Joe Whitt

Latest On Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy’s Job Status

Mike McCarthy‘s second season in Dallas could be his last unless his team is able to put together a playoff run. Adam H. Beasley of ProFootballNetwork.com reports that McCarthy’s Cowboys may need to make it to the NFC Championship Game if the head coach wants to keep his job.

As Beasley explains, Jerry Jones will soon be 79, and the owner is unwilling to show as much patience as he did with former head coach Jason Garrett. The Cowboys’ 6-10 record in 2020 left a lot to be desired, and while that record was obviously impacted by Dak Prescott‘s injury, another disappointing campaign could spell the end of McCarthy’s tenure in Dallas. If the Cowboys do underachieve, Jones may be ready to start over with a new head coach as he pursues that elusive championship.

Further, Beasley notes that some within the organization are “a bit dubious” about McCarthy’s coaching staff hires. The head coach has brought in four former Packers staffers (Joe Philbin, Joe Whitt Jr., Jeff Blasko, and Scott McCurley) since he’s been in Dallas, and the writer implies that some within the organization have been less than thrilled with the additions.

McCarthy has already slightly revamped his coaching staff in anticipation of the 2021 season. This past offseason, the team let go of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and replaced him with former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. McCarthy will surely be hoping that the coaching change (coupled with Prescott’s return and the team’s offseason acquisitions) will change the team’s fortunes…and help him keep his job.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Steelers, Cowboys, Giants

The Steelers made a key staff change last week, promoting Matt Canada to replace offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. But the team will not part ways with DC Keith Butler. The longtime Pittsburgh coordinator agreed to terms on a one-year extension Wednesday, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter). Butler has overseen Pittsburgh’s defense since the franchise split with Dick LeBeau in 2015, and while Butler’s units as a whole have not measured up to his predecessor’s Super Bowl-winning crews, the Steelers have led the NFL in sacks in each of the past four seasons and have ranked in the top three in DVOA in each of the past two.

Here is the latest out on the Pittsburgh staff and other coaching groups around the league:

  • Although the Steelers are coming off another home playoff defeat, Mike Tomlin does not appear to have moved toward a hot seat. Steelers ownership is not believed to have any desire to move away from Tomlin, per The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette (subscription required). Tomlin had the Steelers at 11-0 this season and managed to have last year’s largely Ben Roethlisberger-less team at 8-8, leading to Coach of the Year consideration in both cases. However, the Steelers lost five of their final six games this year and have lost home playoff games three times since 2014. Tomlin is signed through the 2021 season.
  • The Giants became the second team in two years to call on Dave DeGuglielmo as a late replacement as an offensive line coach, but the arrangement looks to have been temporary. Like the Dolphins last year, the Giants will not look to retain DeGuglielmo for a second season. They are searching for a new O-line coach, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets. DeGuglielmo came to New York on an interim basis to replace Marc Colombo, whom Joe Judge fired this season.
  • The Panthers will turn to a legacy name to help out their offensive line. Carolina intends to hire Tony Sparano Jr. as assistant O-line coach, according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The son of the late Tony Sparano, Sparano Jr. worked as the Jaguars’ assistant O-line coach for the past four seasons. Despite being 34, the second-generation coach has worked in the NFL since 2011.
  • Jim Harbaugh will poach one of his brother’s assistants. Ravens linebackers coach Mike MacDonald will become Michigan’s co-defensive coordinator, with Yahoo.com’s Pete Thamel reporting former Cowboys defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist will move to Ann Arbor, Mich., to share in that responsibility (Twitter link). Macdonald, 33, was with the Ravens for seven seasons — the past three as linebackers coach. Linguist has spent much of his career in the college ranks but was on Nolan’s staff in Dallas this season.
  • Another of Quinn’s Cowboys staffers became known Wednesday. The Cowboys hired Aden Durde as defensive line coach. Durde will follow Quinn from Atlanta, where he was most recently the Falcons’ outside linebackers coach. Durde, who spent time with the Cowboys as part of the Minority Fellowship Program from 2014-15, will join Joe Whitt Jr. in following Quinn from Atlanta to Dallas.
  • Arthur Smith‘s first Falcons staff will not include offensive line coach Chris Morgan, according to SI.com’s Albert Breer (on Twitter). Morgan worked with the Falcons for six years, initially serving under OC Kyle Shanahan. Given that offensive scheme’s presence in a few NFL cities, Morgan profiles as an interesting coaching free agent.

Coaching Notes: Quinn, Staley, Chargers, Pollack, Bengals, Simmons, Whitt, Cowboys

Hope you’re all enjoying Sunday’s three-game wild card slate, here are a new batch of coaching updates to pass along:

  • Dan Quinn’s star faded fast after taking the Falcons to the Super Bowl just a few years ago, and he was fired after starting 0-5 this season. His national reputation took a hit, but he’s apparently still fairly highly regarded in league circles and might not be out of a job too long. Quinn’s name is popping up frequently as a potential defensive coordinator for coaches interviewing for head coaching gigs, Peter Schrager of NFL Network is told (Twitter link). Quinn, of course, rose to prominence as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator for a couple years during their dominant ‘Legion of Boom’ era, and won Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle. His defenses were never anything special during his time in Atlanta though, and it was Kyle Shanahan’s offense carrying the team during the peak of their success.
  • Speaking of defensive minds, Rams DC Brandon Staley is turning into a hot name this cycle, and after his defense just dominated Russell Wilson it’s not hard to see why. The Chargers are one of the teams interested, and he’ll interview with them today, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. But interestingly, Breer writes that if Los Angeles doesn’t hire an offensive mind, the new coach will “have to have a very detailed plan for that side of the ball and the quarterback.” 49ers DC Robert Saleh is also in contention for this job, so that would obviously apply to him as well. Clearly, the Chargers want a bright offensive mind to pair with Justin Herbert. We’ve heard Herbert loves current offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, but Breer’s tweet certainly doesn’t make it sound like he’s all that likely to return.
  • Zac Taylor survived for another year, but the Bengals fired a few assistant coaches this week. Now, they’ve found one of the replacements. Cincy has hired Frank Pollack to be their new offensive line coach and run game coordinator, the team announced. Pollack spent the past two seasons as the Jets’ offensive line coach, and had the same role with the Bengals in 2018 under Marvin Lewis. Before that he was he Cowboys’ O-line coach, and obviously those units had a great deal of success. For what it’s worth, Bengals players are “thrilled” with the hire, Jay Morrison of The Athletic writes. “It’s exciting,” center Billy Price said. “I’m glad to have him back. I’m really, really, really, really glad to have him back.” Running back Joe Mixon also said he was “super excited” to have Pollack back in the fold.
  • The Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan earlier this week, and the search for his replacement is in full swing. Dallas interviewed Jason Simmons and Joe Whitt Jr. today for the position, a source told Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Simmons is currently the passing game coordinator for the Panthers, while Whitt is the passing game coordinator for the Falcons. Both candidates have plenty of familiarity with Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. Whitt was on Green Bay’s defensive staff from 2008-18, rising the ranks from quality control coach, while Simmons started with the Packers in 2015 as an assistant special teams coach. Neither has been a DC before.

Cowboys To Interview Joe Whitt Jr. For DC

The Cowboys have a vacancy at defensive coordinator after firing Mike Nolan yesterday, and we’ve now got word on a potential candidate for the opening. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that Dallas will interview Falcons coach Joe Whitt Jr. on Sunday. Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News tweets that the interview will take place virtually.

[RELATED: Cowboys Fire Mike Nolan]

Whitt Jr. worked alongside Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy for years in Green Bay, serving as a defensive quality control coach, cornerbacks coach, and (eventually) the defensive passing game coordinator. After spending more than a decade with the organization, Whitt Jr. was let go by Green Bay following McCarthy’s firing, and he landed in Cleveland as their secondary coach and pass game coordinator. After helping the Browns finish top-10 in passing defense during the 2019 campaign, he landed the same gig in Atlanta for the 2020 season.

The Cowboys will be looking to right the ship following a disappointing 2020 campaign where the defense ranked 28th in scoring, 23rd in DVOA, and 31st against the run. As our own Sam Robinson noted, the 218 points the Cowboys allowed through their first six games tied for the third-worst mark in NFL history, and the 473 points Nolan’s defense ceded during the year doubled as the most in the franchise’s 61-year history.

Predictably, Nolan was let go by the organization yesterday after only one year at the helm, with the team also moving on from defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. McCarthy will surely be looking to improve his defense before Jerry Jones runs out of patience with him, as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Thielen, Panthers, Falcons, Raiders

Vikings WR Adam Thielen suffered a bad cut on his ankle during Wednesday’s practice, reports NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). The cut required stitches, but the team is optimistic that he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s playoff game against the 49ers. As the reporter notes, the organization is “still gathering information and will proceed with caution.”

The wideout appeared in 10 games this season – the first time in his NFL career that he didn’t appear in all 16 regular season contests. He finished the regular season with 30 receptions for 418 yards and six scores. He had a standout game during the Vikings win over the Saints last weekend, hauling in seven receptions for 129 yards.

If Thielen was forced out of the lineup, Kirk Cousins will predictably lean on wideout Stefon Diggs. The team could also turn to the likes of Olabisi Johnson, Alexander Hollins, and Laquon Treadwell.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Panthers general manager Marty Hurney will turn to head coach Matt Rhule as the team continues to rebuild the front office. Hurney told The Athletic’s Joe Person (Twitter link) that he’ll collaborate with Rhule as the organization hunts for an assistance GM. The executive cautioned that the search could take some time.
  • The Falcons will hire Joe Whitt Jr. for a defensive position on the coaching staff, reports ESPN’s Vaughn McClure. Whitt Jr. previously served as the Browns pass-game coordinator/secondary coach, and he was Atlanata’s assistant defensive backs coach back in 2007. It’s uncertain what specific role Whitt Jr. will take on under defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.
  • Vic Tafur of The Athletic opines that the Raiders should add a playmaking wideout this offseason, and he notes that the organization “really like[s]” one impending free agent: Jets receiver Robby Anderson. Current Raiders senior offensive assistant John Morton was the Jets offensive coordinator when Anderson had his most productive season in 2017.

Coaching Notes: McDaniels, Cowboys, Rhule

Two years ago, Josh McDaniels had assistants ready to follow him to the Colts. Multiple staffers did so, even though the Patriots assistant backed out of the agreement. This time around, McDaniels looks to have a staff lined up again. McDaniels is now “very much ready” to leave New England, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, adding that the longtime Patriots play-caller has Redskins OC Kevin O’Connell and Colts defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon set to be key players on his staff (should McDaniels accept a job if offered). The Redskins are interested in retaining O’Connell, their offensive coordinator this season, but his NFL years began as a quarterback under McDaniels during the latter’s first stint as Patriots OC. Gannon joined the Colts’ staff in 2018. Like McDaniels, Gannon is a Cleveland-area native. He was a scout with the Rams during McDaniels’ one season in St. Louis.

McDaniels is the frontrunner for the Browns job. He will interview with the Panthers on Tuesday, the Giants on Wednesday and the Browns on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Here is the latest from the coaching carousel:

  • Matt Rhule had issues with the Jets attempting to overrule him on staff decisions, but Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes the Giants would not do the same. The Giants would let Rhule select his assistants, and the Baylor HC is believed to have candidates in place to follow him to New York if hired. Former Giants assistant and current Lions QBs coach Sean Ryan and Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow are believed to be Rhule’s coordinator choices should he land either the Giants’ or Panthers’ HC jobs, Vacchiano reports. Ryan, 47, held a key role with the Texans from 2017-18 but was with the Giants for nine years, including in 2012, when Rhule was on staff. Snow, 64, has been Rhule’s DC at Temple and Baylor. He coached with the Lions from 2005-08.
  • Had the Jets hired Rhule last year, Jets management would have insisted Gregg Williams be attached as defensive coordinator, per Vacchiano. Previous GM Mike Maccagnan also had an issue with Ryan bringing brought aboard as OC. Ryan ended up in Detroit instead.
  • As for Giants incumbent defensive coordinator James Bettcher, the front office was not exactly pleased with his game management nor were Giants brass happy with the entire defensive staff, Vacchiano adds. Lacking in talent and depth at linebacker and cornerback, the Giants ranked 31st in pass-defense DVOA. Bettcher’s better-stocked defensive front, however, produced the No. 7 run-defense DVOA figure.
  • Not only is Mike McCarthy a fan of 30-year-old Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Jerry Jones spoke of his desire to keep the young coordinator on staff in each of the Cowboys’ interviews, Breer notes. The Cowboys promoted Moore to OC last year, and Dak Prescott had by far his best season as a passer under the former Dallas quarterback’s guidance.
  • The Falcons will not retain passing-game coordinator/defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, according to The Athletic’s Jason Butt (on Twitter). Henderson has been with the Falcons since 2016. Additionally, the Falcons interviewed Joe Whitt for their secondary coach position, Butt notes. Whitt spent the 2007 season as Atlanta’s assistant DBs coach before being on Green Bay’s staff for the next 10 seasons. He coached the Browns’ DBs under Freddie Kitchens.

Coaching Rumors: Browns, Eagles, Jets, Bucs

Former Packers defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt will join the Browns‘ staff, according to Zac Jackson of The Athletic (Twitter link). Whitt, who had offers from other clubs, will take the same title in Cleveland, tweets Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.The Browns haven’t been shy about adding ex-Packers to their staff, as they already have John Dorsey, Eliot Wolf, and Alonzo Highsmith in their front office. Whitt, 40, interviewed for Green Bay’s defensive coordinator job in January 2018, and was at one point considered the favorite to land the role. But Whitt, who was the Packers’ cornerbacks coach at the time, lost out to external candidate Mike Pettine, and was subsequently given an elevated title. Whitt will now reunite with Browns safety Damarious Randall, who was a Packers second-round pick in 2015.

Here’s more from the coaching carousel:

  • After losing to the Saints in the Divisional Round, the Eagles have begun to experience staff turnover. The contracts of defensive line coach Chris Wilson and assistant offensive line coach Eugene Chung have expired, while wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer has been told he can leave for other NFL opportunities, report Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter links). None of three coaches will return to Philadelphia in 2019. Wilson and Chung had been with the Eagles since 2016, while Brewer just joined the club this past offseason.
  • Now that Gregg Williams has officially been hired as the Jets‘ defensive coordinator, he’s expected to bring his son Blake aboard as linebackers coach, tweets Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. Blake has followed his father to nearly every one of his NFL stops. Meanwhile, New York is expected to retain at least a few members of its previous defensive staff even now that its hired Williams. Former Dolphins defensive line coach Kris Kocurek was a candidate for the same job with the Jets, but he was quickly scooped up by the 49ers.
  • Freddie Kitchens has added another coach to his Browns staff, hiring Tennessee assistant to the head coach John Lilly as the club’s new tight ends coach, according to Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). He’ll work with former first-round pick David Njoku, plus other Cleveland tight ends such as Seth Devalve and Darren Fells. Lilly served as the Rams’ tight ends coach in 2016.
  • The Ravens are searching for a new running backs coach after Thomas Hammock was hired as Northern Illinois’ new head coach, tweets Brett McMurphy of Stadium Network. The 37-year-old Hammock — a NIU alum — joined Baltimore in 2014, and last season led a backfield with options like Gus Edwards, Alex Collins, Kenneth Dixon, and Javorius Allen. The Ravens also announced that they’ve shifted Bobby Engram from receivers coach to tight ends coach.
  • The Buccaneers convinced Bruce Arians to come out of retirement and become their head coach earlier this month, but Tampa Bay’s interest in Arians actually dates back far further. Arians was a Bucs target for offensive coordinator in 2012 after he was fired by the Steelers, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com indicated on his podcast (Twitter link via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times).

Coaching Notes: Kubiak, Jaguars, 49ers, Packers

Gary Kubiak will not be joining the Broncos, but he’d still be open to other coordinator openings. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the long-time coach “still has an interest in being an offensive coordinator.” Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic echoes the report (via Twitter), saying the Broncos wouldn’t stand in the way of the current executive pursuing another gig.

One team that could have interest in Kubiak is the Jaguars, according to Schefter. Jacksonville has been connected to Darrell Bevell and Todd Monken as they’ve searched for a replacement for Scott Milanovich.

It was believed that Kubiak would be hired as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator on Vic Fangio‘s new staff. However, talks apparently broke down between the two parties, with reports noting that they had “different ideas on staffing and offensive philosophies.”

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Speaking of the Broncos, offensive line coach Sean Kugler interviewed with the Vikings and is set to meet with the Cardinals, reports Mike Klis of 9News (via Twitter). Klis notes that there’s some optimism that he’d ultimately be hired for the Cardinals gig. Kugler’s tenure in Denver could be over, as the team is reportedly eyeing Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak for the position.
  • The 49ers denied the Packers and head Matt LaFleur permission to interview his brother, wide receivers coach Mike LaFleur, according to Schefter (on Twitter). San Francisco also denied the Browns and Vikings requests to interview the younger LaFleur.
  • The Browns are set to interview Packers run game coordinator/offensive line coach James Campen today, reports ESPN’s Rob Demovsky (via Twitter). Green Bay’s longest-tenured assistant coach has been with the organization since 2007, and he was promoted to position of run-game coordinator prior to this season. Campen is under contract for next season, so it’s a bit surprising that Green Bay didn’t deny the Browns’ request to interview the coach.
  • Some assorted coaching hirings and firings: running backs coach Stump Mitchell is returning to the Cardinals (via Alex Marvez of SiriusXM on Twitter), the Packers have fired passing game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. (via Schefter on Twitter), and the Buccaneers have hired University of Arizona offensive line coach Joe Gilbert for the same position (via TampaBay.com’s Rick Stroud on Twitter).

Packers Notes: Whitt, O’Neil, Graham, Staff

Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt was passed over as Green Bay searched for a new defensive coordinator, but he’ll stay on with the club and receive an elevated title of defensive passing game coordinator, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Whitt was one of three internal candidates — in addition to assistant head coach/linebackers Winston Moss and safeties coach Darren Perry — being considered for Packers DC, but former Browns head coach Mike Pettine was ultimately awarded the position. At present, there’s no word as to whether Moss or Perry will remain on staff.

Here’s the latest from Green Bay, with a focus on coaches and front office personnel:

  • Now that Pettine has been announced as the Packers’ new defensive coordinator, Green Bay will attempt to fill out a defensive staff. As Adam Caplan of SiriusXM hinted last night, the Packers will interview former 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil for their linebackers coach position, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. O’Neil, who spent the 2017 campaign out of the NFL, served as Petine’s defensive coordinator when both worked with the Browns from 2014-15. O’Neil’s interview could be a sign that the incumbent Moss is moving on.
  • Cignetti isn’t the only ex-Giants assistant whom the Packers could soon hire, as Green Bay will also meet with New York defensive line coach Patrick Graham this week, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Like O’Neil, Graham could be a candidate for the Packers’ linebackers coach job, reports Silverstein (Twitter link). The 38-year-old Graham spent the past two seasons teaching defensive lineman with Big Blue, but was previously a longtime Patriots staffer, working his way through the ranks to coach both lineman and linebackers in New England.
  • Green Bay’s front office has witnessed major upheaval over the past several weeks, as Brian Gutekunst replaced Ted Thompson as general manager while fellow executives Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith both took new positions with the Browns. More changes will likely be coming, however, and the Packers are expected to consider college scouting director Jon-Eric Sullivan and pro personnel director John Wojciechowski for promotions, tweets Silverstein. Both men could be contenders for an assistant general manager of director of player personnel role.

North Notes: Bears, Packers, Ravens, Browns

The Bears have concluded their head coaching interview with Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards, the club announced today. Chicago is able to interview Edwards given that Minnesota secured a first-round playoff bye, and he’s one of seven candidates to be linked to the Bears’ vacancy. Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks are all being considered for the job alongside Edwards.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Incumbent cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt is considered the favorite to become the Packers‘ next defensive coordinator, reports Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Green Bay will start its DC search by interviewing three internal candidates: Whitt, safeties coach Darren Perry, and assistant head coach/linebackers Winston Moss. While all three coaches are currently under contract with the Packers, there’s no guarantee that any or all of them will return in 2018, as Demovsky writes in a separate piece. If Green Bay hires an outside candidate to replace Dom Capers, that new coach could aim to bring in his own assistants.
  • The Ravens will bring back offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinwheg in 2018, but it’s unclear if senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach Greg Roman will return given that his contract has expired, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Roman, a former play-caller for the 49ers and Bills, could potentially draw interest as an offensive coordinator once head coaching vacancies are filled around the league. Meanwhile, Baltimore may potentially hire a quarterbacks coach to work on Joe Flacco‘s mechanics, head coach John Harbaugh told reporters today, including Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Mornhinwheg currently holds the QBs coach title in addition to offensive coordinator.
  • Reports earlier this week indicated the Browns are interested in former Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, and Cleveland will in fact interview him for their open offensive coordinator position, according to Rapoport (Twitter link). Browns head coach Hue Jackson, who calls his own offensive plays, had not employed an OC during his first two years in Cleveland. Zampese, the Bengals’ quarterbacks coach from 2003-16, lasted only two touchdown-less games as the club’s offensive play-caller in 2017. The Browns are also set to interview Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan for offensive coordinator in the near future.
  • Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley suffered a shattered pelvis during an incident at a bar on New Year’s Eve, but the injury is not expected to affect Haley’s ability to coach during the Divisional Round, reports Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While there certainly could be more to the story, Haley was reportedly shoved while out to dinner with his wife in the Pittsburgh area.