Hue Jackson

Browns Interested In Mike Mularkey?

Mike Mularkey is out of a job, but he should have plenty of employment options for the coming season. One possibility could be in Cleveland. This offseason, the Browns had interest in bringing Mularkey in as their new offensive coordinator if he ever became available, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweetsMike Mularkey (vertical)

Under Mularkey’s guidance, the Titans went 9-7 in back-to-back seasons and reached the playoffs in 2017. Whether that’s enough to put him in the conversation for the league’s remaining head coaching vacancies, however, remains to be seen. If Mularkey cannot put himself in the mix for the Cardinals, Lions, or Giants jobs, his best bet might be to take an OC position for at least one season and try his luck next winter.

At first glance, the Browns OC job seems unappealing given that the team has gone 1-31 over the last two seasons. However, the Browns offer potential on a number of levels. With the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks plus tons of cap room at their disposal, the Browns and new GM John Dorsey could position themselves as a winning team in 2018. Conversely, if the Browns get off to another slow start, someone like Mularkey could theoretically get a crack at the interim head coaching job with the potential to take over the post.

In December, Jackson admitted that he held off on hiring an OC because he did not want to saddle someone with a talent-poor offense. Now that the Browns are in (seemingly) capable hands, it sounds like he intends to bring one on staff.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hue Jackson To Coach Browns in 2018

After the Browns fell to the Steelers, 28-24, to become the second 0-16 team in NFL history, team owner Jimmy Haslam told reporters, including Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link), that head coach Hue Jackson will return as head coach in 2018. Hue Jackson (featured)

Haslam also said he doesn’t believe “Jackson hasn’t lost his magic,” and that he is working well with new general manager John Dorsey.

Since taking over at the beginning of the 2016 season, Jackson has managed just a 1-31 record as head coach. Following the loss in the season finale, Jackson told reporters the team wasn’t as far away from competing as many people think they are and that the difference will be the addition of Dorsey. The former Chiefs GM took over after the team parted ways with Sashi Brown earlier in the season.

Shortly after the hiring of Dorsey, questions began to swirl about Jackson’s future in Cleveland, with many thinking the new GM wanted to hire his own coach. Haslam, however, has stated all along he planned to bring back Jackson, and Dorsey later dispelled the rumors. There were even rumors of the Browns trading Jackson to the Bengals, the team in which he served as offensive coordinator before moving to Cleveland.

Jackson has stood firm in his commitment to Cleveland. He was reportedly not interested in the Bengals job after Marvin Lewis announced he was leaving. He told reporters on Sunday, “I don’t think anyone else could’ve done this job for the past two years.” He also added, “We’re going to get this organization to winning as soon as possible.”

With the loss on Sunday, the Browns will hold the No. 1 pick, which they will presumably use to take one of UCLA’s Josh Rosen or USC’s Sam Darnold, should they declare for the draft. Thanks to a draft-day deal in 2016, the team will also holds Houston’s first-round selection, the No. 4 overall pick. Also loaded with tons of caps space, the Browns are set up to make strides in Jackson’s third season.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Breer’s Latest: Black Monday Preview

With the final week of the NFL’s regular season approaching, that only means two things; 12 teams will soon be focusing on reaching the Super Bowl, while the rest will start to look ahead to next season. One major part of looking forward is addressing who on the coaching staff will be returning in 2018. Many of these coaching questions are answered on the day following Week’s 17 conclusion, conveniently called “Black Monday”.

Veteran reporter Albert of Breer of Sports Illustrated, gave a preview of the coaches he expects to stay and the ones that will likely be shown the door in his most recent column. Breer ranked the potential firings as “Likely/Done”, “We’ll See”, and “It’s Complicated”. In total, there were 15 head coaches mentioned who could see their situations change starting next week.

Here’s a quick look at Breer’s takes on some of the league’s hottest coaching questions:

  • There were five head coaches included in the “likely/done” category including: BearsJohn Fox, BengalsMarvin Lewis, LionsJim Caldwell, ColtsChuck Pagano and and the Giants‘ interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. The four full-time head coaches on this list have all had their fair share of success in the league. In fact, three of them led their current teams to multiple playoff appearances during their tenure. However, Caldwell and Lewis have been unable to win a postseason game with Pagano and Fox having failed at continuing the past success they have shown during their careers in football. Breer notes that while the “expectation is that Fox will be gone”, the decision on the fate of general manager Ryan Pace is true question facing the franchise this offseason. There’s been rapid speculation about Lewis, Caldwell and Pagano throughout the year, so their inclusion on this list is no surprise. Finally, the Giants are currently interviewing general manager candidates who will almost certainly be looking to lead their own head coaching search once hired.
  • Breer puts six current head coaches in the ‘we’ll see” part of the list. This portion mentions the CardinalsBruce Arians, BroncosVance Joseph, RaidersJack Del Rio, BuccaneersDirk Koetter, TitansMike Mularkey and the RedskinsJay Gruden. There’s a variety of situations going on here with Breer noting that Arizona could see Arians retire, which could lead them to other current NFL head coaches: Todd Bowles and Bill O’Brien. Del Rio and Gruden have had their fair share of success because of quality quarterback play, but both have managed to decrease confidence because of an inconsistent 2017 season. However, Breer points out that both are signed long-term so their owners would have to eat the remaining years of their current deals. Mularkey and Koetter were rewarded for the relationships they formed with their QB’s, but there’s been disappointment with how this season has unfolded for their teams. Breer notes that should Mularkey lose this Sunday, he could be on the chopping block come Monday morning with the team looking to hire an offensive-minded coach like Josh McDaniels. Finally, Joseph has forced himself to the hot seat even in his first year of coaching the Broncos, though Breer says himself that this situation is “unpredictable” given that team president John Elway is just “not pleased with how the season’s gone”.
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson, and the two previously mentioned O’Brien and Bowles of the Texans and Jets, find themselves on the “it’s complicated” section of Breer’s roundup largely because of just the many factors are at play in regards to their situations. Jackson got a vote of confidence from owner Jimmy Haslam himself, but new general manager John Dorsey could have his sights on implementing his own guy after a winless season. O’Brien has made the playoffs before, but has struggled committing to a QB even after the team selected Deshaun Watson in the first round. Bowles has done a lot with a little in New York this season, but ownership could go in a different direction with a new starting signal caller likely walking into the building next year. Also, there is the potential that all three coaches could move onto new head coaching gigs with the number of openings that could be available this offseason. The final and definitely most surprising inclusion on this list was Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who Breer mentions could retire at age 66 with a roster about to see major turnover in the next few years. Although, I would venture that nothing he’s said this season would indicate that being the case.

Coach Notes: Jackson, Patricia, Coordinators

Hue Jackson has accumulated a stunningly poor 1-30 record in almost two seasons as the head coach of the Browns. However, despite his poor performance, he looks to be safe for next season. Other factors such as a lack of talent and a disfunctional front office certainly play a big role in the team’s failures, but basic logic must win out in determining his coaching future, opines Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

La Canfora notes that while Jackson appears to be “immune to review” at the moment, the team should be thinking about moving on from their second-year head coach. It’s not ideal for a franchise that has shuffled through many coaches in the past, but La Canfora argues that the job is more attractive then some may think when just observing this season.

New general manager John Dorsey has a track record of success and the team could be bringing in a young franchise QB with the number one pick, even though Josh Rosen has reportedly had some reservations about going to Cleveland.

La Canfora notes that finding a better replacement to Jackson shouldn’t be hard, even if the team is unlikely to do so given most of the reports coming from Browns ownership.

Here’s more notes from around the coaching carousel:

  • The Lions have stood behind head coach Jim Caldwell for the past four seasons, despite not winning a playoff game. However, it may be time for the franchise to move on after the team lost to the Bengals on Sunday. Patriots defense coordinator Matt Patricia may be a prime candidate if the job opens up because of his relationship with current Lions general manager Bob Quinn, according to Alex Marvez of Sporting News (Twitter link). The two men worked together in New England when Quinn was a high level decision maker in the Patriots front office, so the hire would be a natural fit.
  • The Redskins missed the playoffs for the second straight season, but could still lose their quarterback coach Kevin O’Connell to another opportunity. O’Connell is reported to be a “top target” for the UCLA offensive coordinator post, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). New Bruins head coach Chip Kelly is looking for another offensive mind to add to his staff and the offensive coordinator job would be a difficult position to turn down if O’Connell was offered, according to Rapoport. Under O’Connell’s guidance, Kirk Cousins has continued to produce solid numbers in 2017, which has certainly helped make him more sought after for promotions at the collegiate level.
  • There’s a number of attractive coordinators who will be free agents this offseason. Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com run down a list that includes defensive coordinators: Gus BradleyPaul Guenther, Vic Fangio and George Edwards. They mention that Bradley in particular is an odd situation because he signed just a one-year deal with the Chargers last offseason and has a great track record as a defensive coordinator with the Seahawks as well. At the moment, the Chargers have the third ranked scoring defense in the league, which should help make him in high demand for open defensive coordinator jobs after this season is over. Guenther on the other hand has been mentioned has a potential replacement for longtime Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, although he would be free to look at other opportunities should the team opt to go in a different direction. The article also makes note that popular Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo and Cowboys passing game coordinator Matt Eberflus would bring widespread interest as well if they move on from their current teams.

Coaching Notes: Panthers, Cardinals, Bengals, Bucs

There’s plenty of uncertainty when it comes to the Panthers organization, as owner Jerry Richardson is shopping the team and they’re currently rolling with an interim general manager in Marty Hurney. However, the team is looking to establish some stability by locking up head coach Ron Rivera.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the organization is prioritizing locking up their head coach long term. While talks have just started, the reporter expects negotiations to quickly heat up. Meanwhile, many in the organization are hoping that Hurney is promoted to full-time general manager, although the team will presumably explore their options before committing to the executive.

Rivera last signed a three-year deal worth $19.5MM. That deal would take the head coach through the 2018 season, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of urgency for the organization to lock up their head coach this offseason.

Let’s take a look at some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hasn’t informed the organization about his future, but Rapoport reports that the team is “more confident than ever” that he’ll return. Still, since there is some uncertainty, the organization is exploring other potential options, and Rapoport notes that one of those candidates is Texans coach Bill O’Brien. If available, the Cardinals have made it clear that O’Brien would be atop their list of targets. Arians is under contract through the 2018 season, but there’s been chatter that the 65-year-old could retire to better focus on his health.
  • Unsurprisingly, there’s some concern that Browns head coach Hue Jackson may have lost his locker room, reports Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. This concern recently came to a head when running back Isaiah Crowell “liked” a series of tweets that were critical of Jackson. Meanwhile, Florio notes that there are whispers that some of the team’s defensive players are upset with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his son, Blake, who is the Browns’ linebackers coach.
  • The Bengals are eyeing Jackson or Jay Gruden for their impending head coaching vacancy, reports Florio. It’d be a homecoming for the pair, as both Jackson and Gruden served as offensive coordinators for Marvin Lewis. The writer notes that Lewis could ultimately be promoted to a front office role.
  • Even if Dirk Koetter sticks around as the Buccaneers head coach, Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders is convinced the organization will require some other coaching changes. Specifically, defensive coordinator Mike Smith could be on the hot seat, and the team could look towards former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley as a replacement.

AFC Notes: Browns, Jackson, Broncos WR’s

The Browns are in serious danger of joining the 2008 Lions as the only teams to go 0-16 in a single season. Cleveland will take on the Bears and Steelers before the dust is settled, but will be moving forward with a new head football man in John Dorsey.

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com answers a variety of questions in a video addressing many different questions swirling around the franchise. One question she touches on is how quickly of an impact Dorsey will have on the field? While Cabot did say that it will take some time to turn around the franchise, one thing Dorsey will emphasize is finding that franchise quarterback that the team has been craving for a long time. Cabot states that just like with the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo, if the Browns can find their guy this offseason, there could be a dramatic shift in the long-term outlook of the organization.

The Browns will likely hold the first overall pick so they could be faced with a choice regarding Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen should both draft eligible QB’s turn pro this offseason.

Here are more stories coming from the AFC:

  • While the Browns do have a new decision maker in Dorsey, head coach Hue Jackson remains a bit in-flux. While the team’s owner has expressed his desire to keep the veteran coach, there could be an added twist in this story because of the division rival Bengals, states Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. Pluto opines that should Jackson replace the embattled Marvin Lewis, that would allow Dorsey to put his own coach in place, leaving his relationship with owner Jimmy Haslam in-tact. Bengals owner Mike Brown seems to like guys he’s worked with in the past, so Jackson seems like a reasonable possibility, even given his 1-29 record in Cleveland.
  • The Broncos are very much playing out the string of this season with a number of different QB’s given injuries and poor play. However, the wide receiver position has taken a hit over the past week, according to Mike Klis of 9news.com. Klis notes that Denver could only have four wideouts active against the Redskins in Week 16. Demaryius Thomas, Bennie Fowler, Jordan Taylor and Isaiah McKenzie are the only healthy receivers available and could lead the team to serious depth problems should one of them go down this weekend. Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer are both listed as questionable and really have no reason to be pushed given that the Broncos are not in the playoff race. Expect the team to rely on the running game in order to keep their receiving corps healthy on Sunday.
  • Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper has not been 100% since he suffered a concussion and an ankle injury vs. the Broncos a few weeks ago. The third-year wideout has been inconsistent while on the field this season, but said after practice on Friday that he “felt all right” and is “still working through” the injuries, according to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review Journal (Twitter link). He remains questionable to play for Monday night’s game against the Eagles. Gehlken also passed along that four Raiders missed practice today, including: CB David Amerson (foot), C Rodney Hudson (ankle/illness), DL Treyvon Hester (ankle) and TE Clive Walford (concussion/neck) (Twitter link).

Latest On John Dorsey, Hue Jackson

While Browns ownership has already stated head coach Hue Jackson will return in 2018, new general manager John Dorsey recently sidestepped a question on Jackson’s future, and his response engendered more questions about Jackson’s fate. However, when asked directly today if Jackson will stay on as Cleveland’s head coach, Dorsey was more definitive, telling 92.3 FM “I think ownership has already spoken on that,” per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.Hue Jackson (Vertical)

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“Hue and I have a really good relationship,” Dorsey said. “First off, I think ownership has said that Hue would be back. With that, I’m excited to work with him here. I’ve been really impressed with how Hue messages to the players. I’ve always thought that head coaches should be leader of men, and when I watch Hue talk to the team and how hard guys play for him, that’s exciting.”

Despite repeated statements from Browns ownership, there was a “persistent sense” in league circles that Dorsey would attempt to hire his own head coach. Most general managers are able to choose a new head coach, and few would blame Dorsey for firing Jackson, who has posted a 1-29 record in Cleveland. But both owner Jimmy Haslam and Dorsey now appear to be on the same page regarding Jackson’s 2018 status with the Browns.

Despite his lackluster record, Jackson is reportedly in demand in at least one other AFC North city, as the Bengals may have interest in hiring Jackson to replace Marvin Lewis. Jackson, however, said today that he will not pursue the Cincinnati job if/when Lewis is fired.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Lewis, Browns, Steelers

Marvin Lewis again refused to confirm the report by ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter indicating he was planning to step away from the Bengals after 15 seasons, but the veteran coach did make a comment about his desire to coach the team after this season. Asked if he wanted to coach football next season, Lewis responded, “I’m (gonna) coach football.” Asked if he wanted to coach the Bengals, Lewis replied, “Sure,” per Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Bengals have been outscored 67-14 over the past two weeks and are going to finish with their second straight losing record. Lewis does not have a contract in place for 2018 after multiple years of offseason one-year extensions.

Here’s the latest out of the AFC North.

  • With the Steelers losing to the Patriots and thus unable to clinch home-field advantage in Week 16, the Browns‘ final realistic chance to avoid becoming the second 0-16 team ever could hinge on Sunday’s game in Chicago. And Hue Jackson will stick with his current quarterback for that Bears tilt. DeShone Kizer will make his 14th start of the season. This comes after Jackson admitted he considered benching the rookie after yet another shaky performance. Monday, though, Jackson said (via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com) the Notre Dame product was “up to the challenge” of starting another game. The Browns, who face the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 17, are now 1-29 in Jackson’s 30 games. Kizer boasts a 59.4 quarterback rating and a 24.5 QBR.
  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk floated the idea of the Browns attempting to trade Jackson to the Bengals, and SI.com’s Peter King notes John Dorsey would probably rather part with Jackson than keeping the incumbent around for 2018. Florio adds Dorsey declining to answer a direct question about Jackson being back for 2018 adds fuel to the fire the Browns would consider an about-face and can Jackson after two remarkably unsuccessful seasons. Jimmy Haslam said twice publicly Jackson would be back, and Florio reports, however, the owner has said the same thing in private. An 0-16 season, though, could change the equation. King writes a third-round pick may be all that would be necessary for the Bengals to send to Cleveland in the event this hypothetical scenario occurred. The second-year Cleveland coach said Monday, however, he wasn’t interested in succeeding Lewis in Cincinnati despite the former succession plan that was in place for him with the franchise. Jackson was Cincinnati’s OC for two seasons and coached under Lewis for seven years encompassing two stints.
  • Now just one game ahead of the Jaguars (and their head-to-head tiebreaker) for the AFC’s No. 2 seed, the Steelers will have to reshuffle their running back corps for the time being. Le’Veon Bell will need a new backup for the time being after Mike Garafolo of NFL.com revealed (on Twitter) James Conner will need knee surgery. Garafolo reports the rookie will likely need a few weeks to recover from this. Like Antonio Brown‘s regular-season-ending calf injury, Conner’s setback adds additional incentive for the Steelers to secure a bye by winning their final two games. Pittsburgh has veteran Fitzgerald Toussaint as the only other halfback on its roster.

Hue Jackson Says He Won’t Pursue Bengals Job

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis will reportedly leave the team after this season and speculation has already begun that the club could fill the vacancy by reuniting with Hue Jackson. However, the Browns head coach says that he wants to be in Cleveland in 2018. Hue Jackson (featured)

I’ve kind of known about Marvin,” Jackson said (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). “Obviously, we all know that Marvin is a close friend, but trust me, I’m not running from this. I’ve never gone any place and left it worse than when I found it. I’m going to be here, and I need to get this fixed as fast as I can because it’ important.”

Few would blame Jackson for considering the Bengals given the dysfunction he has dealt with in Cleveland. The franchise appears to be in better hands now that John Dorsey is running the show, but it could still take time to see a better product on the field. After Sunday’s 27-10 loss to the Ravens, the Browns fell to 0-14 on the year. Jackson, in his second year as Browns head coach, is now 1-29 in that role.

If there winds up being mutual interest in a reunion between the Bengals and Jackson, Cincinnati will have to work out a trade with the Browns to make it happen. The Bengals would only get the opportunity to sign Jackson outright if the Browns were to go back on their pledge to bring Jackson back in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Bengals, Lewis, Browns

While Marvin Lewis is denying a report that a decision has been made on his future as Bengals head coach, he hasn’t necessarily said the core of the report — that he won’t return to Cincinnati in 2018 — is incorrect. If he does move on, Browns head coach Hue Jackson could potentially be in the running to replace Lewis, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Of course, Cleveland has indicated Jackson will be retained for next season, but those plans are always subject to change. Jackson, formerly the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, was approached regarding a Cincinnati succession plan in 2016, but because no such deal could be arranged, he bolted for the Browns job.

Here’s more from the AFC North, with a focus on the Bengals and Browns:

  • Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is considered a candidate to become Bengals head coach in 2018, but if he’s not promoted, Guenther could end up as the Redskins‘ DC next year, tweets Michael Lombardi of the Ringer. Washington head coach Jay Gruden (who worked with Guenther in Cincinnati) wanted to hire Guenther as his defensive coordinator a season ago, but the Bengals would not release his contract. Cincinnati has finished 14th, 10, and 17th in defensive DVOA in thee full seasons under Guenther, and ranked 19th heading into Week 15.
  • The Browns had hoped to hire Josh McCown as their quarterbacks coach for 2017 had he not continued his career, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Earlier this year, Jackson predicted McCown would be a “rising star” in the coaching ranks, and a number of clubs reportedly had interest in adding McCown to their staff. Instead, McCown inked a one-year deal with the Jets and proceeded to post one of the best seasons of his career. McCown hasn’t made any decisions about his future, but he would presumably have a number of offers if he wants become a coach.
  • New Browns general manager John Dorsey may plan to fire the club’s entire scouting staff after taking over the front office one week ago, according to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report. Of course, any new decision-maker is going to make changes to a front office, but Dorsey could plan to shift away from Cleveland’s recent reliance on analytics. Last week, Dorsey chided the Browns’ previous regime, claiming that former GM Sashi Brown & Co. didn’t acquire “real players.”