Darren Rizzi

Saints To Hire Darren Rizzi

One of the league’s most respected special teams coaches is headed to New Orleans. The Saints have hired former Dolphins ST coordinator Darren Rizzi, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). New Orleans has officially announced Rizzi’s hiring.

This week, the Saints chose to move on from their previous special teams staff, which was headed by veteran guru Mike Westhoff. Rizzi will now step in after courting interest from multiple clubs around the league, including the the Bills, Jets, Lions, Packers, and Vikings.

In addition to serving as the Dolphins’ ST coordinator, Rizzi also carried the title of Assistant Head Coach. After the firing of Adam Gase, the Dolphins interviewed Rizzi for the job. When Rizzi didn’t get the gig, he resolved to move on.

The Saints’ dismissal of Westhoff was surprising to many, including Westhoff himself. In 2017, Westhoff’s first year with the team, the Saints’ ST unit improved from 25th in the league to 14th, per Rick Gosselin’s annual rankings. In 2018, they ranked second overall.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Staff Notes: Broncos, Redskins, Eagles

A few pipelines have led to the Broncos this offseason. Following’s Ed Donatell Chicago-to-Denver move alongside Vic Fangio, another 49ers staffer will take a key job on the Broncos’ staff, joining new OC Rich Scangarello. T.C. McCartney, an offensive assistant with San Francisco, will become Denver’s new quarterbacks coach, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. McCartney interviewed on Tuesday, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link), and represents a unique addition to the Broncos’ staff. The 29-year-old assistant is the grandson of former Colorado Buffaloes head coach Bill McCartney. It will be T.C. McCartney’s first NFL time as an NFL position coach.

But the latest pipeline to lead to the Denver staff is the most interesting. The Broncos will hire another former Wagner College assistant, with Rob Calabrese set to become a Broncos offensive assistant, per Klis. Scangarello and Calabrese worked together at the Division I-FCS, Staten Island, N.Y., program in 2016, with Calabrese succeeding Scangarello as Wagner’s OC and serving in that capacity for the past two seasons. (Fun fact: former Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton is an assistant at Wagner.)

Here is the latest from coaching staffs around the league:

  • Although Jim Tomsula‘s Redskins contract had expired, the parties look to have worked out another agreement. Tomsula will return as Washington’s defensive line coach, the team announced Tuesday. This will be the former 49ers HC’s third season instructing Redskins defensive linemen.
  • Washington did some staff rearranging Tuesday, shifting Kevin O’Connell to OC and Matt Cavanaugh to an advisory role. Ken Zampese met with the Redskins about O’Connell’s old QBs coach job, per Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio (Twitter link). The Browns fired Zampese from his quarterbacks coach post after one season, which included overseeing the development of Baker Mayfield. He previously served as the Bengals’ OC. Prior to that promotion, Zampese worked as Cincinnati’s QBs coach from 2013-15, the first of those years overlapping with Jay Gruden‘s Cincy tenure.
  • The five teams that coveted former Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi — the Bills, Jets, Lions, Packers and Vikings — are no longer in the running for Rizzi, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets. But two other teams are interested. Rizzi and incoming Dolphins HC Brian Flores met recently and decided to part ways, per Salguero (on Twitter).
  • Former Dolphins DC Matt Burke will land on the Eagles‘ staff, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Burke succeeded Vance Joseph as Miami’s DC and held the job for two seasons, both of which ending with the Fins being among the worst at preventing points.

Dolphins To Hire 4 Assistants, Part Ways With Darren Rizzi

One of the other candidates for the position Brian Flores will soon take, Darren Rizzi‘s near-decade-long stay with the Dolphins will come to an end.

The Dolphins will not retain their longtime special teams coordinator, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami will instead hire former Buffalo ST coordinator Danny Crossman to take over in that role, per ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter).

Additionally, former Texans OC (and 2018 Lions quarterbacks coach) George Godsey will be the Dolphins’ new tight ends coach, and former Fins wideouts coach Karl Dorrell will be back for a second stay in this job, Yates adds. Pat Flaherty will join the staff as offensive line coach, Alex Marvez of Sirius XM reports (on Twitter).

Flores wanted to move in another direction for his new team’s ST coach, per Jackson, who adds Rizzi also did not want to come back after being bypassed for the HC post. Rizzi, who has received significant interest on the market this offseason, may have a new gig soon. He is in advanced stages of negotiations with another team, Jackson notes.

While Flores’ arrival will mean most of Miami’s assistants will be new hires, running backs coach Eric Studesville will be back, per Marvez (on Twitter). So will defensive backs coach Tony Oden, Jackson adds.

In the event of a Rizzi exit, the Dolphins placed Crossman on their radar weeks ago, Marvez tweets. The Bills fired him after a six-year tenure as their ST coordinator. The Dolphins have been Rizzi’s only NFL employer, hiring him in 2010 and promoting him to ST boss a year later. Miami led the NFL with 11 punts blocked in that span.

Matt Patricia‘s continued overhaul of the Lions’ staff meant more Jim Caldwell-era holdovers were out. Godsey stayed on during Patricia’s first season, moving to quarterbacks coach in 2018. Flaherty had worked with Tom Coughlin in 14 of the past 15 years, mentoring the Giants’ O-line for 12 seasons and spending the past two slates working with the Jaguars’ blockers.

Dorrell was Miami’s receivers coach from 2008-10. Conversely to how things have been moving this offseason, with Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains going from the Dolphins to the Jets, Dorrell will head from the Big Apple to south Florida. He coached New York’s wideouts during each of Todd Bowles‘ four seasons. The Packers interviewed Dorrell for their WRs job, which remains vacant.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Vikings, Bears

The Packers will not be hiring Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Green Bay was reportedly one of five teams with interest in Rizzi, who also holds the title of assistant head coach in Miami, but the two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement. Per Silverstein, Rizzi’s price tag is believed to be “high,” but he’s still expected to land with another club in the near future. The Dolphins would like to retain Rizzi (whom they interviewed for head coach), but they figure to install an all-new staff under presumptive head coach Brian Flores, so it’s unclear if there is still a fit in South Beach.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Like the Packers, the Vikings expressed interest in hiring Rizzi, but they’ve since gone in another direction. Minnesota has hired Rizzi’s assistant in Miami, Marwan Maalouf, as their new special teams coach, tweets Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio. Maalouf served as the Colts’ special teams coach in 2012 before joining Miami the following season. He’s replacing Mike Priefer, who left the Vikings to take the Browns’ ST job. Last year, the Vikings ranked 20th in Football Outsiders’ special teams metrics, while the Dolphins were one spot behind at No. 21.
  • Rick Dennison preferred to stay on as the Jets‘ offensive line coach under new head coach Adam Gase, but New York instead hired Frank Pollack to guide their front five. However, both the Vikings and Packers remain “strong possibilities” for Dennison, per Marvez (Twitter link). Dennison had been expected to immediately follow Gary Kubiak — who was recently hired as a Vikings’ offensive advisor — to Minnesota, but that union hasn’t yet happened. Green Bay, meanwhile, has already hired Adam Stenavich as its offensive line coach, so Dennison would come aboard in a different position.
  • Early reports suggested the Packers were interested in retaining incumbent tight ends coach Brian Angelichio, but Green Bay has instead hired Falcons quality control/assistant offensive line coach Justin Outten as their new TEs coach, tweets Silverstein. Angelichio was one of a few assistants that was expected to stick around under new Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur, but things must have changed over the past several weeks. Outten, for his part, joined Atlanta as an intern in 2016, and was coaching in the high school ranks as recently as 2015.
  • The Bears hired former Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino last week, and now Chicago has formally announced his title. Monachino will serve as a senior defensive assistant/outside linebackers coach under defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who previously employed Monachino in both Indianapolis and Baltimore.

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.