Brandon Staley

Coaching Notes: Campbell, Smith, Dolphins

Prior to hiring Adam Gase, the Jets requested an interview with Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell. The Browns were interested as well, before promoting Freddie Kitchens. Instead, the Big 12 leader signed an extension to stay in Ames. But Campbell is intrigued by the prospect of coaching in the NFL, according to’s Tom Pelissero. Known for his offensive acumen and the revitalization effort he authored at Iowa State — which has started 5-2 this season — Campbell could be a more serious contender to fill one of the league’s coaching vacancies next year. Since the last time he popped up on the NFL radar, Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Rhule have made the jump. The Cyclones’ 40-year-old HC may be next.

Here is the latest from the coaching ranks:

  • Unsurprisingly, Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has emerged as a coaching candidate. “A lot of intrigue” surrounds Tennessee’s second-year OC, Pelissero adds. Smith, 38, did not receive looks last season, but Ryan Tannehill‘s sustained success — Thursday night’s underwhelming performance notwithstanding — after a mediocre Miami career has turned heads. Smith figures to receive interview requests in 2021.
  • Despite the NFL’s recent trend of preferring offense-oriented coaches, Brandon Staley is viewed by some as a future head coach. The Rams plucked Staley off Vic Fangio‘s Broncos staff, making the 37-year-old assistant their defensive coordinator. He is viewed by current and former colleagues as a future HC, Pelissero adds. However, teams may want to see Staley be a coordinator for more than one season. Prior to his Los Angeles arrival, he served as outside linebackers coach in Chicago and Denver.
  • Shifting to current coaching situations, a few teams will be without staffers Sunday. The Dolphins will be hit hardest on this front. After placing Christian Wilkins and Kyle Van Noy on their reserve/COVID-19 list, the Dolphins will be without quarterbacks coach Robby Brown, defensive line coach Marion Hobby, outside linebackers coach Austin Clark and quality control staffer Kolby Smith against the Chargers because of coronavirus protocols, per’s Cameron Wolfe (on Twitter). Running backs coach Eric Studesville and former Texans OC George Godsey will assist Chan Gailey with QB responsibilities.
  • The Bengals and Steelers have a combined 10 players on their respective COVID lists. The Bengals will also be without wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell because of “COVID-19 reasons,” the team announced. Assistant wideouts coach Troy Walters will take on more responsibility.

Rams To Hire Brandon Staley As DC

The Rams have a new defensive coordinator. After electing not to retain the legendary Wade Phillips, Los Angeles is hiring Broncos outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley to be their new DC, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Rapoport notes that a deal still needs to be worked out, but that it’s going to happen. Albert Breer of was the first to tweet that a deal was close. In a follow-up tweet, Rapoport notes that Staley flew out to Los Angeles yesterday and spent the day with head coach Sean McVay. Staley had been with Vic Fangio for a while, as he served as his outside linebackers coach for two years with the Bears before following Fangio to Denver.

It’s a bit of an outside the box hire, as Staley hadn’t been batted around as a hot name previously. There were reports that McVay wanted more innovation and scheme-emphasis from his defensive staff, so that’s what Staley will be expected to provide. Prior to joining Chicago, Staley had served as the defensive coordinator at John Carroll University, a D3 school.

He also briefly served as DC at James Madison, and got his start as a graduate assistant at Northern Illinois back in 2006. The Rams also saw special teams coordinator John Fassel leave for Dallas, and there will be a fair amount of turnover on McVay’s staff when all the dust settles.

West Notes: Broncos, Cardinals, 49ers

Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and the rest of the Broncos‘ pass rushers will have a new coach in 2019, as Denver has announced Brandon Staley as its new outside linebackers coach. Staley had worked in the same role with the Bears for the past two years, and he’ll follow ex-Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Mile High City. After leading Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd in Chicago, Staley will now be tasked with taking over a Denver pass rush that ranked ninth in adjusted sack rate a season ago. The Packers also had interest in interviewing Staley, tweets Tom Pelissero of, but the Bears evidently didn’t want him to remain in the NFC North, so they blocked the request.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Staley isn’t the only coach headed to Denver, as the Broncos have also hired Wade Harman as their new tight ends coach, tweets Ian Rapoport of Harman was Atlanta’s offensive line coach in 2014, but switched to tight ends in 2015 and remained in that role through last season. He played a role in the development of Austin Hooper, who posted career-highs in receptions (71), yards (660), and touchdowns (four) last year. Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman is a pending free agent, but even if he doesn’t return, Harman will work with young options such as Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli, each of whom ended the 2018 campaign on injured reserve.
  • The Broncos are interviewing former guard Chris Kuper for their assistant offensive line coach job, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Kuper, who spent his entire playing career (2006-13) in Denver, coached in Miami for the past three seasons. He’d be working under one of the NFL’s best offensive line coaches in Mike Munchak, who was hired earlier this week. In 2018, the Broncos ranked as a top-11 club in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders.
  • Former Broncos safety Renaldo Hill is back with the club as secondary coach, tweets Klis. Hill’s playing career actually ended after general manager John Elway cut him following the 2010 season, but he’s gone on to an impressive coaching career since, and Klis notes Hill is considered a “rising star” in the coaching ranks. After six years in the college ranks, Hill acted as the Dolphins’ assistant defensive backs coach in 2018.
  • The Denver-to-Arizona connection is still going strong: the Cardinals have hired ex-Broncos coaches Marcus Robertson (defensive backs) and Greg Williams (assistant DBs), per Rapoport and Klis (Twitter links). Robertson and Williams will continue to work under new Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who helmed the Broncos from 2017-18. In addition to Joseph, Robertson, and Williams, the Cards also brought former Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler aboard.
  • After hiring a new defensive line coach in Kris Kocurek, the 49ers will retain pass-rushing specialist Chris Kiffin, reports Matt Barrows of The Athletic. The son of Monte Kiffin and brother of Lane Kiffin, Chris Kiffin joined San Francisco in 2018 after previously serving in the college ranks.

Coaching Rumors: Contracts, CBA, Broncos, Bears, Rob Ryan, Browns, Packers

We’ve been hearing for the past few months that both the NFL and NFLPA think there are increasingly high odds of a lockout during the next round of CBA negotiations, and we got even more confirmation of that today. The NFL is gearing up for a fight, and with coaches who signed contracts this year, “teams are addressing how much each coach would make — or lose — in the event of a work stoppage” sources told Adam Schefter of

Sources told Schefter that “both teams and coaches are confident that there will be some type of disruption, and one of the first signs of it is showing up in the language of coaches’ contracts.” The league is widely seen to have won the last round of negotiations over players, and the players’ union will be looking for a lot more from the league in the next round. Owners might not be willing to budge, and it sounds like a lengthy lockout is a very real possibility in 2021.

Here’s more from the coaching ranks:

  • The Broncos are reportedly targeting Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell to join Vic Fangio’s staff, and Donatell might not be the only assistant Chicago loses to Denver. The Broncos are “bringing in Bears OLB coach Brandon Staley” for an interview Monday, according to Mike Klis of 9News Denver (Twitter link). It sounds like Fangio is interested in bringing over as many of his assistants from Chicago as possible.
  • With Chuck Pagano now in charge of the Bears’ defense, the team wasn’t planning on bringing back Staley anyway, according to Brad Briggs of the Chicago Tribune. A source told Briggs that Rob Ryan, the former Saints defensive coordinator and brother of Rex Ryan, could be brought in to replace Staley. Ryan is a big personality and it would certainly be an entertaining hire if nothing else.
  • Freddie Kitchens has added another member to his inaugural Browns staff. Cleveland is hiring Packers offensive line coach James Campen as their associate head coach and offensive line coach, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN (Twitter link). Campen was the longest tenured coach on the Packers’ staff, and had been there even before Mike McCarthy took over as head coach.

Extra Points: Browns, Steelers, Bills, Bears

The transition tag could be in play for the Browns as they seek to retain free agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, Joel Corry of opines (Twitter link). Given that it costs less than the franchise tag, the transition tender is an alternative for clubs looking to save funds, but it wouldn’t entitle Cleveland to any draft compensation if Pryor signs an unmatched offer sheet with another team. The Browns lead the NFL in cap space by a wide margin, however, and would likely choose to equal any offer Pryor lands on the open market. Pryor reportedly wants to stay in Cleveland, while the Browns are “redoubling efforts” to sign him to an extension, so any tag — franchise or transition — could eventually be moot.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Although running back Le’Veon Bell visited a doctor last month while dealing with a groin injury, he isn’t planning on surgery, tweets Ian Rapoport of, who adds the pending Steelers free agent would have undergone the procedure by now if it were required. That’s certainly good news for Bell, but it probably won’t make a difference for his contractual status. He’s still expected to be franchised by Pittsburgh, and the tag will pay him north of $12MM.
  • The Bills are still deciding whether to move on from quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and the club’s upcoming decision will have far-reaching effects on the rest of the Buffalo roster, writes Mike Rodak of Taylor received medical clearance today, so the Bills can freely choose to release him before a $27.5MM option bonus is due on March 11. If Buffalo goes that route, the franchise would essentially be hitting the reset button, opines Rodak, meaning the Bills could explore a LeSean McCoy trade. If Taylor sticks around, however, the Bills likely won’t have enough cap space to retain players such as cornerback Stephon Gilmore without restructuring other contracts.
  • The Bears announced that they’ve hired Zach Azzanni as wide receivers coach and Brandon Staley as outside linebackers of coach. Azzanni has spent his entire career to date in the college ranks, and coached pass-catchers at Tennessee for the past four seasons. He’s replacing Curtis Johnson, who left for the Saints after his contract expired. Staley, meanwhile, also comes from the NCAA, where he served as John Carroll University’s defensive coordinator for three of the past four years. Now in his first NFL job, Staley is taking over for Clint Hurtt, who rejected an extension from the Bears and defected to Seattle.
  • The Broncos have hired former LSU assistant Chris Kragthorpe as an offensive quality control coach, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. In addition to spending time in Baton Rouge, Kragthorpe also previously worked for the University of Georgia.