Keith Armstrong

NFC South Notes: Bucs, Falcons, Panthers

New Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will call plays in Tampa Bay, head coach Bruce Arians told The Rich Eisen Show (Twitter link via Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times). That’s something of a surprise, as Arians led the offense when he was the Cardinals’ head coach. Leftwich took over as Arizona’s OC after Mike McCoy was fired four games into the 2018 campaign, but he couldn’t get the Cardinals out of the NFL rankings cellar in terms of points and yards. Arians will still have a heavy hand in Tampa Bay’s offense, while new run game coordinator Harold Goodwin will also have input.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Former Redskins special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica has joined the Falcons in the same capacity, Atlanta announced today. He’ll replace Keith Armstrong, who was one of three Atlanta coordinators fired after the 2018 campaign. Washington ranked two spots higher in special teams DVOA than Atlanta a season ago, per Football Outsiders, finishing with better results in kickoffs and punt returns. Kotwica has worked in the NFL since 2007, working his way up from quality control coach to special teams coordinator with the Jets.
  • Armstrong, meanwhile, will take over as the Buccaneers‘ new special teams coach, tweets Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. He’d been linked to Tampa Bay ever since Arians was rumored to be taking the head coaching position, and for good reason: as Auman notes, Armstrong played for Arians at Temple 35 years ago. Armstrong, who was a candidate for the Cardinals’ head coaching job in 2018, was fired by the Falcons last week, but quickly interviewed for a gig with the Bills before landing with the Buccaneers.
  • The Buccaneers have hired former Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler for the same position, reports Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). The Bills also had interest in interviewing Kugler before he signed on with Tampa Bay, according to Ryan Talbot of New York Upstate. Kugler, previously the head coach at UTEP, joined Denver in 2018 and guided a Broncos front five which ranked as a top-12 unit in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate. Other Tampa Bay hires include former Jets coach Mike Caldwell (linebackers) and ex-Cardinals coach Rick Christophel (tight ends), per Auman (Twitter links).
  • After being fired by the Jaguars last week, Perry Fewell is interviewing for the Panthers‘ secondary coach job on Wednesday, tweets Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. A former defensive coordinator for the Bills and Giants, Fewell worked with Carolina coach head coach Ron Rivera in Chicago in 2005. The Panthers still have Richard Rodgers in place as a secondary coach, but they’ve lost multiple defensive backs coach within the past year. Curtis Fuller resigned as the team’s secondary coach last summer, while assistant Jeff Imamura was fired as part of a housecleaning in early December.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Rizzi, Bills, Jets

The Dolphins are one of three teams which still has yet to hire a new head coach, but they will meet with another potential Adam Gase replacement this week. Incumbent special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi will interview for the position on Friday, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. As Garafolo adds, other candidates that Miami has met with are still coaching in the postseason, so the club may not announce its next head coach any time soon. A former collegiate head coach at New Haven and Rhode Island, Rizzi is the only internal candidate the Dolphins are considering. Rizzi, 48, has been with the Dolphins since 2010, and last year led Miami to a No. 21 ranking in special teams DVOA.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Ex-Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong recently interviewed for the same role with the Bills, reports Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Armstrong, who had been Atlanta’s ST coach since 2008, was fired last week as the Falcons cleared out each of their coordinator roles. Based purely on performance, Armstrong posted a strong effort in 2018, as Atlanta ranked 10th in special teams DVOA. The 55-year-old Armstrong took two interviews for the Cardinals’ head coaching job last season, and was one of two candidates Bruce Arians personally recommended as a successor (the other being incumbent DC James Bettcher). He’s also been linked to Tampa Bay, where Arians is now head coach.
  • Quincy Enunwa‘s four-year extension with the Jets is worth $33.4MM in total and contains $10MM in full guarantees, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The 26-year-old wide receiver received a $9MM signing bonus, meaning his remaining guarantee will likely come via his 2019 base salary. Enunwa will collect a $6MM base salary in 2020, but that figure — for the time being — guaranteed for injury only. It’ll become fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2020 league year.
  • In case you missed it, Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard may not be a serious contender for the Jets‘ head coaching job, but he could the favorite to land the top gig with the Dolphins.

NFC South Rumors: Bucs, Falcons, Panthers

Former Jets head coach Todd Bowles has already been drawing interest as a potential defensive coordinator, and — perhaps unsurprisingly — Bowles’ most likely destination could the Buccaneers, provided that Bruce Arians (currently viewed as the favorite) lands the head coaching job in Tampa Bay, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). If Arians is hired by the Bucs, he’s expected to “get the band back together” by hiring a number of his ex-Cardinals assistants. Bowles served as Arians’ DC in Arizona from 2013-14, leading units which each ranked top-seven in defensive DVOA.

Here’s more on NFC South coaching jobs:

  • If Arians does end up with the Buccaneers, former Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong could take the same role in Tampa Bay, tweets Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Armstrong, who had been Atlanta’s ST coach since 2008, was fired last week as the Falcons cleared out each of their coordinator roles. Based purely on performance, Armstrong posted a strong effort in 2018, as Atlanta ranked 10th in special teams DVOA. The 55-year-old Armstrong took two interviews for the Cardinals’ head coaching job last season, and was one of two candidates Arians personally recommended as a successor (the other being incumbent DC James Bettcher).
  • Speaking of the Falcons, they have officially completed an interview with Darrell Bevell, whom they are considering for their offensive coordinator vacancy, per Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Bevell, who was out of the NFL in 2018 after being fired by the Seahawks, is one of three candidates known to have interviewed to replace Steve Sarkisian, joining former Titans head coach Mike Mularkey and former Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter. Ex-Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak was also on Atlanta’s list of candidates, but the Broncos reportedly denied permission for an interview.
  • Panthers wide receivers coach Lance Taylor will not return in 2019, reports Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter links). Taylor had been leading Carolina’s wideouts since 2017, and was in his second stint with the Panthers’ franchise. Changes had been expected to the Panthers’ staff: although head coach Ron Rivera will be back next season, Taylor may not be the final Carolina assistant to move on. Taylor, for his part, may join the University of Alabama staff if he doesn’t land another NFL gig, per Marvez.

Falcons Fire Steve Sarkisian

Dan Quinn’s job is safe, but the Falcons are firing almost everybody else. The team is letting go offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, and special teams coach Keith Armstrong, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

The Falcons have gone downhill since their Super Bowl run two seasons ago, sneaking into the playoffs as a six seed last year before falling apart this season. Injuries were partially to blame, but the team finished just 7-9 despite having a ton of talent, and regressed heavily on defense. The offense hasn’t been the same since Kyle Shanahan left to coach the 49ers, and Sarkisian had received a ton of criticism for his playcalling, especially in the red-zone. With the defense becoming one of the worst units in the NFL this season, it’s no surprise that Manuel was let go. The firing of Armstrong, who has been considered for head coaching jobs in the past, cements this as a total house cleaning.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link), the Falcons will conduct searches for new offensive and special teams coordinators, but Quinn is expected to take over the defense. Matt Ryan has put up big numbers over the last couple of years but it hasn’t translated to wins.

Interestingly, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets to “keep an eye on Gary Kubiak” for the offensive coordinator role, and James Palmer of NFL Network tweets that he’s heard the same. Kubiak, the former Texans and Broncos head coach who won a Super Bowl in Denver, has been rumored to be mulling a return to the sidelines as a coordinator. Owner Arthur Blank has expressed confidence in Quinn, but these moves clearly suggest that Quinn is feeling the heat. If he can’t get Atlanta back to the playoffs next year, he could be out of a job just a few years removed from an NFC Championship.

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Fritz Pollard Alliance Recommends HC Candidates

Every year, the Fritz Pollard Alliance releases a list of recommended minority head coaching candidates. This year’s edition is nearly double in size and features the likes of Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard, as Mike Jones of USA Today writes. 

Here’s the complete list of suggested candidates:

  • Keith Armstrong (Falcons special teams coordinator)
  • Teryl Austin (Former Bengals defensive coordinator)
  • Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator)
  • Jim Caldwell (former Lions and Colts head coach)
  • George Edwards (Vikings defensive coordinator)
  • Brian Flores (Patriots linebackers coach)
  • Leslie Frazier (Bills defensive coordinator)
  • Raheem Morris (Falcons assistant head coach/wide receivers coach)
  • Hue Jackson (special assistant to the head coach of the Bengals; former Browns head coach)
  • Kris Richard (Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator)
  • Duce Staley (Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach)

Flores, the de facto defensive coordinator of the Patriots, figures to be a hot coaching candidate this year. The same goes for Bieniemy, who is helping to guide one of the league’s most dangerous offenses.

Others on this list, such as Jackson and Austin, seem unlikely to garner real consideration for head coaching positions this offseason. The Browns turned the corner after dumping Jackson and appointing Gregg Williams as the team’s interim head coach, which isn’t a great endorsement for the offensive guru. Meanwhile, the Bengals hired Austin in January but fired him earlier this month as his defense was one of the lowest ranked in the NFL.

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Coaching Rumors: Cardinals, McAdoo, Fins

The Cardinals interviewed two more head coach candidates today, but the search will continue into next week, according to Kent Somers of AZCentral Sports. The Cardinals have met with Steve Wilks and Keith Armstrong twice and will not need to interview current defensive coordinator James Bettcher another time because of his history with the organization. The team will also interview John DeFilippo and Brian Flores next week, per Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).

In addition, Somer states that the team could look at giving Jim Schwartz a second interview, but Jurecki did not mention the Eagles defensive coordinator in his tweet. The search is mostly continuing because both the Eagles and Patriots will be playing in their respective conference championships, so depending on how the games shake out, Arizona could resolve their head coaching search by the end of next week.

Finally, Somers importantly notes that former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has recommended Bettcher and Armstrong among this pool of coaches the front office is considering.

Here are more a coaching notes from around the NFL:

  • In more Cardinals coaching staff news, now two former staffers have now left for new opportunities, reports Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). In addition to former special teams coordinator Amos Jones moving onto the same position with the Browns, former wide receiver coach Darryl Drake has been hired by the Steelers.
  • Hue Jackson is adding an offensive coordinator to his staff and have interviewed former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo for the job. He interviewed with the Browns three days ago and apparently “It went fine”, a Browns source tells Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Anderson adds that the source mentioned that they are “Just not going to rush into anything” after speaking to two candidates as of right now. Cleveland is also interviewing a high profile college coach in LSU’s RB coach Tommy Robinson for the same position on their staff, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • The Dolphins announced a slew of coaching moves today. The biggest apart from Dowell Loggains being brought on as offensive coordinator is former OC Clyde Christensen being reassigned as the team’s new director of football and player development. Shawn Jefferson was wide receivers coach, but will now be an assistant head coach working with the offense. They are also are promoting Ben Johnson to WR coach. He got experience with this group of players as an assistant WR coach last season.
  • The Bears have named Brock Olivo as the team’s new assistant special teams coach, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Olivo was the Broncos’ special teams coordinator last year and was with Matt Nagy on the Chiefs’ staff from 2014-16 as an assistant to special teams coordinator Dave Toub. He previously was a former running back for the Lions back in his playing days.
  • The Texans have promoted Anthony Midget to the team’s secondary coach, according to Mark Berman of Fox26 (Twitter link). Berman also notes that they have also hired Danny Barrett as the RB coach and Tracy Smith as an assistant special teams coach.

Cardinals Complete Second Interviews With Keith Armstrong, Steve Wilks

With the Giants, Colts and Lions all having head coaches likely to accept job offers, the Cardinals continue to talk to different candidates about their vacant head coaching gig. Today, the team has just completed a second interview with Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link) and Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).

Keith Armstrong (vertical)

Armstrong originally spoke to the team on January 8, but received a second interview request after it was revealed that other potential candidates Matt Patricia and Pat Shurmur would likely accept other jobs after their respective teams are eliminated from the postseason.

The 54-year-old Armstrong has held his special teams post in Atlanta since 2008. The Cardinals have been the only team that has requested to interview him for a head coaching role. On the other hand, Wilks has been spoken to a number of teams about their vacant head coaching gigs, including the Titans, who still have their spot open.

Arizona is still considering multiple coaches, including current defensive coordinator James Bettcher, Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo, Patriots linebacker coach Brian Flores, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals To Interview Keith Armstrong Again

Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong will have a second interview with the Cardinals for their head coach position on Friday, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Armstrong first interviewed with the club on Jan. 8 and did well enough to warrant another look. Keith Armstrong (vertical)

The Cardinals seem have at least three finalists for the job. Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is coming back for a second interview and Patriots linebacker coach Brian Flores is also in line for another meeting. Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak was asked to come back for another powwow, but he declined the team’s invitation.

The Falcons interviewed Armstrong for their own head coaching position in 2015, but they ultimately wound up hiring Dan Quinn. This could be the offseason that Armstrong gets his opportunity to lead his own team, though he has some steep competition in quarterback whisperer DeFilippo plus others who have OC/DC experience like Steve Wilks of the Panthers.

 

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Coaching Notes: Wilks, Bears, Chiefs, Cards

Steve Wilks has set up three interviews for this week. The Giants will receive the first opportunity to meet with the Panthers’ DC, with ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson reporting (on Twitter) Wilks will trek to New Jersey to meet with the Dave Gettleman-led group on Tuesday before flying to Arizona to meet with the Cardinals on Wednesday. Following those meetings, the Colts will host Wilks on Thursday, Mike Wells of ESPN.com tweets. These aren’t the only teams interested in securing a sitdown with Wilks. The Lions remain interested in doing so as well, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

The Giants will complete both Wilks’ and Eric Studesville‘s interviews by Wednesday, with the former Broncos running backs coach set for a Wednesday powwow, per ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan (Twitter link). This duo will mark the fifth and sixth interviews the Giants will have conducted. After these summits, Big Blue management could be ready to make a decision. With the Eagles still in the playoffs and no Jim Schwartz interview conducted, it could put the Giants to a decision: wait on Schwartz and risk losing some of these aforementioned candidates or hire one of them instead.

Here’s the latest from the coaching circuit.

  • A possible favorite has already emerged to replace Matt Nagy as the Chiefs‘ OC. Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy will be “strongly considered,” Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The 48-year-old Bienemy served as Colorado’s OC from 2011-12 and has coached the Chiefs’ running backs since Andy Reid‘s arrival in 2013. Bienemy could have a clearer path to this job with former K.C. OC Brad Childress planning to retire.
  • Nagy wants to retain Vic Fangio with the Bears, both Peter Schrager of NFL.com and the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs note (Twitter links). But Fangio has interest elsewhere — from the Bengals and Packers — and could opt to depart Chicago after being passed over for the HC job.
  • Chicago may also look to retain a few assistants who worked under John Fox. Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone is a candidate to stay under Nagy despite the new HC making his NFL name by working with QBs. The Bears respected Ragone’s work with Trubisky, Rich Campbell of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets, and adds Nagy and Ragone share an agent. Biggs tweets tight ends coach Frank Smith and defensive line coach Jay Rodgers are candidates to stay put as well.
  • The Browns‘ interviews with OC candidates Ken Zampese and Sean Ryan will take place this week. Rapoport reports (via Twitter) Zampese will receive the first meeting, which will occur today, with Ryan’s interview scheduled for Wednesday. A second-generation NFL assistant, Zampese spent the past 15 seasons with the Bengals before his second year as OC ended after just two games. A nine-year Giants staffer who is currently the Texans’ QBs coach, Ryan does not have any history with Hue Jackson like Zampese does.
  • Ron Rivera does not anticipate the Panthers making any staff changes beyond possibly replacing Wilks, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. This would mean OC Mike Shula is in line to return for a sixth season.
  • Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong‘s Cardinals interview is set for Monday in Atlanta, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports. Armstrong is allowed to interview under NFL rules despite the Falcons winning in the wild-card round.

Cardinals To Interview Keith Armstrong

We have a new name in the Cardinals’ coaching search. The Cardinals will interview Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong about their vacancy, Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter) hears. The interview will take place next week, as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweetsKeith Armstrong (vertical)

[RELATED: Cardinals To Interview DC James Bettcher]

The Falcons interviewed Armstrong for their own head coaching position in 2015, a search that ended with the hiring of Dan Quinn. In the following year, there was speculation that Todd Bowles would try and lure him to the Jets as ST coordinator, but the Falcons were unwilling to allow him to make a lateral move. The Falcons are expected to OK the interview, though it will have to take place after Atlanta’s Wild Card game on Saturday.

Armstrong has more than 20 years of professional head coaching experience and is highly respected in NFL circles, but it’s not often that a special teams coordinator makes the direct jump to HC.

Arizona defensive coordinator James Bettcher will also be interviewed for the position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.