Darren Rizzi

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.

Coaching Rumors: Dolphins, Giants, McDermott

After hiring Adam Gase, the Dolphins are acting quickly to form their new coaching staff.

But few holdovers are expected. According to Fox Sports’ Alex Marvez (on Twitter), only special teams coach Darren Rizzi to be retained. All of the Dolphins’ other assistants, excepting possibly Dan Campbell, will be fired.

Campbell’s status remains uncertain. The interim coach for most of 2015, Campbell reportedly finished second in the race to become the Fins’ next full-time head coach.

A Marvez report Saturday linked Bengals secondary coach Vance Joseph, whom the Fox reporter has set to head to Miami as the team’s defensive coordinator, and a number of position coaches to comprise Gase’s defensive staff.

Here are some more coaching-related items as wild-card weekend concludes.

  • Although Hue Jackson has emerged as a candidate late in the process, the frontrunners to become Tom Coughlin‘s successor with the Giants are offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and Jaguars assistant head coach Doug Marrone, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports. McAdoo’s familiarity with Eli Manning and his helping the quarterback to a career resurgence is driving his candidacy, with the 38-year-old only having two seasons of coordinator experience. With Vacchiano noting the 51-year-old Marrone may not retain McAdoo if he becomes coach, Big Blue avoiding another offensive reboot will factor into its decision.
  • Both Vacchiano and the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz report John Mara prefers a candidate with head-coaching experience. Vacchiano points McAdoo in the Eagles’ direction if they are indeed serious about hiring Tom Coughlin. Schwartz believes Mara sees similarities in Mike Smith, who will interview with the team on Monday, and Coughlin. Their ages (Smith is 56; Coughlin was 57 when hired in 2004) and histories as head coaches are similar, and Schwartz notes Smith is one of Coughlin’s top confidants among head coaches.
  • The Giants, per Vacchiano, have also discussed requesting permission to interview Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, but since they didn’t do so during the Panthers’ bye week, the Giants must wait until either Carolina’s season concludes or the Panthers’ potential Super Bowl bye week.
  • The Browns did interview the 41-year-old McDermott on Sunday, Andrew Gribble of ClevelandBrowns.com reports. A defensive coordinator since 2009, with the Eagles and Panthers, respectively, McDermott also interviewed with the Buccaneers.
  • Jackson spoke with the Browns for 3 1/2 hours and talked with the 49ers for five hours Sunday in Cincinnati, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Cleveland’s now interviewed seven candidates. The 49ers have met with five, according to Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.
  • The Colts offered 49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster the same position in Indianapolis, Marvez reports (on Twitter). The Dolphins offensive coordinator in 2004, Foerster’s been an offensive line coach with the Ravens, Washington and the 49ers since 2005. He’s served multiple stints in San Francisco, presiding over the 49ers’ line from 2008-09 and returning to the Bay Area in 2015 after five seasons in Washington.

East Notes: Giants, Dolphins, Enemkpali

Ex-Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor on Sunday night, and while he was in town, Umenyiora weighed in on his former teammate, Jason Pierre-Paul. As Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes, Umenyiora thinks JPP is “just happy he’s alive” after his fireworks accident, but he remains very optimistic about a comeback.

“If anybody could do it, it’ll be him,” Umenyiora said. “He’s a powerful, athletic football player. I relied more on technique: He was just more athleticism. A guy like that, he’d be able to [come back]. … He’s still young. He’s going to be able to play football. I don’t know if it’s going to be this year, but he’s going to be able to play.”

As we wait to see when Pierre-Paul might be able to return to the field, here’s more from around the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Sunday night’s performance was a quintessential example of why the Giants extended Eli Manning with a lucrative new contract prior to the season, writes Ian O’Connor of ESPN.com.
  • The Dolphins announced today in a press release that special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi has been elevated to an assistant head coach position. According to the team, Rizzi will continue to oversee the special teams unit while working with new head coach Dan Campbell.
  • Speaking of Campbell, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald identifies the 10 biggest issues that the Dolphins‘ interim head coach must fix in order to turn the team’s season around.
  • As Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets, the Bills will have until 3:00pm central time today to either add IK Enemkpali to their 53-man roster or cut him. If the club chooses to activate Enemkpali, who is returning from a four-game suspension, another player would need to be removed from the roster.