Texans Rumors

DeMeco Ryans Advancing In Broncos’ Search; Sean Payton Souring On Team’s Ownership?

7:35pm: Payton has provided information straight from the source, disputing that there is any truth to Maske’s report of his fears of a power struggle in Denver with a tweet this evening. Payton denies that any issue exists with Broncos’ ownership stating that they were fantastic and that they “had a great visit.”

Ryans is still gaining traction and Caldwell and Shaw are also strong contenders, while Quinn has stated his desire to remain in Dallas, but if Payton is to be taken at his word, he should still be considered one of the favorites for this position.

3:01pm: Vowing to be “ultra aggressive” in its first coaching search, the Broncos’ new ownership came into this process with a goal of adding an experienced head coach. Recent developments may be leading the team in a different direction.

DeMeco Ryans has emerged as a frontrunner in this race, Mike Klis of 9News reports. The second-year 49ers defensive coordinator met with the Broncos and Texans late last week, nixing interviews with the Cardinals and Colts, and has been steadily rising in this race. While the Broncos are still considering Sean Payton, Jim Caldwell and Dan Quinn, Ryans’ rise is obviously notable considering his accomplishments with the 49ers this season.

But the team has cooled on Payton, Denver7’s Troy Renck adds (via Twitter). Payton also looks to have lost some interest in this job. A sense of what might have changed emerged Thursday. Recently, the former Saints HC was believed to be high on the Broncos’ new ownership group. Now, it might be a negative for the FOX analyst. Payton fears a potential power struggle with one member of the contingent, Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets. Payton would want to work with Russell Wilson, who reached out to him recently, and is believed to be high on Denver’s defensive pieces. But an issue with ownership may well nix this potential partnership.

Rob Walton, CEO Greg Penner and co-owner Condoleezza Rice have been the ownership group’s key members during this search, joining GM George Paton. The latter is the only experienced football staffer involved here, given the ownership contingent arriving last summer, but Penner is set to make the final call on the team’s second HC hire in two years. It does not seem Rice, who joined the group after the Walton family, is Payton’s concern. The veteran HC has “loved” his interactions with the former Secretary of State, Maske adds (on Twitter).

The Broncos have not gone through second interviews yet, separating their search from this year’s other four. The Panthers just made their hire — Frank Reich — after interviewing he and Steve Wilks twice. If the Broncos want to hold a second interview with Ryans, they must wait until Jan. 30 because of the 49ers’ advancement to the NFC championship game.

David Shaw was believed to be a sleeper candidate for this position, but Klis omitted the longtime Stanford HC from the team’s mix Thursday. Shaw stepped down from his Cardinal post after three losing seasons in the past four years. Penner and Rice’s Stanford ties were thought to represent key connective tissue to Shaw, but Denver going with an NFL-seasoned coach makes sense given the recent failures of college hires.

Ryans, 38, has helmed the NFL’s top-ranked defense this season and has been viewed as likely to land one of this year’s jobs for a bit now. All five HC-needy teams reached out to the former linebacker. The Texans remain in the mix for their former defender, per Klis, but they certainly look to have competition from the Broncos.

NFL Reserve/Futures Deals: 1/26/23

Today’s reserve/futures deals:

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Houston Texans

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Flores, Evero

By far the biggest name on this year’s coaching carousel, Sean Payton looks to have seen his momentum stall a bit. While Payton is interviewing with the Cardinals today, his candidacy has not produced a second interview anywhere yet. The Panthers met with Payton this week but just hired Frank Reich. While the Texans remain on the radar for the longtime Saints HC, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com does not get the sense much momentum is present for such a partnership. The Broncos have been connected to other names recently as well, but that path may be dwindling as well. There might not be a place for Payton — as odd as that sounds, given his track record — on this year’s market, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com offers (video link)

Trade compensation being required to land the Super Bowl XLIV-winning HC, with the price varying from a first-rounder and other early picks to two first-rounders, has affected teams’ plans here. Payton, 59, has also been mentioned as waffling on this year’s lot of jobs. Returning to FOX for another year and surveying the 2024 market, when two jobs he has long been connected to (Chargers, Cowboys), could be available might be what comes out of this run of interviews. Payton remains in this year’s mix, but buzz has died down.

Here is the latest from the coaching landscape:

  • Regarding the Cardinals‘ search, Brian Flores remains firmly in the mix. GM candidates received the impression Arizona is high on the three-year Miami HC-turned-Pittsburgh linebackers coach, Fowler notes. Previously mentioned as a frontrunner — due partially to the Cards hiring ex-Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort as GM — Flores may have a right-hand man on defense lined up. Some around the league expect the ex-Dolphins HC to bring Gerald Alexander, Miami’s defensive backs coach for the past three years, with him to Arizona, per Fowler. With the Dolphins looking for a new DC, Alexander may be on the move anyway. While ESPN colleague Dan Graziano points to Vance Joseph and Aaron Glenn remaining strong candidates, Flores has generated the most buzz to this point. Flores has also interviewed for the Falcons and Vikings’ DC posts.
  • Raheem Morris booked a second HC interview with the Colts and also met with the Broncos and Texans. Should the Rams‘ DC land a second HC opportunity, Albert Breer of SI.com notes Ejiro Evero is the team’s top candidate to replace him. The Denver DC is no lock to be available. He is under contract with the Broncos, who blocked a Falcons DC interview, and has gone through second HC interviews with the Colts and Texans. Denver could pass on retaining Evero by hiring a defensive-minded coach, of course. Evero came to Denver from Los Angeles; he spent five years on Sean McVay‘s staff.
  • The Browns considered bringing in Vic Fangio for a DC interview, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, but they stood down and ended up hiring Jim Schwartz. Cleveland having run a 4-3 defense in recent years may have been a reason for passing on a Fangio meeting, Cabot offers. Fangio has remained quite popular still, having interviewed for three DC jobs — the Dolphins, Falcons and Panthers — already.
  • The Bills are making a change to their defensive staff. They fired safeties coach Jim Salgado, Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN.com tweets. Salgado had been on McDermott’s staff throughout the head coach’s six-season tenure.
  • Giants DC Don Martindale is attached to a three-year contract, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Giants thought enough of the veteran coordinator, whom the Ravens did not bring back last year, they gave him the three-year deal as opposed to the more common two-year pact. Giants ST coordinator Thomas McGaughey also received extensive interest from other teams, with Duggan adding the Chargers joined the Panthers in offering him their ST coordinator jobs. McGaughey, who has been with the Giants since 2018, turned down a Bears interview and opted to stay and work for Brian Daboll.

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers’ hire, this year’s vacancy count sits at four. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-26-23 (4:36pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Broncos Sean Payton Hire Becoming Less Likely?

The Broncos had scheduled a second Sean Payton interview for this week, but NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan notes (via Twitter) the meeting is now on hold. Next on Payton’s docket will be interview No. 1 with the Cardinals, but chatter about the FOX analyst hopping off the 2023 coaching carousel to join a potentially flashier ride next year persists.

Payton will meet with the Cardinals on Thursday, per Duncan, who adds the delays in the longtime Saints HC’s schedule lend to the notion he will stay put and not coach in 2023. Payton’s initial Broncos meeting may not have gone as well as initially reported, either. Neither side looks to view this as a “must-do deal,” Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes. One GM said, via La Canfora, he expects Payton to stay at FOX for another year — a long-rumored path — and wait out potentially better jobs.

A Payton hire would be a blockbuster for the Broncos, who have struck out with first-time HCs in 2017 (Vance Joseph), 2019 (Vic Fangio) and 2022 (Nathaniel Hackett) and are believed to be prioritizing experience. But it would be expensive — both in terms of financial and trade compensation. A two-first-rounder haul has been floated, though some around the league believe a first-rounder and both of Denver’s 2023 thirds could be enough for New Orleans. The Saints would undoubtedly ask for a bigger return from Carolina, given the potential intra-NFC South jump in that scenario. The Broncos have been more closely connected to Payton compared to the Panthers, but The Athletic’s Joe Person adds Denver may no longer have the former Super Bowl-winning HC as its frontrunner (subscription required).

Considering what has come out on the Broncos’ HC search, it would surprise if the team passed on Payton. Russell Wilson reached out to the well-regarded play-caller, who, as of Monday, was still believed to have the inside track for the job. But the team has interviewed a host of other candidates, including Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, who was close to landing the job last year. If Payton does not have a substantial lead in this race, the Broncos backing off and hiring a coach they would not need to trade for would make sense. Then again, Payton is by far the most accomplished candidate available.

The prospect of Payton waiting out 2024 jobs continues to be discussed around the league, La Canfora adds. This will keep the dots connected to the Chargers and Cowboys positions, gigs Payton has eyed for several months. The Chargers announced intentions to retain Brandon Staley, despite a historic wild-card collapse, and the Cowboys do not look like they will be canning Mike McCarthy after back-to-back 12-win seasons. That said, ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini tweets a mystery team of sorts could lurk. Said team is observing this process and could make a move once it “gets [its] ducks in a row.”

Anonymous suitors notwithstanding, Payton will soon have interviewed for four of the five open positions this year. It is not known if an offer has come his way, but Panthers owner David Tepper was believed to be quite interested in this splashy hire heading into their meeting. Tepper’s reputation of being a “hands-on” owner might also impact Payton’s interest, Person adds.

The Texans, who hold two first-round picks (including No. 2 overall), are believed to intrigue the veteran coach. But buzz about the NFC championship game defensive coordinators — DeMeco Ryans and Jonathan Gannon — and this position is circulating as well, La Canfora adds. Gannon has long been connected to the Texans job, which he interviewed twice for in 2022, and Ryans spent the first six seasons of his playing career in Houston.

Texans Schedule Second HC Interviews With Mike Kafka, Ejiro Evero

Houston’s third consecutive offseason spent searching for a new head coach is heading into its next phase. The Texans are set to conduct a second interview with Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, per ESPN’s Field Yates (Twitter link).

The 35-year-old met virtually with the Texans this past Sunday, one day after New York’s surprisingly successful campaign came to an end. Now, he is set to interview in person with Houston’s front office. Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 notes that the sit-down is scheduled to take place in Houston on Wednesday.

Kafka has enjoyed a quick rise up the ranks of NFL assistants receiving serious consideration for head coaching jobs. He was already a popular name in league circles last offseason when he left Kansas City (where he worked closely alongside Patrick Mahomes as the team’s quarterbacks coach) to join Brian Daboll‘s new staff in the Big Apple.

That represented not only his first OC opportunity at both the college and NFL level, but, to the surprise of many, his first time handling play-calling duties. Daboll’s time as Buffalo’s OC led to the expectation that he would carry on in a similar capacity with the Giants, but his decision to delegate to Kafka proved to be a successful one. New York put up middle-of-the-road numbers in terms of scoring and yardage totals, but ranked fourth in the regular season with an average of 148 rushing yards per game. The postseason saw New York continue that success against the Vikings, though their loss to the Eagles was certainly a different story.

Kafka is still a logical candidate for a second interview, as is Ejiro Evero. The Broncos defensive coordinator will also meet with the Texans’ brass tomorrow, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. The 42-year-old is, like Kafka, relatively inexperienced in terms of serving as a coordinator, with 2022 being his first DC gig, but his success has made him a hot commodity during this year’s cycle.

Evero has met with all five teams currently in need of a new head coach, illustrating the way he is viewed around the league. He led the Broncos’ defense to solid rankings in terms of yards allowed in particular, a testament not only to the unit’s talent and his coaching ability, but also his success in maintaining consistency in the wake of Denver’s offensive struggles. Evero has previously worked with the Rams, Packers, 49ers and Buccaneers at the NFL level, all-but exclusively seeing time on the defensive side of the ball.

After seeing David Culley and Lovie Smith each receive their walking papers after one-year stints, Texans owner Cal McNair recently indicated that he would take a more hands-on approach to the 2023 search. Adding either Kafka or Evero would provide the team with a much younger option on the sidelines, and presumably set the franchise up for long-term stability.

With the team’s set of second round interviews beginning to take shape, here is the latest on Houston’s HC search:

Texans RT Tytus Howard Seeking New Contract

The rebuilding Texans have plenty of room for improvement on both sides of the ball, but their tandem at offensive tackle could be something the team wishes to keep in place moving forward. That would mean new contracts for not only Laremy Tunsil, but Tytus Howard as well.

[RELATED: Tunsil Eyeing Market-Setting Extension]

The latter certainly does not have the acclaim of his blindside counterpart, but he may have done enough in 2022 to earn himself a long-term deal. The Texans exercised Howard’s fifth-year option last offseason, meaning that he is on the books for next year at a cost of $13.2MM. A multi-year pact keeping him in Houston well beyond that is his intention, however.

“Most likely this offseason, go ahead and get it done,” the 26-year-old said of contract talks, via Aaron Wilson of KPRC2“We haven’t started yet, but, hopefully, we can work toward getting something done. The sooner, the better. [It’s] a shared goal. I want to finish my career here.”

The Alabama State product had an up-and-down first three seasons to begin his career. He primarily played at his familiar right tackle spot in 2019 and 2020, a stretch during which he drew middling reviews in terms of PFF grade and dealt with multiple injuries. The following season, Houston moved him inside to left guard, something which appeared to signal the end of his time at tackle and his prospects of one day becoming a long-term fixture on the blindside.

After Tunsil was sidelined late in the campaign, however, Howard was moved over to LT to finish the season. His impressive play there likely influenced the Texans’ decision to pick up his option, and they confirmed this past summer that he would return to the right tackle spot for the 2022 season. He all-but exclusively played there, seeing time on the interior only to temporarily fill in for rookie left guard Kenyon Green.

Howard earned a career-high 67.9 PFF rating for the year, showcasing the potential he and Tunsil could have for the short- to medium-term future if they are retained. The Texans are currently projected to be in a far better place financially than most teams, so deals meeting Tunsil’s and Howard’s requests could be feasible. Whether or not the team is willing to do so will be an interesting subplot to their overall efforts made in the coming weeks and months to take a step forward in 2023.

DeMeco Ryans Planning HC Interviews With Broncos, Cardinals, Colts, Texans

JANUARY 23: Ryans ended up cancelling his Sunday interviews with the Cardinals and Colts due to the tight timeline, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports notes (video link). With the 49ers having advanced to the NFC title game, he will not be eligible to meet with either team until next Monday at the earliest.

JANUARY 22: Sunday will be a busy day for Ryans. Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Ryans will interview with both the Cardinals and Colts on Sunday, prior to the 49ers’ divisional round contest against the Cowboys (video link). Fowler adds that Ryans’ Texans summit went late into the evening on Friday, so it sounds as if the two sides had a productive conversation.

JANUARY 19: Ryans is, in fact, planning to interview with all four teams this week, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Despite an already-busy schedule, the 49ers assistant will meet with the Cardinals and Colts this week. This represents quite the workload for the coveted staffer and offers the latest example of the annual issues that arise from the NFL letting teams interview assistants during the postseason.

JANUARY 17: Because of NFL rules allowing teams to interview HC candidates during the week of divisional-round games, DeMeco Ryans is mired in one of the busier periods in recent coaching-carousel history. The 49ers’ defensive coordinator is planning to meet with four of the five teams in search of a head coach.

Already confirmed to be meeting with the Broncos this week, Ryans will also meet with the Texans on Friday. Kyle Shanahan said (via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, on Twitter) his second-year DC is interviewing for the Denver and Houston jobs this week while indicating Arizona and Indianapolis meetings are on Ryans’ docket for sometime after this week. The Panthers requested a Ryans interview, but nothing is scheduled at this point.

Not much is known on the Cardinals’ HC front. Only four candidates — Ryans, Vance Joseph, Brian Flores and Sean Payton — have been connected to Arizona’s search. The team preferred to hire its GM first, and with Monti Ossenfort now officially in place in that role, the HC search will accelerate. The Cardinals have become familiar with Ryans’ work, having faced the 49ers four times since he took over as their defensive play-caller in 2021.

Rumored to be considering passing on an interview with the team that drafted him, the former Texans linebacker is now set to discuss the position with the Nick Caserio-led regime. Ryans indeed deliberated on meeting with the Texans, KPRC’s Aaron Wilson notes. Ryans sued the Texans and the NFL after suffering an Achilles tear at NRG Stadium in 2014. That $10MM lawsuit centered around NRG Stadium’s playing surface. An Eagles starter in 2014, Ryans alleged the injury led to a premature ending to his career — one he said would have lasted beyond its 2015 endpoint had that injury not occurred.

The Texans drafted Ryans in the 2006 second round and immediately plugged him in as a starter. Ryans operated as a starter throughout his six-year stay in Houston and signed a second contract with the team in 2010. The Texans traded him to the Eagles in 2012. Ryans caught on with Shanahan, an ex-Texans assistant, in 2017 as a quality control coach and has since become one of the NFL’s hottest HC candidates.

Ryans’ 49ers defense finished the season first in yards, points and DVOA; he has been expected to land one of the available HC jobs for a bit now. Such a move would follow the Jets’ hire of former 49ers DC Robert Saleh and provide San Francisco with two third-round picks, thanks to a Rooney Rule adjustment that rewards teams who see minority assistants land HC gigs or front office staffers hired as GMs.

Latest On Sean Payton

JANUARY 22: A league source tells Ben Volin of the Boston Globe that, since the Chargers’ head coaching job will not become available this year, the Panthers’ and Texans’ posts will be of most interest to Payton. In Volin’s opinion, the fact that Wilson called Payton to sell him on the Broncos’ job is not a good omen for Denver, and if Payton were to be lured to Houston, he may ultimately push general manager Nick Caserio out and take over as de facto GM. Both Houston and Carolina have the cash to pay Payton the salary he wants.

JANUARY 20: Payton’s Panthers interview has not been cancelled. He will meet with the team Monday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. That will be the former Saints HC’s third interview in a week. He met with the Texans on Jan. 16 and Broncos on Jan. 17.

JANUARY 19: The Broncos search for their fifth head coach since 2014 has been rolling this week as the franchise moves quickly and effectively in their plans. Denver’s three-person team of Broncos CEO and owner Greg Penner, owner Condoleezza Rice, and general manager George Paton has been cruising through initial interviews with a potential plan to move one to three finalists forward for second interviews next week, according to Mike Klis of 9NEWS.

Most speculation is that a final three is emerging, similar to last year’s trio of finalists which consisted of Nathaniel Hackett, Kevin O’Connell, and Dan Quinn. The obvious frontrunner in his year’s search is former Saints head coach Sean Payton. Quinn is projected to join Payton as a finalist for the second straight year, while former Stanford head coach David Shaw is reportedly a sleeper candidate to round out the top three.

Payton interviewed on Tuesday and appears to have lived up to the hype in the meeting. Contradicting earlier reports that the Broncos and Saints were “on the same page” with respect to the trade compensation necessary to acquire Payton’s contract, Klis avers that the two parties “have not engaged in trade talks.” There is also a rumor that, despite interest from essentially every other team in the NFL with an open position, Payton will either end up with the Broncos or back on television with FOX, a belief reported by Denver7’s Troy Renck.

Payton was scheduled to interview with Carolina tomorrow, but those plans are “on hold” as Panthers owner David Tepper is spending time with the grieving players of his MLS team, Charlotte FC, following the passing of young defender Anton Walkes in a tragic boating accident today in Miami, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Russell Wilson has reportedly reached out to Payton, according to Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd who was quoted on his show saying, “Wilson has contacted Sean, legally, by the way, through channels. He wants Sean Payton. He needs fixing. He knows he needs fixing.”

Following their Tuesday morning meeting with Payton, the interview trio met with Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris who impressed them “with his preparation and plan to win.” The same three executives interviewed 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans today in San Francisco and will travel to Dallas for a meeting with Quinn tomorrow. This will conclude the initial interview process, and Denver will choose candidates moving forward out of the above-mentioned Payton, Quinn, Shaw, Morris, and Ryans and previously interviewed candidates Ejiro Evero, who is the team’s current defensive coordinator, and Jim Caldwell, who formerly served as the Colts and Lions head coach. The team also previously interviewed Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, but Harbaugh announced his decision to remain in Ann Arbor.

Whomever the franchise decides to move forward with will meet with a new group of executives consisting of Penner, his wife and co-owner Carrie Penner Walton, and controlling owner Rob Walton. Paton will reportedly also be available to spend time with the final candidates and participate in follow-up discussions.

It’s certainly sounding like Payton will be one of the few to move forward next week as both parties sound hellbent on the union. That being said, Quinn is being considered a “co-favorite” and Shaw’s Stanford connections to the Penners and Rice make him a candidate to be brought in next week, as well. We’ll just have to wait through the weekend to see how the next round in the process unfolds.

OC Ben Johnson To Stay With Lions

JANUARY 19: As could be expected, the Lions will reward Johnson for staying. The second-year Detroit OC will receive a large pay raise, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). While the Byron Leftwich development shows the risk of coordinators bypassing potential opportunities, Johnson will be attached a higher salary ahead of a potential 2024 HC bid.

JANUARY 17: Part of multiple teams’ HC searches during this year’s cycle, Ben Johnson is bowing out. The young offensive coordinator is opting to stay with the Lions, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Despite entering this season having not called plays before, Johnson became a hot name. The Colts, Panthers and Texans requested interviews with him. Carolina’s meeting was to take place Wednesday, but that will no longer come to pass.

Johnson, 36, had already interviewed virtually with the Colts and Texans. But he was viewed as a frontrunner for the Panthers job. Assistants’ stocks can change quickly, making Johnson’s decision somewhat risky, but the Detroit play-caller views the Detroit situation as promising enough to pass on this year’s lot of available jobs.

Dan Campbell promoted Johnson to OC last year, after the team moved on from Anthony Lynn after one season. The Lions’ offense led the way to the team becoming one of the season’s biggest surprises. Jared Goff delivered a bounce-back showing, ranking fifth in QBR and going from bridge starter to a player the Lions believe they can use as a long-term option. Jamaal Williams also led the NFL in rushing touchdowns. The former Packers draftee finished the season with 17, breaking Barry Sanders‘ record during the Lions’ upset win in Green Bay that prevented a Pack playoff appearance.

The Lions also have Amon-Ra St. Brown signed through 2024 and Jameson Williams inked through 2025. Williams stands to be available for all of 2023, after his January ACL tear shelved him for much of this season. The team wants to bring back DJ Chark, and the former Jaguars second-round pick said recently (via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers) he wants to stay in Detroit. D’Andre Swift battled injuries this season, and Williams’ rise impeded the 2020 second-rounder’s role. But he remains under contract. Although Williams is a free agent, his Hard Knocks performance and season-wrapping NBC interview certainly point to an interest in sticking around. The Lions also have four starting offensive linemen from this season under contract for 2023.

This would set up Johnson to draw interest again in 2024, though he is passing on parlaying his first Detroit OC season — which produced top-five rankings in scoring, yardage and DVOA — into a gig this year. But Johnson has been with the Lions since 2019, moving from the quality control level to tight ends coach to OC. While Matt Patricia hired Johnson, he had worked with Campbell in Miami. Johnson will bet on his value remaining high at this time next year.