Heath Farwell

AFC Coaching Notes: Browns, Bengals, Bills

Freddie Kitchens‘ first Browns staff has some big names, and it will include a high-profile coach from north of the border. Sascatchewan Roughriders head coach Chris Jones will step down from that post and join the Browns’ defensive staff, according to CFL News (Twitter link). Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com confirmed (via Twitter) Jones will trek to Cleveland with the title of “senior defensive specialist.” An NFL out clause existed in Jones’ Roughriders contract. Jones has been part of four Grey Cup-winning staffs, including a 2015 championship as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. He was also a graduate assistant under Gene Stallings at Alabama in 1997, when Kitchens was a Crimson Tide quarterback. Jones was the Roughriders’ coach for three seasons, completing two winning campaigns in his final two years there. He will join a Browns staff that now features coordinators Steve Wilks and Todd Monken.

More out of Cleveland and the latest from the AFC side of the coaching carousel:

  • The Browns also may be on the verge of reuniting Wilks and Al Holcomb, the Cardinals’ 2018 DC and former Panthers linebackers coach. Holcomb will interview for an unspecified role with the Browns on Wednesday, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (on Twitter). Multiple teams covet Holcomb, per Person. This marks the first known interview for Holcomb, who’s worked with Wilks for the past six seasons.
  • Ed Donatell and the Broncos are close on a deal that would bring the longtime Vic Fangio coworker to Denver as defensive coordinator, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. This deal figures to get done soon, with Mike Klis of 9News suggesting (via Twitter) this could be more of a formality. The Bears are trying to retain Donatell to coach their defensive backs, after giving Chuck Pagano Fangio’s old job, Klis adds. But with Donatell interviewing for a DC role — a job title he has not held in 11 years — with Fangio, it points to the Bears losing another key defensive staffer.
  • The Bills interviewed veteran offensive line coach Joe Philbin recently but will instead name Bobby Johnson as their new O-line coach, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM reports (on Twitter). This will be Johnson’s second stint in Buffalo, the first coming under Chan Gailey. Johnson’s last role in Buffalo was assistant O-line coach. In 2018, he served in that role under since-jettisoned Colts offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. Johnson will relocate quickly. DeGuglielmo remains unattached.
  • A higher-profile Buffalo staff vacancy will be filled as well. The Bills are hiring former Panthers assistant Heath Farwell to run their special teams, Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer tweets. The 10-year NFL veteran served as an assistant ST coach with Seattle and Carolina, his Panthers tenure coming after Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott had already departed for Buffalo.
  • After Paul Alexander‘s 20-plus-year run as Bengals offensive line coach, the franchise will soon have three O-line instructors in three years. Frank Pollack is out after one season, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Pollack was previously the Cowboys’ O-line coach, and under his stewardship, the Bengals made the biggest single-season improvement in yards per carry in franchise history. Cincinnati rushers collectively averaged 4.69 yards per carry last season.

Coaching Rumors: Giants, Texans, Chiefs

New Giants head coach Pat Shurmur will call his own offensive plays in New York but still plans to hire an offensive coordinator, and Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski is a “strong candidate” for the position, sources tell Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Stefanski, of course, worked under Shurmur in Minnesota, and is now a candidate to take over Shurmur’s old role with the Vikings (where he’d presumably get the opportunity to call games). Minnesota, however, is also considering former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell and Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan for its coordinator job, so if Stefanski isn’t promoted, he could conceivably bolt for New York. Meanwhile, Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley is a “name to watch” for the Giants’ OC position, while ex-Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin could also “be in the mix,” per Vacchiano.

Here’s more on the 2018 coaching carousel:

  • Former Raiders and Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano will join the Texans as a linebackers coach, reports Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Specifically, Pagano is now a senior defensive assistant who will coach outside linebackers, while Bobby King — already on Houston’s staff — will coach inside ‘backers, per Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link). Pagano, the brother of former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, spent five years as the Chargers’ DC before landing with the Raiders in 2017. When Oakland fired Ken Norton Jr. midway through last season, Pagano stepped in as the club’s defensive coordinator.
  • The Chiefs will promote offensive quality coach Mike Kafka to quarterbacks coach, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. Kafka, 30, originally entered the league as a 2010 fourth-round of Andy Reid‘s Eagles and went to play for six other clubs before hanging up his cleats. He coached at Northwestern (his alma mater) before joining Kansas City’s staff in 2017. Reid’s coaching tree is obviously impressive, and the past two men to serve as quarterbacks coach under his employ — Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy — are now head coaches with the Eagles and Bears, respectively.
  • The Titans also have a new quarterbacks coach: former Texans offensive assistant Pat O’Hara, tweets John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who adds ex-Texans defensive assistant Shane Bowen is now Tennessee’s outside linebackers coach. O’Hara interviewed for the Bears’ quarterbacks coach job earlier this year, but Chicago ended up retaining Dave Ragone for the role. Meanwhile, new Titans assistant coach Kerry Coombs will indeed lead defensive backs in Tennessee, meaning he’ll coach the same position group that he did at Ohio State, tweets Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel offered incumbent secondary coach Deshea Townsend a job as Coombs’ assistant (read: a demotion), but Townsend will instead leave the club.
  • The Panthers have hired Air Force defensive coordinator Steve Russ as their new linebackers coach, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Russ will replace Al Holcomb, who followed Steve Wilks to Arizona earlier this week to become the Cardinals’ new defensive coordinator. Although he enjoyed a four-year pro career, the 45-year-old Russ has never coached at the NFL level. He’s been at Air Force since 2012, and previously spent time at Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Ohio. Carolina has also added former Seahawks assistant special teams coach Heath Farwell for the same role, reports Omar Ruiz of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Coaching Rumors: Titans, Lions, Packers

Although at least one report indicated new Titans head coach Mike Vrabel would overhaul the majority of Tennessee’s coaching staff, that’s not necessarily the case, says Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com (all Twitter links). Tight ends coach Arthur Smith, assistant special teams coach Craig Aukerman, and assistant wide receivers coach Luke Steckel will join previously-reported defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend in interviewing with Vrabel during the Senior Bowl. Among the coaches who will part ways with the Titans include offensive line coach and NFL Hall of Famer Russ Grimm (who is retiring), quarterbacks coach Jason Michael, running backs coach Sylvester Croom, defensive assistant Brandon Blaney, and assistant defensive backs coach Steve Jackson.

Here’s more from the 2018 coaching carousel:

  • The Lions are expected to revamp their defensive coaching staff under new head coach Matt Patricia, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). That should come as no surprise given Patricia’s defensive background, and the current Patriots DC spoke with members of the Detroit staff last week to inform them they aren’t part of the club’s 2018 plans, per Birkett. Specifically, Lions linebackers coach Bill Sheridan and defensive backs coach Alan Williams have been fired, reports Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. The Lions, of course, have already lost a number of defensive staffers to other teams, as former defensive coordinator Teryl Austin joined the Bengals while ex-defensive line coach Kris Kocurek landed with the Dolphins.
  • The Packers will continue their staff overhaul under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine by hiring former Bowling Green safeties coach Ryan Downard, likely as a defensive quality control coach, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links). Downard was an assistant under Pettine in Cleveland before heading to BGSU, so there is a level of familiarity between the two. Downard’s addition does not have an effect on the status of incumbent cornerbacks coach Darren Perry, per Silverstein. Meanwhile, La Canfora (via Twitter) has clarified Jason Simmonsrole change with Green Bay, noting that he’s been moved to secondary coach.
  • The Panthers are interviewing Seahawks assistant special teams coach Heath Farwell for the same position, reports Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link). If hired, Farwell would work alongside former NFL linebacker Chase Blackburn, who was recently named Carolina’s new special teams coach. Farwell, an ex-NFL ‘backer in his own right, joined the coaching ranks in 2016.
  • The Seahawks have mutually parted ways with senior defensive assistant Travis Jones, the club announced today. Jones had served as Seattle’s defensive line coach from 2013-16 before being bumped to a new role last season. He’s just the latest coach to leave the Seahawks’ staff this month, adding to a growing list that includes OC Darrell Bevell and DC Kris Richard.

FA Rumors: Harrison, Williams, Wilson

Many speculated that James Harrison could follow former coach Dick LeBeau to the Titans, and on Wednesday we received confirmation of that. “We are certainly interested,” agent Bill Parise said of his client’s interest in the Titans, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “James feels very, very strongly about coach LeBeau. And I know Dick feels the same way. It’s a natural thing. I’m sure the Steelers are still in play, too. It will probably be one of those. I hope it’s one of those. We are not ruling anybody out, but the two logical fits are Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Those are the team teams that make the most sense.” More from around the league..

  • Former Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is scheduled to visit the Steelers on Friday, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • Safety Jimmy Wilson told Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter) that he will be visiting the Chargers on Friday. However, agent Drew Rosenhaus is still in talks with the Dolphins, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets.
  • The Rams are still working on Kenny Britt, but there are other teams interested in him as a second choice or a Plan B at wide receiver, Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch tweets. Meanwhile, the Rams are thinking that they could get Joe Barksdale on the rebound, Thomas tweets. The thinking there is that the offensive tackle might be over-estimating his market value.
  • Former Eagles free safety Nate Allen will visit the Raiders later today, John Middlekauff of 95.7 The Game tweets.
  • Pass rusher Adrian Clayborn is scheduled to visit the Falcons today, a league source tells Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • Seahawks free agent linebacker Heath Farwell, 33, says he plans to continue to play and he believes defensive tackle Kevin Williams, 34, feels the same way, Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press writes. Farwell wouldn’t name any teams except to say the Vikings aren’t one that has reached out and that the Seahawks have expressed interest in bringing him back.

NFC West Notes: Harbaugh, Sanders, Miller

Why should Joe Namath have all the fun? Last night, Deion Sanders took an opportunity to spark a controversy with his former team. Without giving specific details, NFL Network analyst said he is hearing the 49ers players no longer want to play for coach Jim Harbaugh, as Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes. “They want him out,” Sanders said Sunday night after a recap of the 49ers’ 26-21 victory over the Eagles. “They’re not on the same page.” Maiocco notes that Sanders is particularly close to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who is in the final year of his original six-year contract. More on Deion and other items from the NFC West..

  • Sanders took to Twitter earlier today to deny that Crabtree was his source. “To many that this may concern @KingCrab15 is not my source. My sources [sic] wears uniforms,suits and ties. #Truth
  • Meanwhile, Harbaugh didn’t mince words in his response, as Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com tweets. “Personally I think that’s a bunch of crap,” said the coach.
  • Seahawks tight end Zach Miller underwent an ankle procedure last week, multiple sources told Ross Jones of FOXSports.com. Miller is expected to be sidelined with the injury an extended period of time but he can’t be placed on the IR-DTR since that spot was already taken by cornerback Jeremy Lane. Miller should be out five to six weeks, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (on Twitter) hears. Meanwhile, Chris Mortensen of ESPN (on Twitter) hears he’ll miss just two games after the bye.
  • Rather than cutting linebacker Heath Farwell after he tore both groin muscles in the preseason, the Seahawks opted to keep him on injured reserve so that he could collect a decent salary and contribute as an unofficial coach, writes Gregg Bell of The News Tribune. “Yeah, that’s something I’ve never heard of a team doing,” Farwell said. “It’s pretty cool that they care about me that much, that they want me to be around here. It means a lot to me, it really does. I’ve been in this league for 10 years. I’ve talked to many guys, been around this league for a long time. And I’ve never heard of a team doing this for a player.”

Raiders, Seahawks Trim Rosters To 75 Players

The Raiders have officially announced that D.J. Hayden has been placed on the PUP list, which we heard earlier this morning would happen. In addition to that move, the team also announced a series of transactions in a press release, with seven more players removed from the active roster, which now stands at 75 players. Here’s a rundown of the players no longer on Oakland’s active roster:

The Seahawks have also made seven transactions to reduce their roster to 75 players. Here’s a breakdown of Seattle’s moves, via Brian McIntyre (Twitter link):

West Notes: Hill, Farwell, Hayden

Let’s look at a few notes from the league’s west divisions to wrap up this Monday evening:

  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes that Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, in the wake of Sam Bradford‘s season-ending injury, has reiterated that St. Louis has not engaged other teams in talks regarding a potential quarterback trade.
  • On a related note, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com writes that Fisher emphasized that Shaun Hill will be the Rams‘ starting quarterback going forward.
  • Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun tweets that Colton Schmidt, who was waived by the 49ers earlier today, could draw interest from other clubs looking to make an upgrade at punter. Schmidt led all punters in net yards this preseason.
  • Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times writes that Seahawks backup middle linebacker and special teams captain Heath Farwell will likely need surgery to repair the extensive groin damage that he suffered in Friday’s preseason game against Chicago. Farwell’s injury essentially locks up a roster spot for undrafted free agent Brock Coyle.
  • Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego reports that Chargers‘ guard Jeromey Clary will begin the season on the PUP list, thereby forcing him to miss at least the first six games of the regular season.
  • Bill Williamson of ESPN.com writes that the Raiders may have found a diamond in the rough in defensive back Neiko Thorpe, who was signed to a futures contract in January.
  • Citing head coach Dennis Allen, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that Raiders corner D.J. Hayden, who is recovering from foot surgery, looked a lot better today working with trainers on the sidelines. The team will not make a decision regarding whether Hayden should go on the PUP list until Saturday’s deadline.