The Browns will have more of their regulars in uniform Sunday in Kansas City than they did in Pittsburgh last week. They activated cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson off their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.
Both players missed the past two games after testing positive for the coronavirus. NFL protocols would have permitted Ward to return last week, but he did not clear the necessary hurdles to return. The Browns beat the Steelers anyway, though Pittsburgh’s wide receivers enjoyed big days in Week 17 and in the teams’ opening-round matchup. The Chiefs are quite talented at this position as well.
An offseason addition, Johnson has operated as a part-time starter for the Browns. Ward has been the team’s No. 1 corner essentially since arriving in Cleveland in 2018. The Browns hope to have Joel Bitonio and wideout KhaDarel Hodge against the Chiefs as well.
Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan also returned to practice Wednesday. The veteran NFL staffer experienced COVID symptoms, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, who adds Kevin Stefanski has encountered symptoms as well. However, Stefanski is expected to coach against the Chiefs. Wideouts coach Chad O’Shea was also symptomatic, per Cabot, but he is also back at practice. Assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard remain out due to COVID.
The Browns’ uphill battle in their first playoff game in 18 years became steeper Saturday. The team announced it will be without top cornerback Denzel Ward in Pittsburgh.
Ward will remain on the Browns’ reserve/COVID-19 list. So will fellow starting cornerback Kevin Johnson, who also tested positive last week. Both missing last week limited a Browns secondary in a game when Mason Rudolph threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns.
Based on his timeline, coronavirus protocols would have allowed Ward to suit up against the Steelers. But this would have required Ward being asymptomatic and passing the necessary tests. The third-year corner has not hit the necessary checkpoints, which will leave the Browns shorthanded Sunday night. The NFL found some COVID-19 spread within the Browns but did not move to postpone the AFC North playoff matchup.
The returns of Harrison, Smith and Bryant leave Ward, Johnson, Joel Bitonio and KhaDarel Hodge on Cleveland’s COVID list. Several coaches, however, will miss the game. Kevin Stefanski, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard are out Sunday night. After coaching the Browns’ wide receivers last week, first-year Cleveland assistant Callie Brownson will coach tight ends this week, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweets.
Cleveland also elevated UDFA rookie A.J. Green from the practice squad, who may start opposite Mitchell. Green has played one defensive snap this season.
January 2, 1:47pm: The Browns will be without both offensive line coaches Sunday. The team announcedBill Callahan and assistant O-line coach Scott Peters will not coach against the Steelers. Assistant Ryan Cordell will oversee Cleveland’s offensive front during the team’s win-and-in Week 17 assignment. Cordell spent five years with the 49ers, working as both a front office and coaching assistant, and is in his second season as a Browns football research analyst.
While the Browns will be down three coaches, they announced their latest round of contact tracing did not result in more players being identified as high-risk close contacts, Ulrich tweets.
January 2, 9:06am: There’s been another positive COVID-19 test on the Browns’ coaching staff, but as of right now, it doesn’t sound like it will impact Sunday’s game against the Steelers. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports that the Browns had a positive test and have closed their facility (via Twitter). Josina Anderson tweets that the Browns will not practice this morning.
The Browns released a statement confirming the news (via Twitter):
“The Cleveland Browns were informed this morning that a member of their coaching staff has tested positive for COVID-19. The team will continue virtual meetings as the facility is currently closed while contact tracing is conducted. We will consult with league medical professionals on the appropriate next steps.”
Browns wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea had already been declared unavailable for tomorrow’s game after testing positive earlier this week. Despite the second positive test result, a source told Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal that there’s been no change to that status of tomorrow’s game (Twitter link).
This is obviously poor timing for Cleveland, as the Browns are on the verge of clinching their first playoff spot since the 2002 season. A win against Pittsburgh will secure that postseason appearance, but there are plenty of scenarios where Cleveland could make the playoffs with a loss tomorrow.
With O’Shea testing positive earlier this week, the Browns were forced to close their facilities. The team finally got their first full team practice in yesterday, and everyone understands the significance of preparing for tomorrow’s game.
Shortly after his run as Redskins interim head coach ended, Bill Callahan will land on his feet in a familiar role. The Browns are expected to hire Callahan as their next offensive line coach, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.
They will be the fifth team to bring Callahan in as O-line coach, following the Eagles, Jets, Cowboys and Redskins. While Callahan has held higher-profile titles, most notably Raiders head coach, his primary NFL role has been as an O-line instructor.
Callahan will work with new Browns HC Kevin Stefanski for the first time. This takes the 63-year-old assistant out of the running for a Giants job. He was in play for Big Blue’s offensive line coach position, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link). Former Cowboys boss Jason Garrett was named OC recently. Callahan worked under Garrett as Dallas’ OC from 2012-14 but accepted a job with the Redskins in 2015. He remained with Washington through the end of the 2010s.
Callahan will replace James Campen, who spent one season working as Browns O-line coach. While the Browns’ offensive line struggled in pass protection — namely at tackle — it ranked 11th in adjusted line yards, helping Nick Chubb to a second-place rushing finish.
Offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell could keep his job under new head coach Ron Rivera, but the same can’t be said for Bill Callahan. The Redskins will move on from the offensive line coach and one-time interim head coach, according to John Keim of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
Callahan expressed interest in staying in Washington, though his comments came before the Rivera hire. It’s not clear if he would have been open to staying on as an assistant, however.
The Redskins went 0-5 under Jay Gruden and didn’t fare much better with Callahan at the helm. After a 3-8 showing in the final eleven games, they gave Callahan some consideration full-time post, but it might have been more of a courtesy than anything.
There should be plenty of opportunities out there for Callahan if he wants to serve as an assistant elsewhere.
After little emerged on the Redskins front for weeks following Jay Gruden‘s firing, the struggling franchise is dominating the early-weekend news cycle. Bruce Allen‘s role as team president is not safe, with a Black Monday dismissal being considered.
The Redskins are considering firing their 10-year front office czar, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports, adding that Allen may have a chance to remain with the organization in a non-football role. That would be an interesting setup given Allen’s tumultuous tenure in Washington, but Dan Snyder is pondering widespread changes to his football operations department.
Replacement options for Allen include ex-Texans GM Rick Smith and former NFL executive-turned-TV analyst Louis Riddick, La Canfora adds, noting Snyder has done research on a few personnel execs. Smith resigned from his Houston post after the 2017 season but is open to returning to the league. Riddick worked with the Redskins from 2001-07, serving as a scout and pro personnel director. He subsequently held the same role with the Eagles.
As for Washington’s HC opening, Snyder has “strong interest” in Ron Rivera, per JLC. The longtime Redskins owner is also interested in Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, ex-Jets HC and current Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles, longtime Bengals HCMarvin Lewis and former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. These are consolation prizes, though, with La Canfora reporting Snyder’s primary hope is to work out a trade for Mike Tomlin. Snyder is not optimistic about such a deal. The prospect of bringing the Virginia native to Washington surfaced two-plus months ago.
The prospect of bringing aboard a defensive coach opens the door to Washington sticking with top offensive incumbents Bill Callahan and Kevin O’Connell. Snyder is high on both his interim HC and first-year OC, according to La Canfora. Callahan expressed interest in staying on, though it’s not known if he would stick around under another head coach, and O’Connell has been the primary Dwayne Haskins developer this season. Snyder was the driving force behind the Redskins’ Haskins pick, overruling Gruden.
Allen has not excelled in Washington, but neither have most of the head coaches under Snyder. The Redskins have not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons under the 21st-year owner.
December 25th, 2019 at 8:52am CST by Zachary Links
Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan wants to shed the interim label, as Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post writes. Callahan, who took over in October, believes the team has made significant strides under his watch.
“I look at the fight of our players,” Callahan said. “I look at the resiliency, and [I] tried to bring back a work ethic into the program that I thought was lacking. I thought our players could have been better fundamentally. . . . I saw our players get better and compete for four quarters. I saw our players have stamina through four quarters of play. I thought long and hard about improving the team and what aspects I would really focus on. A lot of that was the second-half finish, and I thought we did that.”
The Redskins were 0-5 under Jay Gruden, but they’ve gone 3-7 under Callahan in the last ten games. Many believe that the Redskins will opt for a splashy hire, rather than staying the course with Callahan, but the 63-year-old isn’t giving up hope.
As Copeland notes, veterans were freelancing outside the scheme under Gruden in an effort to pad their stats. That didn’t necessarily stop under Callahan, but there have been fewer instances of players operating outside of play calls in recent weeks. Still, the Redskins still rank 31st in scoring offense and 24th in scoring defense.
The Redskins will consider interim head coach Bill Callahan for the so-called “permanent” post (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). That makes two known internal candidates – offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is also getting real consideration for the job. Rapoport expects the Redskins to evaluate Callahan and O’Connell before opening things up to external candidates in December.
If Callahan wants the gig, he’ll have to find a way to turn things around in Washington. Heading into tonight’s game against the Vikings, the Redskins are 1-6 with their only win coming against the lowly Dolphins a couple of weeks back.
O’Connell hasn’t gotten tremendous results, either, but he is highly respected around the league and in the Redskins’ front office. The Redskins, for all their woes, have a history of developing young offensive coaches that have skyrocketed through the ranks. After Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, and Kyle Shanahan found success elsewhere, the Redskins may be inclined to keep O’Connell in their yard.
Redskins offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is expected to receive serious consideration for the team’s head coaching post, as Mark Maske of the Washington Post writes. O’Connell, 34, has been with Washington since 2017, and this season is his first as the Redskins’ OC.
Before Washington elevated him from passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach in January, O’Connell garnered interest from multiple other teams. For all of the Redskins’ problems, they have had a number of young and talented coaches rise through their ranks — Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, and Kyle Shanahan, to name a few — and apparently there is a belief that O’Connell can follow in their footsteps.
Washington is near the bottom of the league in points per game and yards per game this year, but the offense is largely bereft of talent at the skill positions and along the O-line, so it would be difficult to hold the performance of O’Connell’s unit against him. As Maske notes, the real question will be whether O’Connell, interim HC Bill Callahan, or an outside candidate will be best-suited to maximize Dwayne Haskins‘ potential.
Owner Dan Snyder has not had much problem luring big-name head coaches to the nation’s capital; the problem has been making it work once those coaches arrive. Plus, team president Bruce Allen could be an obstacle. One of Maske’s sources, an agent who represents coaches, said that no coach worth his salt will accept an HC job with the Redskins as long as Allen is in charge of personnel.
In addition to O’Connell, Maske names Gregg Williams, Marvin Lewis, and Mike McCarthy as big names who could attract Snyder’s interest.
This morning, the Redskins did what everyone expected and fired head coachJayGruden. The move follows a 33-7 loss to the Patriots, dropping Washington to 0-5 on the season. Besides his disappointing record, there also seemed to be a disconnect between the front office and the sixth-year coach; Gruden reportedly wasn’t a fan of the team’s decision to select quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the No. 15 overall pick.
Needless to say, it’s been a busy day in Washington, and there have a been a number of additional Redskins notes since this afternoon:
Nobody likes to lose their job, but it sounds like Gruden isn’t beating himself up over the firing. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the now-former head coach was expecting the move and is doing fine. Rapoport also notes that the firing allows the organization to be completely transparent about their head coaching search (as opposed to be covert if Gruden was still on the sideline).
During his presser earlier today, team president Bruce Allen deferred to interim head coach Bill Callahanwhen asked if Haskins would now start under center. The coach later told reporters that the first-rounder is not a candidate to start right now (via NFL Network’s Mike Garafalo on Twitter). The coach did say that they’re currently evaluating the health of CaseKeenum and ColtMcCoy, but it sounds like one of the veterans will start against the Dolphins on Sunday.
Allen was also asked about the status of offensive lineman TrentWilliams, who continues to sit out. The executive told reporters that “there’s been no dialogue with any other team” regarding a trade, and Allen also said the team isn’t actively shopping the veteran. Today’s head coaching move also didn’t move the needle when it comes to a potential return for Williams; a source told ESPN’s Dianna Russini (Twitter link) that the 31-year-old “doesn’t have any plans of returning to the Redskins anytime soon.”
We hate to rub dirt in the wound, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter points out (on Twitter) that the Redskins’ coaching staff once consisted of KyleShanahan, SeanMcVay, and MattLaFleuer. The three current head coaches (with the 49ers, Rams, and Packers, respectively) currently have a combined 2019 record of 10-3.