Interviews

Jets, Falcons, Lions To Interview Eric Bieniemy

It’s shaping up to be a busy week for Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. He’ll conduct virtual interviews with the Lions and Falcons on Monday afternoon, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Meanwhile, the Jets have officially requested an interview of their own.

Head coaching candidates whose teams are in the playoffs aren’t allowed to interview until after wild-card weekend. But, for Bieniemy, there’s a loophole, thanks to the Chiefs’ first-round bye. The same goes for 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who is also slated to meet with the Lions. The Lions’ latest round of interview requests also includes Saints AHC/TE coach Dan Campbell and Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets.

Saleh, a Dearborn, Michigan native, may be poised for a homecoming. Still, the Lions have a candidates list in the double digits, so he’ll have lots of competition. Bieniemy, of course, is one of the hottest coaches on the block, and he has the offensive acumen the Lions need to get the most out of their talent.

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NFL To Allow Teams To Interview Employed HC Candidates Beginning Wednesday

In what could make for a significant change to the head coaching interview process, teams will no longer have to wait until the regular season’s conclusion to interview candidates.

Beginning Wednesday, teams will be able to request and conduct virtual interviews with HC candidates currently employed by other teams, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com report (via Twitter). No in-person interviews can happen until the regular season ends, however, and these virtual meetings will be capped at two hours, per Pelissero (on Twitter). This pre-interview policy of sorts does not apply to coordinator candidates, however.

Traditionally, teams must wait until their interview candidate’s team completes its regular season. This slows the process and allows unattached coaches to interview for jobs before active coaches have the opportunity to do so. Teams interested in active coaches will have interesting decisions to make beginning this week.

The Falcons, Lions and Texans have HC openings and could now get the jump on other teams expected to fire coaches — like the Jaguars or Jets — thanks to this rule change. This week should now also provide clarity on which teams are interested in certain HC candidates.

However, this rule tweak will give teams the opportunity to refuse HC-needy franchises’ requests to conduct these early-bird virtual interviews, per Pelissero and Rapoport. They do not have such privileges once the regular season ends. It will be interesting to see if teams decline requests for these virtual meet-and-greets, when these assistants will be free to interview for HC jobs in early January.

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NFL Draft Virtual Contact Rules

While it is obviously a low priority in the grand scheme of things, the limitations on travel and physical contact have come at an inopportune time for draft prospects and team decision-makers. With the draft still on schedule to take place at the end of April, prospects would normally be traveling around the country to team facilities to conduct in-person workouts, interviews, and physicals. Now that the league has pretty much suspended outside visits, teams are going to have to get creative.

Under the unusual circumstances, the NFL is allowing teams to virtually contact an unlimited number of prospects, at most, three times per week, for one hour, according to Mike Florio of ProFootball Talk. So agents will surely be making sure their clients have the most updated version of Skype and Zoom.

Combine interviews are most notorious for puzzles and mind games that teams will play on prospects. It will be interesting to see if since teams are unable to run prospects through physical workouts more stories begin emerging about creative and unusual ways that some teams might try to use these virtual contact meetings to gauge characteristics in prospects.

 

Latest On Colin Kaepernick Workout

Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed one of the most unique workouts in NFL history this afternoon. The NFL offered to stage a workout for the quarterback earlier this week. However, Kaepernick’s team became weary of the league’s intentions when his representatives were refused in their requests to open the event to the public. In a last minute decision, Kaepernick’s representation moved the event from the Falcons facility to a public location on their own.

Here’s the latest on the workout and its aftermath:

  • When the venue was changed, the NFL released a public statement on NFL.com that expressed they were “disappointed” with Kaepernick’s choice not to participate in the workout they had organized. They claimed “Twenty-five (25) clubs were present for the workout, and all 32 clubs, their head coaches, general managers, and other personnel executives would have received video footage of the interview and workout.” The league also felt the need to note they “made considerable effort to work cooperatively with Colin’s representatives,” among a list of other points that attempted to counter some narratives that the league had been purposely opaque in their negotiations.
  • The league also tweeted out from the league’s official account a thread reiterating some main points from the press release. One key point from the league’s perspective, “Colin moved his workout to a facility an hour from Atlanta Falcons Flowery Branch facility. No one got a heads up until NFL saw the Twitter statement.”
  • Former Raiders and Browns head coach Hue Jackson was scheduled to run the workout orchestrated by the NFL. However, while Kaepernick’s team invited Jackson to run the workout at the new venue, Jackson returned to the airport, according to Michael Silver of NFL.com.
  • WR Bruce Ellington, WR Brice Butler, WR Jordan Veasy, TE/WR Ari Werts, and Panthers S Eric Reid were on the field with Kaepernick for the workout, according to Kaylee Harung of ABC News. The free-agent receivers were likely hoping to catch the eyes of scouts present to view Kaepernick, while Reid has been one of the most consistent advocated for Kaepernick in the league.
  • One claim in the announcement made by Kaepernick’s representatives was that the league required he sign an agreement that included language to limit his ability to bring claims against the league. Of course, given Kaepernick’s previous collusion lawsuit against the league, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk argues the workout was a ploy by the league to put Kaepernick “in legal checkmate.”
  • In the end, there were not nearly as many teams present at Kaepernick’s workout as the NFL claimed would have been present for the workout they had planned. The Washington football team, Eagles, 49ers, Chiefs, Jets, Titans, and Lions were the teams present for his workout, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
  • The 2-hour workout was streamed on YouTube and consistently maintained roughly 45,000 viewers. On the field, one NFL executive described Kaepernick’s arm talent as “elite” and on the same level as “when he came out of college,” according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
  • Teams that had personnel present for the workout noted that the workout consisted of 60 throws and “Basically showed he’s the same guy he was,” according to Albert Breer of MMQB. After the workout, Kaepernick did not hold any formal interviews, but in his closing remarks said he would hold an interview with any team. He also thanked his fans for their support and reiterated, “I’ve been ready. I’m staying ready. And I’ll continue to be ready….The ball’s in their court. We’re ready to go.”

Packers To Interview Adam Gase

The Packers are expected to interview former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase for their head coaching vacancy, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein tweets. That interview is expected to come on Sunday, the same day the team interviews Tennessee’s Matt LaFleur, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky hears (Twitter link). 

Gase, who went 23-25 with the Dolphins in three seasons, wrapped up two interviews this week after meeting with the Cardinals and Jets. The 40-year-old Gase is an innovative offensive mind who rose to fame as the orchestrator of Denver’s dynamic offense during Peyton Manning‘s tenure with the team. In three years as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator, the team posted a pair of top-five offenses, including a No. 1-overall ranking in 2013 when Manning set the records for passing yards and touchdowns in a season. That type of offensive mind fits the mold of what the Packers are expected to want in a head coach to pair with Aaron Rodgers.

According to Pro Football Rumors’ head coaching search tracker, Gase will push the Packers’ number of interviews that are scheduled and expected to near double digits. That search includes other offensive minds like Josh McDaniels and Dan Campbell, as well as a host of former head coaches like Jim Caldwell and Chuck Pagano.

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NFL Draft Rumors: Jackson, Patriots, Rudolph

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson may have erred by opting to go through the NFL draft process without an agent, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com writes. Jackson will avoid paying a portion of his rookie deal to a representative, but in an effort to save some cash, he could be hurting his draft position, which would negate the savings on the standard 1.5% fee.

Reportedly, Jackson struggled in breaking down X’s and O’s on the white board in meetings with teams and his Wonderlic score was poor. Some say the Wonderlic is meaningless, but some execs still use it as part of their evaluation process and an agent would have had him prepped for the test and other aspects of team interviews. An agent would also help to push the narrative that Jackson should be considered above some of this year’s top quarterbacks, including USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen.

Ultimately, Jackson’s decision will look like a smart one if he winds up going in the top half of the first round, Corry argues. But, based on what we’ve heard so far, that doesn’t seem likely. It’s notable that the Texans, who are already armed with a star QB in Deshaun Watson and don’t pick until the third round, recently had a private workout with Jackson.

Here’s more NFL draft news:

  • South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst will visit the Panthers on Friday Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Carolina owns the No. 24 overall pick and they could use that selection to give themselves a potent tight end with receiving ability. Greg Olsen will start for the Panthers this season, but he is 33 and entering a contract year. In the past, Olsen has fought for a revamped deal, so it’s conceivable that he will look to push the market next March. Even if Olsen is retained beyond 2018, the Panthers need to consider the future of the tight end position.
  • The Patriots, who now own two first-round picks, recently had a private workout with Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, Rapoport tweets. Rudolph hasn’t garnered as much attention as this year’s top four QBs, but he is a potential first-rounder. Rapoport hears that he has been extremely busy with meetings and workouts, a possible sign that his stock is climbing.
  • Rudolph will also have a top 30 visit with the Bills this weekend, according to Rapoport (on Twitter). The Bills own picks at 12 and 22, so he could be in the mix for one of those spots. Rudolph has also met with or had workouts for the Chargers, Saints, Giants, Steelers, and Bengals.

Panthers Set Up GM Interviews For Next Week

Though interim general manager Marty Hurney is the frontrunner to be named the Panthers new GM, the team has also scheduled interviews with a pair of external candidates for next week, the Charlotte Observer’s Joseph Person writesMarty Hurney (vertical)

Those two candidates are Texans assistant general manager Jimmy Raye III and Bills assistant college scouting director Lake Dawson. Both Raye and Dawson, as Person notes, satisfies the Rooney Rule that requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate.

Though a time has not been divulged, the Panthers are also expected to sit down with Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden, who formerly served as a scout with Carolina.

Raye, a former player with the Rams, joined the Houston front office after stints with the Colts, as vice president of football operations, and Chargers, as director of player personnel. He has 23 years of experience in the NFL and previously interview for the Texans GM job earlier this month. Dawson joined the Bills in May 2017 following a stint as Cleveland’s national scout. He served as a receiver for six seasons before getting into college and pro scouting.

Hurney, who rejoined the Panthers following the dismissal of Dave Gettleman in the 2017 offseason, will not have a formal interview. His contract runs through June and has been backed by head coach Ron Rivera. In his one season on the job, Hurney dealt top wideout Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo, which led to Carolina’s passing improvement down the stretch.

 

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Titans Interview Matt LaFleur

The Titans have announced that they have finished their interview today with Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. The sides had to push back the scheduled meeting a day because of weather-related issues, but LaFleur has now completed his first interview for a head coaching role.

Matt LaFleur (Vertical)

LaFleur is young for a potential head coach at just 38 years old. He also is inexperienced as an offensive coordinator having served just one season under Sean McVay in Los Angeles. In his favor, LaFleur does have a tremendous track record as a quarterbacks coach, most recently helping to guide Matt Ryan through an MVP campaign just a year ago.

The Titans and former head coach Mike Mularkey parted ways because of the team’s wish to get the right guy for Marcus Mariota‘s development moving forward. LaFleur seems to fit the bill with what the front office is looking for.

With that said, Tennessee is still considering candidates of many background, including Mike Vrabel (HOU DC), Steve Wilks (CAR DC) and Frank Reich (Eagles OC). Just Wilks and Vrabel have been interviewed along with LaFleur.

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Cardinals Complete Second Interviews With Keith Armstrong, Steve Wilks

With the Giants, Colts and Lions all having head coaches likely to accept job offers, the Cardinals continue to talk to different candidates about their vacant head coaching gig. Today, the team has just completed a second interview with Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link) and Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).

Keith Armstrong (vertical)

Armstrong originally spoke to the team on January 8, but received a second interview request after it was revealed that other potential candidates Matt Patricia and Pat Shurmur would likely accept other jobs after their respective teams are eliminated from the postseason.

The 54-year-old Armstrong has held his special teams post in Atlanta since 2008. The Cardinals have been the only team that has requested to interview him for a head coaching role. On the other hand, Wilks has been spoken to a number of teams about their vacant head coaching gigs, including the Titans, who still have their spot open.

Arizona is still considering multiple coaches, including current defensive coordinator James Bettcher, Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo, Patriots linebacker coach Brian Flores, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

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Titans To Interview Rams OC Matt LaFleur

The Titans have another interview lined up for their vacant head coaching gig. The team will speak with current Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, reports Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). The interview is scheduled to take place on Thursday, adds Albert Breer of Sports Illustarted (Twitter link).

Matt LaFleur (Vertical)

We learned earlier today that the Titans would have to start looking for a new head coach after the organization and Mike Mularkey agreed to part ways after the team’s blowout loss to the Patriots this past weekend.

Part of the split reportedly stemmed from Mularkey’s inability to get the most out of third-year quarterback Marcus Mariota. The decision to interview LaFleur certainly is a move to pivoting to a different brand of football moving forward.

The 38-year-old offensive coordinator was worked his way to his current position as a quarterbacks coach with both the Redskins and Falcons. LaFleur worked directly with Matt Ryan during his 2016 MVP campaign. LaFleur than brought much success to a breakout 2017 Rams offense.

While he did not call plays with head coach Sean McVay on the sidelines, LaFleur clearly had a big role in helping second-year quarterback Jared Goff bounce back from a rough rookie season with Jeff Fisher. The Titans might be hoping LaFleur can work some of his magic with Mariota and they’ll get a chance to see the young coach’s plans for him and the franchise face-to-face in short order.

LaFleur is the first offensive coach that the team is scheduled to speak with after news broke that defensive coordinators Steve Wilks and Mike Vrabel would get a chance to interview for the position. Although, there was hope that Josh McDaniels would prefer Tennessee to Indianapolis, even though that doesn’t appear to be the case at the moment.

 

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