Bill Lazor

Bill Lazor To Return As Bengals’ OC

Bill Lazor will return as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator in 2018. On Wednesday, the Bengals announced that they have signed Lazor to an extension, though they did not specify the length of the deal. Prior to the accord, Lazor was slated to be out of contract this offseason. Bill Lazor (vertical)

We have a lot of talent on this roster and I am excited for the opportunity to build the high-powered offense we have the potential to be. This offseason will give us the chance to continue the success we had at the end of the year as we develop into a dynamic offense in 2018,” Lazor said in a statement.

Lazor took over as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator in September after the team failed to score a touchdown in the first two games under Ken Zampese. The Bengals didn’t necessarily set the world on fire with Lazor in command either as they finished dead last in total offense. On the plus side, his unit did occasionally show promise, including two high-scoring wins over the Lions and Ravens in the final games of the season.

The Bengals will have both head coach Marvin Lewis and Lazor on the sidelines this year, but they are in search of a new defensive coordinator following Paul Guenther‘s departure.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Rams, Shanahan, Raiders

In January, the Rams had planned to interview Kyle Shanahan for their coaching vacancy, but a snowstorm on the East Coast put the powwow on hold, as Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com writes. Days later, the team 86’d the meeting altogether as they pivoted eventual hire Sean McVay.

They told me if I didn’t sit down, they might end up having to move on,” Shanahan said, “and I was definitely OK with that. I think it worked out for both parties.”

On Thursday night, the Rams will get a glimpse at what might have been when they take on San Francisco at Levi’s Stadium. Of course, the Rams are very high on McVay – who is the league’s youngest coach – so they have no cause for regret at this time.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Donald Penn’s new two-year, $21MM extension with the Raiders will not give him a raise from the $6.4MM he was due in 2017, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. However, he did get a $3MM guarantee in 2018 in exchange for signing on for two more years. In 2019, he’s slated to earn a non-guaranteed $6MM, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets. As previously reported, he could get guarantees that extend into the 2019 season based on how well he plays in 2017.
  • Based on his history, it’s likely that Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will look to move the offense quicker with more of a dink-and-dunk approach, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com opines (Twitter link). It remains to be seen what the running back rotation will be like. To date, Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill have not had a lot of carries while Giovani Bernard has drawn the lion’s share of the work. That could change now that Ken Zampese is out and Lazor is calling the plays.
  • On Tuesday, the Panthers, Bears, Cowboys, Packers, Jaguars, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jets, 49ers, and Bucs all conducted workouts. 

Bengals To Fire OC Ken Zampese

The Bengals will fire offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Bengals have not scored a touchdown in the first two games of the season and they are hoping a sideline shakeup will give them a jump start. For now, quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor will assume offensive coordinator responsibilities, the team announced.Ken Zampese (vertical)

Head coach Marvin Lewis didn’t exactly offer up support for Zampese after Thursday night’s loss to the Texans.

We have to get better but I’m never going to come in here and tell you anything we’re going to do with one another,” Lewis said when asked about potential staff changes (via Cincinnati.com). “What we do is private to us.”

Zampese was promoted to offensive coordinator last year after Hue Jackson left for the Browns’ head coaching job. Last year, the Bengals finished 13th in total offense under his guidance, but 24th in scoring. His offense left the red zone without a touchdown on nearly half of its red zone tries in 2016 and this year has been even worse. The Bengals are 0-for-6 for TDs in the red zone thus far and that’s a big reason for their 0-2 start.

On paper, the Bengals were poised to have one of the better offenses in the NFL with a competent QB in Andy Dalton, a megastar receiver in A.J. Green, a quality tight end in Tyler Eifert, and an intriguing mix of backfield weapons including Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and rookie Joe Mixon. The Bengals hope that another OC will be able to get the most out of what they have.

If the former Dolphins OC can’t get the offense going, then Zampese might not be the only coach bounced in Cincinnati this season. After 15 years at the helm, this just might be Marvin Lewis‘ last stand.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Rumors: Tannehill, Patriots, Kap

Ryan Tannehill asked former Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor for more audible latitude last season prior to Lazor’s dismissal, but the then-OC dismissed the notion, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

In Adam Gase, Tannehill will find a more innovative offensive coach, at least judging by his 2010s work in Denver and Chicago, but may not enjoy the kind of freedom he covets, Jackson notes. Gase’s work with Peyton Manning in 2013-14 notwithstanding, the Bears, per CSNChicago.com, were not an audible-heavy team under his direction last season, even as Jay Cutler progressed.

I’m going to speak for Ryan right now, which I typically don’t do,” Greg Jennings told Finsiders.com. “He wants some more freedom. … He’s been hand-held his entire career.”

Here’s the latest from the NFL’s Eastern divisions on Day 1 of the offseason.

  • Jennings is no lock to be employed by the Dolphins next season after he caught just 19 passes for 208 yards — both well below his previous career-low marks. The 32-year-old wideout’s entering the second season of a two-year, $8MM contract, and the Dolphins, per Pro Football Talk (via Jackson), haven’t told him he’ll be back. Jennings is due to occupy a $5.5MM cap number for the currently over-the-cap Fins, who can save $4MM by cutting the backup target. Jennings is currently Miami’s highest-paid receiver.
  • The Patriots are in discussions with retired coach Dante Scarnecchia about a return to the coaching staff to fix their ailing offensive line, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. Scarnecchia retired after the 2013 season but he has remained around the Pats, particularly to help with evaluating offensive line prospects in the draft. One source told Reiss that it would be a surprise if the coach wasn’t back on the sidelines for the Pats in 2016. Scarnecchia had retired after 32 seasons in the NFL, 30 of which came in New England.
  • There has been a lot of debate as to whether the Jets should pursue 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and, over the weekend, Hall of Famer Joe Namath weighed in. “I think he should consider that a little more,” Namath told ESPN radio (via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News) when asked about Brandon Marshall‘s opposition to the idea. “I know that [Ryan] Fitzpatrick did a wonderful job this year. Whenever I’m asked to critique what I’ve seen and what I feel, I know that he would like to throw the ball more accurately given the chance. You need more than one quarterback on a team. If Kaepernick were available, I’d certainly consider bringing him in, yes.
  • During an appearance on the Fox News show Fox & Friends, Tom Coughlin reiterated he has no plans to retire, via Tom Rock of Newsday. “I’m not. … I don’t like that word, you know, the retired word,” Coughlin said. “I’m way too young for that, you know what I mean?” Coughlin will also discuss a potential advisory role with the Giants with John Mara soon, Rock reports. Coughlin’s coached in the NFL for 20 of the past 21 seasons, eight with the Jaguars before sitting out 2003.

Zach Links contributed to this report

AFC Coaching Rumors: Bengals, Titans, Colts

Recently fired Dolphins coordinators Bill Lazor and Kevin Coyle will reunite with the Bengals, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Although the two former Miami game-planners will head to Cincinnati, they will do so with lesser responsibility. Lazor will coach the Bengals’ quarterbacks, while Coyle will preside over Cincinnati’s secondary.

The Bengals also hired Jacob Burney to coach their defensive line, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (on Twitter).

Lazor’s first coordinator work lasted barely 1 1/2 seasons, with the Dolphins firing the 43-year-old offensive coach Nov. 30. He previously coached quarterbacks for Washington, the Seahawks and the Eagles before ascending to the top offensive perch in Miami.

Coyle returns to his longest-tenured position. He coached the Bengals’ DBs from 2003-11 before leaving to become the Dolphins’ DC under Joe Philbin. The Dolphins fired Coyle in October.

Burney’s coached defensive lines with the Broncos, Browns, Panthers, Ravens and Washington, with his most recent stint coming as Washington’s defensive line coach from 2010-14. Washington did not retain him after the 2014 season.

  • Brian Schottenheimer will replace Clyde Christensen as the Colts’ quarterbacks coach, according to a release on the team’s website. Schottenheimer served as an offensive coordinator for the Jets and Rams from 2006-14 before the Rams fired him prior to the 2015 slate. A longtime Colts QBs coach, Christensen accepted the Dolphins’ OC job on Saturday.
  • Bob Bolstad will be looking for work after the Titans, per Jenna Laine of Sports Talk 1040 The Team (on Twitter), don’t have intentions of offering their defensive line coach another contract. Russ Grimm and Pat Flaherty are finalists for the job, according to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports (Twitter link). Grimm had lengthy stints as the offensive line coach in three places — Washington, Pittsburgh and Arizona — from 1997-2012. Flaherty served on Tom Coughlin’s staff since 2004, signing on to be the Giants’ offensive line coach after Coughlin took over. Big Blue will not retain his services, however, according to James Kratch of NJ.com.

Breer’s Latest: Dolphins, Gronk, Cowboys, Texans

Dan Campbell‘s decision to jettison both his coordinators, with OC Bill Lazor being the second to go, as an interim coach likely stemmed from the tough-minded instructor’s dismay at the Dolphins being referred to as a “finesse team in a power division,” Albert Breer of NFL.com reports.

Miami ranks 27th in rushing yards per game but sixth in yards per carry at 4.6 and attempted just 23 combined runs the past two games. This led to a sense that Lazor was losing his players, per Breer.

Lazor and Ryan Tannehill began to have a less-than-ideal QB-OC relationship, and Breer now notes Campbell will take a more involved role in the Fins’ offensive approach. So, Lamar Miller will probably see more touches going forward.

Here are some more notes from the veteran NFL scribe.

  • Rob Gronkowski‘s league-high five offensive-pass interference penalties stem from teams alerting officials to the Patriots‘ brand of pick routes against an increasing amount of man coverage, with Gronk’s size making separation at route stems noticeable. Defensive coordinators are torn on the degree of the All-Pro tight end’s level of infraction, with one saying “He pushes off on every play” and another categorizing the physical performer’s penalties as a product of his size. “It just looks extreme with him, because of size and strength. A 180-pound dude pushing off is different [than] a 260-pound dude pushing off,” the anonymous DC told Breer. Another coordinator falls in the middle of these characterizations, noting the Patriots’ volume of pick routes makes it logical they should be on the receiving end of the most OPI flags.
  • With Tony Romo set for his age-36 season in 2016 and coming off more severe collarbone trouble, the Cowboys will explore taking a quarterback in the first round and signing a veteran, Breer reports. Romo being the starter for the foreseeable future gives the Cowboys some flexibility here by not having to reach for a player they don’t think can take the reins.
  • The Los Angeles relocation project continues to point toward the Chargers and Rams, with Breer noting Dean Spanos carries the political capital in the owners’ eyes and Stan Kroenke possessing the finances to make this transition work.
  • Bill O’Brien‘s cultivating a reputation as a players’ coach in leading the Texans, permitting open social media use and organizing a 12-player leadership council, Breer notes. Houston’s now tied for first in the AFC South with Indianapolis, but as far back as the Texans’ blowout loss in Miami in late October, players were behind O’Brien. “He’s not the problem. Very cool coach to play for and everyone enjoys the way he treats us,” one Texan told Breer after that 44-26 defeat.
  • In projecting franchise tag figures for next year, Breer also gives predictions of players potentially being tagged. Moving past long-rumored names like Von Miller and Muhammad Wilkerson, NFL executives told Breer players like Josh Norman, Janoris Jenkins, Russell Okung, Mike Daniels and Kirk Cousins are tag candidates.

AFC East Notes: McDaniels, Jets, Tannehill

Going back to the turn of the century, NFL teams have fired an average of 6.9 head coaches per season. So, based on recent history, we should see plenty of head coaching positions open up in the offseason. On Thursday, Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com rounded up a list of ten candidates who will likely be on the list of any team seeking a new coach, based on conversations with NFL officials.

Two AFC East coaches made the unranked list: Bills assistant head coach Anthony Lynn and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Lynn interviewed well with the Jets last season but ultimately lost out on the job to Todd Bowles. McDaniels, meanwhile, could be the top candidate available given his success in New England.

Here’s more out of the AFC East:

  • The Jets have proven that they won’t hesitate to cut the cord on high draft picks from the old regime, like Quinton Coples, but it would be bad business not to bring back cornerback Dee Milliner, Manish Mehta of the Daily News opines. Milliner, who is guaranteed $2.1MM in 2016 in the final year of his rookie deal, has not played much this season because he apparently has not earned the trust of head coach Todd Bowles. Still, Milliner’s work habits don’t appear to be a problem and the potential is there – Milliner was almost universally rated as the best cornerback in the 2013 draft.
  • Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill obviously didn’t gloat over the firing of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, but he sounds glad to be moving on from him. “I’m just excited about being part of the game plan,” Tannehill said, according to James Walker of ESPN.com. “Working with the coaches Monday and [Tuesday], just being a part of the game-plan process and having my thoughts heard and kind of putting our heads together to create some of the things we want to do, it’s been fun so far.”
  • Linebacker Joplo Bartu will work out for the Jets today, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Bartu, a former starter, made one start in 2015 and appeared in six games total before being released by Atlanta late last month. Between 2013 and 2014, Bartu appeared in all 32 regular season contests for te Falcons with 27 starts. In total, Bartu notched 167 tackles and 4.5 sacks during that span. This year, he has recorded just eleven tackles.

Coaching Notes: USC, Payton, Fisher, Fins

It wasn’t an NFL coaching job, but the USC head coaching position was expected to have an impact on the NFL, since a number of the school’s potential candidates were current coaches or coordinators around the league. However, the Trojans announced today (via Twitter) that interim coach Clay Helton will become the team’s permanent head coach going forward, meaning that Chip Kelly and other coaches around the NFL can be crossed off the list.

It sounds like USC did reach out to Kelly to gauge his interest before deciding to move forward with Helton though. According to FootballScoop.com (Twitter link), USC officials met with Kelly last week, but the Eagles head coach prefers to remain in the NFL. Similarly, USC checked in on Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, who told the Trojans he’s not leaving Oakland, tweets Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.

Here are a few more coaching-related items from around the league:

  • Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com believes that the Saints should “go ahead and start sniffing around” for teams that may be interested in giving up a draft pick or two for head coach Sean Payton, since this winter looks like a good time for an overhaul. La Canfora identifies the Browns, Colts, Dolphins, and Titans as teams that might have interest in Payton, and suggests that the draft pick return could be “substantial.”
  • Having lost four games in a row, Jeff Fisher‘s Rams are in a downward spiral, and Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com believes it’s time for the team to make coaching change at season’s end.
  • Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link) hears that the decision to fire offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was made by Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell, who had “shown signs of displeasure” with the offense during the club’s last few games.
  • The Giants could have taken a commanding lead in the weak NFC East division with a win over Washington on Sunday, but the fact that the team couldn’t get it done puts head coach Tom Coughlin on the hot seat, writes Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.
  • Several weeks ago, with his team scuffling along at 2-5, head coach Bill O’Brien didn’t exactly look safe in Houston. Four wins later though, Texans owner Bob McNair is giving O’Brien credit for the team’s success, telling Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, “I think he’s doing a fine job.”

Dolphins Fire OC Bill Lazor

After the team’s latest disappointing loss on Sunday to the Jets, the Dolphins have made another change to their coaching staff, reports Thayer Evans of SI.com (Twitter link). According to Thayer, Miami has fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirms the decision, tweeting that “massive changes” are on the way for the Dolphins.

Having replaced head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle earlier in the year, the Dolphins have now fired their head coach and their coordinators on both sides of the ball since the regular season began. As such, many of the “massive changes” alluded to by Rapoport seem to have already taken place, but perhaps the NFL.com reporter is suggesting that the roster will also be undergoing a significant overhaul in the near future.

At the very least, given the results for interim head coach Dan Campbell since his hot start, it seems likely that the Dolphins will hire an external candidate for the permanent head coaching job in the offseason, and that new coach will likely bring in his own coordinators and assistants from outside the organization as well.

As for Lazor, a report last week indicated that at least one Dolphins official had “privately questioned” whether the OC’s system was suited for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has struggled this season after signing a long-term extension. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald noted at the time that an offensive coordinator change wouldn’t surprise anyone, and just a few days later, the team has indeed made that change.

With Lazor out of the picture, quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor will take over Miami’s OC job for the rest of the 2015 season, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Coples, Dolphins, Jets

It’ll be a big weekend in the AFC East, with the Bills in Kansas City fighting for Wild Card positioning, as the Jets and the Dolphins square off, looking to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Patriots, of course, will be in Denver as they try to run their undefeated record to 11-0.

As we look forward to what should be an entertaining slate of games, let’s round up the latest out of the division….

  • The Bills were the only team besides the Dolphins to put in a waiver claim for Quinton Coples when he was cut by the Jets, and head coach Rex Ryan admitted today that he was upset not to land the edge defender (Twitter link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com). “I wanted him,” Ryan said.
  • Meanwhile, in Miami, head coach Dan Campbell said today that the Dolphins feel like Coples’ best football is ahead of him (Twitter link via Brian Costello of the New York Post). The former Jets linebacker will play defensive end in Miami’s 4-3 system.
  • With Ryan Tannehill struggling, a Dolphins official “privately questioned” whether offensive coordinator Bill Lazor‘s system is suited for the quarterback, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The club has already replaced its head coach and defensive coordinator this season, so an OC change at season’s end wouldn’t surprise anyone, as Jackson notes.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap examines the Jets‘ present and future, suggesting that the team should look to trade Muhammad Wilkerson next year and needs to prioritize the offensive line in the offseason.