January 17th, 2018 at 6:35pm CST by Dallas Robinson
John Morton‘s firing may have come as a surprise to many, especially given that the Jets’ 2017 offense performed much better under Morton than most could have hoped. However, there may have been more to the dismissal, as Connor Hughes of NJ.com reports Morton and New York head coach Todd Bowles “clashed” throughout the season. Per Hughes, Bowles often made suggestions to Morton that were ignored, while other assistants on the Jets’ staff also took issue with Morton’s style. Meanwhile, Lions quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan could emerge as a candidate to replace Morton, as the Jets wanted to hire Callahan a year ago, per Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitterlink), adding that Callahan has garnered offensive coordinator interest in each of the past two offseasons.
The Dolphins have hired former Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek for the same position in South Beach, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. In Miami, Kocurek will not only reunite with star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who worked with Kocurek in Detroit from 2009-13. Kocurek, whose possible defection to Miami was first reported by Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, will replace ex-Dolphins DL coach Terrell Williams, whose contract was not renewed. The Lions have now lost several assistants from the defensive side of the ball, including coordinator Teryl Austin, who took the same role with the Bengals.
We’ve been hearing for several weeks that the Lions are set to make MattPatricia their next head coach, and a report tonight from Albert Breer backs this sentiment. Breer tweets that the Lions have been informing other candidates that they’ve been eliminated from contention for the gig, and the organization is moving forward with the assumption that Patricia will be their head coach once the Patriots’ season ends.
Despite rumblings that Patricia had more interest in the Giants head coaching gig, reports from this morning indicated that Patricia would ultimately accept the Lions job. There have been whispers that Patricia would land in Detroit since the beginning of January, and there were even rumors that he could take the Lions job before the team fired former coach Jim Caldwell.
The Patriots defensive coordinator seems to be a natural fit for the Lions, especially when you consider his relationship with general manager Bob Quinn (who previously worked in New England). After working his way up through the Patriots coaching staff, Patricia was named defensive coordinator back in 2012. In six seasons in the role, the Patriots’ defense has never ranked lower than tenth in points allowed.
Our Head Coaching Tracker shows that Patricia was only one of many candidates to be interviewed by the Lions. The organization also reached out to 2017 coordinators Teryl Austin and Jim Bob Cooter, Packers assistant head coach Winston Moss, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, and Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.
This sounds familiar. Although Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was said to prefer the Giants’ head coaching job to the Lions’, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets that Patricia is expected to become the Lions’ next head coach, as we heard last week.
Patricia, whose defense was quite impressive in New England’s win over the Titans last night, has been a hot head coaching candidate for several years now thanks to his overall body of work with the Pats. Even before the Lions parted ways with former head coach Jim Caldwell, there were plenty of reports linking Patricia to Detroit, as he has a preexisting relationship with Lions GM Bob Quinn stemming from Quinn’s tenure with the Patriots.
And on January 6, it was reported that the Lions would indeed hire Patricia. Just several days later, however, Peter King of TheMMQB.com indicated that Patricia preferred the Giants to the Lions, which threw something of a wrench into this season’s coaching carousel. But Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that his understanding all along has been that Patricia would accept the Lions’ job. Indeed, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes, Detroit would have moved on to other candidates if it did not believe Patricia was coming to the Motor City.
Of course, as New England’s season is not yet over, the Lions and Patricia will have to wait to make things official. Birkett adds (via Twitter) that Patricia is likely to retain Detroit’s incumbent offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter.
Don’t expect to see him coaching on the sidelines anytime soon either. The six-time Pro Bowl wideout said: “Coaching just takes up too much time,” Johnson said. “I got to the building pretty early when I was playing and coaches were already there and they leave after the players. As far as spending time with family, that’s what I was looking forward to.”
If he does make a return to the game in either capacity, don’t expect it to be with the Lions. The relationship between the team and Johnson is still fractured after the team demanded $1MM be returned from a 2012 signing bonus. Johnson ultimately gave the money back but the gesture severed ties between the two parties. Though Detroit has reportedly made attempts to salvage the relationship, Johnson has denied any contact has been made.
Since retiring in 2015, Johnson has served as a consultant around the league and has worked with receivers in Oakland and Miami. In nine NFL seasons, Johnson recorded 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and led the league in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons in 2011-12.
If Patricia is offered the Giants’ head coaching position and accepts, it will have a domino effect reaching Detroit and beyond. If Patricia goes to the Giants, the Lions may pivot to Houston defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, King hears. If that happens, Vrabel would be out of the running for the Colts’ HC job.
The Giants were abysmal in 2017, but they have lots of talent to work with on defense including cornerback Janoris Jenkins and defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. If Patricia can get underperforming youngsters like Eli Apple on the right track, the Giants could return to having one of the better defensive units in the NFL. The Giants also have the No. 2 overall pick at their disposal, so Patricia’s preference towards New York is understandable.
Here are the latest reserve/futures contract signings from around the NFL. These deals will go into effect on the first day of the 2018 league year, with players joining their respective clubs’ offseason 90-man rosters:
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 Raiders are looking to soup up their staff. Head coach Jon Gruden has set his sights on Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and hopes to hire him as the team’s assistant head coach/defensive backs coach, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
Austin is also being chased by the Bengals, who are hoping to have him replace Paul Guenther as their defensive coordinator. Instead, Austin could follow Guenther to Oakland and work alongside him. Austin would not have as much autonomy with the Raiders, but he would have the opportunity to work with a better defense on the whole. He might also be able to finagle a high-paying four-year deal like the ones given to Guenther, offensive coordinator Greg Olson, and special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.
Austin also interviewed for the Lions’ head coaching vacancy, but he is not expected to come away with the job. Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is reportedly the favorite in Detroit and he’ll likely look to bring in his own people. It seems unlikely that Austin will not be back with the Lions in 2018, but he has plenty of options elsewhere in the NFL.
A sought-after name on the HC interview circuit in recent offseasons, Teryl Austin may be backing off those pursuits for the time being.
While he interviewed for the Lions’ HC job, the Bengals are negotiating with Austin to become their next defensive coordinator, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, adding the deal is not yet finalized but that could be imminent.
The 52-year-old assistant’s been the Lions’ DC for the past four seasons. Prior to that, he spent three seasons in command of the Ravens’ secondary. Austin, who also oversaw the Seahawks’ and Cardinals’ secondaries during the 2000s, conducted a whopping 12 HC interviews over the past three offseasons. He spoke with the Rams and Chargers last season only to see those teams move in different directions.
Austin’s Lions defenses have not been top-tier units over the past three seasons. Statistically, they topped out at No. 18 in 2015 and ’16 in total defense before dropping to 27th in that category this season. In 2014, though, the Lions finished second in total defense to put Austin on the HC map.
The Bengals had hoped to keep Paul Guentherin charge of their defense, but he plans to join Jon Gruden’s staff in Oakland. Cincinnati also sought Bears DC Vic Fangio, but it appears Bengals brass is ready to hire Austin.