John Wojciechowski

Front Office Notes: Hinkie, Packers, Titans

Sam Hinkie developed an interesting reputation in the NBA, taking a unique path toward rebuilding the Philadelphia 76ers during his run as their GM. He set them on their current course via historic tanking over a years-long endeavor dubbed “The Process” — one that led to the team making several lottery picks, two of those becoming Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Although Hinkie stepped down from his post in 2016, his work looks much better after those two prospects became stars and spearheaded Philly into the playoffs this season. And an NFL team took the time to pick his brain this week. Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic reports (subscription required) the Broncos brought in the 40-year-old executive for an analytics powwow. Hinkie spoke to the Broncos’ analytics department, as well as members of their scouting branch, football administration and conditioning staffs this week, per Jhabvala, on how to best use the data teams are now collecting.

Here’s the latest from some front offices around the league.

  • Green Bay will go with a two-man setup in a key role under GM Brian Gutekunst. Jon-Eric Sullivan and John Wojciechowski will rise to the roles of co-player personnel directors for the Packers, the team announced. Sullivan previously operated as the Packers’ director of college scouting, doing so for two seasons, while Wojchichowski was the team’s pro personnel director in 2017.
  • Gutekunst also made some adjustments to the team’s scouting staff. Matt Malaspina will rise to Sullivan’s old job. A 20-plus-year NFL veteran, Malaspina was hired as a Packers college scout in 2017. The Packers promoted Sam Seale to a national scouting role after he spent time working primarily as a west region scout, per PackersNews.com. Chad Brinker will now work as Green Bay’s assistant director of pro scouting and serve as a salary cap analyst, while Pat Moore will come over from the Browns and work as a college scout for the Packers. While former Packers exec John Dorsey is now the Browns’ GM, Moore spent five years in Cleveland working under previous regimes. Former NFL defensive back Brandian Ross will make greater inroads into the scouting world. The Packers are promoting the 28-year-old, who played for three teams from 2012-15 after coming into the league as a UDFA out of Youngstown State, to a college scouting role after he spent last year as a scouting assistant. Luke Benuska will also earn greater responsibility; he’ll work as a college scout after serving as a pro scout.
  • The Titans made a few adjustments to their staff on Friday. Most notably, player personnel director Ryan Cowden will now serve as the franchise’s VP of player personnel, TitansOnline.com’s Terry McCormick reports (on Twitter). Tennessee brought in Cowden two years ago to that player personnel director role. Previously, he spent 16 seasons with the Panthers, finishing his years there as Carolina’s assistant director of college scouting. Additionally, Kevin Turks will now serve as Titans assistant director of pro personnel and Rob Reiderer will work as a scouting assistant.

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.

NFC Notes: Saints, Cards, Bears, Packers

With left tackle Terron Armstead is set to miss a portion of the 2017 season after undergoing labrum surgery, the Saints would prefer to place Ryan Ramczyk or Khalif Barnes on the blindside instead of shifting Andrus Peat from left guard, according to Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. Barnes is the far more experienced option, as the 35-year-old has appeared in 151 games (117) starts during 11-year NFL career. Ramczyk, on the other hand, was just selected with the final pick of the first round in the 2017 draft. Peat, meanwhile, played left tackle at Stanford and has split time between tackle and guard with New Orleans.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Although cornerback Brandon Flowers is scheduled to meet with the Cardinals on Wednesday, head coach Bruce Arians says the club isn’t necessarily looking at the veteran defender as a starting-caliber player, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. As such, Arizona’s interest in Flowers shouldn’t be viewed as a comment on Justin Bethel, who is currently projected to start opposite Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals recently lost two backup defensive backs — Jumal Rolle and Elie Bouka — to minor injuries, so a Flowers addition would be a solid depth addition as the team heads to training camp.
  • Bears defensive lineman Jaye Howard has hired David Canter as his new representation, tweets Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Howard signed a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum earlier this offseason, but the pact could be worth as much as $4MM through incentives. Given that he’s still relatively young (28) and has been productive in the past, Howard could be in line for a lengthier contract next spring if he plays well in 2017.
  • Entering his third season as the Bears‘ general manager, Ryan Pace is building the Chicago roster in the mold of the Saints, the club with which Pace spent most of his career prior to heading to the Windy City, as Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Pace and the rest of the Chicago front office is clearly hoping No. 2 overall selection Mitch Trubisky turns into the next Drew Brees, but other points of comparison are apt, as well. Second-round tight end Adam Shaheen could have the game-breaking ability of a Jimmy Graham, while fourth-round running back Tarik Cohen may prove to be a passing game weapon like Darren Sproles.
  • The Packers announced a series of personnel changes on Tuesday, with the most notable being college scout John Wojciechowski‘s promotion to director of pro personnel. Wojciechowski, who has also worked for the Cowboys, Jaguars, and Steelers, has been with Green Bay since 2012. The rest of the Packers’ front office changes, all of which include promotions or hirings in the scouting department, can be found at the link.