James Saxon

Coaching Rumors: Rizzi, Dennison, Browns

Darren Rizzi interviewed for the Dolphins coaching job that is likely to go to Brian Flores, but the special teams coordinator is a coveted commodity around the league. The Packers are set to interview him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Miami wants to retain Rizzi, who has been with the team throughout the 2010s, but has given him permission to seek employment elsewhere. That may soon prompt an extensive interview circuit. Five teams are interested in bringing him aboard, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. The Vikings look to be one of those. Rizzi, 48, has only coached for one NFL franchise. His pre-Dolphins gigs were college jobs in the northeast, including a one-season stay (2008) as Rhode Island’s head coach.

As week three of many teams’ offseason begins, here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Todd Monken‘s rise to Buccaneers play-caller earned him interest in teams’ OC jobs. He ended up landing with the Browns, but the other recent play-caller on this staff will call Cleveland’s plays next season. Freddie Kitchens will be the game-day director for the Browns’ offense next season, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). This won’t be too new for Monken, who spent the first two seasons as Bucs OC watching Dirk Koetter call plays.
  • The Vikings announced Klint Kubiak (quarterbacks coach) and Brian Pariani (tight ends) are following Gary Kubiak to Minnesota, with the latter’s official title being assistant head coach/offensive advisor. Expected to be part of the Gary Kubiak gang getting back together up north, Rick Dennison was not included in this announcement. But Mike Klis of 9News notes the former Broncos and Bills OC is indeed believed to be part of the next Vikings staff (Twitter link). When Kubiak agreed to reprise his longtime role as Broncos OC, he wanted Dennison to oversee the team’s offensive line concepts, per Klis. The Broncos’ pursuit of Mike Munchak overruled this, and Dennison — the Jets’ O-line coach in 2018 — could be set to have a role in aiding the Vikings’ blockers next season.
  • Speaking of Munchak, the Broncos went beyond their usual offensive line coach budget to bring him over from Pittsburgh, Klis notes (on Twitter). Munchak, who has coached for just two franchises (the Oilers/Titans and Steelers), has family in the area.
  • The Steelers promoted Shaun Sarrett to replace Munchak as their O-line coach, the team announced. Sarrett had previously served as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. He has been with the Steelers for seven seasons, helping instruct their offensive linemen for most of that time.
  • After the Steelers let running backs coach James Saxon go, he will move to Arizona. The Cardinals are hiring Saxon to coach their running backs, Aditi Kinkabwala of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). He will replace Kirby Wilson and attempt to revive Arizona’s No. 32-ranked ground game. Saxon has 19 years’ experience coaching running backs in the NFL — the past five with the Steelers, where he oversaw Le’Veon Bell‘s rise and James Conner and Jaylen Samuels‘ quality replacement efforts — and should help rookie NFL coach Kliff Kingsbury.
  • Kris Kocurek will move from south Florida to the Bay Area, shifting from the Dolphins’ defensive line coach to the same role with the 49ers, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM tweets. Kocurek, 40, was the Lions’ D-line coach for nine seasons prior to moving to Miami.

Steelers Not Bringing Back RB Coach James Saxon

More changes are coming to the Steelers’ coaching staff. After they announced a few days ago they wouldn’t be bringing back linebackers coach Joey Porter, the team announced in a tweet they weren’t retaining running backs coach James Saxon. 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is shaking up his staff after a disappointing season where Pittsburgh missed the playoffs and the team became embroiled in internal drama. While Tomlin’s job is safe, he’s clearly starting to feel a little bit of heat as things seem to be falling apart in Pittsburgh.

After going one and done in the playoffs last season, the team didn’t bring back offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Now the team is letting go multiple assistant coaches, and it’s definitely possible they aren’t done. After the announcement about Porter, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, wrote that it felt “like a warning shot” to Tomlin from ownership, and that the decision on his assistant coaches might not be his.

Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak is reportedly the early favorite for the Broncos’ head coaching job, so next year’s Steelers coaching staff could look radically different. The team is reportedly set to trade Antonio Brown, so it looks like an offseason of change for Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.