Chris Morgan

AFC Staff Notes: Steelers, Ravens, Raiders

In contention for the Jaguars’ quarterbacks coach position, Mike Sullivan will instead land in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are hiring the former Giants and Buccaneers offensive coordinator, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Sullivan, 53, will replace Matt Canada, who is now the Steelers’ OC. Pittsburgh’s QB coaching role grew in importance recently, with the Steelers giving Dwayne Haskins an opportunity to reboot his career. While Ben Roethlisberger is planning to return for an 18th season, Sullivan will have multiple developmental QBs — Haskins and Mason Rudolph — to mentor. Sullivan has not coached since the 2018 season, when he served as the Broncos’ QBs coach.

Here is the latest from the AFC’s coaching carousel:

  • The Ravens are adding a few staffers, including former USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin as wide receivers coach, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets. A former Heisman-winning quarterback at Tennessee, Martin has coached at the college level for the past 12 years. The former NFL quarterback has not coached at the pro level, but as wideouts coach with the Trojans and Kentucky Wildcats, Martin oversaw the development of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Pittman and Randall Cobb. Baltimore will also add Jay Peterson as assistant linebackers coach, Jason Brooks as assistant D-line coach and Keith Williams as a passing-game assistant, Hensley adds. Jason Brooks is the son of ex-Ravens D-line coach Clarence Brooks.
  • Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald again passed on an NFL path, but he will poach a Raiders staffer. Las Vegas senior defensive assistant Jim O’Neil left to become Northwestern’s defensive coordinator. A defensive coordinator with the Browns and 49ers from 2014-16, O’Neil coached on Jon Gruden‘s past three Raiders staffs.
  • The Broncos will fill their defensive backs coach position by hiring former Packers assistant Christian Parker, according to the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran (on Twitter). This will mark a big jump for Parker, who spent the 2020 season as a quality control staffer in Green Bay. Parker was DBs coach at Texas A&M previously, however. Previous Denver DBs coach Renaldo Hill left to become the Chargers’ DC.
  • New Texans DC Lovie Smith will hire his son, Miles Smith, as linebackers coach, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Miles Smith previously served under his father as the University of Illinois’ linebackers coach. The Texans will retain previous LBs coach Bobby King but move him to D-line coach.
  • The Steelers will add Chris Morgan as their assistant offensive line coach, per Dan Duggan and Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (Twitter link). Morgan, who also interviewed with the Giants this offseason, spent the past six years as the Falcons’ O-line coach.

Coaching Notes: Steelers, Cowboys, Giants

The Steelers made a key staff change last week, promoting Matt Canada to replace offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. But the team will not part ways with DC Keith Butler. The longtime Pittsburgh coordinator agreed to terms on a one-year extension Wednesday, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter). Butler has overseen Pittsburgh’s defense since the franchise split with Dick LeBeau in 2015, and while Butler’s units as a whole have not measured up to his predecessor’s Super Bowl-winning crews, the Steelers have led the NFL in sacks in each of the past four seasons and have ranked in the top three in DVOA in each of the past two.

Here is the latest out on the Pittsburgh staff and other coaching groups around the league:

  • Although the Steelers are coming off another home playoff defeat, Mike Tomlin does not appear to have moved toward a hot seat. Steelers ownership is not believed to have any desire to move away from Tomlin, per The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette (subscription required). Tomlin had the Steelers at 11-0 this season and managed to have last year’s largely Ben Roethlisberger-less team at 8-8, leading to Coach of the Year consideration in both cases. However, the Steelers lost five of their final six games this year and have lost home playoff games three times since 2014. Tomlin is signed through the 2021 season.
  • The Giants became the second team in two years to call on Dave DeGuglielmo as a late replacement as an offensive line coach, but the arrangement looks to have been temporary. Like the Dolphins last year, the Giants will not look to retain DeGuglielmo for a second season. They are searching for a new O-line coach, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets. DeGuglielmo came to New York on an interim basis to replace Marc Colombo, whom Joe Judge fired this season.
  • The Panthers will turn to a legacy name to help out their offensive line. Carolina intends to hire Tony Sparano Jr. as assistant O-line coach, according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The son of the late Tony Sparano, Sparano Jr. worked as the Jaguars’ assistant O-line coach for the past four seasons. Despite being 34, the second-generation coach has worked in the NFL since 2011.
  • Jim Harbaugh will poach one of his brother’s assistants. Ravens linebackers coach Mike MacDonald will become Michigan’s co-defensive coordinator, with Yahoo.com’s Pete Thamel reporting former Cowboys defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist will move to Ann Arbor, Mich., to share in that responsibility (Twitter link). Macdonald, 33, was with the Ravens for seven seasons — the past three as linebackers coach. Linguist has spent much of his career in the college ranks but was on Nolan’s staff in Dallas this season.
  • Another of Quinn’s Cowboys staffers became known Wednesday. The Cowboys hired Aden Durde as defensive line coach. Durde will follow Quinn from Atlanta, where he was most recently the Falcons’ outside linebackers coach. Durde, who spent time with the Cowboys as part of the Minority Fellowship Program from 2014-15, will join Joe Whitt Jr. in following Quinn from Atlanta to Dallas.
  • Arthur Smith‘s first Falcons staff will not include offensive line coach Chris Morgan, according to SI.com’s Albert Breer (on Twitter). Morgan worked with the Falcons for six years, initially serving under OC Kyle Shanahan. Given that offensive scheme’s presence in a few NFL cities, Morgan profiles as an interesting coaching free agent.

Chip Kelly Legit OC Candidate For Falcons

Just over a week after the Falcons expressed interest in having Chip Kelly become their next offensive coordinator, the former Eagles and 49ers head coach has emerged as a “legitimate candidate” to land the role, reports Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Kelly would take over for Kyle Shanahan, who will replace Kelly as the 49ers’ head coach after the Falcons take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LI this Sunday.

Chip Kelly (vertical)

The fact that there aren’t any other proven offensive coordinator candidates on the market makes Kelly a viable option for Atlanta, Schultz notes. Long an offensive guru, the 53-year-old Kelly would inherit an enviable collection of talent in Atlanta, whose attack has laid waste to opposing defenses this season. The Matt Ryan-, Julio Jones– and Devonta Freeman-led unit topped the NFL in both scoring and DVOA during the regular season, and it has combined for 78 points in playoff wins over the Seahawks and Packers.

Kelly is known for running a fast-paced offense, which helped lead to his downfall in both Philadelphia and San Francisco, but the ex-Oregon head coach’s NFL failures have “humbled” him, according to Schultz. As a result, Kelly is willing to slow things down, which he’d have to do in order to accommodate the Falcons’ offensive weapons and make life easier on the team’s defense.

Shanahan, meanwhile, won’t be able to take any significant members of head coach Dan Quinn‘s staff with him to San Francisco. The Falcons will prevent him from pilfering the likes of assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Raheem Morris, running backs coach Bobby Turner and offensive line coach Chris Morgan, a source told Schultz. However, offensive assistants Mike McDaniel, Mike LaFleur and Matt LaFleur could end up with Shanahan’s 49ers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/15/16

Today’s minor signings, cuts, and other moves:

  • The Rams have re-signed tight end Cory Harkey, according to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Harkey, whose primarily used as a blocker, saw time in all 16 regular season games in 2015. He did see some passes thrown his way, however, catching five balls for 26 yards.
  • Former Washington offensive lineman Tom Compton will be signing with the Falcons, according to Rand Getlin of NFL Network (on Twitter). It’s a new team for Compton, but he’ll have some familiar faces in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and offensive line coach Chris Morgan.
  • The Falcons announced that they have signed safety Damian Parms, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, and cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. Robinson, a 5’10” receiver, played in 36 games for Washington over the years and recorded 30 receptions for 608 yards and five touchdowns in total. Robinson has also spent time on the Ravens’ taxi squad.

NFC South Notes: Benson, S-Jax, Falcons

A court in San Antonio ruled yesterday that Saints owner Tom Benson needs help in managing his assets in Texas, as Katherine Sayre of The Times-Picayune writes. Meanwhile, Benson’s daughter Renee is seeking to overthrow Tom as trustee in the Texas trust, arguing he has mismanaged assets and is in declining health.

Benson, who owns the NBA’s Pelicans in addition to the Saints, suffered another loss in court today, when a New Orleans judge ruled that the 87-year-old must undergo evaluations by three different doctors to determine whether he remains competent to control his NFL and NBA franchises. As Andy Grimm of the Times-Picayune details, one doctor will be appointed by Benson, one by his daughter Renee, and the third will be named by those first two physicians.

Here’s more on the Benson story, along with a couple other notes out of the NFC South:

  • Saints owner Tom Benson issued a statement regarding his current situation and it sounds like he has no intention of backing down. “I have instructed my attorneys to spare no effort in defending my rights and the decisions I have made. The decisions I have made are well within my rights to make at any point in my life, and rest assured that I am making sound decisions. I need not look any further than to read the allegations made against me in these multiple lawsuits to rest easy that I have made the correct decisions,” Benson said in the statement (via Saints VP of communications Greg Bensel on Twitter).
  • Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (on Twitter) doesn’t expect Steven Jackson to be back with the Falcons next season. McClure notes that Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan declined to address Jackson’s future with the team, though that would ultimately be more in the court of head coach Dan Quinn.  Jackson, 32 in July, appeared in 15 games for the Falcons last season, running for 707 yards off of 190 carries with 6 TDs. Cutting Jackson would save Atlanta $3.75MM against the cap.
  • The Falcons officially announced the rest of their coaching staff for the upcoming season. Atlanta hired Keith Carter as assistant offensive line coach, Matt LaFleur as quarterbacks coach, Doug Mallory as defensive assistant/linebackers coach, Marquand Manuel as secondary coach/senior defensive assistant, Mike McDaniel as offensive assistant, Chris Morgan as offensive line coach, Jeff Ulbrich as linebackers coach, and Chad Walker as defensive assistant/defensive backs.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Coaching Notes: Seahawks, Cardinals, Washington, Falcons

Following the Falcons hiring of former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, a former league executive wondered what could have been. Former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik said that he twice tried to hire Quinn to become Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator, according to Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com (via Twitter). Instead, Dominik settled for Bill Sheridan and Raheem Morris.

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the league…

  • The Seahawks plan is to promote defensive backs coach Kris Richard to fill their defensive coordinator vacancy, but they may conduct a wider search first, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
  • The Falcons will hire Seahawks assistant offensive line coach Chris Morgan as their new offensive line coach, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Morgan, of course, is following friend Dan Quinn to Atlanta.
  • The Cardinals are scheduled to hire Bob Sanders as one of their linebacker coaches, according to Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports 910 AM (on Twitter). Sanders 61, served as the defensive coordinator of the Packers from 2006-08. He spent last year on the Raiders‘ staff.
  • Washington (on Twitter) announced the hiring of Robb Akey as their defensive line coach. Akey, who has 26 years of coaching experience, served as the assistant defensive line coach for the Vikings in 2014.
  • Furthermore, Washington is likely finished adding defensive assistants, tweets Mike Jones of the Washington Post.

Ben Levine contributed to this post.