Brian Daboll

Coaching Notes: Daboll, Chargers, Bears, Falcons

Before the Chargers surprisingly hired Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to be their new head coach last night, Bills OC Brian Daboll was widely considered the favorite for that job. After missing out on the opportunity to coach Justin Herbert, it sounds like Daboll is going to ride things out in Buffalo and wait until next year for a head coaching gig. A source close to Daboll said he’ll “be the big name for head coach next year,” per Dianna Russini of ESPN (Twitter link).

That would seem to indicate that Daboll isn’t a serious candidate for, or isn’t interested in, the Texans and Eagles jobs, which are the only two real openings left with the Lions expected to hire Dan Campbell. Russini also notes that agents and other candidates around the league viewed the Staley hire as a surprise as well. Daboll also interviewed with the Jets before they hired Robert Saleh. Widely praised for his work in developing Josh Allen into a top-tier quarterback, it looks like the Allen/Daboll partnership in Buffalo will live on for at least another year, which is music to the ears of Bills fans. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle later confirmed in a tweet that Daboll will in fact return on Sean McDermott’s staff in 2021.

Here’s more from the coaching ranks:

  • Speaking of the Chargers, since they just hired a defensive mind, finding someone to run the offense is the new top priority. To that end, Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is a possibility for the Chargers’ OC gig, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. Pelissero notes that he’s become very close with Staley during their time together on Sean McVay’s staff. He also points out that since it would technically be a lateral move for O’Connell, he’d need McVay’s blessing to leave. Obviously since he would get to call the plays with the Chargers it would still be a pretty big step up, and McVay previously let his old OC Matt LaFleur make a lateral move to the Titans since it came with play-calling responsibilities, so presumably he’d do the same here. O’Connell is a former third-round pick QB of the Patriots, who spent 2019 as Washington’s offensive coordinator. We’ve heard that Herbert “loves” his current offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, and Pelissero again reiterates it’s possible he’s held over from Anthony Lynn’s staff.
  • The Bears need a new defensive coordinator with Chuck Pagano retiring, and obviously with Matt Nagy being an offensive mind it’s a crucial role for Chicago. They’re starting to sift through candidates, and the team has put in a request to interview Colts defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon for the job, Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic tweets. Gannon isn’t the highest profile candidate, as he was a quality control coach as recently as 2017 until he was hired to be DBs coach on Frank Reich’s inaugural Colts staff in 2018. We’ve also heard that current defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and safeties coach Sean Desai are internal candidates to succeed Pagano.
  • New Falcons coach Arthur Smith will surely be running the team’s offense, but it sounds like he’s planning on hiring an offensive coordinator still. We also heard over the weekend that Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone was an early favorite for the OC role, but he’s apparently not the only contender. Atlanta has interviewed Panthers receivers coach Frisman Jackson for the job, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. Jackson spent five years with the Browns as a player in the early 2000s, and was the Titans’ receivers coach in 2017 when Smith was coaching tight ends there, so he’s got that connection working for him. He then went to Baylor before following Matt Rhule from there to Carolina.

Bills OC Brian Daboll Is “Favorite” For Chargers HC Job

Brian Daboll could soon be heading to the west coast. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Bills offensive coordinator “has emerged as a favorite” for the Chargers head-coaching gig.

Predictably, the Chargers organization is waiting to see how tonight’s Bills game goes before making any moves. If Buffalo loses, Los Angeles can offer Daboll the job as soon as possible. If the Bills win, then the organization has to wait until Buffalo is eliminated before they can negotiate a contract with their new head coach.

As Schefter notes, there are two logical reasons why Daboll has emerged as the leading candidate for the vacancy. For starters, Daboll received a lot of credit for Josh Allen‘s emergence this season, and the Chargers are hoping the coach can help Justin Herbert take the next step. Daboll also went to high school and played football with Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, so there’s an obvious connection there.

Daboll, 45, started his NFL coaching career back in 2000 with the Patriots. He got his first coordinator gig with the Browns in 2009, and he’s since held the same role with the Dolphins, Chiefs, and the Bills (along with Alabama). Daboll was mentioned as a candidate for the Jets vacancy, and he was one of the nine reported candidates for the Chargers job. As our 2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker shows, that list includes:

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2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-27-21 (7:05pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

GM/HC Notes: Colbert, Panthers, Jets, Smith

Here is the latest from the GM/head coach carousels. Five GM vacancies and seven HC openings remain as of Wednesday afternoon.

  • Before making his way to Pittsburgh, Kevin Colbert spent many seasons in Detroit. The Lions have been connected to making a push for a Colbert Motor City return, but they have not asked the Steelers for permission to interview him, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. The Steelers gave Colbert an extension last year. After working with the Lions throughout the 1990s as their pro scouting director, Colbert has been with his hometown Steelers since 2000.
  • The Panthers continue to go through second interviews. After meeting with 49ers exec Adam Peters and Titans staffer Monti Ossenfort again this week, Carolina brought back Chiefs assistant player personnel director Ryan Poles and met again with Seahawks VP of football operations Scott Fitterer. Poles is one of a few Chiefs execs to receive interest this offseason, while Fitterer has been on the GM interview circuit for a few years. The Seahawks promoted him in September.
  • The Jets finished up Robert Saleh‘s second interview Wednesday but appear set to identify more finalists soon. They want to speak with Titans OC Arthur Smith again, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The Jets are not alone in pursuing Smith, who has interviewed for six HC jobs thus far. The Falcons are also high on the second-year OC.
  • Although Brian Daboll has not completed quite as extensive an itinerary as Smith has, he has impressed the Jets. Gang Green is high on the third-year Bills OC, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Daboll met with the Jets on Sunday. He cannot meet with the team in person until the Bills’ season concludes.

Deshaun Watson Considering Trade Demand?

Multiple reports over the past few days have indicated that quarterback Deshaun Watson is unhappy with the Texans, and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com has thrown his hat into the ring. Mortensen says that the rumblings about Watson’s displeasure are accurate, and that Watson could even demand a trade (Twitter links).

In addition to Watson’s concerns about how the Texans’ GM search unfolded, which we have already detailed, Mortensen says the three-time Pro Bowl passer continues to be concerned about the team’s insensitivity to social justice issues. In Watson’s view, that insensitivity manifested itself in the team’s decision to not interview Chiefs’ OC Eric Bieniemy, who is black, one of the hottest head coaching candidates in this year’s cycle, and a personal favorite of Watson’s (though Mortensen clarified in a later tweet that Watson’s anger is not “strongly connected” to social justice matters and is more related to the state of the franchise).

And according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Watson is not just upset by the fact that owner Cal McNair did not consider the GM or head coaching candidates that Watson endorsed, despite assurances that he would at least take his quarterback’s opinions into account. McNair, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the search firm Korn Ferry assist with the GM and HC hunt, ultimately disregarded the firm’s GM recommendations. Korn Ferry tabbed Steelers vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick as the two most viable candidates for the GM position, but McNair instead forged ahead with Nick Caserio, whom he had been targeting for some time.

Schefter went on to say that Watson, whose anger level on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 2 when the team traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last year, is currently at a 10. While Caserio said in his introductory press conference that Watson is the Texans’ quarterback — thereby implying he would not trade him — Watson could certainly make life difficult for Caserio if he chooses to do so.

Interestingly, a Watson trade would not be as damaging to the Texans’ books as one might think, given that the Clemson product just signed a massive extension earlier this year. A trade would leave Houston with just $21.6MM in dead money for the 2021 season, and as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, multiple GMs believe the Texans could acquire up to three first-round picks in a Watson deal.

Watson does have a no-trade clause written into his new contract, but according to Mortensen, he would consider a trade to the Dolphins. Of course, Houston would have had the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft, but it traded that selection, along with its 2021 second-rounder, to Miami as part of the Laremy Tunsil swap in 2019. The Dolphins, who also hold their own first-round selection in this year’s draft (No. 18 overall) have the capital and the cap space to get a deal done.

Mortensen suggests that Tua Tagovailoa would head to Houston as part of a Watson trade, which would be a controversial and career-defining move if Caserio were to make it. Obviously, that is little more than speculation at this point, but it appears Watson’s feelings towards the Texans will be a major storyline of this offseason.

In related news, Korn Ferry named Colts DC Matt Eberflus as one of the top candidates for the Texans’ HC vacancy, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (via Twitter). McNair at least tried to interview Eberflus, but Eberflus turned down the request. Breer notes in a separate tweet that Houston is also eyeing Bills OC Brian Daboll, who has interviews lined up with the Chargers and Jets.

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Chargers Request Jason Garrett Interview

The Chargers have requested an interview with Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The former Cowboys head coach would be one of several candidates to interview after the firing of Anthony Lynn

[RELATED: Chargers To Meet With Arthur Smith] 

Garrett posted a regular season record of 85-67 for the Cowboys across nine seasons. Although they came up short in the playoffs, Garrett remains a highly-respected offensive mind. He also played quarterback in the league for nearly 15 years, making him a solid choice to develop youngster Justin Herbert. Of course, this past year wasn’t a banner season for the Giants, but there’s plenty of blame to go around in Northern New Jersey.

The Chargers will also look to interview Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). Daboll is also being targeted by the Jets, who got an up-close look at Josh Allen‘s transformation in 2020.

So far, the Chargers have put at least three candidates on their HC list in Garrett, Daboll, and Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. It’s worth noting that the competition for Smith will be fierce — all six teams with openings have asked to meet with the 38-year-old.

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Jets Request Interview With Bills OC Brian Daboll

Adam Gase is officially out the door, and the Jets’ coaching search will start to heat up as a result. It looks like the team may be targeting an offensive mind, and to that end New York has requested an interview with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, a source told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Teams can’t block assistants from interviewing for head coaching positions, so Daboll will be able to do it if he wants. We heard last week that Daboll is expected to be the hottest coordinator candidate out there. Considering the work he’s done with Josh Allen this season, it’s not hard to see why. Allen was a bit erratic his first two years in the league, but now in his third full season under Daboll’s tutelage he’s playing at a near MVP level.

Daboll broke into the league as an assistant with the Patriots in 2000, and after spending seven years on Bill Belichick’s staff he also had stints as an OC with the Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs. He was back in New England from 2013-16 before spending a year under Nick Saban at Alabama.

Sean McDermott then recruited him to be his coordinator in Buffalo. Whether it’s Sam Darnold or a rookie the Jets will have a very young quarterback under center in Week 1 2021, and a young offensive mind (Daboll is still only 45) would seem to be a good fit.

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Coaching Notes: Meyer, Daboll, Gase

It’s that time of year again. As the NFL regular season starts to wind down, all eyes will turn to the remaining coaching and front office decisions, and the ensuing searches to fill those vacancies. We’ll start things off with Urban Meyer, the extremely accomplished college coach who apparently could be headed to the NFL for the first time. “At least two” NFL teams have reached out to Meyer to gauge his interest, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. He writes that Meyer did not rebuff the overtures and appears to be seriously considering it, noting that the former Ohio State coach plans to make his decision about jumping to the pro ranks within the next week.

To that end, Meyer could “receive serious consideration” from the Jaguars and Lions, sources told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, so it’s possible those are the two unspecified teams Schefter referred to. The Jags of course still have Doug Marrone leading the team, but his firing following Week 17 is all but guaranteed. La Canfora notes that Jacksonville’s search has been “noticeably quiet, writing that “with several NFL execs and agents” have noted “they have had limited contact with the Khan family” that owns the team. The Jaguars have clinched the top overall pick in April’s draft, most likely landing them Trevor Lawrence, and making them an infinitely more attractive option to coaches and executives. Meyer walked away from Ohio State after the 2018 season, and led them to a national title in 2014. He also won two national championships during his time at Florida.

Here’s more from the coaching ranks:

  • Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has guided Josh Allen to a near MVP-level season, and has rightfully been earning a lot of praise. As such, La Canfora writes that he’s the “hottest coordinator candidate” for head coaching jobs this cycle. It’s not a major surprise, but sources told La Canfora that Daboll “will have no shortage of opportunities to interview for jobs.” La Canfora notes that the Jets, Falcons, and Jaguars could all be suitors for the former Alabama assistant. Daboll of course also spent many years on Bill Belichick’s staff with the Patriots. Still only 45, Daboll has also had a couple of stints as an NFL OC prior to Buffalo with the Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs. Interestingly La Canfora also connects the dots between the Chargers and Daboll should they fire Anthony Lynn, noting that Los Angeles GM Tom Telesco went to high school with Daboll.
  • It’s been generally assumed that Adam Gase will be fired as Jets coach at the end of the year, but he apparently was almost let go sooner than that. La Canfora tweeted on Saturday that it was “very likely” Gase would’ve been fired today had New York lost to the Browns yesterday. Of course, the Jets pulled off their second upset in a row, buying Gase one more week as the Jets’ coach. The reason they would’ve made the move now instead of just waiting for the end of the season probably has something to do with them wanting to get started on their virtual interviews with candidates, which can’t be done until Gase is out of the building.
  • Most of the attention this cycle has understandably focused on exciting offensive minds, so the DCs out there are flying a bit more under the radar. That doesn’t mean you won’t see one land a job. Ravens defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale is “considered to be one of the top candidates this time around,” Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. Martindale is in his third season as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, and he previously won Super Bowl XLVII with the team as their linebackers coach. The Ravens once again have one of the league’s best defenses, so the buzz isn’t too shocking. Interestingly, Rapoport notes that his potential staff targets include Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliot, and former NFL head coaches Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith. Lewis is generating head coaching interest himself, so he might not be available.

Coaching Notes: Jets, Lewis, Bears, Daboll

The Adam GaseGregg Williams arranged marriage dissolved at the 11th hour, after the defensive coordinator’s bizarre final-seconds play call ended up keeping the Jets winless. To some degree, Gase had soured on the polarizing DC earlier this season. The second-year Gang Green head coach “fumed” after Williams’ indirect shot at the Jets’ offense, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes, adding that the soon-to-be-fired HC was upset Williams voiced frustration in that manner. In a split setup in which Gase ran the offense and Williams oversaw the defense, Cimini adds Gase would learn of Williams’ defensive lineup changes on Fridays before games on certain occasions. This regime’s issues may cause the Jets to re-evaluate how they pair coaches next year.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Josh Allen‘s rise could well push Bills OC Brian Daboll to a coaching job in 2021. The expectation around the league is that the third-year Bills coordinator will land an HC gig, Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com note. Several jobs will be available, and the ESPN duo adds that the Chargers — given that Daboll and Bolts GM Tom Telesco went to high school together — may be the destination to monitor. While the Chargers have not fired Anthony Lynn, who is well-liked by Bolts players, the team is 3-9 after a 5-11 season. This would point to Lynn likely being ousted after his fourth season in Los Angeles.
  • Unlike the Texans, the Falcons and Lions will not be using a search firm as they look for new HCs, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Longtime front office exec Rich McKay will presumably lead Atlanta’s search, while team president Rod Wood remains in power in Detroit.
  • After two seasons out of the NFL, Marvin Lewis has resurfaced on coaching radars. The longtime Bengals HC’s name has continued to come up for possible 2021 gigs, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah tweets. He is expected to land interviews, according to ESPN. Lewis interviewed for the Cowboys post that went to Mike McCarthy and was connected to the Washington job that went to Ron Rivera. The Vikings also sought him for a defensive role in 2019. Lewis, 62, currently serves as Arizona State’s co-defensive coordinator under Herm Edwards.
  • While Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald would stand to be the Bearstop choice — were they to replace Matt Nagy — the prospect of the longtime Big Ten leader rising to the NFL is quiet, per Graziano and Fowler. After Northwestern’s 2018 season, Fitzgerald said he would not consider NFL jobs. But the pandemic may have made him more receptive to making the jump. The Bears figure to be the leading candidate, were Fitzgerald to express interest. And Bears minority owner Pat Ryan, also a Northwestern alum, is a big fan of the current Wildcats HC, per ESPN.
  • The Broncos will have their defensive coordinator back after his extensive bout with COVID-19, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Ed Donatell, 63, believed he was nearly recovered from the coronavirus, but on Day 9 of his battle with it, he experienced symptoms severe enough he needed to be hospitalized. The second-year Denver DC, who had never previously missed a game in his coaching career, missed six games. He will coach from the press box Sunday against the Panthers.

Latest On Texans’ GM, HC Search

With Bill O’Brien gone, the Texans find themselves with an interim GM in Jack Easterby and an interim HC in Romeo Crennel. Earlier this week, team owner Cal McNair said that internal conversations as to how the team will permanently fill those roles had yet to begin, but it seems that has changed.

Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, McNair has hired Jed Hughes, the vice chairman of the search firm Korn Ferry, to assist him. The club will reportedly wait until after the season to hire a new head coach and general manager, but obviously McNair wants to start the process as soon as possible. Interestingly, Hughes also played a key role in helping the Texans identify and hire O’Brien back in 2014.

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Patriots exec Nick Caserio is once again under consideration for the Houston GM job. As many of our readers probably remember, the Texans made a play for Caserio in June 2019, only to back out when the Pats threatened to file tampering charges.

Caserio is widely considered to be a top GM candidate, and though he did sign a two-year extension with New England in February, La Canfora says that the new deal prohibits the Pats from interfering with Caserio’s pursuit of a GM job. JLC adds that McNair remains high on Caserio.

Meanwhile, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who has been a hot head coaching candidate in recent years, was one of the first names to surface in speculation after O’Brien’s dismissal. And La Canfora says Bieniemy has a fan in Texans QB Deshaun Watson, whose opinion and feedback will be valued by McNair. Indeed, Watson has already advocated for Bienemy, who may have several options but who will unlikely find an HC-needy team with a signal-caller as good as Watson.

McNair is said to be seeking a QB guru, so Patriots OC Josh McDaniels and Bills OC Brian Daboll will also be under consideration.

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