Jim Harbaugh

Jets Plan To Fire Adam Gase

The expected firing of Adam Gase is on track to transpire after Week 17, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. While Gase said earlier this week he has not been notified he will be fired, the Jets’ 0-13 start essentially ensured he would not be back.

This will mark Gase’s second ouster in three seasons; the Dolphins fired him after the 2018 season. He has gone 9-22 with the Jets. Although the former successful OC led his team to upset wins over two potential playoff squads and helped the Jets hire GM Joe Douglas, the past two Jets seasons have involved controversy and continued losing.

As far as a replacement goes, the Jets appear to be looking at a wide array of candidates. Current assistants Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs OC), Matt Eberflus (Colts DC), Don Martindale (Ravens DC), Arthur Smith (Titans OC) and Brandon Staley (Rams DC) are set to be considered. As are college coaches Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Matt Campbell (Iowa State) and Dan Mullen (Florida), according to NFL.com. Harbaugh, a previous Jets candidate, appears a long shot. The former 49ers coach is finalizing an extension to stay at Michigan, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweets.

After leading the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season as head coach, Gase has seen his teams miss the past four postseason brackets. In New York, he feuded with previous GM Mike Maccagnan and was consistently connected to dissatisfaction with Le’Veon Bell‘s contract and performance. Two-plus months after cutting Bell, the Jets will move on from Gase. They were prepared to fire Gase earlier this week had the Browns upset not occurred, according to NFL.com.

The Jets already fired Gregg Williams after the polarizing defensive coordinator made a play call that cost the Jets an excellent chance at beating the Raiders. Gase and Williams feuded as well. Jets ownership sought Williams, which helped lead to then-Baylor HC Matt Rhule declining to leave the college ranks in 2019. Rhule ended up in Carolina a year later.

Gase’s Jets offense rarely generated much excitement. The team has struggled to build an offensive line and did not equip Sam Darnold well at the skill positions. As a result, the former No. 3 overall pick has regressed. And during the months in which the Jets were connected to Trevor Lawrence, Darnold frequently landed in trade rumors. As Darnold’s third season concludes, his status is in limbo. The Jets are set to hold the No. 2 overall pick in April and could well look at a quarterback to begin the post-Gase era.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jim Harbaugh: I’m ” 100% Committed” To Michigan

Rumblings about Jim Harbaugh and the University of Michigan parting ways have put the coach back on the NFL radar. For what it’s worth, Harbaugh says he remains “100% committed” to the Wolverines and his incoming class. 

Yeah, that question does come up and I tell ’em, my plan is, committed to Michigan,” Harbaugh said, referring to his conversations with recruits. “Have been, am and will remain. As far as the (contract), [athletic director Warde Manuel] and I will talk at the end of the season on the current contract. That’s the truth. That’s where it stands.”

Harbaugh is under contract through the end of the 2021 season, the final year of his lucrative seven-year pact. The former Niners head coach has reportedly explored a return to the pros, and a number of clubs are already doing their homework on him.

NFL teams are already well aware of Harbaugh’s name and history. The energetic coach led the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games in his first three years as their head coach. And, since moving to Michigan, he’s rebuffed multiple offers from NFL teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

HC/GM Rumors: Lynn, Harbaugh, Bears

Three head coaches and two GMs have already been fired this season, and there will be more dismissals to come. We learned this morning that Eagles HC Doug Pederson is on the hot seat, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says Chargers HC Anthony Lynn is in danger of losing his job as well.

The Bolts gave Lynn a modest vote of confidence this offseason by handing him a one-year extension through 2021, but despite the emergence of rookie signal-caller Justin Herbert, Lynn’s squad has limped to a 3-8 record. Several of those losses have been of the heartbreaking variety that Chargers fans have become accustomed to, and Lynn’s in-game decisions have been called into question.

The 51-year-old is highly-regarded in the Chargers’ building, and he did lead his club to a 12-4 record two seasons ago. If he does get fired, he probably won’t have a difficult time finding another HC gig.

Now for more from the HC/GM rumor mill:

  • Jim Harbaugh‘s days with the University of Michigan appear to be numbered, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk says the former 49ers HC is eyeing an NFL return. Florio adds that a number of clubs are already “doing their homework” on Harbaugh, who could be one of a number of prominent college coaches looking to make a leap to the pros.
  • A few weeks ago, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports said the Bears “could” move on from HC Matt Nagy at season’s end. Now, La Canfora says it’s more likely than not that Nagy will be ousted and that Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald will be Chicago’s top choice for Nagy’s replacement.
  • Although Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has drawn plenty of interest and is expected to get his first HC job this offseason, Kansas City quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Mike Kafka is also a name to watch, per La Canfora. We knew that the Eagles were interested in Kafka as an OC last offseason, and JLC says the 33-year-old former QB also had the opportunity to take a head coaching interview. Kafka declined, as he wanted to continue to learn under Andy Reid, but he will be a top target for HC and OC openings in 2021.
  • As far as GM jobs go, former Giants general manager Jerry Reese is expected to draw interest for the Lions‘ GM opening, as La Canfora writes. Reese, who was fired by Big Blue in 2017, wants to return to an NFL front office and has the support from advisors to the Ford family (including Ernie Accorsi, whom Reese succeeded as Giants GM in 2007).
  • The Texans are expected to interview former Chiefs and Browns GM John Dorsey, according to La Canfora. Dorsey was fired by Cleveland at the end of last season, but it would be fair to blame more of the Browns’ disappointing 2019 campaign on former head coach Freddie Kitchens than on Dorsey. After all, Cleveland is now poised for a playoff berth with a roster that Dorsey largely constructed, and Dorsey also has ties to Bieniemy, who has been heavily connected to Houston’s HC job.
  • An unfortunate neck injury may have brought an end to A.Q. Shipley‘s playing career, but he will get the chance to join the Buccaneers‘ coaching staff, as Carmen Vitali of the team’s official website writes. Shipley has long been a favorite of Tampa HC Bruce Arians, who believes the veteran center has all the makings of an excellent coach.

Coaching Rumors: Crennel, Quinn, Fitzgerald

The Texans fired head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien last month following an 0-4 start, and interim HC Romeo Crennel has righted the ship a bit. Under Crennel’s watch, Houston is 2-2, and while those two wins came against the lowly Jaguars, the Texans came within an eyelash of toppling the Titans in Week 6.

Crennel, 73, has been viewed as a placeholder for 2020, but he could retain the gig through the 2021 season, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes. COVID-19 restrictions will probably not permit a traditional in-person search this offseason, so teams hiring a new HC could be committing a boatload of money to a person they have never even met. As such, the Texans might stick with Crennel next season and seek their long-term answer the following year. If that happens, VP of football operations Jack Easterby may continue serving as GM.

Of course, the team has been connected to Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, who is a favorite of QB Deshaun Watson. Bieniemy is widely expected to secure a head coaching job this offseason regardless of travel restrictions, so if Houston wants him, it might need to take a leap of faith. And John McClain of the Houston Chronicle says the Texans will indeed hire a new GM and HC at season’s end, while fellow Houston Chronicle scribe Aaron Wilson says the search remains active (Twitter links).

Now for more a few more coaching rumors:

  • The Falcons parted ways with HC Dan Quinn earlier this season, but it doesn’t sound like Quinn will be out of work for long. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, several teams have made it known that they would like to have Quinn on their staff in 2021, and coordinators who might become head coaches next season have tapped Quinn as their first choice for defensive coordinator. La Canfora says Quinn could rejoin the Seahawks given Seattle’s defensive struggles this year, and he could also end up as the 49ers‘ DC if Robert Saleh gets a head coaching job.
  • Given the financial toll that the pandemic has taken on college athletic departments, top college coaches have become increasingly receptive to a jump to the NFL, as La Canfora details in a separate piece. Names like Lincoln Riley, Jim Harbaugh, and Brian Kelly, who frequently come up in offseason coaching rumors, will again be at the forefront of the discussion in 2021.
  • Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has drawn interest from NFL teams in the past, and as of January 2019, he indicated he was not interested in NFL opportunities. However, COVID-19 might make him more receptive to an HC job in the pros, and his hometown Bears could come calling. La Canfora says Bears ownership is high on Fitzgerald, and if Chicago moves on from Matt Nagy, Fitzgerald might be on the top of the team’s wish-list.

AFC Notes: Colts, McCown, Harbaugh

The Colts pulled off a rare blockbuster trade this offseason, shipping out their first-round pick in exchange for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Now, we have more details on exactly how that deal came to be. It all happened quickly, as the deal came together in less than a week, sources told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Buckner’s agent met with 49ers brass back at the combine, where they made it clear the big man was looking for at least $20MM annually on a contract extension. San Francisco apparently decided right then and there that they weren’t going to be able to pay that, and needed to look for a trade.

La Canfora reports that a handful of teams were in the mix, but Colts GM Chris Ballard was the most aggressive in his pursuit. Ballard was willing to talk contract details immediately, and of course the defensive tackle ended up getting a new pact worth more than $21MM annually. La Canfora also notes that Indiana’s low three percent income tax played a role in Buckner’s eagerness to join Indy. The Colts have had one of the best defenses in the league this season, in large part due to Buckner’s continued elite play.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • It was a very quiet trade deadline this past week, and the Browns were one of the many teams to stand pat. That doesn’t mean front office head Andrew Berry wasn’t working the phones, and he revealed recently during a call with the media that Cleveland came close on a couple of deals. “We did explore a number of different possible transactions. I’d say maybe a couple of things got perhaps within striking distance but either moved away from us or we moved away from it for various reasons,” Berry said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Berry also indicated that the uncertainty around the 2021 salary cap due to COVID-19 played a large part in the lack of trades. At 5-3, the Browns were in position to be buyers at the deadline for the first time in many years, so it would’ve been exciting to see them add a piece.
  • Here’s something we didn’t see coming. The deal Josh McCown recently signed with the Texans is actually for two years, meaning he won’t be a free agent at the end of the year as was initially assumed, La Canfora writes. While it’s a bit surprising considering McCown is 41 and was only on the Eagles’ practice squad until last week, it does make some sense considering the circumstances. Houston is headed into a period of great uncertainty as they look for a new head coach and GM, and McCown will be a steady veteran presence for this rocky transition. La Canfora’s piece makes it clear that the offer was made as a ‘culture’ signing, with McCown essentially serving as another coach for DeShaun Watson moving forward. McCown, who had been participating with the Eagles remotely while living at home in Texas, “agonized” over the decision to leave Philly’s organization, sources told La Canfora. Pretty much everybody seems to believe McCown is going to become a coach whenever he eventually hangs up his cleats, and La Canfora confirms that he is still “very much on the Eagles’ radar as a potential quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator soon after he retires.”
  • Speaking of things seemingly everyone believes, Adam Gase is nearly universally thought be on his way out as the Jets head coach. Whenever he’s officially fired New York’s head coaching search will become very interesting, and one name that is bound to come up again is Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has been rumored as a Jets candidate in each of their last three coaching searches, but Rich Cimini of ESPN.com isn’t sure it would be a great fit. Although he notes New York interviewed Harbaugh in 2009 and were interested in 2014, he thinks a coach of Harbaugh’s pedigree would likely want to have personnel control over whatever team he heads to. Considering the Jets just recently hired GM Joe Douglas and aren’t planning on firing him any time soon, that arrangement wouldn’t really gel. All that being said, Cimini does point out that Douglas knows John Harbaugh from his time with the Ravens, so perhaps we shouldn’t totally shut the door on this one.

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh Denies NFL Interest

This week, a college football blog reported that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was looking to get out of his contract and return to the NFL. On Wednesday, Harbaugh denied those rumors in a letter to the parents of his players. 

I am reaching out to let you know that the recent claims that I am ‘pursuing an exit strategy’ are total crap,” Harbaugh wrote (via Sam Webb of The Michigan Insider). “It’s an annual strategy driven by our enemies to cause disruption to our program an to negatively recruit. By the way, I don’t even have an ‘agent or representative.’”

This isn’t the first time that Harbaugh has been linked to the pro game since taking over the Wolverines in 2015 and it likely won’t be the last. This past offseason, the Jets reportedly went after the ex-49ers HC and the Dolphins were also said to have him high on their list.

Harbaugh led the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games in his first three years as their head coach. At Michigan, Harbaugh is 43-16 overall, including a 3-2 record this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Rumors: Gase, Harbaugh, McCarthy

The Jets’ coaching search technically started with the firing of Todd Bowles on Dec. 30, but they were mulling their options much earlier than that, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY hears. Although Bowles had a contract through the 2020 season, the Jets started doing their homework in mid-November after an embarrassing 41-10 home loss to the Bills.

Despite their denials, the Jets had early interest in Jim Harbaugh, Vacchiano hears. The Jets did background work on the Michigan head coach, but ultimately concluded that he wasn’t the right fit, possibly due to his desire for too much power, too much money, or a lack of desire to leave Ann Arbor.

Here’s more on how the Jets’ coaching search unfolded, plus other news out of New York/New Jersey:

  • The Jets started asking around about Mike McCarthy after he was fired by the Packers in December, but they were concerned about his sensitivity to criticism and how it might be amplified by the New York press, Vacchiano hears. There were also reports that McCarthy would consider sitting out the 2019 season, which may have given the Jets additional pause. McCarthy’s interview was not bad, per se, but Vacchiano hears that he did not hit it out of the park.
  • Adam Gase, on the other hand, leaped over McCarthy with a strong interview in which he displayed the energetic personality that the Jets wanted. Even though Gase went 23-25 in three years with the Dolphins, the Jets did not forget about his reputation as a hot offensive assistant just three years ago, Vacchiano writes.
  • New Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has agreed to a three-year deal with the club, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Before the Jets hired him, the Redskins made a push to land him as their DC.

Latest On Adam Gase, Dolphins

We have heard some conflicting reports about Dolphins head coach Adam Gase‘s future with the club over the course of the last week or so. On December 26, we heard that Gase is expected to remain in Miami in 2019, but just yesterday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that owner Stephen Ross is definitely considering moving on from Gase.

Today, Rapoport reiterated that Gase could indeed be coaching his last game with the Dolphins this afternoon (video link). But Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that both Gase and GM Chris Grier are likely to be retained. And, while it has been expected that the club would at least move on from vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, JLC suggests that Tannenbaum could simply be given another role within the organization.

Grier has been with the Dolphins since 2000, and while he holds the GM title, he does not have final authority over football decisions. La Canfora indicates that Grier’s voice could be afforded greater weight in 2019, as owner Stephen Ross has long been fond of him, and if Tannenbaum is fired or moved, Grier may not have a personnel executive above him. After all, since Gase is the one who has final say over the 53-man roster, it seems unlikely that the Dolphins could keep Gase and attract a high-level executive from another club (like Vikings assistant GM George Paton), so Gase and Grier could be calling the shots next season. The two men reportedly work well together.

The lack of top-tier coaching talent in this year’s cycle is one reason why Gase could stay, along with the fact that Gase has done a reasonably good job considering what he’s had to work with. La Canfora writes that Ross remains high on University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh — despite Ross’ public remarks that he would not pursue Harbaugh — and while Harbaugh is expected to stay in Ann Arbor next year, sources close to him believe he will return to the NFL at some point. If that happens, Ross will be interested.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Harbaugh, Drake, Dolphins, Patriots, Hogan

There’s been a lot of talk about Jim Harbaugh returning to the NFL lately, with his name recently being linked to the Jets’ job. While Harbaugh has said he wants to stay at Michigan and Jets CEO Christopher Johnson denied the reports today, it still seems like a definite possibility. It’s the type of high profile job that could lure Harbaugh away, and it’s a relatively attractive landing spot with Sam Darnold entrenched as the quarterback of the future. While Harbaugh is generally very highly regarded as a coach, the Jets should be very wary of bringing him in, opines Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.

Vacchiano writes that Harbaugh is the “biggest risk” of any of this year’s head coaching candidates, and that his tenure in San Francisco was “tumultuous.” He notes that those around the 49ers organization considered Harbaugh “toxic and unbearable”, and Vacchiano is skeptical Harbaugh could get along with the Jets’ front office. With Todd Bowles a near lock to be fired next Monday, we should know a lot more about New York’s intentions soon.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Kenyan Drake has grown a bit disgruntled with his role for the Dolphins, and wouldn’t say whether he wants to be back in Miami next year, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. Drake is a very talented running back and leads the Dolphins in yards from scrimmage this year, but the coaching staff has never used him consistently. Even with the injury to Frank Gore, his role has still decreased recently, and he got only six carries in the team’s loss to the Jaguars this past Sunday. With Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase’s futures both increasingly uncertain, it’s looking like an offseason of change is coming for the Dolphins. The team is likely to look completely different in 2019, and Drake might not be a part of things even though he has one year left on his rookie contract.
  • Speaking of players frustrated with their playing time, Patriots receiver Chris Hogan downplayed any internal strife and said he isn’t upset about his lack of involvement in the offense, according to Doug Kyed of NESN.com. Hogan played the vast majority of snaps in the team’s win over the Bills in Week 16, but he wasn’t targeted in the game and was reportedly seen slamming his helmet in frustration during the game. He also sat away from his fellow receivers and over on the defensive side of the bench, but insisted that everybody is on the same page. Hogan’s production has varied as he’s been featured heavily one week and absent the next, but he was expected to take on a more prominent role with Josh Gordon‘s departure, although that didn’t materialize against Buffalo.
  • While Bowles is almost certain to be fired on Black Monday following the Week 17 games, the embattled head coach is insisting he isn’t worried about his job security, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. Bowles said he had no reaction to the rumors about Harbaugh, and wouldn’t address questions about his job. After four years of leading the Jets, a new era is right around the corner in New York.

Dolphins Will Not Pursue Jim Harbaugh

A report linking another AFC East team to a Jim Harbaugh pursuit emerged, and a second NFL owner is denying that is the case.

Like Jets chairman Christopher Johnson, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross publicly shot down Harbaugh rumors. Ross told the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson he will not make a push for Harbaugh to replace Adam Gase, who is not a certainty to be fired after this season. Ross is a Michigan alum and would prefer Harbaugh stay in Ann Arbor, per Jackson (Twitter link).

This does not, however, mean Gase is safe. The Dolphins are exploring big-picture changes, with those in power attempting to solidify their positions in the event Ross restructures the franchise’s decision-making hierarchy. Another season featuring Gase and executive VP Mike Tannenbaum working together would surprise SI.com’s Albert Breer, who adds Miami is likely to make a change “at some level.”

While it’s not certain which way Ross is leaning here, Breer adds that GM Chris Grier would have a better chance of staying if Gase is retained. Grier has been with the Dolphins since 2000.

As for Gase, the third-year HC said he will not lobby to keep his job. Gase and Ross have not discussed his future, per Jackson. Las Vegas had the Dolphins pegged as a frontrunner for the 2019 No. 1 pick at this season’s outset, but Gase has the team at 7-8. He ended the Dolphins’ lengthy playoff drought in 2016 but has a sub-.500 record since, though many of those games did not feature Ryan Tannehill.