 16 games in 2019 – marking his fourth straight season with perfect attendance in the regular season – plus the Packers two-game postseason. Graham no longer features as a dominant red zone threat, but he was still productive last year with 38 grabs for 447 yards and three touchdowns. In the Packers’ pair of playoff contests, he caught seven passes for 108 yards, including a (controversial) game-sealing first down against his old friends in Seattle.

In ten seasons with the Saints, Seahawks, and Packers, Graham has earned five Pro Bowl trips, plus a First-Team All-Pro nod in 2013, when he tallied a league-leading 16 touchdown receptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys’ Amari Cooper On His Future

In 2019, Amari Cooper built off of his strong half-season in Dallas to turn his best full campaign yet. Cooper reeled in 79 catches en route to career-high marks in receiving yards (1,189) and touchdowns (8) and solidified himself as one of the game’s best wide receivers.

[RELATED: Cowboys Hire George Edwards]

Meanwhile, the Cowboys sagged on the whole – they went 8-8, missed the playoffs, and fired longtime head coach Jason Garrett after Week 17.

Despite his individual accomplishments, Cooper admits the team’s disheartening Week 16 loss to the Eagles sticks in his mind.

That game was so important because it decided whether or not we’d go to the playoffs,” Cooper told Nick Shook of NFL.com. “Obviously, if you go to the playoffs you have an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. We had our fate in our own hands and we blew it, so then we had to rely on other stuff to happen for us to get into the playoffs. You never want to put yourself in that position where you don’t control your own destiny.”

Now, the focus shifts to Cooper’s destiny. The former first round pick is scheduled to reach free agency in March and projects to be one of the most in-demand players on the open market. Still, he tells NFL.com’s Jane Slater (on Twitter) that he wants to be in Dallas for a long time.

Here’s a look at Cooper’s thoughts as the big date nears:

On the importance of money vs. other factors:

I don’t think it’s all about money… If you’re a highly touted free agent, you’re going to get paid a lot of money no matter where you go. Is it worth it to go somewhere that you probably don’t want to go as far as, you might be a guy like me who’s from South Florida who’s never played a game in the snow?

Is it worth a million dollars more a year or two million dollars more a year, especially if you’re taking care of your money investment-wise, is it worth that two being in an environment that you don’t want to be in? Or would you like to stay somewhere in the south? It’s not all about money.”

On the importance of playing with a top-level quarterback:

His success is part of how good I’m doing and my success is part of how good he’s doing. So I definitely, if I had to test the market I’d definitely be evaluating quarterbacks and stuff like that to see if I want to play with them or not.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Hire George Edwards

Former Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards has agreed to join the Cowboys’ coaching staff, as Clarence Hill of the Star Telegram tweets. Edwards will work with the Cowboys’ linebackers, but Hill hears that his role will encompass more than that. 

[RELATED: Cowboys Were Close To Extension With Dak Prescott]

Although head coach Mike Zimmer retained his job as the Vikings head coach, the early offseason saw a significant overhaul of his coaching staff. After offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski left to take on the Browns’ HC position, the Vikings parted ways with Edwards, who had served as their defensive coordinator since 2014.

Edwards, 52, has been in the NFL in some capacity for every season since 1998. He was Washington’s defensive coordinator in 2003, and Buffalo’s from 2010-11. He’s also served as a positional coach with a handful of different stops.

In Dallas, he’ll work under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Given his experience, it seems likely that Edwards will have a higher title attached to his linebackers coach mantle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.