Jim Caldwell

Cardinals Rumors: Munchak, Wilks, Caldwell

The Cardinals are the only NFL team looking for a new head coach that either hasn’t already made a hire or does not have a clear-cut front-runner for the position. Indeed, many coaches around the league have “trepidation” about the Arizona gig, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Among the factors concerning potential contenders are the Cardinals’ lack of a solution at quarterback and the increasingly difficult path to contention in the NFC West. Additionally, Arizona prefers to keep the majority of its defensive staff in place, meaning a new head coach might not get the opportunity to hire his own coaches, as La Canfora writes in a separate piece. The immediate outlook for the Cardinals isn’t very positive, meaning ownership could make “sweeping changes” again in just a few years.

Here’s more on the Cardinals:

  • Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak withdrew from Arizona’s coaching hunt last week, but La Canfora reports (via Twitter) that Munchak would have been the favorite for the club’s head coaching position had he not pulled out. Munchak cited family concerns when explaining why he decided to remain in Pittsburgh, but there was at least some thought the Steelers could promote the NFL Hall of Famer to offensive coordinator after ex-OC Todd Haley‘s contract expired. Instead, Pittsburgh tabbed incumbent quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner for the role, meaning Munchak will return for a fifth season as the team’s OL coach. Munchak, 57, has previous head coaching experience, as he posted a 22-26 record with the Titans from 2011-13.
  • Among the candidates who are still in contention for the Arizona job, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has reportedly made a “very strong impression” on Cardinals ownership during the search process, tweets La Canfora. Wilks, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, and Eagles quarterbacks John DeFilippo all have or will receive second interviews. Incumbent DC James Bettcher, meanwhile, won’t require a second meeting given his familiarity with Arizona’s decision-makers.
  • While the Cardinals’ search is still ongoing, candidates have already started to formulate hypothetical coaching staffs. Flores for instance, would likely install former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator were he to land the Arizona gig, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Bettcher, meanwhile, is eyeing former Broncos play-caller Mike McCoy for OC and ex-Colts head coach Chuck Pagano for DC, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • We touched on Haley earlier, and the former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator says he would have interest in taking over OC duties for the Cardinals, per Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (Twitter link). Haley, of course, has worked in Arizona before as the club’s offensive coordinator from 2007-08. Also a potential candidate for vacant OC jobs in both New York and Cleveland, Haley will likely need to wait until the Cardinals settle on their next head coach before taking any serious looks at a reunion in the desert.

Lions Fire Head Coach Jim Caldwell

A day after defeating the Packers, 35-11, to cap their third winning campaign in four seasons, the Lions fired head coach Jim Caldwell, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). Jim Caldwell (Vertical)

Caldwell twice led the team to the postseason, the most playoff trips by a Detroit coach since Bobby Ross in the late-1990s. Despite the regular-season success, Caldwell could not deliver a postseason victory, something that has eluded the Lions for 25 years.

Rapoport also reports (Twitter link) the team is expected to interview highly sought after Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia for the vacant head-coaching position. He also notes Lions general manager Bob Quinn’s New England ties will help in the team’s pursuit of Patricia. Before ascending to GM in Detroit, Quinn spent 15 years in New England as a scout and director of player personnel.

The 62-year-old Caldwell has delivered winning campaigns in five of his eight seasons as a head coach and advanced to the Super Bowl with the Colts. His winning percentage of .562 as Lions head coach is the highest of any full-time coach of the franchise for more than one season since Buddy Parker recorded a 47-23-2 mark and a .671 winning percentage in the 1950s.

The dismissal ends longtime speculation over the future of Caldwell in Detroit. After losing his last three regular-season games and the team’s wildcard matchup with Seattle in 2017, Caldwell was retained and given a contract extension. The terms of the deal, however, were not made available immediately and it was later discovered the extension only covered him through the 2018 campaign.

Instead of firing Caldwell, the team hired Quinn to replace former GM Martin Mayhew. With Caldwell now gone, Quinn is set to hire his first head coach on the job.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Notes: Caldwell, Lang, Ansah

Following Detroit’s 35-11 win over division rival Green Bay, head coach Jim Caldwell addressed reporters and said he does not know what the future holds, Justin Rogers of the Detroit News reports (Twitter link).

Despite posting a 9-7 record, the Lions were eliminated from the playoffs following a loss to Cincinnati in Week 16. By missing the postseason, sources told NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport that the team was expected to let go of Caldwell at season’s end.

Hot-seat rumors have swirled around Caldwell for months and an answer to those rumors is likely to come in the next few days. In September, Detroit gave Caldwell a contract extension but the terms of the deal were not revealed until December, when NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported the deal ran through 2018.

“I don’t make any excuses,” Caldwell said. “It’s just not the way I live my life. So we go out, we do what we do and we’ll make an assessment from there. The real assessment is wins and losses. That’s the key. I think there are things that I’ve done, but I’m not done yet. So you know, we’ll see.”

Here’s more from the Lions:

  • Guard T.J. Lang is not expected to require surgery for a foot injury that has lingered throughout the season, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein reports (Twitter link). Lang missed the team’s Week 16 loss to Cincinnati, which eliminated the Lions from the playoffs. The right guard is signed through the 2019 season.
  • Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is “pretty confident” he can return to his 2015 form, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. Over the last two season, Birkett notes the pass-rushing lineman has spent 25 of a possible 32 weeks on the injury report. Ansah told Birkett, “I’ve been dealing with a lot all year long … There is good days and bad days regardless of how healthy you are.” After recording 14.5 sacks during his breakout 2015 campaign, Ansah has managed just 11 in the two seasons since.

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.

Jim Caldwell’s Contract Expires After 2018

We heard in September that the Lions had given head coach Jim Caldwell a multi-year extension that stretched beyond 2018, and that the two sides had agreed to that extension several months prior. However, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports, Caldwell’s extension only runs through the 2018 campaign, with an option following next season. That deal, therefore, really only prevented Caldwell from being a lame duck coach this year, and Rapoport hears that Caldwell’s contract status will not impact whether the team retains him or cuts him loose after 2017.

Jim Caldwell (Vertical)

The Lions have lost two games in a row and, at 6-6, would not make the playoffs if they started today (they will likely need to run the table to have a shot at the postseason). Even when it was believed that Caldwell’s contract went beyond 2018, there were increased rumblings concerning his job security over the past few weeks — thanks in large part to the Lions’ slow starts and a couple of major coaching gaffes — and this new information will only add fuel to the fire. Indeed, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets that Caldwell is “firmly” on the hot seat.

Nonetheless, it must be remembered that, even though Detroit GM Bob Quinn inherited Caldwell when Quinn came aboard in 2016, he has retained him for two years, and Caldwell has guided the Lions to the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. His 33-29 record gives him the highest winning percentage (.532) of any Lions head coach in the Super Bowl era, which speaks more to Detroit’s general mediocrity over the years than Caldwell’s abilities, but it is a noteworthy accomplishment just the same.

As Rapoport observes, Caldwell’s status will come more into focus as the season concludes. If he is fired, Birkett speculates in a full-length piece that Patriots coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia could be top targets, especially given Quinn’s deep ties to New England.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: 49ers, Bears, Lions, Saints

The 49ers considered Mitch Trubisky with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft before deciding to trade the pick to the Bears, who ended up selecting the North Carolina product, coach Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco.

“I really liked Mitchell. He was really the only guy I flew out and saw. I spent some time with Mitchell and got to work him out. I spent a few hours watching tape with him,” Shanahan said.

“But that wasn’t something we were going to do with our pick. We felt like we had to go a lot of other different directions. Our goal was to add picks and get as many players as possible, and we are happy with what we did.”

Instead of taking the quarterback, San Francisco traded back one spot with Chicago and picked up the team’s first-, third- and fourth-round picks in 2017, and the team’s third-round pick in 2018. Interesting to note, that third-round pick was traded to the Saints, who tabbed breakout running back and Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Alvin Kamara.

Shanahan will get to see Trubisky up close on Sunday when the Niners travel to take on the Bears.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Sticking with the Bears and 49ers theme; Shanahan also said he was interested in hiring Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. A well-respected and longtime NFL coach, Fangio could be a candidate to replace John Fox in Chicago, should the coach be let go in the coming weeks. “I think Vic definitely deserves to be [a head coach]. He’s one of the coaches I’ve respected the most, just from going against him,” Shanahan said.
  • Though Fangio is an option, the Bears are likely to invest in an offensive coach to groom Trubisky, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Leading the list, of course, is Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel, who always seems to be atop everyone’s wish list.
  • Lions head coach Jim Caldwell should be safe if the team finishes 10-6, even if the team misses the playoffs writes ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. He added that he expects Caldwell will return as head coach as of right now, but that could change in the coming weeks. Caldwell has managed two winning campaigns in his first three seasons in Detroit, or the same amount the Lions produced in the 14 years prior to his arrival.
  • The Saints will not use their remaining IR-to-return spot, writes Joel A. Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate. The hope was that tackle Zach Strief would be an option to return, but that shelved after he underwent to repair his ACL and MCL two weeks ago. No other players on IR have a time table that would allow them to return.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Stafford, Bucs

Despite the Packers falling behind in the NFC playoff picture, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was seen throwing the ball around prior to the start of the team’s Sunday night game in Pittsburgh. Now with Rodgers clearly progressing well, the soon-to-be 34-year-old may be ready to return to practice at the end of next week, reports Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Demovsky passed along that head coach Mike McCarthy dodged a question about if he expected his starting QB to return this season. The earliest date Rodgers could be activated off the injured reserve would be in Week 15.

  • Fellow NFC North signal, Lions QB Matthew Stafford suffered an injury of his own on Thanksgiving, but appears to be “feeling better”, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. The injury appeared to be more serious, but is being classified as a sprained ankle by team doctors. “I’m feeling better,” Stafford said after practice on Monday. “Obviously stuck around in town this weekend, got a bunch of treatment on it. We’ll see. Coach (Jim Caldwell) will put out that report on Wednesday or whatever it is for practice and all that kind of stuff, but it’s getting better and hopefully it’ll continue to get better.” Obviously, the franchise quarterback will not be 100% healthy entering Week 13, but he’s fought through injuries before and it looks like he’ll be healthy enough to take on the Ravens this Sunday.
  • Despite an earlier report that Mississippi State may be targeting Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken for their heading coaching vacancy, Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter hasn’t heard anything about school’s interest, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). “To my knowledge, Todd Monken has not been contacted by Mississippi State. That comes from his mouth to my ear.” While the interest may be more in the gathering stage at this point, expect to hear some NFL assistants get some looks from schools as jobs open up. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is reportedly garnering interest in Arizona State’s open head coach position.
  • On the field, Stroud also reports that QB Jameis Winston could begin throwing again at practice this week, and could get enough work to start vs. the Packers this weekend. This would be a positive development for the third-year signal caller as he’s missed the team’s last three games with a shoulder injury. While the news is positive, Winston is also dealing with an NFL investigation off the field regarding a sexual assault allegation that stems from when Winston rode in an Uber last year.

NFC Notes: Clayborn, 49ers, Lions

Falcons defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn was prepared to hang up the cleats last offseason, as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Clayborn suffered a torn biceps in Atlanta’s playoff win over the Seahawks in January, which marked the third time that he had endured a season-ending injury, and he was ready to retire rather than risk more pain and frustration. However, his fiancee (now wife) convinced him to give it another shot, and Atlanta is reaping the benefits. In addition to his otherworldly (and perhaps cathartic) six-sack performance against Dallas last week, Clayborn has rated as the 10th-best edge defender in the league (out of 110 qualifiers) per Pro Football Focus. He will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and he could be on the verge of a very nice payday.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • 2017 was always going to be a rebuilding year for the 49ers, and Cam Inman of the Mercury News offers his thoughts as to each current player’s future with the club. He suggests, for instance, that the team may prefer to let oft-injured Jimmie Ward test a soft free agent market but may want to re-sign fellow free agent-t0-be Daniel Kilgore.
  • Kyle Meinke of MLive.com says he would not be surprised if the Lions simply cut Eric Ebron this offseason. While Ebron is due an $8MM salary under the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, that salary is guaranteed for injury only, so Detroit could move on from him with no penalty (assuming, of course, he does not get hurt in the meantime). Theoretically, the two sides could attempt to work out some alternate arrangement — after all, Ebron would not get close to $8MM on the open market — but given that Ebron seemed anxious for a fresh start when his name was bandied about at the trade deadline, it sounds as if Ebron may be playing his last games as Lion.
  • In the same piece, Meinke says it is hard to imagine Lions head coach Jim Caldwell getting the axe after the season, even if the team fails to qualify for the playoffs. However, Meinke predicts that Detroit will let impending free agent center Travis Swanson, who has performed poorly this season, hit the open market while sliding Graham Glasgow from guard to center.
  • Ty Montgomery‘s re-aggravated rib injury is more painful than the original injury that he suffered earlier in the year, as ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweets. Anderson said the Packers running back, who will miss today’s contest against the Ravens, will try to practice later this week with the hopes of suiting up for Green Bay’s Week 12 game against Pittsburgh, but it does not sound particularly promising right now.
  • Mike Pettine, who is currently serving as a consultant with the Seahawks, would be one of Matt Nagy‘s top choices for defensive coordinator if Nagy lands a head coaching job this offseason, as Michael Lombardi of The Ringer tweets. Pettine served as the Browns’ head coach from 2014-15, and he was previously a defensive coordinator for the Jets and Bills. Nagy currently works as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator and is expected to be one of the hottest head coaching candidates in 2018.

Lions Sign Jim Caldwell To Extension

The Lions and fourth-year coach Jim Caldwell agreed to a multiyear extension, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, adding (Twitter link) the sides agreed to this pact months ago.

While it doesn’t automatically guarantee Caldwell will be back with Detroit next season, it will close speculation the coach was in the final year of his contract. Caldwell has fielded questions, telling media (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press) he hadn’t signed an extension, about his contract but did not disclose this deal was already in place.

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter) the sides agreed to this deal in the spring.

Although Caldwell wasn’t hired by current Lions GM Bob Quinn, he has steered the team to playoff appearances in two of his first three seasons at the helm. The Lions backed into the NFC bracket last season, losing their final three games, but it was the franchise’s first time booking two postseason berths in a three-year span since making the playoffs in 1997 and ’99.

Speculation existed about a Caldwell/Lions parting due to last season’s stretch-run swoon and one-sided wild-card loss to the Seahawks, and the fact Quinn did not select him as coach. While Jeff Fisher‘s 2016 Rams extension helped show how tenuous these agreements can be, Quinn’s enjoyed more success in the Motor City than Fisher did in St. Louis and Los Angeles. That could buy him more time, and there will now be money on his deal past 2017.

Quinn has now authorized 2017 extension for two franchise centerpieces he inherited, with this deal preceding Matthew Stafford‘s August re-up.

The Lions have since started 2-0 this season and are alone atop the NFC North.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.