Jim Harbaugh

AFC Notes: Osweiler, Cousins, Jim Harbaugh

The Broncos have tried to tinker their playbook a bit to suit Brock Osweiler‘s strengths, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). However, Rapoport calls tonight’s matchup with New England Osweiler’s final audition, and if he should continue to struggle, Paxton Lynch — who is reportedly getting healthier — will be given the chance to show what he can do.

Now for more rumors from the AFC (we rounded up some NFC nuggets earlier today):

  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com believes that the Jets‘ chances to acquire Kirk Cousins in the offseason improved after Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to San Francisco, thereby (presumably) taking the 49ers out of contention for Cousins’ services. Of course, it all depends on what Washington does, but Cimini thinks New York will make a major QB acquisition one way or another. He thinks the club will either pursue Cousins or another quality veteran (like Alex Smith, should he become available) or else trade up for one of the top signal-callers in the draft.
  • Browns LT Joe Thomas is battling an injured triceps that has knocked him out for the remainder of the season, and he remains undecided about his future, even though Cleveland gave him a pay raise for the 2018 season. As Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com writes, however, the Browns’ outlook could play a role in his decision. Thomas said, “Is it going to be for trying to pursue a championship or are we trying to pursue a playoff berth or are we trying to pursue a first pick overall? Those are all things that could play into that decision.”
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says that, when the 49ers were considering trading former head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Browns offered San Francisco two third-round picks and offered Harbaugh a five-year, $40MM contract. Harbaugh, though, did not want to go to Cleveland, but sources close to the current University of Michigan head coach say his eventual return to the league is “inevitable.”
  • Rookie Gareon Conley might be the Raiders‘ most talented corner, but he has only been able to appear in two games in 2017 due to a shin injury that has taken longer than expected to heal. Per Scott Bair of NBCSports.com, Conley’s prospects for the remainder of the year will become clearer this week. If he is able to return to practice, he could work his way back into the mix. If not, Oakland will place him on injured reserve, thereby ending his first professional season.

NFC Notes: Bucs, Saints, Lions, 49ers

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston lobbed on Wednesday for the club to sign Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson in free agency, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ve met him before, and we want DeSean. You better believe we want DeSean here,” Winston said. “I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean.” The 30-year-old Jackson is coming off his fifth 1,000-yard season and might command upward of $10MM annually on the open market. Tampa Bay is among the NFL’s leaders in cap space, though, and PFR’s Dallas Robinson noted Monday that the speedy Jackson could be a fit for its receiver-needy offense.

More from the NFC:

  • Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley is likely to test free agency, and if he does, he could seek a contract worth around $10MM per year, writes Larry Holder of NOLA.com. The Saints would likely go to around around $6MM per annum for Fairley, suggests Holder. An annual average of $10MM would be a notable step up for a player who had to settle for one-year deals in each of the previous two offseasons. Fairley, 29, made $3MM last season in potentially his only year in New Orleans and totaled career highs in starts (16), tackles (43) and sacks (6.5).
  • It’s possible the Lions will do something significant at tight end this offseason, per ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein, who lists the Patriots’ Martellus Bennett as a potential target in free agency. Signing Bennett, who appears likely to leave New England, would cloud starting tight end Eric Ebron‘s future in Detroit. Still just 23, Ebron set career highs in receptions (61), targets (86) and yards (711) last season, though he finished toward the bottom of the league in drops (seven) and only caught one touchdown. The Lions must decide by May whether to exercise Ebron’s fifth-year option for 2018.
  • Speaking of the state of Michigan, Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh took a shot at 49ers CEO Jed York on Thursday in a podcast with Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News. Harbaugh quipped that he deserves “an endurance medal” for working with the much-maligned York for four years, from 2011-14. San Francisco was a powerhouse under Harbaugh, as it went 44-19-1 and earned a Super Bowl berth, but the two sides parted ways over his poor relationship with management. The polarizing Colin Kaepernick was Harbaugh’s starting quarterback for most of the coach’s tenure in the Bay Area, and Harbaugh told Kawakami that “there’s no doubt” Kaepernick is still capable of being a No. 1 signal-caller. Kaepernick’s time with the Niners could be on the verge of ending, though he did have a positive meeting Wednesday with new general manager John Lynch.

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Rams, Gruden

Despite rumors to the contrary, one source tells ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett there is no indication the Saints are more willing to part ways with Sean Payton now than they were in the past. That same source also refuted the notion that morale is low in New Orleans because of speculation over Payton’s future. Regardless, you can expect the Payton buzz to continue for a while. There’s now talk that Payton has “sincere interest” in the Rams’ opening.

Here’s a roundup of the latest coaching rumors:

  • Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter are two to watch in the Rams‘ coaching search, Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News tweets.
  • There are reasons why Jon Gruden does and doesn’t make sense for the Rams, Mike Florio of PFT writes. Gruden has star power, offensive know-how, and relationships with both COO Kevin Demoff and Washington exec Bruce Allen, who could be a GM candidate for the team. He could also help the team attract Raiders fans in the area. Conversely, one could argue that Gruden was overrated as a coach since he won a Super Bowl with a defense built by Tony Dungy and run the highly-respected Monte Kiffin. Gruden also doesn’t have a rep as a player-friendly coach.
  • Panthers coach Ron Rivera has been mentioned as a possibility for the Rams‘ job, but his agent tells Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer there hasn’t been any contact between Rivera and Los Angeles. “There hasn’t been any contact,” agent Frank Bauer said. “Ron’s super happy where he’s at.” Of course, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. The Rams could still wait until after the season to reach out to Rivera and, even if they have already, his agent would never publicly confirm an act of tampering. If there is mutual interest between the Rams and Rivera this spring, L.A. would still have to negotiate a trade with the Panthers.
  • Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh won’t be returning to the NFL in 2017, but he could eventually be back, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (link via PFT). If and when he goes back to the NFL, Rapoport says he could be a match for the Bears. Meanwhile, some league insiders have speculated to PFT that Harbaugh could eventually coach the Colts, reuniting him with Andrew Luck.

Sean Payton Has “Sincere Interest” In Rams’ Head Coaching Vacancy

Another day, another big name being mentioned as a potential candidate for the Rams’ head coach opening. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that Saints head coach Sean Payton is monitoring the Rams’ vacancy with “sincere interest.” The reporter clarifies that a potential Rams/Saints trade is neither “imminent” nor “likely,” but a deal is “possible.” For the Rams to pull off such a move, Payton would have to be the organization’s “overwhelming No. 1” favorite for the position.

Sean Payton (vertical)As Rapoport writes, Payton has openly expressed interest in coaching on the West Coast, especially since his daughter lives in California. The head coach had previously shown some interst in the former 49ers and Chargers openings. Payton ultimately signed a five-year extension with the Saints that will pay him around $10MM a year. After he announced the new contract, Payton said that he couldn’t envision himself coaching elsewhere.

Of course, the extension doesn’t mean that Payton is guaranteed to stick around New Orleans. The 52-year-old hasn’t led the Saints to the playoffs since 2013, and Rapoport reports that some within the organization are starting to tire of Payton’s unwillingness to commit to his current gig longterm. In fact, we heard last week that the Saints could look to trade their long-time coach. If the coach decides that he wants out of New Orleans, the front office won’t hold him “hostage,” according to Rapoport.

Payton does have an impressive head coaching record of 92-64 during his 11 seasons in New Orleans (he was suspended for the 2012 campaign), and he led the team to a Super Bowl championship in 2009.

Despite the Payton news, Rapoport tweets that the Rams aren’t necessarily looking to “make a splash” with the hiring. The last time they hired a big-Ron Rivera (vertical)name coach, they signed Jeff Fisher… and we all know how that turned out.

Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter echoes that the Rams aren’t necessarily looking at high-profile names for their head coaching vacancy. According to the report, the Rams are eyeing Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance JosephBills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn,
offensive coordinators Josh McDaniels, and Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. We learned earlier this week that the Rams (along with the Jaguars) would have interest in Shanahan.

Rapoport throws another name into the ring (via Twitter): Panthers coach Ron Rivera. The writer notes that Rivera would be a natural fit considering the Rams’ young roster and Los Angeles’ Hispanic population. Of course, Rapoport admits that a Rams/Panthers trade would be rather complicated to pull off.

Other names that have been mentioned for the opening are Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. Both of those potential candidates denied having any interest in the gig.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Breer On GM Search, Harbaugh, Draft

When it comes to being a GM, is it more about who you know than what you know? In his latest column, Albert Breer of The MMQB spoke with one league official who suggested that the NFL’s career development advisory panel has something of a fraternity-vibe.

It’s all full of nepotism. It’s a joke. And it starts with Charley Casserly,” the personnel man said.

Casserly rejected the idea that he, Ron Wolf, Bill Polian, Ernie Accorsi, John Madden, Tony Dungy and Carl Peterson are aiming to line up their friends with jobs, but he did acknowledge that connections help.

It’s so different than it is with coaches,” Casserly said. “Coaches are so clearly defined. You know who calls the plays, you see them on TV, coordinators have press conferences. It’s just not like that in scouting. Are they pro? College? None of them are making big decisions. What you need is networking. It’s not politicking.”

Casserly was directly involved with the Jets’ coach and GM search process in 2015. Gang Green wound up hiring Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan – two former co-workers of Casserly’s.

Here’s more from Breer:

  • Breer identified the following executives as people who could immediately jump into a GM job somewhere: Chiefs VP of player personnel Chris BallardPatriots VP of player personnel Nick Caserio, Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCostaSeahawks co-director of player personnel Scott FittererTexans director of player personnel Brian GainePackers director of player personnel Brian GutekunstSeahawks co-director of player personnel Trent KirchnerCowboys assistant director of player personnel Will McClay, Cardinals VP of player personnel Terry McDonoughVikings assistant GM George PatonFalcons assistant GM Scott PioliBengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin, Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf.
  • The widespread feeling in NFL circles is that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will be back in pro football eventually, even if it’s not happening right now. For his part, Harbaugh says that he is incredibly happy as the Wolverines’ coach.
  • Is Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen the next under-the-radar quarterback prospect a la Carson Wentz? It was Craig Bohl who recruited Carson Wentz to North Dakota State and he is now Allen’s coach at Wyoming. It’s hard to say whether the 6’5″, 222-pound signal caller has the same kind of talent, but his stock is rising. “He’s a big ol’ kid with a big arm, and he’s pretty athletic too,” said one AFC exec. “We gotta learn more about him, but the tools are there.” Allen, a redshirt sophomore, has plenty of time to develop.
  • Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck recently predicted that Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush will be an “incredibly high draft pick” this year. Apparently, talent evaluators do not agree. “He may get drafted late because of the [lack of] quality at the position,” said one area scout assigned to CMU. “He’s an accurate thrower with deceptive athletic ability to extend plays with his feet. Not a dynamic or explosive athlete, but good enough to avoid the rush and create at times. Average arm at best, but he’s got solid touch on intermediate and deep balls. He just lacks elite velocity.”

10 Coaching Candidates For The Rams

In an iconic scene from season nine of The SimpsonsKrusty the Klown announced his retirement to a scrum of not-so-stunned reporters. Krusty The Clown

But Krusty,” one reporter asks. “Why now? Why not twenty years ago?

It wouldn’t have been out of place for any Rams beat reporter to channel that sentiment and ask a similar question of COO Kevin Demoff when he addressed the media on Monday. Jeff Fisher‘s dismissal was long overdue and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the coach’s family who disagrees.

For now, the Rams will turn things over to special teams coordinator John Fassel on an interim basis. While this is ostensibly a chance for Fassel to impress team brass and land the head coaching job for 2017, most are expecting the Rams to hire a name brand coach that will energize the fan base and give the team some additional panache in free agency.

With a few weeks to go between now and the official end of the Rams’ season, here are ten names that could be considered for the job:

Jim Harbaugh (vertical)Jim Harbaugh, head coach at the University of Michigan: Some say that living well is the best revenge. Others say that the best revenge against your former employer is setting up shop across the street and destroying them. Santa Clara-to-Los Angeles is a lengthy drive, but you get what we’re getting at.

Harbaugh, in theory, could leave his alma mater and crush the 49ers by joining up with a divisional rival. The Rams have reportedly been loafing in practice and Harbaugh is the kind of throwback disciplinarian that the team badly needs. It’s fair to assume that the Rams will get in contact with Harbaugh, but it will be tough to get him to leave his lucrative job in Ann Arbor.

With National Signing Day around the corner, Harbaugh could publicly remove himself himself from consideration if he is not at all interested in an NFL return. Alternatively, if Harbaugh wants to get sweet revenge against the Niners, Stan Kroenke better have his checkbook ready. Signing Harbaugh could cost upwards of $10MM/year and that’s before factoring in his buyout clause with the Wolverines. If Harbaugh bolts, he’ll owe U-M the prorated portion of his $2MM signing bonus. With two of the seven years served, 5/7ths of that amount comes out to roughly $1.43MM.

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Latest On Rams’ Head Coaching Vacancy

Despite recently announcing an extension for Jeff Fisher, the Rams fired their head coach on Monday, installing special teams coach John Fassel as the interim coach for the remainder of the season. The Los Angeles job should be an attractive opening for the latest round of head coaching candidates, and earlier today PFR’s Zach Links examined some of the potential contenders for the opening, listing names such as Jim Harbaugh, Jim Bob Cooter, and David Shaw, among others.

Let’s take a look at some of the fallout, reaction, and speculation regarding the league’s newest head coaching vacancy…

  • Calling the circumstances surrounding Fisher’s firing an “organizational failure,” Rams COO Kevin Demoff emphasized that the Rams’ entire decision-making structure will come under scrutiny in the coming weeks, meaning general manager Les Snead could also be in danger of losing his job. “Starting today we’ll have a complete review of the entire organization. We’ll analyze [the front office],” Demoff said, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Snead, like Fisher, recently inked a contract extension, but that shouldn’t stop Los Angeles from cleaning house.
  • The Rams job will be among the most coveted head coaching slots in the league, and many offensive minds are already interested in the opening, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (TwitLonger link) and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (video link). Both scribes identify several factors — a young quarterback and running back, patient ownership, a blank slate, the Los Angles market — that will likely persuade coaches to quickly hand in their résumés.
  • While the club does have stars on both sides of the ball in the forms of Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald, reinforcements have been an issue during the Fisher/Snead regime, and Rams coaches had been openly voicing concerns about the lack of depth on the roster, reports Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. That problem might not be alleviated any time soon, especially given that Los Angeles sacrificed a haul of draft picks to move up and draft Jared Goff.
  • While Harbaugh’s name has been tossed out as a candidate for the Rams position, the Michigan head coach doesn’t sound as if he’s ready to make the leap back to the NFL. Harbaugh told his Wolverine players that recent rumors about his leaving Ann Arbor are “lies made up by our enemies,” tweets Dan Murphy of ESPN.com. Meanwhile, a source tells Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) that Harbaugh isn’t leaving Michigan right now, and in fact may never leave the Maize and Blue.
  • Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is also thought to be a possible suitor for Los Angeles, but the New England play-caller isn’t biting on any attempts to link him to the job. “My focus and my attention is gonna stay right here in the building” McDaniels told reporters, including Phil Perry of CSNNE.com (Twitter link), today.
  • Whomever the Rams tap as their next head coach, he should be in place in the next month or so, as Demoff told Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com that LA would “ideally” like to hire a coach by mid-January.

Sunday Roundup: O’Brien, Harbaugh, Lacy

As the early Week 10 games get underway, let’s take a look at some notes from around the league:

  • Texans owner Bob McNair is understandably disappointed with his club’s performance this year under second-year head coach Bill O’Brien, and rumors persist that O’Brien could be on his way out at the end of the season while GM Rick Smith, long a McNair favorite, could stay in Houston. If that happens, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that O’Brien is “very intrigued” by the head coaching job at the University of Maryland, which is a more attractive position than some outsiders may realize. O’Brien fits Maryland’s criteria–a relatively young offensive mind who can run a quality pro-style offense–and he previously served as an assistant coach with the Terrapins. Current Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich is also reportedly interested in the job.
  • Although it was expected that Texans TE Ryan Griffin would play this week, Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle reports that the team did not activate Griffin from the Injured Reserve-Designated To Return list before a Saturday afternoon deadline, meaning he will have to wait until next week to get back into game action. As Wilson writes, Griffin has recovered from a sprained MCL suffered during the season-opener against Kansas City, but he is still working his way back into football shape.
  • After Michigan’s narrow win over Indiana last night, an Indiana-based reporter began to ask Wolverines head coach–and former Colts quarterback–Jim Harbaugh if he would have any interest in the Colts head coaching position should it become available at the end of the season, as is widely expected. Per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, Harbaugh did not allow the reporter to finish the question, saying simply, “Stop. Just stop yourself. No comment.” 
  • Eddie Lacy was a surprise entry on the Packers‘ inactive list today, but he has disappointed all season. Some of Lacy’s struggles can be attributed to injury, some to poor blocking, and some to Lacy’s physical condition (he is noticeably heavier than last year). As Rob Demovksy of ESPN.com writes, Lacy is facing a crossroads in his young career, and Green Bay hopes that the emergence of James Starks, coupled with Lacy’s difficulties, will spur the latter back to his previous level of success.
  • Mark Kiszla and Troy Renck of The Denver Post debate whether the Broncos should give backup quarterback Brock Osweiler some snaps down the stretch in order to preserve Peyton Manning for what will likely be his last playoff run. As long as a first-round bye is at stake, Osweiler will remain on the sidelines, unless the outcome of a particular game is no longer in doubt.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com breaks down the upcoming free agent and trade markets for quarterbacks.

Extra Points: Freeney, Dolphins, Harbaugh

The Cardinals had interest in Dwight Freeney since late July, a source tells Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic (on Twitter). However, Freeney was looking for too much money. Needless to say, the price has come down. Arizona reportedly has agreed to sign Freeney, though head coach Bruce Arians claimed that there is no deal yet, as Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com tweets.

Here’s more from around the league..

  • The Dolphins won’t make another run at coach Jim Harbaugh, according to Peter King of The MMQB.com (via PFT). Harbaugh, now the head coach at Michigan, was a target for the Dolphins years ago, but the club apparently isn’t interested in circling back. There’s a connection between the ex-49ers coach and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross because Ross is a Michigan alum and has been a major booster for the school. However, for that exact reason, Ross might be hesitant to take the coach away from Ann Arbor.
  • Saints wide receiver Marques Colston suffered a separated shoulder on Sunday at the least, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). There could also be some structural damage for the veteran receiver.
  • By trading Gerald Hodges to the 49ers, the Vikings changed everything for their linebackers, Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press writes.

West Links: Rams, Raiders, Harbaugh

Prior to the Jaguars adding Stefen Wisniewski on Saturday, the Rams researched the former Raiders center and maintained interest in him as an option to become their starting center, reports Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Now, the Rams could opt to look in-house for their next snapper.

Unrestricted free agent Scott Wells regressed badly last season in 16 games for the Rams, rating as the worst center in the league, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Entering his third season, Barrett Jones will likely receive the first shot at succeeding Wells after arriving in St. Louis as a fourth-round pick in 2013, per Thomas. But he’s actually less-experienced than in-house competitor Tim Barnes, who started four games for an injured Wells in ’13. The tandem combined for just 32 snaps last season.

Thomas also notes the team’s brought in nine offensive linemen for visits, including Florida State’s Cameron Erving, with holes to fill at center, guard and right tackle.

Here are some more items from the Western divisions.

  • Despite being staunch in his position that there was no rift between former 49ers head coach and the players, Alex Boone admitted that Jim Harbaugh wore out his welcome in San Francisco, according to the staff at CSNBayArea.com“I think he just pushed guys too far. He wanted too much, demanded too much, expected too much. You know, ‘We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this.’ And you’d be like, ‘This guy might be clinically insane. He’s crazy,’” Boone said. “I think that if you’re stuck in your ways enough, eventually people are just going to say, ‘Listen, we just can’t work with this.’”
  • The Seahawks have their starting quarterback position settled, with Russell Wilson ingrained as the starter for the foreseeable future, but the rest of the depth chart is still up in the air. Currently, B.J. Daniels and R.J. Archer remain on the roster, but Tarvaris Jackson could very well return as the team’s primary backup, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. He picks Wilson-Jackson-Daniels as his most likely trio for the final roster.
  • The issue of whether Oakland and Alameda can come up with a solution on keeping the Raiders long-term could generate some clarity in the next two weeks, report San Francisco Chronicle reporters Phil Matier and Andy Ross. The NFL is reportedly pressing for answers on this matter, which is coming down to how a new Bay Area stadium will be financed. NFL representatives met with city officials in Oakland and the Raiders on Wednesday while also taking summits with team executives and Carson officials a day later, according to the report. Both the Raiders and Oakland city and county officials have expressed they cannot afford to pay for a stadium costing around $1 billion on their own.
  • Expected to claim the Broncos‘ No. 3 wide receiver job behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders this season, Cody Latimer admits he fell behind in his quest to learn how to play in a Peyton Manning-paced offense last season, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. “I was in the playbook, but I could have done even more. When I actually got it, it was too late. It was just way different (than college),” Latimer told Renck. “I would know the play, then Peyton would change it.”Rob DiRe contributed to this report