Greg Williams

West Notes: Broncos, Cardinals, 49ers

Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and the rest of the Broncos‘ pass rushers will have a new coach in 2019, as Denver has announced Brandon Staley as its new outside linebackers coach. Staley had worked in the same role with the Bears for the past two years, and he’ll follow ex-Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Mile High City. After leading Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd in Chicago, Staley will now be tasked with taking over a Denver pass rush that ranked ninth in adjusted sack rate a season ago. The Packers also had interest in interviewing Staley, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, but the Bears evidently didn’t want him to remain in the NFC North, so they blocked the request.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Staley isn’t the only coach headed to Denver, as the Broncos have also hired Wade Harman as their new tight ends coach, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Harman was Atlanta’s offensive line coach in 2014, but switched to tight ends in 2015 and remained in that role through last season. He played a role in the development of Austin Hooper, who posted career-highs in receptions (71), yards (660), and touchdowns (four) last year. Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman is a pending free agent, but even if he doesn’t return, Harman will work with young options such as Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli, each of whom ended the 2018 campaign on injured reserve.
  • The Broncos are interviewing former guard Chris Kuper for their assistant offensive line coach job, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Kuper, who spent his entire playing career (2006-13) in Denver, coached in Miami for the past three seasons. He’d be working under one of the NFL’s best offensive line coaches in Mike Munchak, who was hired earlier this week. In 2018, the Broncos ranked as a top-11 club in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders.
  • Former Broncos safety Renaldo Hill is back with the club as secondary coach, tweets Klis. Hill’s playing career actually ended after general manager John Elway cut him following the 2010 season, but he’s gone on to an impressive coaching career since, and Klis notes Hill is considered a “rising star” in the coaching ranks. After six years in the college ranks, Hill acted as the Dolphins’ assistant defensive backs coach in 2018.
  • The Denver-to-Arizona connection is still going strong: the Cardinals have hired ex-Broncos coaches Marcus Robertson (defensive backs) and Greg Williams (assistant DBs), per Rapoport and Klis (Twitter links). Robertson and Williams will continue to work under new Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who helmed the Broncos from 2017-18. In addition to Joseph, Robertson, and Williams, the Cards also brought former Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler aboard.
  • After hiring a new defensive line coach in Kris Kocurek, the 49ers will retain pass-rushing specialist Chris Kiffin, reports Matt Barrows of The Athletic. The son of Monte Kiffin and brother of Lane Kiffin, Chris Kiffin joined San Francisco in 2018 after previously serving in the college ranks.

Joe Woods Deciding Between Cards, Redskins

Former Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods will interview for the Redskins’ defensive backs coach job, and then decide between joining Washington or the Cardinals in the same role, according to Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link).

Woods, who succeeded Wade Phillips as Denver’s defensive coordinator in 2017, doesn’t appear to be generating any DC interest around the NFL despite leading a defense that’s ranked top-10 in DVOA in each of the past two seasons (including fifth in 2018). Arizona would seem to be a natural destination for Woods, as he’d once again be working under ex-Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, who was recently hired as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator.

Meanwhile in Denver, co-defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson is not expected to return as a member of new head coach Vic Fangio‘s staff, and he’s also drawing interest from the Cardinals, tweets Klis. The Broncos’ other secondary coach — Greg Williams — won’t be back either, and he’s been linked to the Panthers and the Lions, per Klis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Assistant Coaching Rumors: Broncos, Browns, Packers, Rams, Buccaneers

Now that the head coaching carousel is pretty much wrapped up, everyone’s attention will now be turning to the assistant coaching ranks. One team that has a lot to sort out is the Broncos, now that we know Gary Kubiak won’t be joining as the team’s offensive coordinator. Broncos defensive backs coach Greg Williams won’t be returning next year, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9News (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Klis writes that league sources told him Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will be a “top target” of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio to join his defensive staff. In a third tweet, Klis notes that the Browns are targeting Chris Strausser, who currently coaches the Broncos’ offensive tackles, to join Freddie Kitchens’ staff in Cleveland.

Here’s the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Matt LaFleur is the Packers’ new coach, and while it has already been announced that he’ll be bringing back defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the rest of the defensive coaches, he still needs to round out his offensive staff. Jets WR’s coach Karl Dorrell will interview for the same position with Green Bay, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Dorrell got his start under Mike Shanahan, who LaFleur also used to coach under, so the connection is there.
  • The Rams are losing Zac Taylor to the Bengals, as their 35-year-old quarterbacks coach will take over the head coaching gig in Cincinnati, and they almost lost another assistant. Senior offensive assistant Jedd Fisch had an interview for the head coaching vacancy at Temple, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapoport also notes that Fisch, the former Jaguars and UCLA offensive coordinator, could be “an option to fill a key offensive position next year” with the departure of Taylor.
  • Byron Leftwich wasn’t able to do much after taking over as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator this season, but Bruce Arians has a ton of confidence in his new offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers. Arians called Leftwich a “rising star” and said Arizona’s offensive struggles were because they weren’t running Leftwich’s offense, per Nick Shook of NFL.com. It’s been rumored that Arians views Leftwich as his eventual successor when he retires from coaching for good.

AFC West Notes: Chiefs, Jones, Broncos Staff

Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones suffered a torn MCL in last Saturday’s playoff defeat and will be sidelined for eight-to-ten weeks, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Now that Kansas City has been eliminated from the postseason, Jones won’t be forced to miss any game action, and his recovery timeline means he’ll be ready to go well ahead of organized team activities. Jones, the 37th overall selection in the 2016 draft, has been force during his two years with the Chiefs, and last season graded as the NFL’s No. 11 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus. He’s under contract through 2019.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Zach Azzanni has been named the Broncos‘ new wide receivers coach, reports Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link). A longtime collegiate wideouts coach, Azzanni began his NFL career with the Titans in 2013 before leading the Bears’ pass-cathcers last season. Chicago’s wide receivers didn’t offer much production in 2017, but the club also boasted one of the league’s worst wide receiving corps, so it’s difficult to assign Azzanni much credit or blame. In Denver, he’ll work with a unit that includes veteran such as Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and younger players like 2017 rookie Carlos Henderson.
  • The Broncos have also hired a new defensive backs coach in Greg Williams (not to be confused with the Browns defensive coordinator), as Mike Klis of 9News writes. Williams, who has also coached with the Chargers, spent the past two seasons as the Colts’ defensive backs coach, where, as Klis notes, he helped turned former journeyman Rashean Mathis into something of a shutdown corner. Williams will work alongside Marcus Robertson, who will return as Denver’s primary secondary coach.
  • Fred Pagac won’t return to Denver next season, but the Broncos don’t intend to hire another outside linebackers coach to fill his job, per Klis (Twitter link). Instead, the Broncos intend to bring in a dedicated “pass rush” coach who will operate with Denver’s defensive lineman and linebackers. Incumbent LBs coach Reggie Herring will now lead both inside and outside ‘backers.

Coaching Notes: Bills, Bucs, Jags, Texans

The Bills have made a groundbreaking hire, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, as they’ve named Kathryn Smith a special teams quality control coach. Smith is the NFL’s first-ever full-time female assistant coach. She previously served in lesser roles under Rex Ryan with both the Jets and Bills.

Regarding Smith’s hiring, Ryan said, “She has proven that she’s ready for the next step, so I’m excited and proud for her” (Twitter link via The Buffalo News’ Tyler Dunne).

Other coaching news from around the NFL . . .

  • New Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter will call the team’s offensive plays, but he still plans to hire an O-coordinator (Twitter link via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times).
  • The Jaguars expect to have a defensive coordinator in place by Monday, tweets Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. The front-runner for the job is defensive line coach Todd Wash, per O’Halloran (Twitter link). As PFR’s Coordinator Tracker shows, Jacksonville has also shown interest in some currently available outside candidates, having interviewed Jerome Henderson, Marquand Manuel and Lou Anarumo for the job.
  • In other Jaguars news, assistant coach coach Doug Marrone will return for a second season with the club, per O’Halloran. Marrone interviewed for four different head coaching vacancies in recent weeks, but those teams hired other candidates.
  • Paul Pasqualoni has stepped down as the Texans’ defensive line coach after just one season because of family reasons, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (on Twitter). Anthony Weaver, who coached Cleveland’s D-line the past two seasons, could take Pasqualoni’s spot.
  • The Colts have named Greg Williams their secondary coach, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Williams was San Diego’s assistant secondary coach the previous three seasons.
  • With Terry Robiskie on his way to Tennessee, the Falcons’ wide receivers coach position is open. Atlanta will likely promote offensive assistant Mike McDaniel to take Robiskie’s place, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. McDaniel previously coached wideouts in Washington (2013) and Cleveland (2014).
  • Changes are coming to the Lions’ strength and conditioning staff, as the club has fired coordinator of physical development Jason Arapoff and assistant strength coach Ted Rath, writes Tim Twentyman of the team’s website.

East Rumors: Giants, Jets, Pats, Eagles

A couple of rumblings from the teams in the Eastern divisions…

  • Jacoby Jones turned down more money from the Giants to re-sign with the Ravens, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
  • Linval Joseph, who was signed by the Vikings, said today that the final offer he got from the Giants was nowhere close to what he got from Minnesota, tweets Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
  • The Jets have expressed interest in recently reinstated cornerback Brandon Brownertweets Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. However, at this time, it appears unlikely that he’ll end up with Gang Green.
  • Jason Avant, who hit the market early after being released by the Eagles, will visit with the Patriotstweets Field Yates of ESPN Boston.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (on Twitter) surmises that if another team really wanted Patriots free agent receiver Julian Edelman, he’d be signed by now. The wide receiver market isn’t terribly hot at the moment.
  • Malcolm Jenkins said the Raiders and Rams showed interest before he decided to sign with the Eagles, says Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly (via Twitter). As Mosher points out, Rams’ defensive coordinator Greg Williams was Jenkins’ coach with the Saints.

Zach Links contributed to this post.