Bret Bielema

Bret Bielema Leaving Giants, Named Illinois Head Coach

The Giants have lost a key member of their coaching staff. Outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema is heading to the University of Illinois as the school’s next head coach (via an announcement from the school).

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that it’s a six-year contract beginning at $4.2MM per year. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan reports (via Twitter) that defensive assistant Jody Wright and inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer “will inherit Bielema’s responsibilities” in New York.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Bielema, as the 50-year-old was born in Prophetstown, Illinois and previously coached in the Big 10.

“Illinois and the Big Ten is home for me, and I can’t be any more excited about the opportunity in front of me with the Fighting Illini,” Bielema said. “We want to build a program that makes Illini Nation proud and regain the passion that I’ve seen when Illinois wins.”

Illinois fired previous head coach Lovie Smith last weekend. The former Bears and Buccaneers head coach spent four-plus seasons with the school, collecting a 17-39 record.

Bielema worked his way up the coaching ladder and eventually landed the head coaching job at Wisconsin in 2006, a role he held for seven years. He was a Big 10 champion for three of those seasons, and he finished his stint with a 68-24 record. He left for Arkansas in 2013, but he was fired after leading his team to a 29-34 record over five seasons.

He joined the Patriots staff in 2018, and he followed Joe Judge to New York this past offseason. Over the past two years, he’s continued to garner interest from college programs, including Michigan State, Colorado, and Southern Miss.

It’s been a busy week for the Giants coaching staff. We learned that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was going to miss this weekend’s game after testing positive for COVID-19. Former Browns head coach (and current Giants tight ends coach) Freddie Kitchens will take over play-calling duties against his former team. Quality control coach Bobby Blick will be serving as tight ends coach for the game.

Giants Place Will Hernandez On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Giants will face the red-hot Buccaneers without at least one starting offensive lineman. They are placing left guard Will Hernandez on their reserve/COVID-19 list, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

A positive coronavirus test prompted the Giants to then send all but four of their offensive linemen home from their facility Thursday, Pelissero and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport note (via Twitter). Two coaches — defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson and outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema — joined them, according to Rapoport and NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter).

None of the other O-linemen, however, are considered to be high-risk close contacts of Hernandez at this point. That status would allow them to return to the team’s facility by Friday, provided they submit two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests. As for Hernandez, he is believed to be asymptomatic, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post tweets.

Hernandez will be miss the Giants’ Monday tilt against the Bucs, but this situation looks to differ slightly from last week’s development in Las Vegas. The Raiders-Bucs game was rescheduled because the team quarantined its starting offensive line for five days, but Las Vegas placed all five blockers on its reserve/COVID list. As of now, Hernandez is the only Giants player to be placed on their respective list.

Additionally, a Bucs equipment staffer tested positive for COVID-19, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Bucs sent that staffer home, but The Athletic’s Greg Auman notes this has not yet affected players or coaches (Twitter link).

While both teams now have issues to monitor, Monday night’s game is not currently on the verge of being rescheduled. Monday will, however, be Hernandez’s first missed start as a pro. The former second-round pick has been a Giants starter since his debut in Week 1 of the 2018 season.

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Giants’ Bret Bielema To Interview For Colorado HC Job

Bret Bielema‘s Giants stay may not end up lasting long. After expressing interest in the Michigan State job, the Giants assistant is set to interview for the position vacated because of the Spartans’ hire.

Michigan State ended up going with Colorado head coach Mel Tucker, the Buffaloes’ HC for one season. Colorado will now interview Bielema for the job, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, a Colorado alum, also remains in consideration for the post, Mike Klis of 9News tweets.

The Giants hired Bielema to be their outside linebackers coach; he also has “senior defensive assistant” in his current title. He spent the past two seasons with Joe Judge in New England, the second of those slates as the Pats’ defensive line coach. But judging by the connection to two Division I HC jobs thus far this offseason, Bielema’s future may be back at the college level.

Bielema, 50, was the head coach at Wisconsin (2006-12) and Arkansas (2013-17). After the Razorbacks fired him, he surfaced on Bill Belichick‘s staff. After the Patriots lost several assistants last year, Bielema served as one of their most experienced staffers. However, the two years in New England doubled as Bielema’s only two as an NFL coach. Bielema was under consideration to be the Giants’ defensive coordinator, but Judge opted for former Patriots coworker Patrick Graham. Bielema then settled for a lesser role with the Giants.

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Giants To Hire Bret Bielema

Another Patriots coach will join Joe Judge‘s Giants staff. Big Blue will bring in Bret Bielema, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

It is not yet known what role the former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach will play, but he will join a few ex-Patriots colleagues on Judge’s staff. Bielema was one of the Patriots’ more experienced assistants this past season, serving as New England’s defensive line coach.

The Giants made Dolphins defensive coordinator Patrick Graham as their defensive coordinator, but Bielema was under consideration for New York’s DC role. This hire then could well be for the team’s D-line coach position.

Wisconsin’s head coach from 2006-12 and Arkansas’ from 2013-17, Bielema joined Bill Belichick‘s staff as a consultant in 2018. When Brian Flores brought a few Pats assistants with him to Miami, Bielema became a position coach in New England. The 50-year-old coach served as an experienced assistant on a staff full of younger minds.

Bielema joins Judge, Graham and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski as ex-Patriots coaches on the 2020 Giants staff. The Giants have also interviewed ex-Pats coach (and recently dismissed Dolphins OC) Chad O’Shea and former New England offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.

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NFC East Rumors: Cowboys, Giants, Barwin

Mike McCarthy being hired so soon points to the Cowboys being confident he will coax more from their talented roster than Jason Garrett did, and ownership looks set to give its new HC more power. McCarthy will not only have greater input on roster decisions than he did in Green Bay but will hold as much influence in this area as Bill Parcells did three coaches ago in Dallas, according to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News and Ed Werder of ESPN.com (Twitter links). It was not a secret McCarthy and ex-Packers GM Ted Thompson did not see eye to eye on the latter’s aversion to free agency additions, so it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys proceed now that McCarthy will possess greater influence than Jason Garrett or Wade Phillips did on this front.

Here is the latest from Dallas and other NFC East cities:

  • Jerry and Stephen Jones kept Garrett in the loop on their plans, notifying the since-displaced head coach they planned to interview McCarthy. “[Jason] said, ‘You’re not going to meet anybody more special than Mike. I love his story, I love him. he’s great,’” Jones said. Attempting to explain the delay in parting ways with Garrett, Jerry Jones said he sought a “soft landing” for his 10-season HC. Stephen Jones said the Cowboys’ deliberate actions were “in line with what Jason wanted.”
  • The Cowboys only interviewed McCarthy and Marvin Lewis for their coaching job. No other interviews were scheduled, Werder tweets.
  • Bret Bielema is expected to be in the mix for the Giants‘ defensive coordinator role under Joe Judge, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com tweets. Judge is believed to have most of his staff selected, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, who notes said staff will likely include several coaches with more NFL experience than the 38-year-old HC. The former Wisconsin head coach, Bielema spent 2018 as a Patriots consultant and coached the Pats’ defensive line this season.
  • Not long after Connor Barwin announced his retirement, the pass rusher may be set to transition into a staff role. The Eagles may be in the process of bringing Barwin in for a personnel role, per Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio (Twitter link). This may mean a scouting job for the 33-year-old ex-Eagles linebacker. Barwin played four seasons with the Eagles, from 2013-16, arriving early in Howie Roseman‘s GM stay.

East Rumors: Rhule, Meyer, Jets

Despite reports connecting the Cowboys to Lincoln Riley and Urban Meyer, team owner Jerry Jones on Saturday downplayed the notion that he would pursue a college coach this offseason. However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says Jones remains interested in Riley, and he is also paying close attention to Baylor head coach Matt Rhule.

Rhule was a hot name on the NFL head coaching circuit last year and reportedly could have had the Jets’ job if he agreed to certain appointments to his coaching staff. He signed an eight-year extension with Baylor in September, but pro teams are still interested in him. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network shot down recent speculation that the Cowboys would pursue Sean Payton, but he says Dallas made it known through back channels last offseason it was interested in the Saints’ HC, which helped Payton land his extension with New Orleans in September (video link).

Now for more from the league’s east divisions:

  • The Cowboys may not be the only team interested in Meyer. As JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington tweets, Meyer is at FedEx field for the Redskins‘ contest against the Eagles today, and Washington would love to land Meyer as its next HC. Meyer, of course, served as Dwayne Haskins‘ head coach at Ohio State, but it seems like the Redskins don’t really meet Meyer’s criteria for coming out of retirement.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com expects the Jets to overhaul 50% of their roster this offseason, and he unsurprisingly names Brian Winters and Quincy Enunwa as two of the big-name players who could be cut. He also says that, if New York retains Le’Veon Bell, it should bring in another RB with the speed to run outside the tackles.
  • Though the Patriots just cut kicker Josh Gable two days after adding him to the practice squad, head coach Bill Belichick suggested that Gable could be back in 2020 as possible competition for Stephen Gostkowski, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss says Patriots D-line coach Bret Bielema, a former collegiate head coach with Wisconsin and Arkansas, is generating interest from college teams. Bielema is said to be open to such an opportunity if the right one presents itself.
  • The NFL’s decision on the Patriots‘ punishment for Spygate 2.0 is expected shortly.

Bill Belichick Expected To Call Patriots’ Defensive Plays?

Nearly two months after Greg Schiano backtracked on his commitment to become the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, the job remains unfilled. Should it stay vacant, the Pats would have a fairly reliable contingency plan.

With Bill Belichick towering over his defensive staff in terms of NFL experience, the current expectation is he will call defensive plays for the Patriots this season, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes.

Ceding that responsibility to Matt Patricia and Brian Flores for the past several years, Belichick obviously played a key role in the Pats’ defense. Belichick would often determine when Patricia or Flores would call blitzes, Volin adds. The eight-time Super Bowl champion, counting his two as Giants DC, is coming off perhaps the Super Bowl’s defensive masterpiece — the Rams’ three-point night — and his teams have fielded a top-10 scoring defense 15 times in his 19-year New England tenure.

However, Belichick in a dual role is not the Pats’ official plan just yet. They will use the OTAs and minicamp period to determine their strategy here, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes (video link). Flores’ exit leaves the Patriots light on experience among their defensive staff, with former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema — previously viewed as a DC option — bringing the most seasoning. And most of that came in college.

After a year of consulting with the team, Bielema is slated to coach New England’s defensive line. Jerod Mayo, whom Garafolo adds is viewed as a possible future defensive coordinator, will split linebackers coaching duties with DeMarcus Covington — with Mayo working with the inside ‘backers and Covington assigned to help the outside players. Mike Pellegrino will oversee the cornerbacks, the team announced. Mayo, Covington and Pellegrino will be first-year position coaches.

Barring an outside hire, or the Patriots handing the reins to Bielema, Belichick would seem the logical choice to play the lead role on defense.

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Bill Belichick Could Become Patriots DC

Thursday began with the news that Patriots defensive coordinator Greg Schiano would be stepping down from the post. Later in the day, news trickled out that head coach Bill Belichick could assume a larger role with the defense or even take over the role of defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes

Following their victory in Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots saw a mass exodus from their defensive coaching staff, which included former defensive coordinator Brian Flores take the head-coaching gig in Miami and a number of assistants leaving. Schiano, highly trusted by Belichick, was expected to help the transition, but his abrupt departure puts the Pats in a tough situation.

Reiss notes Belichick assuming defensive coordinator duties is the most likely of scenarios but is not the only one. Another possibility is a “Hail Mary” call to former defensive line coach Brendan Daly, who left to become the Chiefs run-game coordinator. Considering his family’s roots in K.C. area, however, it could be a tough sell.

Another potential candidate would be Bret Bielema, the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin tweets. Volin mentions that Bielema, the former University of Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach and current defensive consultant with the Pats, thought he was getting the job earlier this year.

Belichick, of course, is no slouch as a defensive coordinator. With the Giants, he won a pair of Super Bowls under head coach Bill Parcells while running the defense. As the head coach of the Patriots, Belichick has always played a large role on the defensive side of the ball, except in 2009 when he contributed largely to the offense following Josh McDaniels‘ departure to Denver.

 

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Patriots Eyeing Bret Bielema For DC Role?

Following rumors that the Patriots were planning to hire Greg Schiano, many assumed that the long-time Rutgers head coach would become New England’s next defensive coordinator. However, that might not be the case. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes that Bret Bielema “has been telling people that he is going to become the Patriots’ defensive coordinator.”

The Patriots will have an opening at defensive coordinator following Brian Flores‘ forthcoming defection to the Dolphins. Even if Schiano didn’t take on the definitive title of defensive coordinator (similar to Flores), his experience and connection with coach Bill Belichick made it seem like he’d be a natural fit to oversee New England’s defense.

On the flip side, Belichick hasn’t traditionally followed this route. As Volin points out, the organization rarely makes an outside hire when it comes to coordinator positions. For instance, Bill O’Brien and Dean Pees both had to work their way through the organization before they had a chance at a coordinator gig (Pees had to take a job elsewhere for the opportunity).

That’s why Bielema would seemingly make more sense to take over the defensive coordinator role, although it’s worth noting that he hasn’t been with the organization all that long. The 49-year-old previously served as the head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas, and he was hired as a consultant to Belichick earlier this season. There were rumors that Flores could end up taking Bielema to Miami to serve as the Dolphins new defensive coordinator, but the team ended up opting for Packers linebackers coach/run game coordinator Patrick Graham.

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Dolphins Considering Bret Bielema For DC?

The Dolphins are expected to hire Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores as their new head coach as soon as New England exits the postseason, and Flores may already have a coach in mind to hire as his own defensive coordinator. Bret Bielema — a former collegiate head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas who currently serves as a consultant to Bill Belichick — is receiving consideration for the job, a source tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Bielema’s only NFL experience has come with the Patriots, but he noted last summer that most coaches don’t return to the college game after joining the pros, so it seems like he’s now in the NFL for good. A former collegiate linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, Bielema posted a 68-24 record at Wisconsin before managing a 29-34 at Arkansas.

Another potential candidate for the Dolphins’ DC gig is Packers linebackers coach/run game coordinator Patrick Graham, tweets Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio. Like Flores, Graham has a lengthy history with the Patriots, as he served in a variety of roles in New England from 2009-15. He coached the Giants’ linebackers from 2016-17 before joining Green Bay last season.

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