Chris Polian

Brian Gutekunst Withdraws From 49ers’ GM Search

Another Packers executive won’t be finishing out the GM interview process with the 49ers. The Packers will retain player personnel director Brian Gutekunst after he withdrew his name from the San Francisco GM search, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

One of the finalists for the NFL’s lone vacant GM job, Gutekunst instead signed a new deal to stay in Green Bay, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

The Packers reached an agreement earlier this week to retain director of football operations Eliot Wolf, so the 49ers’ effort to pry one of Ted Thompson‘s top staffers won’t come to fruition. The Packers execs’ decisions to stay in Green Bay come after Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner announced he was withdrawing from the pursuit.

This could leave Vikings assistant GM George Paton in the driver’s seat for the job as the one known finalist still in the running. He’s set to meet with the 49ers next week. Although the team is keeping an eye on Cardinals’ vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports, Paton is expected to meet with 49ers brass — and possibly leading HC candidate Kyle Shanahan — on Tuesday. Michael Silver of NFL.com also tabs Paton (Twitter link) as the favorite to become the 49ers’ next GM and win what’s become a complex race not unlike what’s transpired in the derby to become their next coach.

Another name to monitor, per Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, is Jaguars director of player personnel Chris Polian. The son of Hall of Famer Bill Polian did not meet with with the 49ers this month as the organization conducted a thorough search featuring nine interviews.

Titans Leaning Toward Mike Mularkey?

Despite going 2-7 in his most recent head-coaching audition, Mike Mularkey appears to be the clear favorite to become the Titans’ next full-time head coach, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports.

The PFT reporter hears it would be a “massive upset” if the Titans don’t retain Mularkey, who replaced Ken Whisenhunt after seven games last season. This goes along with NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reporting earlier today the Tennessee job is Mularkey’s “to lose.”

Owner Amy Adams Strunk developed a strong relationship with Mularkey, per Florio, last season and prefers the 54-year-old coach keep the job. Recent GM candidates Chris Ballard and Chris Polian did not share Strunk’s views on Mularkey’s potential, so they were not hired, Florio reports.

New GM Jon Robinson reportedly did agree to consider keeping Mularkey, who Florio notes will be offered a short-term deal with a salary on the low end of the head-coaching earnings scale.

Rapoport points out the Titans could make this official today. The team’s also interviewed Doug Marrone and
Teryl Austin
and is set to meet with Titans DC Ray Horton today.

Mularkey carries an 18-39 coaching record and would be a rare third-try head coach without a playoff berth on his resume. His best season came with the Bills, when they went 9-7 in 2004. Mularkey’s Buffalo tenure lasted just two years, and his Jaguars stint, in 2012, produced a 2-14 mark.

Mularkey joined the Titans as their tight ends coach in 2014 before being elevated to assistant head coach prior to the 2015 season’s outset.

The Titans have gone 5-27 the past two seasons.

Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images

Titans To Interview Chris Ballard For GM

The Titans are scheduled to interview Chiefs director of football operations Chris Ballard for their general manager vacancy on Monday, reports Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link). We learned yesterday that Tennessee had requested and received permission to interview Ballard.

[RELATED: Patriots OC Josh McDaniels interested in Titans’ head coaching job]

Ballard, who just completed his third season with Kansas City, has been an NFL personnel man for 15 years, and was considered a strong candidate for the Bears GM job at this time last year. He’s one of several candidates for the Titans position, joining former Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist, Giants exec Marc Ross, and former Lions GM Martin Mayhew. The club also confirmed today that it had interviewed Jaguars director of player personnel Chris Polian and Buccaneers director of player personnel Jon Robinson.

As the Titans seek to replace Ruston Webster, there’s a question as to how their GM search will affect their hunt for new head coach. As Alex Marvez of FOX Sports notes (via Twitter), it’s a little surprising that Tennessee got such a late start; while the Dolphins, for example, have already completed seven head coaching interviews, the Titans have completed zero, as our head coaching search tracker shows.

Latest On Titans’ General Manager Search

7:47pm: The Titans announced that they interviewed Martin Mayhew for their GM position today, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets.

Jaguars director of pro scouting Chris Polian will interview with the Titans on Friday for their open GM job, as Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com writes. Meanwhile, Buccaneers Director Player Personnel Jon Robinson has been given the OK to interview for the Titans’ GM job, Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune tweets. Robinson, a Tennessee native, was mentioned as a potential candidate for the job shortly after Ruston Webster was let go.

2:40pm: When we last checked in on the Titans’ hunt for a new general manager, the team was in the process of scheduling an interview with Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross, and was aiming high by targeting Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, who typically turns down requests for interviews.

Unsurprisingly, DeCosta has indeed declined the opportunity to interview for the GM position in Tennessee, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, who tweets that the veteran Ravens executive will be staying put in Baltimore. Presumably, the Titans expected that outcome, but figured it didn’t hurt to ask.

Along those same lines, the Titans are one of two teams – along with the Lions – that hopes to interview Vikings assistant general manager George Paton, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Paton is another executive who rarely explores the opportunity to leave his current organization, so it seems unlikely that he’ll pursue the Titans’ job, but it sounds like he hasn’t officially said no yet.

As for Ross, a candidate who definitely will be meeting with the Titans, his interview is scheduled for Thursday, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Lions Rumors: GM Search, Polian, Megatron

The latest from Detroit:

  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press identifies Texans executive Brian Gaine and Jaguars exec Chris Polian as two names to watch for the Lions’ general manager job, along with interim GM Sheldon White. Gaine has been mentioned as a candidate for a promotion in Houston as well.
  • The Lions are scheduling a GM interview with Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner, league sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Kirchner interviewed with the Jets last year.
  • Calvin Johnson faces some uncertainty this offseason with the Lions, ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein writes. Johnson will have a $24MM cap hit with a $15.95MM cash value in 2016 and the team could save $11.1MM on the cap by letting him go.
  • The Lions have requested to interview Cowboys assistant director of player personnel Will McClay for their GM job, but he decided to stay put, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). McClay said he recently re-did his contract in Dallas and didn’t want to leave, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets.
  • Vikings exec George Paton will be declining GM interviews, as well, Birkett tweets. The Lions haven’t formally requested an interview, but he is well respected and seemed like a probable candidate for the job.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

La Canfora’s Latest: Dalton, Falcons, Manning

As the second slate of games near halftime, lets’s take a look at the latest from Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com…

  • Andy Dalton‘s recent thumb injury could end up costing the Bengals quarterback millions of dollars in escalators, according to La Canfora. Per clauses in Dalton’s six-year, $96MM extension, he can earn extra cash by playing in 80% of Cincinnati’s snaps during the regular season, while separate escalators are tied to his playing (and winning) in each successive round of the postseason. All told, writes La Canfora, Dalton could add $15MM to his current deal, but those plateaus are obviously at risk now.
  • Falcons ownership is growing frustrated with the club’s lack of success and is considering firing general manager Thomas Dimitroff, writes La Canfora, who adds that Seahawks director of pro personnel Trent Kirchner and Vikings assistant GM George Paton could each be strong candidates to fill the position (each has a professional history with Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn). It sounds like current AGM Scott Pioli (a Dimitroff friend) could also be on the chopping block.
  • Major changes could also be coming to the Titans staff, and rumors persist that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning could land in Tennessee as something of a football czar, with former NFL exec Bill Polian (who drafted Manning) as team president. In such a scenario, Polian’s son Chris could act as general manager, while Jaguars assistant Doug Marrone or Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase would be candidates to serve as head coach.

Latest On Lions’ GM Search

The Lions announced on Thursday that they’ve established an advisory board to lead the search for a new general manager, while continuing to consult with the league’s career development advisory panel. That panel has met twice already and will meet twice more before the end of the season, but Tom Pelissero of USA Today has already learned the identities of five of the leading candidates.

According to Pelissero, some of the early frontrunners are Chiefs director of football operations Chris Ballard, Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta, Vikings assistant GM George Paton, Jaguars director of player personnel Chris Polian, and Packers director of player personnel Eliot Wolf. All five executives have been linked to the job in one fashion or another, though many have speculated that the Lions will not be able to lure Wolf away from Green Bay, where he is thought to be the heir apparent to the GM job. Ballard and DeCosta, two highly-respected NFL execs, were on last year’s list cultivated by the panel. The Jets used the panel last year to make their hire of Mike Maccagnan, who was then the Texans’ director of college scouting.

On Thursday afternoon, the Lions hired Rod Wood as the team’s new president, taking over the position previously held by Tom Lewand. Wood, of course, will be an integral part of the team’s advisory board to find its next GM. That group also includes owner Martha Firestone Ford and the team’s board of directors and vice chairmen, all of whom are members of the Ford family.

NFC East Notes: Eagles, Bryant, Cowboys

Jaguars executive Chris Polian, who was promoted to director of pro personnel in Jacksonville this offseason, was surprised when the Eagles approached him in January about interviewing for their general manager job, as he tells Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. According to Polian, his initial interview included Chip Kelly and various members of the Philadelphia front office, while his second meeting was a one-on-one with the Eagles head coach.

It kind of came out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting it,” Polian said. “It was quick getting the information and then getting up there. But I enjoyed it very much, the chance to sit down, talk and present my ideas to Chip.”

Here’s more from the NFC East..

  • Dez Bryant needs to be more specific when he says “I will not be there,” if not publicly then at least privately in his communications with the Cowboys, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. That threat could mean he won’t show up at all in this season if he doesn’t get a long-term contract before the July 15 deadline. However, that would only prolong the matter with Bryant still eligible for a one-year, $12.8MM contract in 2016 and the Cowboys still owning his rights.
  • The time for Bryant to have held out from the Cowboys was last season, where there was much less at stake financially for him, Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap opines. Last season, Bryant played for about $2MM in salary and the fortunes that could have awaited in free agency or an extension would have made it worth sitting out for an extended period of time. Now, Bryant would be giving up ~$754K for each week that he misses in the regular season.
  • A handful of players around the league tell Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report (on Twitter) that Bryant has a lot of support. Of course, it’s not surprising to hear that other players are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Cowboys star.
  • Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (on Twitter) doesn’t think there’s any chance of Bryant holding out of Cowboys regular season games.

AFC Notes: Broncos, Idzik, Jags, S. Smith

In a Wednesday mailbag, a reader asked Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post why the Broncos didn’t make more of a push to sign La’el Collins. According to Renck, the lack of a resolution for Collins’ potential criminal case gave Denver pause during the draft — the team shied away from him in the seventh round more because of that uncertainty, not because of the lineman’s vow that he wouldn’t report if he was drafted on Day 3.

Once Collins became a free agent, he narrowed his choices rather quickly to teams with proven quarterbacks, coaches and line coaches. Denver offered all of those things, but Collins didn’t want to play in cold weather and wanted a team close to home, leading him to the Cowboys.

Of course, given today’s news on Ryan Clady‘s torn ACL, the Broncos may be regretting not rolling the dice on Collins with one of their seventh-round picks.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Former Jets general manager John Idzik, hired back in February as a consultant by the Jaguars, has been named to a full-time position of special assistant to the general manager, according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “He’ll do a little bit of everything,” GM Dave Caldwell said of Idzik. “He’s a great cultural fit for us. He has a great understanding of the salary cap and the different ways to do a contract.” As O’Halloran writes, the Jags also promoted Chris Polian to director of player personnel and Chris Driggers to director of pro personnel.
  • Ravens wideout Steve Smith said he didn’t really contemplate retiring after last season, but he knows he won’t play forever, or even until he’s 40, like Jerry Rice (Twitter links via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun). Smith turned 36 earlier this month.
  • Browns third-round running back Duke Johnson wasn’t in attendance when the team’s OTAs got underway this week. However, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, it’s because of a personal matter rather than anything contract-related. Johnson is the only one of Cleveland’s 12 draftees who remains unsigned.
  • Titans running back Bishop Sankey was a bit of a disappointment in his rookie season, but the Titans are betting he’ll be better following some offseason strength training, Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean writes.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

NFC West Notes: Harvin, Rams, Maxwell

Seahawks GM John Schneider has no regrets about sending Percy Harvin to the Jets, Manish Mehta of the Daily News writes. “It was difficult, but we had talked to ownership about it,” Schneider said. “When you have support of the ownership, it makes it that much easier. So, he knew there were several reasons why it may not work out. As long as we’re communicating with ownership in that regard and explaining why it didn’t work out, it’s much easier to do than waking up in the morning and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this.'”

  • The Rams did not have their second interview with Nathaniel Hackett as was once planned, according to Jim Thomas of the Post Dispatch (Twitter links). However, St. Louis still plans on discussing its offensive coordinator vacancy with him and that follow-up chat could come later this week.
  • Earlier today, Seahawks GM John Schneider said that re-signing cornerback Byron Maxwell will be one of the team’s top offseason priorities, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Meanwhile, Seattle has already locked up several of its key impact players and a new deal for quarterback Russell Wilson is likely around the corner. Keeping Maxwell might be something that the Seahawks want to do, but carving out the space for it is another matter.
  • The Eagles interviewed the Seahawks‘ director of college scouting, Scott Fitterer, for their personnel executive opening, but he decided to stay in Seattle, Schneider said. “He spoke with the Philadelphia Eagles, kept it on the down low,” Schneider said, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s staying with us.” The Eagles have interviewed at least three candidates for a job that could have the GM title, McLane writes. Chris Polian, former GM of the Colts, recently had a second interview and is considered a serious contender.