Gregg Williams

Coaching Notes: Jets, Lewis, Bears, Daboll

The Adam GaseGregg Williams arranged marriage dissolved at the 11th hour, after the defensive coordinator’s bizarre final-seconds play call ended up keeping the Jets winless. To some degree, Gase had soured on the polarizing DC earlier this season. The second-year Gang Green head coach “fumed” after Williams’ indirect shot at the Jets’ offense, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes, adding that the soon-to-be-fired HC was upset Williams voiced frustration in that manner. In a split setup in which Gase ran the offense and Williams oversaw the defense, Cimini adds Gase would learn of Williams’ defensive lineup changes on Fridays before games on certain occasions. This regime’s issues may cause the Jets to re-evaluate how they pair coaches next year.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Josh Allen‘s rise could well push Bills OC Brian Daboll to a coaching job in 2021. The expectation around the league is that the third-year Bills coordinator will land an HC gig, Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com note. Several jobs will be available, and the ESPN duo adds that the Chargers — given that Daboll and Bolts GM Tom Telesco went to high school together — may be the destination to monitor. While the Chargers have not fired Anthony Lynn, who is well-liked by Bolts players, the team is 3-9 after a 5-11 season. This would point to Lynn likely being ousted after his fourth season in Los Angeles.
  • Unlike the Texans, the Falcons and Lions will not be using a search firm as they look for new HCs, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Longtime front office exec Rich McKay will presumably lead Atlanta’s search, while team president Rod Wood remains in power in Detroit.
  • After two seasons out of the NFL, Marvin Lewis has resurfaced on coaching radars. The longtime Bengals HC’s name has continued to come up for possible 2021 gigs, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah tweets. He is expected to land interviews, according to ESPN. Lewis interviewed for the Cowboys post that went to Mike McCarthy and was connected to the Washington job that went to Ron Rivera. The Vikings also sought him for a defensive role in 2019. Lewis, 62, currently serves as Arizona State’s co-defensive coordinator under Herm Edwards.
  • While Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald would stand to be the Bearstop choice — were they to replace Matt Nagy — the prospect of the longtime Big Ten leader rising to the NFL is quiet, per Graziano and Fowler. After Northwestern’s 2018 season, Fitzgerald said he would not consider NFL jobs. But the pandemic may have made him more receptive to making the jump. The Bears figure to be the leading candidate, were Fitzgerald to express interest. And Bears minority owner Pat Ryan, also a Northwestern alum, is a big fan of the current Wildcats HC, per ESPN.
  • The Broncos will have their defensive coordinator back after his extensive bout with COVID-19, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Ed Donatell, 63, believed he was nearly recovered from the coronavirus, but on Day 9 of his battle with it, he experienced symptoms severe enough he needed to be hospitalized. The second-year Denver DC, who had never previously missed a game in his coaching career, missed six games. He will coach from the press box Sunday against the Panthers.

Jets Fire DC Gregg Williams

The Jets have fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). The move comes after the Jets latest loss to the Raiders, dropping them to 0-12. 

[RELATED: Jets Eyeing Eagles HC Doug Pederson?]

Fans have mostly directed their ire towards head coach Adam Gase this year, but, so far, the Jets have resisted calls for his firing. For now, Williams is the lone coach to get the heave-ho, but no one would be surprised to see additional house cleaning between now and the end of the year. It’s worth noting that the Jets also employ Williams’ son — Blake Williams — as a defensive assistant.

Williams has built a career as a defensive guru, but his Jets unit ranked 29th in the NFL this year. The last straw might have come on Sunday when he called an all-out blitz on the final play, leaving one outmatched cornerback to guard Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs burned him and scored a 46-yard touchdown, costing the Jets their first W of the season.

In Williams’ defense, this Jets team was clearly not built to win. That was clear when the Jets shipped safety Jamal Adams to the Seahawks and later sent linebacker Avery Williamson to the Steelers. They’ve also been sans C.J. Mosley, though it’s fair to wonder how much the high-priced linebacker would have helped.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: McDaniels, Cowboys, Rhule

Two years ago, Josh McDaniels had assistants ready to follow him to the Colts. Multiple staffers did so, even though the Patriots assistant backed out of the agreement. This time around, McDaniels looks to have a staff lined up again. McDaniels is now “very much ready” to leave New England, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, adding that the longtime Patriots play-caller has Redskins OC Kevin O’Connell and Colts defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon set to be key players on his staff (should McDaniels accept a job if offered). The Redskins are interested in retaining O’Connell, their offensive coordinator this season, but his NFL years began as a quarterback under McDaniels during the latter’s first stint as Patriots OC. Gannon joined the Colts’ staff in 2018. Like McDaniels, Gannon is a Cleveland-area native. He was a scout with the Rams during McDaniels’ one season in St. Louis.

McDaniels is the frontrunner for the Browns job. He will interview with the Panthers on Tuesday, the Giants on Wednesday and the Browns on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Here is the latest from the coaching carousel:

  • Matt Rhule had issues with the Jets attempting to overrule him on staff decisions, but Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes the Giants would not do the same. The Giants would let Rhule select his assistants, and the Baylor HC is believed to have candidates in place to follow him to New York if hired. Former Giants assistant and current Lions QBs coach Sean Ryan and Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow are believed to be Rhule’s coordinator choices should he land either the Giants’ or Panthers’ HC jobs, Vacchiano reports. Ryan, 47, held a key role with the Texans from 2017-18 but was with the Giants for nine years, including in 2012, when Rhule was on staff. Snow, 64, has been Rhule’s DC at Temple and Baylor. He coached with the Lions from 2005-08.
  • Had the Jets hired Rhule last year, Jets management would have insisted Gregg Williams be attached as defensive coordinator, per Vacchiano. Previous GM Mike Maccagnan also had an issue with Ryan bringing brought aboard as OC. Ryan ended up in Detroit instead.
  • As for Giants incumbent defensive coordinator James Bettcher, the front office was not exactly pleased with his game management nor were Giants brass happy with the entire defensive staff, Vacchiano adds. Lacking in talent and depth at linebacker and cornerback, the Giants ranked 31st in pass-defense DVOA. Bettcher’s better-stocked defensive front, however, produced the No. 7 run-defense DVOA figure.
  • Not only is Mike McCarthy a fan of 30-year-old Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Jerry Jones spoke of his desire to keep the young coordinator on staff in each of the Cowboys’ interviews, Breer notes. The Cowboys promoted Moore to OC last year, and Dak Prescott had by far his best season as a passer under the former Dallas quarterback’s guidance.
  • The Falcons will not retain passing-game coordinator/defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, according to The Athletic’s Jason Butt (on Twitter). Henderson has been with the Falcons since 2016. Additionally, the Falcons interviewed Joe Whitt for their secondary coach position, Butt notes. Whitt spent the 2007 season as Atlanta’s assistant DBs coach before being on Green Bay’s staff for the next 10 seasons. He coached the Browns’ DBs under Freddie Kitchens.

Latest On Redskins’ HC Plans, Front Office

After little emerged on the Redskins front for weeks following Jay Gruden‘s firing, the struggling franchise is dominating the early-weekend news cycle. Bruce Allen‘s role as team president is not safe, with a Black Monday dismissal being considered.

The Redskins are considering firing their 10-year front office czar, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports, adding that Allen may have a chance to remain with the organization in a non-football role. That would be an interesting setup given Allen’s tumultuous tenure in Washington, but Dan Snyder is pondering widespread changes to his football operations department.

Replacement options for Allen include ex-Texans GM Rick Smith and former NFL executive-turned-TV analyst Louis Riddick, La Canfora adds, noting Snyder has done research on a few personnel execs. Smith resigned from his Houston post after the 2017 season but is open to returning to the league. Riddick worked with the Redskins from 2001-07, serving as a scout and pro personnel director. He subsequently held the same role with the Eagles.

As for Washington’s HC opening, Snyder has “strong interest” in Ron Rivera, per JLC. The longtime Redskins owner is also interested in Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, ex-Jets HC and current Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles, longtime Bengals HC Marvin Lewis and former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. These are consolation prizes, though, with La Canfora reporting Snyder’s primary hope is to work out a trade for Mike Tomlin. Snyder is not optimistic about such a deal. The prospect of bringing the Virginia native to Washington surfaced two-plus months ago.

The prospect of bringing aboard a defensive coach opens the door to Washington sticking with top offensive incumbents Bill Callahan and Kevin O’Connell. Snyder is high on both his interim HC and first-year OC, according to La Canfora. Callahan expressed interest in staying on, though it’s not known if he would stick around under another head coach, and O’Connell has been the primary Dwayne Haskins developer this season. Snyder was the driving force behind the Redskins’ Haskins pick, overruling Gruden.

Allen has not excelled in Washington, but neither have most of the head coaches under Snyder. The Redskins have not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons under the 21st-year owner.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kevin O’Connell Serious Candidate For Redskins’ HC Job

Redskins offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is expected to receive serious consideration for the team’s head coaching post, as Mark Maske of the Washington Post writes. O’Connell, 34, has been with Washington since 2017, and this season is his first as the Redskins’ OC.

Before Washington elevated him from passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach in January, O’Connell garnered interest from multiple other teams. For all of the Redskins’ problems, they have had a number of young and talented coaches rise through their ranks — Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, and Kyle Shanahan, to name a few — and apparently there is a belief that O’Connell can follow in their footsteps.

Washington is near the bottom of the league in points per game and yards per game this year, but the offense is largely bereft of talent at the skill positions and along the O-line, so it would be difficult to hold the performance of O’Connell’s unit against him. As Maske notes, the real question will be whether O’Connell, interim HC Bill Callahan, or an outside candidate will be best-suited to maximize Dwayne Haskins‘ potential.

Owner Dan Snyder has not had much problem luring big-name head coaches to the nation’s capital; the problem has been making it work once those coaches arrive. Plus, team president Bruce Allen could be an obstacle. One of Maske’s sources, an agent who represents coaches, said that no coach worth his salt will accept an HC job with the Redskins as long as Allen is in charge of personnel.

In addition to O’Connell, Maske names Gregg Williams, Marvin Lewis, and Mike McCarthy as big names who could attract Snyder’s interest.

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AFC Notes: Steelers, Brown, Jets, Texans

We first heard earlier this week that Steelers receiver Antonio Brown had been involved in some sort of domestic dispute last month. Shortly after details came out, and Brown was accused of having shoved his daughter’s mother to the ground, with the NFL announcing they would investigate. Brown denied any wrongdoing, and today his attorney pushed back even further. Brown’s lawyer forcefully denied Brown did anything wrong, accusing the mother of being in the wrong in the situation regarding Brown’s daughter, and said Brown did not get violent in any way, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN (Twitter link).

The lawyer also elaborated that Brown is now filing for custody of his daughter in court. It’s yet another dramatic chapter in the saga surrounding the Steelers, and while the situation is still very murky as of right now, we’ll almost certainly have more details soon.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Speaking of organizational drama, the Jets have found themselves in a mini controversy of their own. It was reported a few days ago that there was already some tension between new head coach Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, as the team objected to Williams bringing his son Blake Williams onboard as a coach. While the team eventually relented and added the younger Williams as a defensive assistant, the drama doesn’t end there. Rich Cimini of ESPN.com has a great breakdown of the situation unfolding, as Gase hired his own father-in-law Joe Vitt as an assistant coach as well. Vitt and Williams have a longstanding beef, as both were members of the Saints’ coaching staff during the infamous bountygate scandal. According to Cimini, Vitt testified against Williams during the league’s hearings on the scandal, and accused him of lying. They’ll now be serving on the same staff together again, and it’ll be very interesting to see if the bad blood has been put to rest.
  • Last week, the Texans promoted Tim Kelly to offensive coordinator. Head coach Bill O’Brien has called plays in the past, but O’Brien left the door open for Kelly to call plays during a recent radio interview, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). “There’s no doubt in my mind that Tim Kelly is ready to call plays”, O’Brien said, before adding that it would be “a collaborative effort.” Kelly was previously the team’s tight ends coach.
  • In case you missed it, suspended Patriots and Raiders receivers Josh Gordon and Martavis Bryant may apply for re-instatement in the next couple of months.

AFC East Notes: Brady, Dolphins, Jets

Following the Patriots‘ third Super Bowl title of the decade, they again have their legendary quarterback going into a contract year. Robert Kraft is on board with another Tom Brady extension, but no talks have commenced yet, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Brady has never played into a contract year. While some uncertainty existed around Brady’s place with the Patriots last offseason, Breer adds the key parties are on good terms this year. The 41-year-old quarterback said before Super Bowl LIII he was not going to retire, and an extension would bring down his $27MM cap number. Brady signed team-friendly deals in 2013 and ’16 around the Combine those years.

With the quarterback market finally making big strides over the past year and change, Brady’s demands could justifiably increase. Brady’s historic contributions to the franchise notwithstanding, Bill Belichick may not be wild about a possible $30MM-AAV contract for Brady that runs into future Hall of Famer’s mid-40s, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran offered during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show (video link). Of course, with the Patriots an annual title contender and no heir apparent in place, it would seem unthinkable a Brady pact does not get done this offseason.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Although Ryan Tannehill is not expected to return to the Dolphins, GM Chris Grier said no decision has been made on that front. The Dolphins are expected to trade or release Tannehill, and the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson tweets a photo of the seven-year Dolphin quarterback has been removed from their press room. Grier wants input from Brian Flores and his new staff on the 30-year-old quarterback, but the Dolphins are expected to move on from their six-season starter. With an eye on the 2020 quarterback class, they are not believed to be targeting a high-priced free agent to replace Tannehill, either.
  • Armed with nearly $100MM in cap space and a GM potentially on the hot seat, the Jets make sense as Le’Veon Bell‘s buyer. While one report indicated New York won’t use a bank-breaking approach to land the All-Pro running back, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes the Jets are still zeroed in on Bell. The soon-to-be 27-year-old back is still believed to prefer the Colts, per Vacchiano, but Indianapolis may not view him in the same light.
  • Some turmoil has already hit Gregg Williams‘ new team. Mike Maccagnan and Adam Gase initially did not view Blake Williams as a hiring priority for the Jets’ defensive staff, and this irked Blake’s father, according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. Gregg Williams was frustrated with Maccagnan and Gase, but the new Gang Green DC won out, with Blake Williams signed on as linebackers coach. Blake upset some Rams staffers during his time as St. Louis assistant, before being fired after the 2013 season, Cimini notes, adding the young coach has developed somewhat of a polarizing reputation.
  • The Jets may have an issue trading Leonard Williams, with a $14.2MM salary due, but Vacchiano points out the general consensus around the NFL is the 2015 top-10 pick has been misused in New York. With the Jets moving to a 4-3 look under Gregg Williams, Leonard Williams is not a lock to be back. Of course, Gregg Williams may view the former 3-4 defensive end as a weapon in his scheme. The Jets are light on surefire front-seven talent, so their new DC might want some capable veterans to stay.

Jets Rumors: Gase, Harbaugh, McCarthy

The Jets’ coaching search technically started with the firing of Todd Bowles on Dec. 30, but they were mulling their options much earlier than that, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY hears. Although Bowles had a contract through the 2020 season, the Jets started doing their homework in mid-November after an embarrassing 41-10 home loss to the Bills.

Despite their denials, the Jets had early interest in Jim Harbaugh, Vacchiano hears. The Jets did background work on the Michigan head coach, but ultimately concluded that he wasn’t the right fit, possibly due to his desire for too much power, too much money, or a lack of desire to leave Ann Arbor.

Here’s more on how the Jets’ coaching search unfolded, plus other news out of New York/New Jersey:

  • The Jets started asking around about Mike McCarthy after he was fired by the Packers in December, but they were concerned about his sensitivity to criticism and how it might be amplified by the New York press, Vacchiano hears. There were also reports that McCarthy would consider sitting out the 2019 season, which may have given the Jets additional pause. McCarthy’s interview was not bad, per se, but Vacchiano hears that he did not hit it out of the park.
  • Adam Gase, on the other hand, leaped over McCarthy with a strong interview in which he displayed the energetic personality that the Jets wanted. Even though Gase went 23-25 in three years with the Dolphins, the Jets did not forget about his reputation as a hot offensive assistant just three years ago, Vacchiano writes.
  • New Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has agreed to a three-year deal with the club, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Before the Jets hired him, the Redskins made a push to land him as their DC.

Redskins Pursued Gregg Williams

The Redskins went hard after defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, sources tell ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). However, Adam Gase and the Jets wanted Williams more and they landed him on Tuesday

Williams didn’t have teams knocking down his door with head coaching offers, but he did draw interest from multiple clubs with DC vacancies. He’ll forever be associated with the Saints’ Bountygate scandal, but teams are clearly not bothered by his role in that fiasco. And, in time, it’s not hard to envision Williams getting a crack at head coaching jobs if things go well in New York.

Lost in the midst of the Williams talk is that the Redskins actually have a defensive coordinator. Greg Manusky is still under contract, but it’s sounding more and more like they’ll be making a change before the start of the 2019 season. Manusky, 52, has been with the Redskins since 2016 and has served as their DC since 2017.

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Jets To Hire Gregg Williams As DC

The Jets are finalizing a deal with former Browns’ interim head coach Gregg Williams to become their defensive coordinator, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Williams was the defensive coordinator the Jets were targeting no matter who their head coach was, Schefter adds. 

The Jets have denied pushing certain assistants on candidates Matt Rhule and Mike McCarthy. Whether you choose to believe the Jets on that front is up to you, but it appears that they had a heavy hand in marrying new head coach Adam Gase and Williams.

Williams was widely mocked during the year for his assertion that several teams wanted him as a head coach. He may have been pumping himself up a bit, but things improved on both sides of the ball during his eight-game run as the Browns’ interim coach in 2018. Ultimately, the Browns chose interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens as the man to run things going forward, but Williams managed to boost his stock a bit in the latter half of the year.

With the Jets, Williams inherits an iffy defense, but one that has potential in the secondary and a solid defensive lineman in Leonard Williams. The Jets have no real pass rush to speak of, but they hope to change that with upwards of $100MM in cap room.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.