Dave Ragone

Falcons Hire Dean Pees, Dave Ragone

Previously rumored Falcons plans came to fruition Thursday. Arthur Smith will bring Dave Ragone aboard as his offensive coordinator, and the first-year Falcons coach has a big role planned for the recently retired Dean Pees.

The former Titans defensive coordinator will again come out of retirement, committing to become the Falcons’ DC. The Falcons are also hiring Marquice Williams as their special teams coordinator.

While Pees and Smith served as Titans coordinators together in 2019, this will be Ragone’s first run as OC. Working as Bears QBs coach for the past five years, this will represent a move up for the ex-quarterback — the first known target for this post.

Ragone, 41, will not, however, have an immediate path to a play-calling role. Smith’s play-calling chops helped him draw interest from all seven head coach-seeking teams this year, and he confirmed he will call plays in Atlanta.

For Pees, this marks unretirement No. 2. Mentioned early as a likely to join Atlanta’s staff, Pees will skip any advisory or consulting roles and jump back into the play-calling fire.

Pees left his post as Ravens DC after the 2017 season but re-emerged as the Titans’ defensive boss ahead of the ’18 campaign. Pees, 71, stuck to retirement for a season this time around — which coincided with a Titans defensive regression — but will return to lead a fourth team’s defense. Pees served as Patriots defensive coordinator from 2006-09 and led the Ravens’ defense for six seasons beginning with their Super Bowl-winning 2012 slate. Of Pees’ 12 defenses, only one has ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed.

Williams has worked as assistant special teams coach with the Chargers and Lions, working in that capacity with Detroit for the past two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Bieniemy, Texans, Falcons

With the Eagles requesting an interview with Eric Bieniemy, the Chiefs offensive coordinator is now 7-for-7 in meeting requests during this hiring period. However, the third-year OC has again run into issues on the interview circuit. Despite being Andy Reid‘s right-hand man during the most successful period in Chiefs history, Bieniemy may go a third cycle without landing a coaching job. It is trending in that direction, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports tweets. Bieniemy did not interview well on the whole last year and has encountered similar issues during this cycle, according to Tony Pauline and Benjamin Allbright of ProFootballNetwork.com.

Although the Texans changed course and submitted a request to speak with Bieniemy, as they deal with a disgruntled Deshaun WatsonCBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora notes that interview is doubtful to commence. With the Chiefs’ bye week over, any team wishing to meet with Bieniemy going forward must wait until Kansas City’s season ends. If the No. 1-seeded Chiefs make it back to the Super Bowl, the remaining jobs may be filled by then. Three teams have filled their positions; the Lions are soon expected to hire Saints assistant Dan Campbell; the Chargers may be zeroing in on Bills third-year OC Brian Daboll. This would leave only the Houston and Philadelphia jobs available. Though Bieniemy not being his team’s primary play-caller makes him an atypical HC candidate from the offensive side of the ball, it would certainly be strange if he exited another offseason without landing a coaching gig.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Staying with the Texans, they will interview another Bills coordinator this weekend. They will speak with Buffalo DC Leslie Frazier on Sunday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Frazier, who has been Buffalo’s defensive play-caller, has re-emerged on the HC radar after four seasons as Buffalo’s DC under Sean McDermott. Support is building for Frazier with the Texans, La Canfora notes. Since the Vikings ended Frazier’s three-plus-year run as their head coach after the 2013 season, he has been a coordinator for two teams (the Bucs and Bills) and coached the Ravens secondary in between.
  • In hiring Arthur Smith, the Falcons almost certainly have their offensive play-caller in place. But they have identified a Smith right-hand man in Bears passing-game coordinator Dave Ragone. The Chicago assistant has emerged as an early favorite to become Atlanta’s OC, with ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweeting a Smith-Ragone partnership running the Falcons’ offense has a “good chance” of happening. Ragone has been with the Bears since 2016.
  • Now that Chuck Pagano has retired, the Bears are on the lookout for a new defensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and safeties coach Sean Desai stand to be the top internal candidates to succeed Pagano, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). Rodgers served as D-line coach under John Fox in Denver and followed him to Chicago in 2015. Rodgers’ contract expires next week, and Rapoport notes he is expected to be a DC candidate for other teams as well in the coming days.
  • Marion Hobby will make a move to another AFC team’s defensive staff. The Bengals are hiring the veteran assistant as their D-line coach, Ben Baby of ESPN.com tweets. Hobby, who spent six seasons as Clemson’s co-defensive coordinator under Dabo Swinney, coached the Dolphins and Jaguars’ D-lines in the four seasons since. Hobby was with Jacksonville when the team’s “Sacksonville” D-line drove a run to the AFC title game.

Bears To Hire John DeFilippo As QBs Coach

The Bears have hired former Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo as their new quarterbacks coach, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Incumbent Chicago quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone is being promoted to passing game coordinator.

DeFilippo didn’t last long in the free agent coaching ranks after being let go by Jacksonville earlier this week. The 41-year-old spent only a single season with the Jaguars, leading an offense which ranked 24th in offensive DVOA and 26th in scoring.

In Jacksonville, DeFilippo was dealt an early blow when free agent addition Nick Foles went down in Week 1, but he was able to coax a reasonable performance out of sixth-round rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew. The Jaguars represented DeFilippo’s third OC job, and neither of his first two gigs (with the Browns and the Vikings) lasted more than one year, either.

In Chicago, DeFilippo will work alongside Ragone and new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in an effort to right the Mitchell Trubisky ship. Head coach Matt Nagy will retain play-calling duty, but DeFilippo, Ragone, and Lazor will surely all have a hand in not only Trubisky’s continued development, but the Bears’ weekly game-planning.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Blackburn, Bears, Browns

The Panthers will be making a change atop their special teams staff. Incumbent special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is out, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer tweets, and the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez reports (on Twitter) Chase Blackburn will now run Carolina’s special teams units. A former linebacker who won two Super Bowls with the Giants and finished his career with the Panthers, Blackburn had been working as the Panthers’ assistant ST coach for the past two years.

Here’s the latest from the coaching ranks.

  • For the first time since 2010, someone other than Chris Tabor will oversee the Browns‘ ST units. Amos Jones will relocate to Cleveland to take over as the team’s special teams boss, Marvez tweets. Jones coached the Cardinals’ ST groups during Bruce Arians‘ five-year stay in Arizona. Tabor is now the Bears’ ST coordinator.
  • Rumored to be a candidate to stay in Chicago despite the Bears‘ coaching change, Dave Ragone will indeed stay on as the team’s quarterbacks coach, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports. This comes after the Bears interviewed both ex-Raiders OC Todd Downing and Texans assistant Pat O’Hara for the job. Ragone could be in line for an extension, Biggs notes, with one year remaining on his Bears contract.
  • Biggs also notes Vic Fangio believes most, if not all, of his defensive assistants will remain on staff. The Bears finished as the No. 14 DVOA defense in 2017 and retained Fangio despite his contract having expired.
  • The TitansSteve Wilks HC interview took place Thursday. Both Wilks and Texans DC Mike Vrabel interviewed for this job today. Wilks remains a candidate for the Cards’ HC job.
  • Speaking of the Cardinals‘ HC position, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic tweets James Bettcher likely won’t need a second interview to be hired. Should the Cards determine their current DC is the right man for the job, Somers notes his five years of experience working with the team should be a sufficient judge rather than a second meeting for the HC job.
  • The Raiders continued to add to their coaching staff this week, bringing aboard four new assistants to Jon Gruden 2.0’s first staff. Recently jettisoned Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac will land in Oakland as its D-line instructor, and Byron Storer will be the team’s assistant special teams coach. Trgovac coached Green Bay’s defensive lines from 2009-17. The 33-year-old Storer played for Gruden as a fullback in Tampa Bay from 2007-08 but hasn’t coached in the NFL since working with the 2013 Chargers. Additionally, Tim Berbenich and Travis Smith will be offensive and defensive quality control coaches, respectively. Smith’s been a Raiders assistant for most of this decade. He served as outside linebackers coach in 2017 after being promoted from the quality control group last year.

Coaching Rumors: DeFilippo, Chiefs, Raiders

John DeFilippo interviewed for the Cardinals’ HC job, but if the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach does not land it, he could be an offensive coordinator option elsewhere. DeFilippo’s contract expires at season’s end, Albert Breer of SI.com reports. The second-year Eagles QBs coach looks to have caught the eye of Steve Wilks, who has interviewed for two HC jobs. Breer notes Wilks would want DeFilippo to run his offense if he lands an HC job. Interestingly, Wilks’ best path to said job looks to be with the Cardinals. The Bears met with DeFilippo as well but have already selected their next HC.

Here’s the latest from the coaching ranks.

  • While Wilks and DeFilippo could be connected, Josh McDaniels and Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus may be a possible pairing as well. Breer notes the Patriots’ OC accepting a head-coaching job could lead to Eberflus becoming McDaniels’ DC. Eberflus has coached Dallas’ linebackers since the 2011 season. Prior to that, he served as the Browns’ LBs coach.
  • The Chiefs made quick work of replacing since-promoted Eric Bieniemy as their running backs coach. They interviewed USC running backs coach Deland McCullough for the position on Thursday and will hire him, Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports. McCullough, 45, played for the Bengals and Eagles in the late 1990s and coached the likes of Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard at Indiana during a six-year stay as the Hoosiers’ RBs boss. He coached at USC for one season.
  • Bobby Johnson received a Raiders HC interview that is being scrutinized by the NFL, since it may have happened after a Mark Davis/Jon Gruden agreement, but Johnson won’t be a part of Gruden’s 2018 staff. The Raiders are firing their tight ends coach and are expected to hire Bears tight ends coach Frank Smith, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). A previous contender for the Oakland offensive line coaching job, Smith coached the Bears’ tight ends for three years.
  • The Raiders are casting a wide net for their next O-line coach. Former Patriots and Dolphins OL boss Dave DeGuglielmo is in the mix and will interview Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Dolphins, who hired DeGuglielmo to replace the fired Chris Foerster in October, granted permission for this meeting. Miami hired Jeremiah Washburn to coach its O-line, so this would seemingly pave a path out of south Florida for DeGuglielmo.
  • New Packers DC Mike Pettine hired former Giants and Patriots defensive assistant Patrick Graham, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. A Patriots staffer from 2009-15, coaching both New England’s defensive line and linebackers, the 38-year-old Graham is expected to be in charge of Packers ‘backers in some capacity, per Silverstein. Green Bay’s ILBs job is available, and Graham prefers to coach linebackers rather than D-linemen, Silverstein notes.
  • The Bears are interested in Texans offensive assistant Pat O’Hara to become their quarterbacks coach, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets. O’Hara and Matt Nagy were both Arena League quarterbacks in the 2000s, although O’Hara is 10 years older than Nagy. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets an O’Hara hire doesn’t mean incumbent QBs coach Dave Ragone will be dismissed. Ragone, a former wideouts coach with the Titans, was a possible candidate to stay despite a new HC’s hire.

Coaching Notes: Wilks, Bears, Chiefs, Cards

Steve Wilks has set up three interviews for this week. The Giants will receive the first opportunity to meet with the Panthers’ DC, with ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson reporting (on Twitter) Wilks will trek to New Jersey to meet with the Dave Gettleman-led group on Tuesday before flying to Arizona to meet with the Cardinals on Wednesday. Following those meetings, the Colts will host Wilks on Thursday, Mike Wells of ESPN.com tweets. These aren’t the only teams interested in securing a sitdown with Wilks. The Lions remain interested in doing so as well, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

The Giants will complete both Wilks’ and Eric Studesville‘s interviews by Wednesday, with the former Broncos running backs coach set for a Wednesday powwow, per ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan (Twitter link). This duo will mark the fifth and sixth interviews the Giants will have conducted. After these summits, Big Blue management could be ready to make a decision. With the Eagles still in the playoffs and no Jim Schwartz interview conducted, it could put the Giants to a decision: wait on Schwartz and risk losing some of these aforementioned candidates or hire one of them instead.

Here’s the latest from the coaching circuit.

  • A possible favorite has already emerged to replace Matt Nagy as the Chiefs‘ OC. Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy will be “strongly considered,” Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The 48-year-old Bienemy served as Colorado’s OC from 2011-12 and has coached the Chiefs’ running backs since Andy Reid‘s arrival in 2013. Bienemy could have a clearer path to this job with former K.C. OC Brad Childress planning to retire.
  • Nagy wants to retain Vic Fangio with the Bears, both Peter Schrager of NFL.com and the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs note (Twitter links). But Fangio has interest elsewhere — from the Bengals and Packers — and could opt to depart Chicago after being passed over for the HC job.
  • Chicago may also look to retain a few assistants who worked under John Fox. Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone is a candidate to stay under Nagy despite the new HC making his NFL name by working with QBs. The Bears respected Ragone’s work with Trubisky, Rich Campbell of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets, and adds Nagy and Ragone share an agent. Biggs tweets tight ends coach Frank Smith and defensive line coach Jay Rodgers are candidates to stay put as well.
  • The Browns‘ interviews with OC candidates Ken Zampese and Sean Ryan will take place this week. Rapoport reports (via Twitter) Zampese will receive the first meeting, which will occur today, with Ryan’s interview scheduled for Wednesday. A second-generation NFL assistant, Zampese spent the past 15 seasons with the Bengals before his second year as OC ended after just two games. A nine-year Giants staffer who is currently the Texans’ QBs coach, Ryan does not have any history with Hue Jackson like Zampese does.
  • Ron Rivera does not anticipate the Panthers making any staff changes beyond possibly replacing Wilks, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. This would mean OC Mike Shula is in line to return for a sixth season.
  • Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong‘s Cardinals interview is set for Monday in Atlanta, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports. Armstrong is allowed to interview under NFL rules despite the Falcons winning in the wild-card round.

Coach Rumors: Ragone, Titans, Manusky, Giants

While the 49ers have been making the most news today in forming their new coaching staff under Chip Kelly, here is the latest from around the league, starting in Chicago.

  • The Bears hired former Texans quarterback and Titans quarterback coach Dave Ragone as their new quarterback coach, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Bears wide receiver coach Mike Groh was also considered for the job, Rich Campbell of Chicago Tribune tweets. The 36-year-old Ragone worked with new Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, Chicago’s previous QBs coach who was promoted last week, with the Titans. Ragone coached the Titans’ quarterbacks in 2013 and instructed their wideouts during the previous two seasons. He spent this past season as an offensive quality control coach in Washington. Prior to that, he began his coaching career guiding Josh McCown with the Hartford Colonels of the now-defunct United Football League.
  • Longtime offensive line coach Russ Grimm will head to Nashville to become the Titans‘ offensive line coach, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports tweets. Grimm hasn’t coached since 2012, which was his final year of a six-season stay with the Cardinals. The 56-year-old Grimm, a Hall of Fame Washington guard, began his coaching career as Washington’s tight ends coach in 1992, a year after retiring before beginning as the team’s line coach in 1997. Grimm crossed paths with Titans HC Mike Mularkey during his time in Pittsburgh (2001-06), where Mularkey served as the offensive coordinator from 2001-03.
  • New Browns DC Ray Horton planned to hire ex-Browns defensive lineman Nick Eason for his defensive staff, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports (on Twitter), but the Titans promoting him from assistant defensive line coach to defensive line coach convinced him to stay in Tennessee.
  • The Giants hired former Eagles outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern to be their linebackers coach, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). McGovern spent 23 years coaching at various colleges in the northeast before teaching the outside backers with the Eagles under Kelly the past three seasons.
  • Washington hired another former player and longtime coach to preside over its outside linebackers, adding Greg Manusky to its staff, Andrew Walker reports on the team’s website. Manusky began his career in Washington, but only coached there in 2001. The 49-year-old former linebacker served as defensive coordinator for the Colts from 2012-15 before being fired earlier this month. He was previously the DC for the 49ers and Chargers for a combined five seasons.
  • Former Panthers and Bears safety Chris Harris will serve as the Chargers‘ assistant defensive backs coach, Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk reports. Harris worked as a quality control coach with the Bears in 2013-14 and played for the Panthers toward the end of current Chargers HC Mike McCoy‘s lengthy stay in Charlotte. Harris replaces Greg Williams, whom the Colts recently hired as their DBs coach.

North Notes: Allen, Gordon, Bears, Packers

Asked today during a press conference if he has confidence that cornerback Cortez Allen can be an impact player going forward, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin admitted that he’s not convinced of that, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). Since signing a four-year, $24.6MM extension about a year and a half ago, Allen has struggled significantly — he was benched in 2014 and missed nearly all of the 2015 season with a knee injury.

While it’s possible that Tomlin’s comment was a motivational tactic for Allen heading into 2016, it seems more likely that the club simply plans on moving on from the cornerback. Releasing him this winter would only save $1.7MM against the cap, but the club could increase those savings for 2016 to $4.4MM by designating Allen as a post-June 1 cut and pushing some of his dead money to 2017.

As we wait to see what the Steelers plan on doing with Allen, let’s check in on a few more items from out of the NFL’s North divisions….

  • Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has filed for reinstatement from his year-long suspension, believes he has a “good chance” of having that application approved, says Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). According to Cole, Gordon has been working out in California and keeping his distant from bad influences as he looks to return to the NFL for the 2016 season.
  • With Dowell Loggains ascending to the Bears‘ offensive coordinator job to replace Adam Gase, the club will need to name a new quarterbacks coach. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, wide receivers coach Mike Groh is an in-house candidate for that role. Biggs also identifies former Louisville quarterback Dave Ragone as a potential option for Loggains’ staff, though Ragone may still be under contract with Washington.
  • Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com has the details on which Packers players cashed in on per-game roster bonuses this season.
  • The Packers brought in wide receivers Kadron Boone and Jimmy Jean for workouts, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter).