Al Golden

COVID-19 Latest: Bubble, Bengals, Dalton

With the NFL passing an in-case-of-emergency amended playoff bracket and having a tentative Week 18 in place in case games need to be rescheduled, the league is planning ahead. Its months-long anti-bubble stance remains, but the prospect of one taking place in the postseason has not been ruled out. The NFL will consider holding conference championship games at neutral-site bubbles, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post. Like the 16-team bracket, this would be a contingency plan. Should the NFL proceed with bubbles for its penultimate postseason round, Maske notes warm-weather cities would be the likely sites.

Here is the latest on the NFL’s navigation of the coronavirus pandemic:

  • As cases spike nationally, the NFL has seen a significant uptick as well this month. Forty-seven percent of the league’s positive coronavirus tests this season came during November’s first two weeks, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones notes. As such, the NFL is bracing for more COVID-related trouble after Thanksgiving. The league expects cases to surge after the holiday, with high-ranking execs informing Jones the bulk of its cases thus far this season occurred because of in-home gatherings. No games have been rescheduled since Week 7, but given the protocol adjustments and postseason contingency plan, the league appears to be preparing for postponements to re-emerge.
  • Beginning Saturday, all NFL teams will be thrust into the intensive COVID-19 protocol. The recently implemented higher-security format will be the new norm, per’s Judy Battista. Positive tests were previously necessary to move teams into the intensive protocol — which calls for all meetings to be held virtually, masks to be worn at all times at team facilities and no player congregation to occur outside of teams’ headquarters — but the league’s Thanksgiving-related concerns have prompted precautions.
  • The Bengals were without four coaches during their Week 10 game against the Steelers and will be without three staffers this weekend as well. Cincinnati cornerbacks coach Steve Jackson, wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell and safeties coach Robert Livingston will not be with the team in Washington due to COVID-19 protocols, Adam Schefter of tweets. Last week, the Bengals were without Jackson, Bicknell, linebackers coach Al Golden and senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner. Bengals DC Lou Anarumo will assume more responsibility this weekend, per the team, in overseeing the team’s defensive backs.
  • Former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will be back in the Cowboys‘ starting lineup this week, but he has not yet fully recovered from the coronavirus. The 10th-year veteran developed symptoms and has not fully regained his taste and smell senses, via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). Dalton’s wife and one of his sons also contracted the virus. The Cowboys activated Dalton from their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

Coaching Notes: Barry, Bengals, Panthers

About a decade after leaving USC, Joe Barry had a chance to return to the school. ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry reports (via Twitter) that Barry declined USC’s offer to become their new defensive coordinator. Instead, the 49-year-old has signed a new contract with the Rams to remain their associate head coach/linebackers coach.

Barry served as USC’s linebackers coach back in 2010, but he’s otherwise held NFL jobs since 2000. He had a stint as the Lions defensive coordinator (2007-2008) and Redskins defensive coordinator (2015-2016), and he joined the Rams coaching staff back in 2017. Barry has a Super Bowl ring from his time on the Buccaneers coaching staff.

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • It didn’t take long for Al Golden to find a new gig. After getting canned by the Lions, the 50-year-old has joined the Bengals as their new linebackers coach (via’s Charean Williams). Golden spent four seasons in Detroit, serving as a linebackers coach and tight ends coach.
  • Colts defensive line coach Mike Phair will be joining the Panthers coaching staff, reports Stephen Holder of The Athletic (via Twitter). Holden notes that the move was mostly thanks to defensive coordinator Phil Snow, as the two have a close relationship. Phair has also had NFL coaching stints with the Buccaneers, Bears, and Seahawks.
  • As the Giants continue to reshape their coaching staff, SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan tweets that Falcons defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson could be an option for a similar role in New York. The 50-year-old has also spent time on the Jets, Browns, and Cowboys coaching staffs.

Lions Fire Six Assistants

While both Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia will return after the Lions’ worst season in 10 years, the latter’s coaching staff will look considerably different in 2020.

The Lions fired special teams coordinator John Bonamego on New Year’s Eve and also axed five assistants, the team announced. Linebackers coach Al Golden, defensive backs coach Brian Stewart, tight ends coach Chris White, strength coach Harold Nash and assistant strength coach Rodney Hill will not be back next season. Second-year defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni remains in place.

Bonamego returned to the Lions earlier this year, doing so after spending four seasons as Central Michigan’s head coach. He was also Detroit’s ST coordinator from 2013-14. The Lions fired previous ST boss Joe Marciano midway through Patricia’s first season.

Golden had been with the Lions since 2016, working as their tight ends instructor from 2016-17 before moving over to the other side of the ball. This was his first NFL coaching destination, having previously been a college head coach from 2006-15 at Temple and Miami.

Stewart joined Patricia’s initial staff last season, but the Lions struggled in pass coverage in 2019. The team ranked 29th in pass-defense DVOA. White will not have a chance to further develop T.J. Hockenson, who struggled after a record-setting debut against a Cardinals defense that turned out to be historically bad at defending tight ends. The Lions have still yet to see 2017 first-round linebacker Jarrad Davis justify his draft slot; he rated as Pro Football Focus’ sixth-worst full-time ‘backer this season.

Coaching Rumors: Ravens, Lions, Steelers

Dean Pees‘ retirement from the Ravens didn’t last long as he became the Titans’ defensive coordinator less than a month later. The about-face took Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti by surprise.

I’m a little shocked,” Bisciotti said (via Jamison Hensley of “He’s 68 years old. It’s hard to give it up, I guess.”

Bisciotti didn’t come right out and say it, but it sounds like Pees went to the Titans in part because they were willing to employ his son, Matt Pees, as a quality control coach.

I wish Dean all the luck,” Bisciotti said. “I understand he got his son in; I think that was a big point of his. We have a nepotism rule that may have prohibited that from happening in the last few years.”

Here’s more from the coaching world:

  • Following Carnell Lake‘s resignation from the position of Steelers secondary coach, Pittsburgh’s brass reached into the college ranks to fill the post. UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will leave Los Angeles to become the Steelers’ new DBs boss, Ian Rapoport of tweets. Bradley is a Pennsylvania native who spent 33 seasons on Joe Paterno’s staff — from 1979-2011. He coached the Bruins’ defense for the past three years. The 61-year-old Bradley will be on an NFL sideline for the first time come 2018.
  • In addition to formally announcing former Boston College defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni as their new defensive coordinator and keeping Jim Bob Cooter on as offensive coordinator, the Lions have also named several other members of new head coach Matt Patricia‘s staff. Chris White has been hired as Detroit’s tight ends coach, while former Miami head coach Al Golden will remain on staff as the club’s linebackers coach (he’d previously coached tight ends). Most of White’s experience has come at the collegiate level, but he did serve as the Vikings’ assistant special teams coach from 2009-12. The Lions also officially announced several other coaching hires that had been previously reported, including George Godsey (quarterbacks), Jeff Davidson (offensive line), and Brian Stewart (defensive backs), plus one that hadn’t in David Corrao (director of football research).
  • A 49ers defensive assistant for the past three years, former NFL DC Jason Tarver will become a coach outside of California for the first time in his 20-plus-year career. Tarver agreed to take the defensive coordinator job at Vanderbilt, per Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. The Raiders’ DC from 2012-14, Tarver enjoyed two stints with the 49ers — the first from 2001-10. He coached alongside current Vanderbilt HC Derek Mason in 2011 at Stanford.
  • Speaking of the Commodores, the SEC program also announced former Browns assistant Shawn Mennenga will oversee Vandy’s special teams units in 2018 (Twitter link). The Browns let Menneaga walk after he served seven seasons under previous ST coordinator Chris Tabor.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/3/16

Today’s minor moves:

  • Tackle Matt Pierson signed with the Texans, and the team cut cornerback Cleveland Wallace to make room, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter links).
  • The Bengals announced that they have signed cornerback Corey Tindal. The Marshall product initially joined the Bengals as a UDFA in May. Tindal should give the Bengals some extra depth in practice as they deal with injuries to their other corners.
  • The Saints announced that they have added UDFAs safety Jamal Golden and guard Jordan Walsh. In a corresponding move, the Saints waived defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil and waived/injured wide receiver Kyle Prater and safety Alden Darby.
  • The Ravens have signed running back Stephen Houston, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • The Ravens released punter Michael Palardy, as Jamison Hensley of tweets.
  • The Jets waived defensive back Kendall James, who had been on the PUP list, with an injury designation, as Darryl Slater of tweets. They signed running back Terry Williams to replace him.
  • The Steelers signed tight end Jake Phillips and cornerback Kevin White, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). To make room, the Steelers waived/injured tight end Mandel Dixon and wide receiver Shakim Phillips.
  • Former South Carolina defensive lineman Gerald Dixon Jr. is signing with the Cowboys, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
  • The Dolphins have waived wide receiver Tyler Murphy, as Ben Volin of The Boston Globe tweets.
  • The Redskins announced the signing of free agent offensive lineman Isaiah Williams, Mike Jones of The Washington Post tweets.
  • The Bears are expected to sign veteran fullback Darrel Young, Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Young is an experienced blocker in the zone scheme and also plays special teams.
  • Wide receiver Ryan Spadola has reverted to the Lions‘ IR after going unclaimed on waivers, as Justin Rogers of The Detroit News tweets.

North Notes: Bengals, Steelers, Lions

The Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth showed he had plenty left in the tank last season, his 10th in the NFL and seventh with 16 starts, when he made his second Pro Bowl and finished as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-ranked offensive tackle (77 qualifiers). Nevertheless, the 34-year-old isn’t sure yet if he wants to play beyond the upcoming campaign. “As you get older, it takes a lot more focus to play. A lot of mental drain,” he told Geoff Hobson of “You have to rehab correctly. You have to stay in and get treatments. You have to keep your body in shape. There are so many more things now. When you were young you could run through a brick wall and bounce back no matter what you did.”

More from the league’s North divisions:

  • The Steelers and star running back Le’Veon Bell aren’t discussing a new deal “right now,” he told Jeremy Fowler of, because the 24-year-old isn’t willing to delve into extension talks until his surgically repaired knee is 100 percent. Bell – who’s entering a contract year – missed seven games last season because of a torn MCL and PCL, though he now feels “great.”
  • Al Golden is happy with his decision to jump to the NFL as the Lions‘ tight ends coach, but that doesn’t mean that the former University of Miami head coach is done with college football, as he tells Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I think I have too much experience and just because I started young as a head coach, sometimes people look at it like, ‘Well, he’s already been a head coach,’” Golden said. “But I’m not 57. I’m 46, so I started young as a head coach and I’ve got a world of experience and I think this is just the next chapter for me so we’ll see where it goes. It’s too early to start thinking about that, but I know I’m skilled in that aspect of it. I’ve been a defensive coordinator, I’ve been a special teams coordinator, I’ve coached five or six different positions and now I’m coaching on the offense in the NFL
  • Cornerback Darius Slay‘s contract situation puts the Lions in a familiar position, writes The Associated Press. For the third straight season, the Lions have a top defensive player entering a contract year, with Slay joining linebacker DeAndre Levy (2015) and tackle Ndamukong Suh (2014). Levy signed a four-year extension before last season, of course, and Suh played out his contract year and then departed in free agency. Slay hopes to follow Levy’s path and stay in Detroit for the long haul, the corner said earlier this week.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

East Notes: Cowboys, Dolphins, Bromley

Earlier today, we heard that the Cowboys were set to talk to former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan about their defensive backs coach position, but Nolan isn’t the only candidate for the opening. According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Twitter), the Cowboys will also interview Tim Lewis, lost his job as the Niners’ defensive backs coach last month.

Alex Marvez of FOX Sports adds a few more names to the Cowboys’ list of possible targets, tweeting that the team has already interviewed Titans assistant secondary coach Steve Brown, former Colts assistant Mike Gillhamer, and former Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden, who has since been hired by the Lions. Even with Golden off the table, it certainly seems that Dallas has no shortage of candidates to replace Jerome Henderson.

Here are a few more items of interest from around the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • It’s only been a few hours since word broke that the Browns are expected to cut Johnny Manziel when the 2016 league year officially begins, but that’s plenty of time for the speculation about Manziel landing with the Cowboys to rev up. As Todd Archer of and David Moore of the Dallas Morning News observe, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted to select Manziel during the 2014 draft, but was talked out of it by other members of the team’s front office, and the quarterback has shown little since then – on or off the field – to make the club regret that decision. Still, Jones may still harbor some optimism for Manziel’s potential, and as Mike Sando of (Insider link) writes, the team hasn’t shied away from signing players with character red flags.
  • The linebacker position “will be of particular interest” for the Dolphins throughout this offseason, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, who writes that the club will be looking for two starting-caliber linebackers. Salguero suggests Miami will likely try to replace middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and outside linebacker Koa Misi this winter, if possible.
  • A police source tells Ryan Sit and Rocco Parascandola of the New York Daily News that investigators have uncovered “significant discrepancies” in the story told by the woman who accused Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley of assaulting and attempting to rape her. Bromley has steadfastly denied his accuser’s allegations.

NFC North Notes: Lions, Golden, Loadholt

If the Lions want to keep their 2013 draft class, it’ll cost them a pretty penny, says Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. The Lions are slated to have $20MM in salary cap space right now and they could tack on another $11MM if Calvin Johnson retires. Still, the team has five starting-caliber players from the 2013 class that are slated to hit the open market in 2017 if they don’t sign new deals.

Here’s more on the Lions and some of their division rivals:

  • Speaking of Johnson’s potential retirement, in a separate piece for the Free Press, Birkett writes that some observers believe Megatron would be more likely to continue playing for the Lions if the team had won more during his time in Detroit.
  • The Lions have hired former Miami and Temple head coach Al Golden as their tight ends coach, the team announced in a press release. It’s the first NFL job for the longtime college coach, who was with the Hurricanes from 2011 to 2015.
  • Vikings tackle Phil Loadholt, who is working his way back from a torn Achilles, is optimistic that he’ll be ready to go for offseason workouts this spring. However, it remains to be seen whether he’ll still be on Minnesota’s roster at that point, since the club could create $6MM in cap savings by releasing him. Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune spoke to Loadholt about his recovery and his uncertain contract status.
  • Earlier this afternoon, we learned that Bears tight end Zach Miller is seeking $5MM per year on his next contract. That story is right here.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Coaching Notes: Campbell, Saints, Golden

New Saints hire Dan Campbell has been brought aboard as an assistant head coach to Sean Payton, but it is not accurate to say that he is the assistant head coach in New Orleans. Campbell, who was hired just weeks ago in New Orleans, will share the assistant head coach title with linebackers coach Joe Vitt, as Evan Woodbery of The Times-Picayune writes. With that matter cleared up, Payton says there is only one minor open matter remaining on his staff – finding an offensive assistant to work with receivers coach John Morton.

More coaching news from around the NFL:

  • Former Miami/Temple coach Al Golden is in line for a defensive assistant job with the Cowboys, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports hears (via Twitter). Golden, 46, coached Miami to a 32-25 record from 2011 through 2015.
  • The Titans made some moves on their coaching staff, as Jim Wyatt of Titans Online reports (via Twitter links). Nick Eason will be the team’s defensive line coach, Bob Bratkowski is the Titans’ new wide receivers coach, and Sylvester Croom will remain as the team’s running backs coach. Croom has had many stints as an NFL RBs coach and also served as the head coach of Mississippi State from 2004-2008.
  • The Eagles requested permission to interview Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, but they were denied, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (on Twitter). Kocurek is an advocate for an attacking 4-3 front which would have made him a good fit under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.