Byron Leftwich

2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, seven NFL teams opted to make a head coaching change. With the Texans firing David Culley, there are now eight full-time vacancies available this year.

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 1-20-21 (5:50pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Latest Bears’ Head Coach Interview Requests

The second wave of interview requests has begun for the teams who let go of coaches and executives yesterday. The busiest of those teams, so far, is the Chicago Bears. In addition to the requests they made on Monday after firing Matt Nagy, another seven interviews have been scheduled for the Head Coaching vacancy. 

[Related: Bears Request Interviews With Bills DC Leslie Frazier, OC Brian Daboll]

Just as the Bears are interested in both Bills’ coordinators, they have requested to interview both Buccaneers’ coordinators, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). OC Byron Leftwich has held his title since 2019, where he reunited with HC Bruce Arians. Leftwich was in charge of the Super-Bowl winning Bucs offense last season, and has helped the unit put up the second most points per game (30.1) in the league in 2021. DC Todd Bowles also reunited with Arians in 2019 in Tampa Bay, and played a crucial role in the Bucs’ smothering defensive performance in that Super Bowl victory.

Per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter), another request was made to Colts DC Matt Eberflus, who has also been named as an interviewee with the Jaguars. After an impressive stint as the Cowboys’ linebackers coach from 2011-2017, Eberflus took the defensive coordinator position in Indy in 2018, and immediately helped turn that unit around.

Next on the list is Cowboys DC Dan Quinn (Twitter link via Pelissero). Quinn has since been linked with all four current Head Coaching vacancies, making him the most sought-after candidate so far. His work with Dallas’ defense in just one season – seventh in the league in points allowed per game, first in interceptions, to name a few statistics – has put him in line to get another HC gig one year after being fired by the Falcons.

Per Pelissero’s colleague Ian Rapoport, Doug Pederson will also be interviewed (Twitter link). Pederson was fired by the Eagles exactly one year ago, and has also been linked with multiple teams. The 2017 Super Bowl winner, like Quinn, seems to have a good chance at rejoining the Head Coaching ranks during this hiring cycle.

Another popular name is Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett, whom the Bears will interview on Friday or Saturday, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer (Twitter link). Breer notes that Hackett has also received requests from the Broncos and Jaguars, as the 42-year-old has overseen one of the league’s best offenses in Green Bay for the past two seasons.

Last, but certainly not least, recently fired Brian Flores has been added to the list of interviewees, according to Pelissero (Twitter link). After three seasons – including the last two with winning records – in Miami, Flores was let go in what has been the most surprising move of the coaching cycle so far. The Bears are not expected to be the only team interviewing the 40-year-old, though nothing has officially been lined up with any other clubs yet.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars To Interview Byron Leftwich On Friday

The Jaguars are set to interview Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich for their head coaching vacancy today, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). He’ll be the fourth candidate to meet with team brass, following Doug Pederson, Jim Caldwell, and Bucs DC Todd Bowles

As a quarterback, Leftwich entered the league as a 2003 first-round pick of the Jaguars and spent four years under center in Jacksonville. Beyond the franchise ties, Leftwich has proven himself as an offensive mind. With one week left in the regular season, his Bucs lead the league in yards per game (405.8) and rank second in points per contest (29.4).

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, who has had Leftwich on staff since his Arizona days, firmly believes that Leftwich is ready to guide his own team. Leftwich, meanwhile, only wants to focus on the task at hand — a second straight Super Bowl ring.

Obviously, as a coach anytime your name is thrown around, I guess it is what it is, but it really means nothing at this point,” Leftwich said last weekend when asked about the Jags job (via the New York Post). “It really means nothing at this point and I kind of think it’s disrespectful to the guys that you really work with every day.”

After Leftwich, the Jaguars are expected to interview Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett sometime next week. So far, the Jaguars have eight known candidates on the radar, though they could cast a wider net in the coming weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jaguars’ Coaching Search

The Jaguars are breaking in the NFL’s new early interview process, and they are seeing some coaches greenlight the meetings and others opt to wait. Doug Pederson already interviewed, while Cowboys DC Dan Quinn passed on an early virtual meeting. More coaches landed in each camp this week.

Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles interviewed virtually this week, according to Mark Long of the Associated Press. Cowboys OC Kellen Moore also will interview this week, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Colts DC Matt Eberflus joined Quinn in skipping an early virtual interview, Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star adds.

Byron Leftwich, a 2003 Jaguars first-round pick who is in his third season as Bucs OC, may end up being part of the virtual interview process. Leftwich could interview with the Jags as soon as Friday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Leftwich brushed aside questions about his pursuit of the Jacksonville HC gig last week, but whether a meeting occurs during the early interview window or after the regular season’s conclusion, the former quarterback is expected to be in the mix.

Leftwich, 41, played the first four seasons of his career in Jacksonville, starting 44 games in that span. Shad Khan was not yet in place as owner at that point, but the young coordinator certainly is familiar with the franchise.

Nathaniel Hackett, the Jags’ OC during part of Gus Bradley and Doug Marrone‘s HC tenures, will not be part of the early interview circuit, either. The third-year Packers OC will wait until after the regular season ends, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport adds. However, Hackett does have plans to be part of this process. He will meet with his former team next week, via the AP.

The Jaguars fired Hackett in November 2018. The second-generation NFL assistant has rebuilt his stock in Green Bay, with he and Matt LaFleur being the top offensive decision-makers during Aaron Rodgers‘ push for back-to-back MVPs.

Bowles would be a second-chance HC candidate. Following his Jets exit, he has overseen one of the league’s top defenses for the past three years. Bowles’ game plan helped the Bucs ground the high-flying Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Despite numerous injuries, the Bucs still rank 10th in scoring defense entering Week 18. The Cowboys, who chose to retain Moore as their play-caller despite hiring Mike McCarthy, lead the NFL in scoring. Moore, 33, is in just his fourth season as a coach. Hired during the brief window Josh McDaniels held the Colts’ HC reins, Eberflus is finishing up his fourth season in Indianapolis. Entering Week 18, the Colts rank 12th defensively. They have been a top-10 unit in two of Eberflus’ previous three seasons.

Pederson’s interview took place at Khan’s home, Rapoport adds. Also a coaching free agent, Jim Caldwell met with the Jags earlier this week. Here is how the Jags’ HC search looks as the early interview window winds down:

  • Todd Bowles, defensive coordinator (Buccaneers): Interviewed on 1/3
  • Jim Caldwell, former head coach (Lions): Interviewed on 1/4
  • Matt Eberflus, defensive coordinator (Colts): Declined early interview
  • Nathaniel Hackett, offensive coordinator (Packers): To interview after regular season
  • Byron Leftwich, offensive coordinator (Buccaneers): Expected to interview
  • Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator (Cowboys): To interview
  • Doug Pedersonformer head coach (Eagles): Interviewed on 12/30
  • Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator (Cowboys): Declined early interview

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars Request Interviews With Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich

The Jaguars have asked the Buccaneers for permission to interview offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for their head coaching vacancy (Twitter links via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). In addition to the Tampa duo, they’ve also requested an interview with Cowboys OC Kellen Moore and DC Dan Quinn (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com) and scheduled a meeting with ex-Eagles HC Doug Pederson for later this week (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero).

[RELATED: Jaguars GM Trent Baalke To Keep Job]

All five coaches have been connected to the Jaguars in recent weeks, with Pederson said to be especially interested in the job. Pederson, of course, had Carson Wentz playing at an MVP level through the first 14 weeks of the 2017 season, up until his fateful ACL tear. Then, with backup QB Nick Foles under center, he guided the Birds to their first ever Super Bowl ring. Pederson’s final Philadelphia season ended with a 4-11-1 mark, but he remains an attractive candidate nonetheless.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, meanwhile, would happily advocate for either one of his coordinators to get the job. He’s been especially supportive of Leftwich, who did not receive an HC interview in the last cycle.

The job he’s done…he coaches quarterbacks, he calls plays, he’s everything everybody says they are looking for,” Arians said in January (via Jon Ledyard of Pewter Report). “I was really hoping he’d get his first few interviews and maybe get a job out of it. I can’t speak for what the owners think and who they listen to sometimes, but it’s just a matter of time before he gets his.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears HC Matt Nagy Unlikely To Be Fired Mid-Season, Still On Hot Seat

Matt Nagy‘s job appears to be safe — for now. The Bears are unlikely to fire their head coach before the end of the season, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Bears’ George McCaskey On Nagy Rumors]

Rumors of Nagy’s imminent firing were rampant last week, with one report suggesting that he would be dismissed after the Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions. For his part, Nagy says such talk “is not accurate,” though he canceled the Bears’ scheduled meetings Tuesday afternoon. And, as of Tuesday, Nagy said he had yet to speak with owner George McCaskey, team president Ted Phillips, or GM Ryan Pace about his status.

We all have our own decisions as to how we do things, and I think this whole entire time, for me and for ownership, we’ve had great communication,” said Nagy when asked about the recent lack of clarity from the Bears’ top brass. “[We’re] focused on Detroit. That’s what it is.”

On Wednesday, McCaskey told players and coaches that Nagy would not get a pink slip for Thanksgiving. Still, barring a total 180, it’d be a surprise to see him return in 2022. Indeed, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports hears that change could be inevitable.

Around this time last year, we were hearing that it was more likely than not that Nagy would be fired at the end of the 2020 campaign. While ownership ultimately elected to give its HC one more chance to right the ship, the Bears’ struggles this season are probably too much for him to overcome.

The good news for Chicago is that many offensive-minded coaches view rookie QB Justin Fields as a quality passer that they can build around. So the club, which is expected to consider popular candidates like Tampa Bay OC Byron Leftwich, New England OC Josh McDaniels, and Buffalo OC Brian Daboll, might be able to land its top target. However, Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald, whom the Bears have coveted for some time, remains uninterested in the post.

Meanwhile, although we recently heard that Pace might not be fired at season’s end, La Canfora notes that his status is very much up in the air as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Smith, Easterby, Ogunjobi

Perhaps the best story of the unprecedented 2020 NFL season was the improbable return of Alex Smith. Not only did Smith shockingly return to the starting lineup for Washington, something nobody in their right mind saw coming, he also went 5-1 as a starter and led them to a playoff berth. He didn’t always look too mobile, and a calf injury to the same leg he had his devastating infections in cut his season short prematurely. But if you were expecting Smith to ride off into the sunset after his incredible triumph, you might be in for a surprise. In a recent interview with the Rachel Ray show, the quarterback certainly didn’t sound like someone dead-set on retiring.

For me, this year was such a crazy rush to be out there, practicing out there every single day. To be able to put on my cleats and helmet. But for me, the crazy thing was how well my body responded to that. I just feel like I continued to get stronger and stronger and better and better,” the Washington signal-caller said. “I still feel like I’m kind of a kid right now headed into the offseason. I’m excited for this offseason to see what I can go do — football and everything else. Skiing, snowboarding — I plan on doing as much as I can. I had such an amazing time playing. I felt so good out there. It was crazy after that first game how comfortable I felt back out on the field.”

If Smith does want to keep playing he might have to do it with a new team, as Washington appears to be looking to upgrade at the position. They reportedly were aggressive in going after Matthew Stafford, offering their first-round pick and then some. Smith is under contract for two more seasons, but Washington can get out of it fairly easily this offseason. No matter what happens next, Smith has already shattered all expectations and can hold his head high.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • If you were a Texans fan hoping that controversial exec Jack Easterby would quietly slink into the background after all the Deshaun Watson drama, you might be disappointed. “Easterby is still making calls to agents on behalf of the team and is very much involved in football side,” Lance Zierlein of NFL.com hears (Twitter link). As Zierlein points out, that would conflict with Houston’s stated spin that Easterby is merely a pastor and ‘character coach’ of sorts. He seems to be very much involved in football ops alongside new GM Nick Caserio. For whatever reasons, Easterby seems to be sitting pretty in his role and clearly has a great deal of influence with owner Cal McNair. We haven’t heard the last of him, and this saga has no end in sight.
  • The Browns are coming off an incredibly successful season that saw them make it back to the playoffs for the first time in nearly 20 years, but there will still be changes coming in Cleveland. One of the biggest could be the departure of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. Ogunjobi will likely be allowed to hit free agency and the Browns “probably won’t want to pay him what he can get on the open market,” Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Ogunjobi has been a very solid player for Cleveland, starting at least 15 games each of the past three seasons, but with Sheldon Richardson still also manning the middle and fellow defensive tackle Andrew Billings set to return from COVID opt-out in 2021, Kay Cabot thinks he’s expendable.
  • Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy has gotten a lot of attention for getting passed over for head coaching jobs, but Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is similarly upset about the other offensive coordinator coaching in the Super Bowl. “I was very, very pissed that Byron [Leftwich] didn’t at least get an interview this year for the job that he’s done,” Arians said, via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com (Twitter link). “I get way too much credit and so does Tom Brady for the job that Byron has done.” Strong words from Arians in support of his OC, the former quarterback who spent 10 years as a player in the league from 2003-12. Leftwich got his coaching start as Arians’ quarterbacks coach with the Cardinals in 2017, and was then hired as his OC when he took the job in Tampa in 2019. If the Bucs have this kind of success again in 2021, Leftwich probably will start to get some serious head coaching buzz next cycle.

South Notes: Fuller, Quinn, Leftwich

The Texans are hopeful that wide receiver Will Fuller will be able to retake the field next week in Baltimore against the Ravens, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Fuller has missed the team’s previous two games after suffering a hamstring injury against the Colts.

Fuller is one of the best deep threats in football, especially when he takes the field opposite of all-pro DeAndre Hopkins. Prior to his injury, Fuller was on pace to eclipse 70 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. Those marks may be unattainable now, but at 6-3, the Texans are in the thick of the AFC playoff picture coming out of their bye. Fuller would surely aid them in their pursuit of a Super Bowl title.

Here’s more from the NFC and AFC South:

  • Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has been firmly on the hot-seat for many weeks. However, after a dominating victory over the Saints on Sunday, Quinn has bought himself at least a temporary reprieve, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Just a few seasons away from a Super Bowl appearance, this year has fallen far short of expectations, especially on defense. However, New Orleans potent offense looked overwhelmed for much of the game.
  • After a 30-27 victory in a shootout against the Cardinals, the Buccaneers offense continues to produce in spit of Jameis Winston‘s propensity for turnovers. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich deserves a large amount of credit as the playcaller, however, he almost never got the responsibilities in the first place. In the offseason, head coach Bruce Arians had to convince ownership that someone other than him should call plays, according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times.

NFC Notes: Leftwich, Nkemdiche, Seahawks

Not long after the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians as their head coach in January, we learned that Arians’ new OC, Byron Leftwich, would be calling the team’s offensive plays and that Arians considered Leftwich a rising star in the coaching ranks. And as Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports, Arians’ confidence in Leftwich is such that Arians himself is not even in Jameis Winston‘s quarterbacks meeting rooms — despite Arians’ reputation as a quarterback whisperer — and Leftwich is running those meetings. This is a critical campaign for Winston, who is playing under his fifth-year option, and therefore something of a crossroads for the franchise itself. Leftwich has a lot on his plate for a young coach, but Arians clearly believes he is up to the task.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic believes that the Cardinals will cut Robert Nkemdiche before he plays another snap for the club. The former first-round pick was recently arrested for driving on a suspended license, and police found a credit card case that had a white powdery residue consistent with cocaine inside. Somers says that police decided not to test the case and elected to simply destroy it instead, but it’s still not a good look for Nkemdiche. The fact that the defensive lineman is still recovering from a knee injury and is due a $400K roster bonus if he is still on the club on the fifth day of training camp could complicate matters, but Somers still expects Nkemdiche to be gone sooner rather than later.
  • Seahawks OT Jamarco Jones, a fifth-round draft choice in 2018, did not see any regular season action during his rookie campaign, as he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener that put him on the shelf for the whole year. Still, he flashed potential last training camp, and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times expects him to make the club as a backup tackle. And, with George Fant and Germain Ifedi eligible for free agency in 2020, Jones could position himself nicely for a starting role next year.
  • Condotta also expects the Seahawks to continue exploring pass rush options and secondary help.
  • We heard earlier today that the Lions are exploring a deal with free agent DT Domata Peko.

Assistant Coaching Rumors: Broncos, Browns, Packers, Rams, Buccaneers

Now that the head coaching carousel is pretty much wrapped up, everyone’s attention will now be turning to the assistant coaching ranks. One team that has a lot to sort out is the Broncos, now that we know Gary Kubiak won’t be joining as the team’s offensive coordinator. Broncos defensive backs coach Greg Williams won’t be returning next year, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9News (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Klis writes that league sources told him Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will be a “top target” of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio to join his defensive staff. In a third tweet, Klis notes that the Browns are targeting Chris Strausser, who currently coaches the Broncos’ offensive tackles, to join Freddie Kitchens’ staff in Cleveland.

Here’s the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Matt LaFleur is the Packers’ new coach, and while it has already been announced that he’ll be bringing back defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the rest of the defensive coaches, he still needs to round out his offensive staff. Jets WR’s coach Karl Dorrell will interview for the same position with Green Bay, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Dorrell got his start under Mike Shanahan, who LaFleur also used to coach under, so the connection is there.
  • The Rams are losing Zac Taylor to the Bengals, as their 35-year-old quarterbacks coach will take over the head coaching gig in Cincinnati, and they almost lost another assistant. Senior offensive assistant Jedd Fisch had an interview for the head coaching vacancy at Temple, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapoport also notes that Fisch, the former Jaguars and UCLA offensive coordinator, could be “an option to fill a key offensive position next year” with the departure of Taylor.
  • Byron Leftwich wasn’t able to do much after taking over as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator this season, but Bruce Arians has a ton of confidence in his new offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers. Arians called Leftwich a “rising star” and said Arizona’s offensive struggles were because they weren’t running Leftwich’s offense, per Nick Shook of NFL.com. It’s been rumored that Arians views Leftwich as his eventual successor when he retires from coaching for good.