Month: January 2023

49ers Rumors: Garoppolo, Bosa

The story in the Bay Area for the last two months has been the play of 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. But for a team that has already seen their top two quarterback options for the season go down with injury, the prospect of having to turn to veteran, journeyman quarterback Josh Johnson is not an extremely attractive one as they prepare for the conference championship and Super Bowl. It was good news, then, when head coach Kyle Shanahan reported earlier this week that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had an “outside chance” of being available for this weekend’s game with a Super Bowl trip being even more likely, according to ESPN’s Nick Wagoner.

A more recent update from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has clarified that Garoppolo’s most recent X-rays have resulted in in him being downgraded to doubtful for the NFC Championship game. That doesn’t rule him out for the big game in two weeks’ time, though. If the 49ers make it past the Eagles for a trip to Arizona, they may see a significant upgrade to their quarterbacks room.

Purdy would most likely continue in his starting role, as the team has not lost with him at quarterback, but Garoppolo would be a massive upgrade at backup quarterback over Johnson. Johnson was given the roster spot for a reason, but Garoppolo’s years of familiarity and experience with the offense makes him much more suited for success in an emergency situation during the season’s biggest game.

Regardless, as big of a game as it is, San Francisco likely respects Garoppolo too much to rush him back into play if he’s not ready. If there is any danger of further injury, expect the two-deep to show Purdy and Johnson as the top options.

Here’s another rumor for San Francisco as they prepare to join rest of the NFL in the offseason, whether that be in three days or seventeen:

  • Continuing a story from the offseason, the 49ers still have every intention of extending star defensive end Nick Bosa. While the NFL’s reigning sack leader does have a fifth-year option on his rookie contract, San Francisco has no intention of letting him get anywhere near that close to free agency. According to a report from Rapoport, Bosa’s expectation will be nothing short of becoming the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. Currently, by annual average value, that honor belongs to Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who makes $31.67MM per year, with Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt coming in a far off second at $28MM per year. Bosa’s older brother, Chargers outside linebacker Joey Bosa, currently sits in third at $27MM per year. The younger Bosa will demand a pretty penny, but San Francisco has made a point to invest in its young assets recently, rewarding such players as wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tackle Trent Williams, tight end George Kittle, and running back Christian McCaffrey handsomely. Expect that trend to continue as they attempt to lock down the potential 2022 Defensive Player of the Year.

Panthers’ HC Hire Comes With Some Potential Controversy

Carolina broke the seal on head coaching hires this offseason when it announced the decision to hire former Colts head coach Frank Reich today to officially replace Matt Rhule, spurning interim head coach Steve Wilks in the process. A closer look at the Panthers’ recent hires, though, may bring us back to an issue the NFL has been struggling to fight in recent years, and may lead Carolina into pending litigation against the NFL and multiple other teams, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports.

On January 8, nearly three weeks ago and a mere two hours after the Panthers’ regular season had come to a close, Reich’s daughter, Hannah Reich Fairman, announced that she had officially accepted a job with Carolina on Twitter. On its face, there’s nothing wrong with Fairman’s hiring. Even in a league rife with nepotism, the personnel addition couldn’t even be considered as such as Reich didn’t yet work for the Panthers.

Wilks already has a storied role in the league’s history of racial discrimination. Wilks is involved in the pending Brian Flores racial discrimination case against the league and several teams, having sued the Cardinals. After the announcement that Wilks was being passed over for Reich, Wilks’ lawyer in the suit, Doug Wigdor, implied that Carolina would soon find itself added to the lawsuit as a defendant, as reported by Florio. The argument on Wilks’ behalf is that racial bias affected his chances to remain the head coach in Carolina on an official basis and that his existing involvement in the pending lawsuit against the NFL led the Panthers to consider him in a lesser capacity.

“We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the head coach position by (Panthers owner) David Tepper,” Wigdor averred in his statement. “There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.”

Whether or not Fairman’s hiring holds any wrongdoing, it immediately becomes a point of interest in the eventual litigation. The theory would be that the Panthers knew that Reich would eventually become their head coach when they hired Fairman and strung any other candidates along for a sham coaching search that made a mockery of the NFL’s diversity hiring rules and efforts. Efforts like the Rooney Rule have been minimized into red tape that has NFL franchises perfunctorily going through mandatory motions with zero intention.

If Reich’s appointment was a done deal at the time of Fairman’s hiring, it becomes a key example of the league’s issues with racial discrimination, and Wilks case gains much more evidential validity. In order to prove that theory, an investigation will have to be undertaken to review all communications and question those involved in the hiring process.

DeMeco Ryans Advancing In Broncos’ Search; Sean Payton Souring On Team’s Ownership?

7:35pm: Payton has provided information straight from the source, disputing that there is any truth to Maske’s report of his fears of a power struggle in Denver with a tweet this evening. Payton denies that any issue exists with Broncos’ ownership stating that they were fantastic and that they “had a great visit.”

Ryans is still gaining traction and Caldwell and Shaw are also strong contenders, while Quinn has stated his desire to remain in Dallas, but if Payton is to be taken at his word, he should still be considered one of the favorites for this position.

3:01pm: Vowing to be “ultra aggressive” in its first coaching search, the Broncos’ new ownership came into this process with a goal of adding an experienced head coach. Recent developments may be leading the team in a different direction.

DeMeco Ryans has emerged as a frontrunner in this race, Mike Klis of 9News reports. The second-year 49ers defensive coordinator met with the Broncos and Texans late last week, nixing interviews with the Cardinals and Colts, and has been steadily rising in this race. While the Broncos are still considering Sean Payton, Jim Caldwell and Dan Quinn, Ryans’ rise is obviously notable considering his accomplishments with the 49ers this season.

But the team has cooled on Payton, Denver7’s Troy Renck adds (via Twitter). Payton also looks to have lost some interest in this job. A sense of what might have changed emerged Thursday. Recently, the former Saints HC was believed to be high on the Broncos’ new ownership group. Now, it might be a negative for the FOX analyst. Payton fears a potential power struggle with one member of the contingent, Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets. Payton would want to work with Russell Wilson, who reached out to him recently, and is believed to be high on Denver’s defensive pieces. But an issue with ownership may well nix this potential partnership.

Rob Walton, CEO Greg Penner and co-owner Condoleezza Rice have been the ownership group’s key members during this search, joining GM George Paton. The latter is the only experienced football staffer involved here, given the ownership contingent arriving last summer, but Penner is set to make the final call on the team’s second HC hire in two years. It does not seem Rice, who joined the group after the Walton family, is Payton’s concern. The veteran HC has “loved” his interactions with the former Secretary of State, Maske adds (on Twitter).

The Broncos have not gone through second interviews yet, separating their search from this year’s other four. The Panthers just made their hire — Frank Reich — after interviewing he and Steve Wilks twice. If the Broncos want to hold a second interview with Ryans, they must wait until Jan. 30 because of the 49ers’ advancement to the NFC championship game.

David Shaw was believed to be a sleeper candidate for this position, but Klis omitted the longtime Stanford HC from the team’s mix Thursday. Shaw stepped down from his Cardinal post after three losing seasons in the past four years. Penner and Rice’s Stanford ties were thought to represent key connective tissue to Shaw, but Denver going with an NFL-seasoned coach makes sense given the recent failures of college hires.

Ryans, 38, has helmed the NFL’s top-ranked defense this season and has been viewed as likely to land one of this year’s jobs for a bit now. All five HC-needy teams reached out to the former linebacker. The Texans remain in the mix for their former defender, per Klis, but they certainly look to have competition from the Broncos.

Former Jets OC Mike LaFleur Has “Inside Track” On Rams OC Position

It’s been known since before the season ended that former Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen was on his way back to Kentucky. He finished out the season in Los Angeles, but now head coach Sean McVay is on the search for his next offensive coordinator. Reportedly, former Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleurhas the inside track” on the position, according to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports.

LaFleur’s first stint as an offensive play caller ended days after the season concluded, when he and the team “mutually” parted ways. With the Jets defense making strides of improvement that had the team competing for a playoff spot through most of the season, lots of pressure was placed on LaFleur’s unit to bring the team the rest of the way. Despite the Jets keeping seven of their last nine opponents to 20 points or fewer, the Jets only managed to pull out two wins and end the season on a six-game losing streak as the offense could only provide 13.33 points per game down that stretch.

Much of the season’s struggles were placed on the failed development of young quarterback Zach Wilson. Wilson’s inability to improve and lead the team to the postseason was blamed (by the front office) on LaFleur. The coaching staff, though, retains that LaFleur was not the issue that held Wilson back and would’ve welcomed LaFleur in 2023.

LaFleur was linked to the Rams’ position almost two weeks ago, soon after when he and New York first agreed to part ways. LaFleur’s older brother, Matt LaFleur, had worked in the same position beneath McVay six years ago. The move would make a lot of sense for the younger LaFleur, as it would technically be something of a demotion for the 35-year-old. Since McVay would most likely retain play calling duties, LaFleur’s title of offensive coordinator in Los Angeles would hold far less responsibility. This would give LaFleur time to step back and a learn a little bit more under McVay, now that he has an idea of what the job entails.

Nearly two weeks after the rumor linking him to the Rams, though, and we’re still talking about it. Anderson reports that he is apparently the favorite, but LaFleur has options and a pivot in communications could change things. Anderson points out that “until papers are signed,” it’s all still up in the air.

NFL Reserve/Futures Deals: 1/26/23

Today’s reserve/futures deals:

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Houston Texans

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Dan Quinn To Stay With Cowboys, Withdraw From HC Searches

After receiving extensive interest from head coach-needy teams for a second straight year, Dan Quinn is once again planning to stick with the Cowboys.

The veteran defensive coordinator informed teams that have considered him for their HC job he will remain in Dallas, Tom Pelissero of tweets. This will be a big gain for the Cowboys, considering Quinn’s performance through two seasons, and it stands to affect the Broncos, Cardinals and Colts’ HC searches.

Quinn, 52, was once again among those in the mix for the Broncos’ HC job, but after a second straight year in a Denver search, the former George Paton coworker bowed out. The Cardinals and Colts may have been more interested. Arizona brought Quinn in for a second interview this week, and Quinn agreed to a second Indianapolis meeting Wednesday night. That summit was set for Saturday, but it is now off.

This is big for us. It gives us continuity. Frankly, on a personal note, I can’t tell you how thankful I am,” Mike McCarthy said (via The Athletic’s Jon Machota) of Quinn’s return. “Clearly, Dan is in the position to be selective, and I’m extremely excited about the decision.”

The former Falcons HC remains under contract with the Cowboys, via the multiyear extension he signed in January 2022. Quinn interviewed with five teams during the ’22 hiring period, advancing to the finals of Denver search that produced Nathaniel Hackett. The Broncos may or may not have rushed that process, due to Hackett agreeing to a second Jaguars interview. After the Hackett hire, Quinn recommitted to the Cowboys.

Quinn remaining in Dallas led to the team taking another step defensively, ranking second in DVOA. The team’s defensive muscle showed in its divisional-round matchup with the 49ers, though DeMeco Ryans‘ unit prevailed in a low-scoring matchup. Still, Quinn’s unit — after intending to retain Randy Gregory and then losing him at the 11th hour — built on its 2021 season. Working more as an edge defender, Micah Parsons maintained the dominance he showed as a rookie. Dallas’ rebuilt D-line led the way in the team’s 54-sack season — 13 more than the 2021 unit registered — and has led the league in takeaways for the past two seasons. After the Cowboys set a franchise record for points allowed during the 2020 season, Quinn’s arrival has made a considerable difference on their 24-10 record since.

This decision could point Ryans toward securing the Denver job. A Thursday report indicated the San Francisco DC had become a frontrunner for it, seemingly blunting the early momentum Quinn had as a potential Sean Payton backup plan. With the prospects for a Broncos-Payton partnership fading, Ryans is in line to capitalize. The Colts are planning to have roughly seven candidates go through second interviews. That is on the high side, but Indianapolis has led the way in terms of interview volume. Jeff Saturday remains in that mix, though a few others have met or will meet with Jim Irsay and Co. Brian Floresname has come up most often in connection with the Arizona job, but Payton is at the Cardinals’ facility Thursday afternoon.

Going into his third season as Dallas’ DC, Quinn will need to hire multiple new staffers. The team moved on from senior defensive assistant George Edwards and longtime assistant D-line coach Leon Lett.

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Flores, Evero

By far the biggest name on this year’s coaching carousel, Sean Payton looks to have seen his momentum stall a bit. While Payton is interviewing with the Cardinals today, his candidacy has not produced a second interview anywhere yet. The Panthers met with Payton this week but just hired Frank Reich. While the Texans remain on the radar for the longtime Saints HC, Jeremy Fowler of does not get the sense much momentum is present for such a partnership. The Broncos have been connected to other names recently as well, but that path may be dwindling as well. There might not be a place for Payton — as odd as that sounds, given his track record — on this year’s market, Ian Rapoport of offers (video link)

Trade compensation being required to land the Super Bowl XLIV-winning HC, with the price varying from a first-rounder and other early picks to two first-rounders, has affected teams’ plans here. Payton, 59, has also been mentioned as waffling on this year’s lot of jobs. Returning to FOX for another year and surveying the 2024 market, when two jobs he has long been connected to (Chargers, Cowboys), could be available might be what comes out of this run of interviews. Payton remains in this year’s mix, but buzz has died down.

Here is the latest from the coaching landscape:

  • Regarding the Cardinals‘ search, Brian Flores remains firmly in the mix. GM candidates received the impression Arizona is high on the three-year Miami HC-turned-Pittsburgh linebackers coach, Fowler notes. Previously mentioned as a frontrunner — due partially to the Cards hiring ex-Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort as GM — Flores may have a right-hand man on defense lined up. Some around the league expect the ex-Dolphins HC to bring Gerald Alexander, Miami’s defensive backs coach for the past three years, with him to Arizona, per Fowler. With the Dolphins looking for a new DC, Alexander may be on the move anyway. While ESPN colleague Dan Graziano points to Vance Joseph and Aaron Glenn remaining strong candidates, Flores has generated the most buzz to this point. Flores has also interviewed for the Falcons and Vikings’ DC posts.
  • Raheem Morris booked a second HC interview with the Colts and also met with the Broncos and Texans. Should the Rams‘ DC land a second HC opportunity, Albert Breer of notes Ejiro Evero is the team’s top candidate to replace him. The Denver DC is no lock to be available. He is under contract with the Broncos, who blocked a Falcons DC interview, and has gone through second HC interviews with the Colts and Texans. Denver could pass on retaining Evero by hiring a defensive-minded coach, of course. Evero came to Denver from Los Angeles; he spent five years on Sean McVay‘s staff.
  • The Browns considered bringing in Vic Fangio for a DC interview, Mary Kay Cabot of notes, but they stood down and ended up hiring Jim Schwartz. Cleveland having run a 4-3 defense in recent years may have been a reason for passing on a Fangio meeting, Cabot offers. Fangio has remained quite popular still, having interviewed for three DC jobs — the Dolphins, Falcons and Panthers — already.
  • The Bills are making a change to their defensive staff. They fired safeties coach Jim Salgado, Alaina Getzenberg of tweets. Salgado had been on McDermott’s staff throughout the head coach’s six-season tenure.
  • Giants DC Don Martindale is attached to a three-year contract, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Giants thought enough of the veteran coordinator, whom the Ravens did not bring back last year, they gave him the three-year deal as opposed to the more common two-year pact. Giants ST coordinator Thomas McGaughey also received extensive interest from other teams, with Duggan adding the Chargers joined the Panthers in offering him their ST coordinator jobs. McGaughey, who has been with the Giants since 2018, turned down a Bears interview and opted to stay and work for Brian Daboll.

Panthers Hire Frank Reich As Head Coach

The Panthers will make this year’s first head coaching hire. They have decided on Frank Reich, according to’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero (on Twitter).

Reich joined interim coach Steve Wilks as Carolina’s finalists. A quarterback on the Panthers’ inaugural 1995 squad, Reich will have a second head coaching opportunity following a midseason Colts dismissal. The Panthers have announced the hire. Following Matt Rhule‘s seven-year contract, Joe Person of The Athletic notes this is a four-year agreement (Twitter link).

Carolina had been zeroing in on offense-oriented coaches for a while, but Wilks’ performance as interim HC interfered with that plan. Wilks, who went 6-6 in his chance as the Panthers’ interim boss, joined Reich in interviewing twice for the position. The latter’s experience as a play-caller won out. Reich also interviewed for the Cardinals’ HC post, and a few teams wanted to speak with him about their offensive coordinator positions. But Reich said shortly after his Indianapolis exit he wanted a second chance as a head coach.

Reich zoomed onto the HC radar in 2018, after he played a central role in helping the Eagles win Super Bowl LII after losing their starting quarterback. Nick Foles‘ virtuoso finish to the 2017 season led to Reich becoming the Colts’ head coach, though he was Indy’s second choice following Josh McDaniels‘ infamous about-face. Reich ended up being a solid choice for the team, coaching two Colts squads to playoff berths.

The 2018 Colts edition did not face high expectations, but Reich led a turnaround that ended in the divisional round. Andrew Luck bounced back with a 39-touchdown pass season under Reich, but another run of injury trouble during the 2019 offseason led the standout passer to announce his retirement just before the season. Reich navigated that setback for a bit, reuniting with ex-Chargers pupil Philip Rivers in 2020, but the Colts are still dealing with the fallout from Luck’s retirement. After the 2020 playoff berth preceded Rivers’ retirement, the wheels gradually fell off for the Colts. Their 9-8 2021 season — ending with an ugly Week 18 loss to the two-touchdown underdog Jaguars — prompted Jim Irsay to insist on sweeping changes, and that process soon led to Reich’s firing.

Reich, 61, had advocated for Carson Wentz in 2021, and the Colts bypassed a draft move to reunite their HC with his ex-Eagles charge. Wentz had moments in 2021 and ranked in the top 10 in QBR, throwing 27 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. Wentz was inconsistent down the stretch that year, and after a COVID-19 contraction, he struggled mightily in the Colts’ final two games — losses that knocked them out of the playoff race. Irsay demanded Wentz be traded, leading to an Irsay-endorsed Matt Ryan partnership. Ryan’s woes in his age-37 season led to Irsay demanding Reich bench him for former sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger. This run of owner-mandated moves eventually led to Reich being canned in November — not long after the Panthers axed Rhule. Irsay later said he reluctantly extended Reich in 2021, putting a bow on an eventful 2022 for the Colts owner.

A longtime Bills backup who led the greatest comeback in playoff history — a 32-point rally past the Oilers in the 1992 wild-card round — Reich played the 1995 season with the Panthers. Arriving in Carolina as a free agent in ’95, Reich took the first snap in team history. He moved into coaching in the mid-2000s and began his rise as the Chargers’ OC under Mike McCoy nearly a decade later. Reich will come full circle with the Panthers, who recently hired one of his daughters to work in their marketing department, per Person. Frank’s brother, Joe, has also been the head coach at Charlotte-area Wingate University for 22 years.

Wilks has deeper ties to the Panthers. He is a Charlotte native who coached in Carolina as a Ron Rivera assistant and then an interim HC. Players advocated for Wilks, who did one of the better jobs in interim coaching history last season. With Reich beating him out for the full-time gig, Wilks intends to coach elsewhere in 2023, Pelissero tweets.

The Panthers were also quite impressed with Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Rapoport tweets, but they will go with experience in Reich. Moore, 33, just finished his fourth season as Dallas’ play-caller and interviewed over a two-day period with Carolina this week. Although David Tepper met with Sean Payton this week, a trade between two NFC South franchises was never likely.

Tepper’ssecond hire will be a first for the Panthers, who have never seen their head coach double as their offensive play-caller. The Panthers have either employed defensive-minded leaders (Dom Capers, George Seifert, John Fox, Rivera) or a CEO-type HC (Rhule). Tepper’s seven-year, $62MM Rhule contract backfired, leading the owner to prioritize NFL experience this time around.

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers’ hire, this year’s vacancy count sits at four. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-26-23 (4:36pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Saleh: Jets Plan To Add Veteran QB

The Jets are not making any secret of their desire to make a specific upgrade at the quarterback spot. Not long after Woody Johnson said he was willing to pay up for a veteran quarterback, Robert Saleh said informed prospective offensive coordinators of this plan.

Saleh ended up going with Nathaniel Hackett, a rather controversial choice considering his rapid Denver unraveling, but he informed Hackett and others the team plans on acquiring a veteran quarterback, Rich Cimini of tweets. Saleh, understandably so, said Thursday the quarterback position was his top concern when discussing the state of the offense with candidates.

Saleh added he and Hackett did not discuss specific options, though this hire will point to one. Aaron Rodgers‘ praise of his former OC will connect the four-time MVP to the Jets, especially as a third round of Rodgers trade rumors are circulating. The Broncos’ Hackett hire, however, did not lead to a trade. And Hackett’s spectacular failure with Russell Wilson led him to become just the third first-year head coach in the past 53 years to be fired before the season ended.

With 2020s quarterback markets more action-packed than those of the previous decade, more options will be available in the event the Jets cannot pry Rodgers from Green Bay. Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo are the two names that immediately come to mind, though teams will certainly monitor the Ravens’ situation with Lamar Jackson. The Giants sound like they are now likelier to franchise Daniel Jones over Saquon Barkley, while the Seahawks have opened talks with Geno Smith. Both Pete Carroll and John Schneider said the team wants to retain the nine-year veteran. Tom Brady also could be available, though it remains to be seen if the legendary passer will play a 24th season. If he does, clearer connections exist with other teams (Raiders, Titans) compared to the Jets. Gang Green, however, does boast weaponry and a solid defense — similar to what the Buccaneers presented in 2020.

Carr and Garoppolo are set to be available at different points on the calendar. Carr’s contract stipulates his trade market will close Feb. 15, when his $40.4MM guarantee vests. Unless Carr and the Raiders change that date, the team must move the quarterback off its roster before that point to avoid paying him that money. The Jets are one of the teams expected to pursue Carr, joining the Commanders, Saints and potentially others in doing so. Garoppolo will be available in mid-March, when free agency opens. Rodgers’ $58.3MM option bonus can be paid at any point this offseason, and with a post-June 1 trade better for the Packers’ books, it may be a while before the 39-year-old star is dealt — if, in fact, Green Bay actually decides to move on this year.

The Jets have Zach Wilson under contract through 2024, but the former No. 2 overall pick has not shown much to indicate he can be a starter-caliber QB. Mike White is set for free agency, and injuries in back-to-back seasons cut the popular Jet’s time as a starter short. While the Jets could keep White and have continued to insist Wilson remains part of their future (Saleh did so again Thursday), a proven passer will assuredly be the team’s target this offseason.

A move for a veteran franchise-type option will be a change of pace for the Jets, who have invested five first- or second-round picks (Wilson, Sam Darnold, Christian Hackenberg, Geno Smith, Mark Sanchez) at the position since 2009. While the team pursued Kirk Cousins in 2018 and used the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown as stopgaps, it has not rostered a true franchise-level option since Brett Favre 15 years ago. The second of four Favre retirements ended that partnership after one season.