Darren Rizzi

Coaching Rumors: Rizzi, Dennison, Browns

Darren Rizzi interviewed for the Dolphins coaching job that is likely to go to Brian Flores, but the special teams coordinator is a coveted commodity around the league. The Packers are set to interview him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Miami wants to retain Rizzi, who has been with the team throughout the 2010s, but has given him permission to seek employment elsewhere. That may soon prompt an extensive interview circuit. Five teams are interested in bringing him aboard, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. The Vikings look to be one of those. Rizzi, 48, has only coached for one NFL franchise. His pre-Dolphins gigs were college jobs in the northeast, including a one-season stay (2008) as Rhode Island’s head coach.

As week three of many teams’ offseason begins, here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Todd Monken‘s rise to Buccaneers play-caller earned him interest in teams’ OC jobs. He ended up landing with the Browns, but the other recent play-caller on this staff will call Cleveland’s plays next season. Freddie Kitchens will be the game-day director for the Browns’ offense next season, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). This won’t be too new for Monken, who spent the first two seasons as Bucs OC watching Dirk Koetter call plays.
  • The Vikings announced Klint Kubiak (quarterbacks coach) and Brian Pariani (tight ends) are following Gary Kubiak to Minnesota, with the latter’s official title being assistant head coach/offensive advisor. Expected to be part of the Gary Kubiak gang getting back together up north, Rick Dennison was not included in this announcement. But Mike Klis of 9News notes the former Broncos and Bills OC is indeed believed to be part of the next Vikings staff (Twitter link). When Kubiak agreed to reprise his longtime role as Broncos OC, he wanted Dennison to oversee the team’s offensive line concepts, per Klis. The Broncos’ pursuit of Mike Munchak overruled this, and Dennison — the Jets’ O-line coach in 2018 — could be set to have a role in aiding the Vikings’ blockers next season.
  • Speaking of Munchak, the Broncos went beyond their usual offensive line coach budget to bring him over from Pittsburgh, Klis notes (on Twitter). Munchak, who has coached for just two franchises (the Oilers/Titans and Steelers), has family in the area.
  • The Steelers promoted Shaun Sarrett to replace Munchak as their O-line coach, the team announced. Sarrett had previously served as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. He has been with the Steelers for seven seasons, helping instruct their offensive linemen for most of that time.
  • After the Steelers let running backs coach James Saxon go, he will move to Arizona. The Cardinals are hiring Saxon to coach their running backs, Aditi Kinkabwala of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). He will replace Kirby Wilson and attempt to revive Arizona’s No. 32-ranked ground game. Saxon has 19 years’ experience coaching running backs in the NFL — the past five with the Steelers, where he oversaw Le’Veon Bell‘s rise and James Conner and Jaylen Samuels‘ quality replacement efforts — and should help rookie NFL coach Kliff Kingsbury.
  • Kris Kocurek will move from south Florida to the Bay Area, shifting from the Dolphins’ defensive line coach to the same role with the 49ers, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM tweets. Kocurek, 40, was the Lions’ D-line coach for nine seasons prior to moving to Miami.

Coaching Rumors: Pack, Vikes, Jets, Cards

Incumbent special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi was a strong candidate to take over as the Dolphins‘ head coach, but now that he appears to have lost out to Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores, Rizzi is being allowed to take interviews with other clubs, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). While Miami would prefer to retain him, Rizzi has already been contacted by by the Vikings and Packers, per Pelissero. Rizzi, who’s been with the Dolphins in 2010, would replace Ron Zook (fired) in Green Bay or Mike Priefer (hired by the Browns) in Minnesota.

Here’s more from the coaching carousel:

  • The Jets have signed special teams coordinator Brant Boyer to an extension, a source tells Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Boyer had been signed only through 2019, and rival NFL teams had already begun to express interest in case Boyer wasn’t retained by new head coach Adam Gase. A longtime NFL linebacker, Boyer joined Gang Green in 2016, and last season coached a unit which ranked first in Football Outsiders’ special teams DVOA. Return man Andre Roberts earned first-team All-Pro honors under Boyer’s direction, while kicker Jason Myers received a Pro Bowl nod.
  • Former Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler drew plenty of interest around the NFL after being released from his contract, but the Cardinals were able to lock him down. Arizona announced that’s it hired Kugler as OL coach, Brian Natkin as his assistant, David Raih as receivers coach, and retained Steve Heiden as tight ends coach. Kugler received an early look from the Buccaneers (and early reports even indicated he joined Tampa’s staff), while the Bills, Vikings, Browns, and Jets also checked in, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
  • The Buccaneers have hired Todd McNair as their new running backs coach, reports Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times. McNair hadn’t coached since 2010, when USC opted not to renew his contract, perhaps due to his involvement in the Reggie Bush scandal. He nearly became the Cardinals’ RBs coach under Bruce Arians in 2013, and he’ll now have the chance to work under Arians in Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the Bucs named ex-Cardinals linebackers coach Larry Foote to the same position, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link).
  • George Warhop has joined the Jaguars‘ staff as the club’s new offensive line coach, while Tim Walton will coach Jacksonville’s defensive backs, tweets Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio. Warhop has coached NFL front fives since 1996, and spent the past five seasons in Jacksonville. Walton, meanwhile, served as the Rams’ defensive coordinator in 2013 before moving on to the Giants’ DBs gig.
  • The Broncos and new head coach Vic Fangio are expected to retain linebackers coach Reggie Herring and defensive line coach Bill Kollar, according to Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter links). Additionally, Denver has been denying interview requests for running backs Curtis Modkins, an indication that he’ll also return in 2019.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Rizzi, Bills, Jets

The Dolphins are one of three teams which still has yet to hire a new head coach, but they will meet with another potential Adam Gase replacement this week. Incumbent special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi will interview for the position on Friday, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. As Garafolo adds, other candidates that Miami has met with are still coaching in the postseason, so the club may not announce its next head coach any time soon. A former collegiate head coach at New Haven and Rhode Island, Rizzi is the only internal candidate the Dolphins are considering. Rizzi, 48, has been with the Dolphins since 2010, and last year led Miami to a No. 21 ranking in special teams DVOA.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Ex-Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong recently interviewed for the same role with the Bills, reports Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Armstrong, who had been Atlanta’s ST coach since 2008, was fired last week as the Falcons cleared out each of their coordinator roles. Based purely on performance, Armstrong posted a strong effort in 2018, as Atlanta ranked 10th in special teams DVOA. The 55-year-old Armstrong took two interviews for the Cardinals’ head coaching job last season, and was one of two candidates Bruce Arians personally recommended as a successor (the other being incumbent DC James Bettcher). He’s also been linked to Tampa Bay, where Arians is now head coach.
  • Quincy Enunwa‘s four-year extension with the Jets is worth $33.4MM in total and contains $10MM in full guarantees, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The 26-year-old wide receiver received a $9MM signing bonus, meaning his remaining guarantee will likely come via his 2019 base salary. Enunwa will collect a $6MM base salary in 2020, but that figure — for the time being — guaranteed for injury only. It’ll become fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2020 league year.
  • In case you missed it, Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard may not be a serious contender for the Jets‘ head coaching job, but he could the favorite to land the top gig with the Dolphins.

Kris Richard In Lead For Dolphins Job?

The Jets don’t have Kris Richard high on their list, but the rival Dolphins might. League sources believe that the Cowboys defensive backs coach will come away with the top job in Miami, according to Alex Marvez of SiriusXM (on Twitter). 

This is far from definitive word on the matter, but it sounds like Richard at least has a real shot at being the ‘Fins next head coach. For now, he’s in a fairly limited candidate pool that includes Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Patriots DC Brian Flores, in-house assistant head coach Darren Rizzi, and possibly Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, assuming that he does not sign an extension with Baltimore.

Speaking of Rizzi, his interview is scheduled to take place on Friday, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). So, barring something unexpected, we won’t see the Dolphins hire Richard or anyone else before the end of the week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Vikings, Browns, Dolphins, Jets

Right after the biggest coaching news of the cycle dropped with the Packers’ hiring of Matt Lafleur, we have a fresh batch of coaching rumors ready.

One of the most prominent coordinator openings is the Vikings’ offensive coordinator position. The team fired John DeFilippo midseason, and promoted Kevin Stefanski to that role. Although many initially thought Stefanski would be back in Minnesota, he is “unlikely to return”, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), who notes the team is “looking for depth of experience.” Robinson writes that former Titans head coach Mike Mularkey is a candidate for the job, and he thinks recently fired Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter is a candidate as well.

Koetter is indeed a candidate for the job, confirms Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune. A source told Goessling that Koetter is a strong candidate for the job. Interestingly both Koetter and Mularkey have interviewed for the Falcons’ OC job in recent days. Koetter was Atlanta’s playcaller before landing the job in Tampa Bay. Robinson writes that Koetter has been “presumed across the league to be a lock for the Falcons OC job”, but that Minnesota is “in play” for him as well.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Mike McCarthy has been linked to the Browns job ever since he was fired by Green Bay, but things appear to be cooling off between the two sides. Cleveland “talked with either Mike McCarthy or his reps today, but things are on hold for now while the Browns talk to other candidates”, sources told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. While it sounds like the Browns have put McCarthy on the back-burner, Demovsky notes he is still “very much in play for the Jets.”
  • Speaking of the Browns, the team completed their interview with interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens today, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. It’s unclear if Kitchens has a real shot at landing the head coaching job, as the back half of this season was his only experience even calling plays after he was promoted from quarterbacks coach, but he received a ton of praise for his work for Baker Mayfield. If he doesn’t get the job it’s highly possible he’s retained as OC by whoever takes over in Cleveland.
  • Pittsburgh’s offensive line coach Mike Munchak has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to leave the Steelers, and a source told Aditi Kinkhabwala of ESPN.com that he turned down an interview request from the Dolphins (Twitter link). Munchak has been very selective over who he’ll talk to in recent years, and it seems like the only way he’ll be on the move this cycle is if he lands the Broncos’ job. Recent reports have him as the “early favorite” for that gig.
  • We heard yesterday that the Jets were looking to set something up with Baylor coach Matt Rhule, and that meeting has apparently already taken place. The Jets “have discussed their head coaching vacancy” with Rhule, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Rhule has been buzzed about in NFL circles in recent years, as he’s done a great job turning around the programs at Temple and Baylor. He was considered for the Colts’ opening last year, but ended up removing his name from consideration.
  • The Dolphins were originally supposed to interview their special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi for their head coaching vacancy today, but the interview has been rescheduled for later in the week, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Rizzi is an outside the box candidate, but numerous former and current Dolphins players have lobbied for him to receive consideration. So far the Dolphins have interviewed Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, and Cowboys’ defensive playcaller Kris Richard in their search to replace Adam Gase. Whoever gets the job in Miami will likely have a new quarterback under center, as the team is expected

Dolphins To Interview Darren Rizzi

The Buccaneers won’t consider in-house candidates to fill their head coaching vacancy, but another Florida team will. The Dolphins are working to schedule an interview with special teams coach/assistant head coach Darren Rizzi, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB (on Twitter).

Rizzi has been with the Dolphins since 2010 and boasts previous head coaching experience at the collegiate level, though New Haven and Rhode Island aren’t exactly powerhouse programs. Regardless, the Dolphins think highly of him and at least want to give him a shot at replacing Adam Gase. Rizzi has said that Gase has been grooming him for an advancement in the coaching ranks, so this could be his opportunity to break through.

No matter who the head coach is, the Dolphins will be in for some serious roster upheaval in the offseason. The Fins are expected to cut defensive end Robert Quinn, defensive end Andre Branch, wide receiver DeVante Parker, and several other costly vets in an effort to get back over the .500 mark.

In addition to Rizzi, the Dolphins are said to be considering candidates such as Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard.

Coaching Notes: Jags, Fins, Ravens, Broncos

In the aftermath of this offseason’s head coaching searches across the NFL, Greg A. Bedard of SI.com asked three executives from successful franchises their thoughts on this year’s hirings. One opined that the league’s owners “have absolutely no idea what they’re doing” and that “most of these places are screwed up.” He also blasted the Jaguars’ decision to elevate Doug Marrone from interim head coach to the full-time position. “Look at Jacksonville. They keep Marrone—I mean, he was an assistant head coach on that team the past two years [8–24], was he not?—and say he’s by far the best candidate,” he stated. “After speaking to (Josh) McDaniels, (Kyle) Shanahan and Mike Smith? Are you kidding?”

Marrone coached the final two games of the Jaguars’ season, during which they went 1-1, after the firing of Gus Bradley. Before joining Jacksonville’s staff in 2015, Marrone worked as the Bills’ head coach and went 15-17 in two years. The club finished 9-7 on his watch in 2014, but Marrone then elected to opt out of his contract.

Now for the latest staff changes:

  • The Dolphins have named Frank Bush their assistant head coach/linebackers coach and promoted Chris Kuper from quality control coach to offensive line assistant, per Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel. Additionally, the team has designated special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi an associate head coach, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. The 54-year-old Bush will take over Miami’s linebackers from Matt Burke, who’s now the defensive coordinator. Bush spent the past four seasons coaching the Rams’ LBs.
  • The Ravens have announced the hiring of Joe D’Allessandris as their offensive line coach. He’ll replace Juan Castillo, who went to Buffalo. D’Allessandris oversaw the Chargers’ O-line from 2013-15.
  • The Broncos will name Johnnie Lynn their assistant defensive backs coach, a league source told Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. Lynn is familiar with the Broncos’ new head coach, Vance Joseph, as the two worked together in San Francisco from 2006-10. More recently, Lynn was with the Raiders from 2012-14.

AFC East Notes: Tannehill, Campbell, Whaley

With the Senior Bowl wrapped up and all four AFC East teams in offseason mode as Super Bowl 50 nears, let’s look at the latest news coming out of the division, starting with the Dolphins.

  • Ryan Tannehill‘s inconsistency notwithstanding, Mike Tannenbaum‘s seen enough from the fifth-year quarterback to avoid spending a draft pick or signing a free agent for legitimate competition, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. This isn’t too surprising. Miami gave Tannehill $77MM in new money last May to be their franchise quarterback, and ending a year that began with playoff expectations at 6-10, the team has other pressing needs.
  • The Dolphins have quite a few issues to sort out over the coming offseason, but chief among them will be overhauling their linebacking unit, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Kelvin Sheppard proved enough at middle linebacker, but per Salguero, the club is aware that it needs an upgrade at that spot. Further, Miami is likely to replace one of its two outside linebackers, with Koa Misi being the most obvious candidate to be cut given his 2016 cap charge of roughly $4.88MM (the Dolphins could save $4.3MM by making him a post-June 1 release). For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus graded Misi as the highest of Miami’s three ‘backers (No. 21), while Jelani Jenkins and Sheppard rated Nos. 38 and 84, respectively, among 97 qualifiers.
  • Although interim coach Dan Campbell reportedly did not take losing out to Adam Gase with the Dolphins well, the team’s interim coach last season still could have joined Gase’s staff but instead chose to join the Saints’ staff as assistant head coach/tight ends coach, Jackson writes. The Dolphins, however, prevented multiple teams from hiring special teams coach Darren Rizzi.
  • The Bears denied outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt to speak with Gase about becoming the Dolphins’ defensive line coach, Jackson reports, but Hurtt coming to Miami once his contract expires after this season could still be on the table. A former Miami Hurricanes assistant, Hurtt would be an attractive option, per Jackson, if the Fins’ front falters under Terrell Williams, who got the job after Chicago chose to block Hurtt’s path.
  • One GM told Lisa Wilson of the Buffalo News the Bills are trapped in “8-8 limbo” without certainty at quarterback and little money to spend this offseason. Another informed the reporter he applauded the team’s patience regarding Doug Whaley and resisting the urge to start over as many teams do in the Bills’ situation. Owners of the longest NFL playoff drought, the Bills are currently $3.4MM over the salary cap, per OverTheCap, but have strung together their most wins in a two-year span (17) since 1999-2000, the former season representing Buffalo’s last playoff advancement. Tyrod Taylor will also only count $3.13MM against the Bills’ cap next season.
  • Whaley also justified bringing in embattled veteran DC Rob Ryan as an assistant to help enhance Rex Ryan‘s productivity while helping unite the brothers against their critics. “If you look at it, Rob and Rex, they’ve had some troubles,” Whaley told media, including Wilson. “Their name is kind of like, ‘Hey, they’re the Ryans, what happened to their defense?’ So why not bring in your brother and try to reclaim that name? That’s the way I look at it. And who’s going to have your back more than your brother? I think it’s a positive. I know it’s a positive. Everybody in the building feels it’s a positive. It’s a positive for Rex, too. It can help him expand his horizons as the head coach and get into some other things.”

Dallas Robinson contributed to this report

AFC East Notes: Aponte, Dolphins, Pats, Lewis

Although there were some rumblings that longtime Dolphins executive Dawn Aponte would be heading to Detroit to help Lions GM Bob Quinn deal with contracts and the salary cap, Aponte will be staying in Miami, according to Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post and Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter links).

Let’s check in on some more items from out of the AFC East…

  • The fact that Adam Gase retained nine coaches from the Dolphins‘ old coaching staff doesn’t mean that he had trouble finding better candidates, writes Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. As Salguero explains, many of those coaches drew interest from other teams around the league, so it’s not as if they aren’t highly regarded — special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, for instance, had four interview requests, all of which the Dolphins turned down, says Salguero.
  • While the Patriots will have some potential free agents to deal with this offseason, the team’s priority may be to lock up the “big four” defenders who could reach the open market after the 2016 season, says Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. New England has a little over a calendar year to explore extension for cornerback Malcolm Butler, defensive end Chandler Jones, and linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower. In Reiss’ view, the latter three players could all be in line for deals that exceed $8MM annually — Butler will be a restricted free agent, so he should be relatively affordable for at least one more year beyond 2016.
  • Running back Dion Lewis, who signed a contract extension with the Patriots in the fall, is currently on track to be recovered from his torn ACL in time to participate in training camp, writes Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.

Dolphins Finalize Coaching Staff

The Dolphins have finalized Adam Gase‘s coaching staff for the 2016 season, announcing today in a press release that a number of assistants have been added or retained. The team had previously confirmed the hires of Clyde Christensen as offensive coordinator and Vance Joseph as defensive coordinator, among others, so today’s announcement doesn’t feature any major changes, but a few key roles have been filled.Lou Anarumo

[RELATED: Dolphins hire Adam Gase as head coach]

Here’s a breakdown of some of the noteworthy additions, promotions, or assignments announced today:

  • Danny Barrett, running backs coach
  • Ben Johnson, assistant wide receivers coach
  • Chris Kuper, offensive quality control
  • Lou Anarumo, defensive backs coach
  • Terrell Williams, defensive line coach
  • Charlie Bullen, assistant linebackers coach
  • Rusty McKinney, defensive quality control
  • Darren Rizzi, assistant head coach/special teams
  • Marwan Maalouf, assistant special teams
  • Dave Puloka, head strength and conditioning coach

Anarumo is perhaps the most interesting name on the list, since he finished the season as the Dolphins’ interim defensive coordinator after taking over for Kevin Coyle last October. Anarumo interviewed for the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator job earlier this month, but ultimately returned to Miami in the same role that he held for the club prior to his promotion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.