Keith Butler

Coaching Rumors: Moore, Dolphins, Steelers

Kellen Moore is, in fact, expected to call the Cowboys‘ plays next season, Jason Garrett said. The 29-year-old OC has yet to begin his second season as an NFL coach, but the Cowboys wanted change (without looking outside their staff to seek it).

I think it’s a great opportunity for our team and our players,” Jerry Jones said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He has a great staff on the offensive side with him and they all have some great ideas. We have Jason sitting there as a safety net. I think it’s an ideal time to stretch out.

“I said to everybody, ‘I want those new ideas. I want them thought through far. And if they are not being implemented call me.’ But let’s get in there and do the kinds of things to get the most out of a very talented roster. Kellen has the skill, and the right attitude, and style to make this work.”

Garrett was coaching Moore as recently as the 2017 season, but the 10th-year Dallas coach said he will surround Moore with experience to help this major transition. Tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier, a longtime college OC, is expected to take on a larger role.

The coaching circuit brought some news post-Super Bowl LIII. Here is the latest:

  • Another Patriots assistant will be following Brian Flores to Miami. The Dolphins are expected to name Jerry Schuplinski as their new quarterbacks coach, according to Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio (on Twitter). Schuplinski served as New England’s assistant QBs coach for the past three seasons and has been a Pats staffer for six years. The Patriots gave Schuplinski his first NFL job; prior to that, he was an assistant at Division III program Case Western Reserve for six years.
  • Dennis Allen‘s new Saints contract is a three-year agreement, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. The former Raiders HC has been the Saints’ DC since the 2015 season. His unit has gone from one of the worst in NFL history, in ’15, to one of the top groups in the league.
  • Steelers DC Keith Butler will assume more responsibility next season. The team will not replace Joey Porter as outside linebackers coach, instead having Butler directly oversee that position in addition to his defensive coordinator duties, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Butler, who will enter his fifth year as Pittsburgh’s DC after being the team’s linebackers coach for 12 years, joins OC Randy Fichtner in doubling as a position coach. Fichtner still coaches the Steelers’ quarterbacks.
  • The Giants will hire one of Rutgers’ assistant coaches, Henry Baker, as assistant defensive backs coach, James Kratch and Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com report. This is interesting because Baker accepted a job with the Scarlet Knights for the 2019 season, and it was to be his second stint at Rutgers. This will be Baker’s first NFL job, though he did receive minority coaching internships with the Lions and Giants during recent offseasons. Baker will replace Deshea Townsend, who is now with the Bears. Football Scoop first reported the hire.
  • A former Giants great, Antonio Pierce spent the 2018 season on Herm Edwards‘ Arizona State staff. The Chiefs, however, were interested in prying Pierce away and making him their linebackers coach, per Marvez (on Twitter). But Pierce, who just wrapped up his first season as a college coach, opted to stay with the Sun Devils.

AFC Coaching Rumors: Gase, Harbaugh, Tomlin, Joseph

We just heard that Todd Bowles is officially done, and there is a ton of other new coaching news to sort through. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com came out with a breakdown of all the notable coaching situations in the AFC, and there were some interesting nuggets. It was reported recently that Dolphins coach Adam Gase isn’t necessarily safe in Miami, and Rapoport confirms that. There’s a “legitimate possibility” that Gase “ends up out of work”, sources told Rapoport.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Network posted in a follow up tweet that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross “was pissed Sunday so everything is up for evaluation.” It won’t be the end of the world for Gase if he’s let go, as he’d immediately be a hot name and could surely land an offensive coordinator gig if not a head coaching job right away. Rapoport notes that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam “has long been a fan” of Gase, so he’d probably be a candidate in Cleveland. Gase has done a good job winning more games than expected with an injury and talent depleted roster, but it looks like Dolphins ownership might be looking for a total top to bottom reset, from the front office to quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Here’s more from the AFC coaching ranks:

  • While the Ravens came out and announced that John Harbaugh would be back in 2019, it’s been made clear that his status in Baltimore is still up in the air. There have been reports that Harbaugh isn’t interested in signing an extension and may want to test the market. While Rapoport does confirm that’s a “real possibility”, he does note that Harbaugh’s agent Bryan Harlan was in town to begin talking with the Ravens this past Sunday. It had previously been reported the two sides hadn’t talked at all, so it seems like there’s been some progress there.
  • It’s been a frustrating year for the Steelers, and despite some fans and media types calling for Mike Tomlin’s removal, the 12th year head coach isn’t going anywhere, according to Rapoport. That being said, Rapoport writes there could be a staff shakeup, and defensive coordinator Keith Butler could be on his way out, while “several assistants could be changed out” as well.
  • While most people have assumed Vance Joseph is a goner in Denver, there is still a “slim possibility” John Elway elects to stick with Joseph for another year, according to Rapoport. While Rapsheet still expects the Broncos to ultimately move on, he notes there is a scenario in which the Broncos fire offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, keep Joseph, and have former head coach Gary Kubiak come down from the front office and assume control of the offense. That would be a very interesting move, but at this point it still seems likely there’s an opening in the Mile High City.

 

Extra Points: Brees, Mathis, Seahawks

Let’s take a look at the latest from around the NFL as Saturday comes to a close…

  • Saints quarterback Drew Brees spent two months working with coach Tom House to improve poor throwing mechanics that came as a result of an oblique injury last year, ESPN’s Ed Werder tweeted. “There was a lot I needed to fix,” said Brees (Twitter link). Despite the injury, Brees still appeared in all 16 games in 2014 and completed over 69 percent of his passes for 4,952 yards, 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
  • Free agent guard Evan Mathis’ visit with the Seahawks on Saturday went well, according to Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo (via Twitter). While a signing doesn’t appear imminent, Garofalo tweeted that Seattle will remain an option for the two-time Pro Bowler.
  • Although 49ers safety Eric Reid has suffered three concussions during his first two NFL seasons, ex-teammate Chris Borland‘s offseason decision to retire over head-trauma concerns didn’t tempt Reid to do the same. “No. Not at all,” Reid said, per Eric Branch of SFGate.com. “Football is a violent sport, but you know what you sign up for when you put those shoulder pads on. I agree with certain aspects of it. I disagree with certain aspects of it. But you have to respect his decision either way. I’ve had concussions and I’m still here. I still love the sport. I think I’m still very healthy.”
  • One of the main focuses of the Steelers’ Keith Butler is making sure his defense is unpredictable. Butler, who’s taking over for longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, is loath to call Pittsburgh a 4-3 or 3-4 team. “We are not strictly anything,” he said, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We just can’t be a 3-4 team and can’t just be a 4-3 team. I don’t think you can get around that. Offenses are multiple, so you have to do what you have to do to stop them. In order to do that, you try to match up your people with their people.”

North Notes: Steelers, Vikings, Bengals, Pack

A look at what’s happening in the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • The Steelers’ defense isn’t going to be one whose linemen merely occupy opposing blockers. Instead, new coordinator Keith Butler is encouraging them to attack the football, writes Ray Frager of CSNBaltimore.com.“Coach Buts said early on, ‘I’m not going to hold you back. I want the linebackers to fend for themselves. I expect you guys to make plays for yourself,” lineman Cameron Heyward said. Heyward added that he’s excited about Butler’s philosophy. “I’m salivating. I can’t wait until the season starts.”
  • The Packers have a breakout candidate in second-year wide receiver Davante Adams, who caught 38 passes during the regular season and added a seven-catch, 117-yard showing against Dallas in the playoffs. Head coach Mike McCarthy is excited about Adams’ output at minicamp. “Davante Adams, if you want a clear illustration and example of a first-year player taking a jump in his second year, you just saw it here the last four weeks,” McCarthy told the Associated Press. “Davante, if you wanted me to pick an MVP or an all-star (of the offseason), he would definitely be atop the list.”
  • Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil wants more from third-year linebacker Barkevious Mingowrites Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “He is going to have to compete for playing time on early downs. He’s going to have a role in our sub-packages,” said O’Neil, who did acknowledge that Mingo is the team’s best outside linebacker in coverage. Mingo’s role last year mainly focused on coverage, not rushing the passer, as he played through a torn labrum. Mingo has racked up just seven sacks since going sixth overall in the 2014 draft.
  • Vikings safety Harrison Smith is under team control for just two more seasons, but he’s not thinking about a contract extension. “I’m really just focused on playing the best type of football I can. That stuff will work itself out,” Harrison said Thursday, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’m happy to be here and happy to be a part of the Vikings, but all I’m thinking about right now is playing well in 2015.” Whether it’s with the Vikings or someone else, Smith is primed to cash in big if his career stays on its current course. Smith totaled a career-best five interceptions in 2014, giving him 10 in three seasons, and earned a spot on Pro Football Focus’ All-Pro team.
  • Two of Harrison’s fellow Vikings defenders, end Brian Robison and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, expect to be ready for training camp in July after suffering offseason injuries, per the Pioneer Press’ Brian Murphy.
  • Bengals wideout Marvin Jones impressed as an NFL sophomore in 2013, amassing 51 catches and 10 touchdowns, before missing all of last season with ankle and foot injuries. Healthy again, ESPN’s Coley Harvey writes that the 2012 second-round pick is returning to form. “You’re starting to see a play here, a play there of the old Marv, and the quickness, suddenness and explosiveness,” Bengals receivers coach James Urban said.
  • The performance of backup quarterback A.J. McCarron in spring workouts greatly impressed the Bengals and helped convince them to release Terrelle Pryor on Thursday, writes Geoff Hobson of the team’s website. “If he can do what he did here live, that will be the next step,” said quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese. Head coach Marvin Lewis expressed similar sentiment regarding the 2014 fifth-round pick and three-time national champion from the University of Alabama. “I’m pleased with his ability to handle the huddle, to handle the team. These nine practices have been awesome for him,” Lewis said.
  • Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco heaped praise on second-year receiver Jeremy Butler, who stood out at the team’s minicamp. “He was incredible. He caught the ball extremely well,” said Flacco, according to the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson. “He’s just a big, strong body and catches the ball really well. It’s exactly what he showed last year in training camp, I thought, and he’s just coming out here and doing more of that.” Butler went undrafted out of Tennessee-Martin in 2014 and missed his entire rookie season because of a shoulder injury.

AFC Notes: Freeman, Steelers, McCourty, Anderson

Josh Freeman is trying to make the most of his opportunity with the Dolphins, but the quarterback understands that he could be on the outside looking in:

“We’ve got four quarterbacks on the roster and a limited amount of time,” Freeman told Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel. “Some days, I might not get the reps in practice.

“I don’t think anybody can see the future. You don’t really think of those scenarios that haven’t really come up in your mind at times. I’m just taking it in stride. Whatever it becomes, I’m trying to make the most of it.”

When asked about this chances to make the team, Freeman had an honest outlook:

“I couldn’t tell you either way. The coaches are the decision-makers. All I know is I’m going to keep giving it my best, continue to improve and let the people whose call it is to make make the call.”

Let’s see what else is happening around the AFC…

  • Keith Butler waited patiently a dozen years for his opportunity, but he’s finally the man in charge of the Steelers‘ defense. This offseason, the team did not renew the contract of Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, giving Butler the opportunity to ascend to defensive coordinator. Prior to that, Butler had opportunities to be someone else’s defensive coordinator, as Dan Scifo of The Associated Press writes. “To me, if you’re going to coach in this game, you want to win a Super Bowl,” said Butler. “I always thought the best chance for me to win a Super Bowl as a coordinator would be (in Pittsburgh).”
  • The Patriots lost several notable defenders this offseason, including veterans Darrelle Revis and Vince Wilfork, and that makes safety Devin McCourty the de facto “face” of the defense. Of course, the All-Pro defensive back would never admit that. “We have a lot of really good players on defense,” McCourty said to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “Last year, a lot of guys stepped up and made plays, and I think that is going to continue to happen. I don’t really think we have a face. We have guys that have been here a longer time than other guys…There’s so much that goes into being a good team and a good defense that you can’t put it on one guy to be the so-called face of the defense.”
  • Broncos running back C.J. Anderson signed a new contract yesterday, but it had nothing to do with his football career. The 24-year-old inked a sponsorship with Storm – The Bowler’s Company, essentially making the running back a professional bowler. “This could also be something after football,” he told Rod Mackey of Colorado’s 9News. “A lot of people pickup golf, I might be picking up bowling.”

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Coaching Notes: Steelers, Falcons, Raiders

Former Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler is now the club’s defensive coordinator, so a pair of assistants have received promotions to fill the hole on the staff. The Steelers announced today that Jerry Olsavsky will coach the team’s inside linebackers, while Joey Porter will coach the outside linebackers, according to Steelers.com. Both coaches played linebacker for the Steelers before coming back to coach with the organization.

Here are some other coaching notes from around the NFL:

  • We heard earlier this week that Seahawks assistant Marquand Manuel was expected to follow Dan Quinn to Atlanta, and Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com confirms that news today, tweeting that Manuel signed his two-year deal to join the Falcons. He’ll serve as the club’s defensive backs coach and senior defensive consultant. McClure gives credit to his colleague Josina Anderson for the report.
  • After announcing earlier today that Ken Norton Jr. would be their new defensive coordinator, the Raiders are filling out the defensive staff under Norton. University of Miami defensive line coach Jethro Franklin will be headed to Oakland to accept the same job with the Raiders, reports Thayer Evans of SI.com (via Twitter).
  • Central Michigan University has hired Lions special teams coach John Bonamego to be their new head coach, reports Hondo Carter of SpartanNation.com (via Twitter). It will be Bonamego’s first head coaching opportunity.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Steelers Promote Keith Butler To DC

TUESDAY, 10:03am: The Steelers have officially announced that Butler is the team’s new defensive coordinator (Twitter link).

MONDAY, 9:29pm: The Steelers are expected to promote linebackers coach Keith Butler to defensive coordinator, reports Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who adds that the move could be announced on Tuesday. Per Dulac, Butler met with head coach Mike Tomlin on Monday, and is set to a sign a three-year deal to replace longtime DC Dick LeBeau, who resigned on Saturday.

Butler, 55, will be tasked with improving a defense that has regressed in recent years — the unit has seen its DVOA ranking slip from seventh, to 13th, to 19th, to 30th from 2011-2014. After employing the league’s oldest defense in 2013, Pittsburgh has made an effort to get younger, adding defenders like Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, and Jarvis Jones in the past two drafts. However, 2014 franchise player Jason Worilds is set to hit free agency in March, meaning the club could be missing one of its impact players in 2015.

Per Dulac, one of the reasons the Steelers declined to retain LeBeau is that Butler’s three-year contract had expired, meaning he was free to talk to other clubs about defensive coordinator jobs. Butler, who started 132 games as a player after being selected in the second round of the 1978 draft, has been in his current role since 2003. Pittsburgh is expected to promote one of its assistant LB coaches — former Steelers players Jerry Olsavsky and Joey Porter — to lead its linebacking corps.

Coach Updates: Spags, Quinn, LeBeau, Tucker

The Giants will interview Ravens assistant (and former employee) Steve Spagnuolo for their defensive coordinator position this week, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN (Facebook link). Spagnuolo, 55, was New York’s DC from 2007-08. Per Schefter, the club also spoke with its own defensive backs coach, David Merritt, about the job. Here’s more news on the coaching front…

  • After parting ways with John Fox earlier today, the Broncos want to interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, tweets Schefter. Quinn is viewed as the favorite for the Jets head coaching position, and has also been linked to the vacancies in Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco.
  • We heard earlier today that the Jets wanted to bring in Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for a second interview, and now Brian Costello of the New York Post tweets that the meeting will take place on Wednesday, the same day Bowles will speak with the Falcons for a second time. The Atlanta interview will happen first, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • Cowboys offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bill Callahan is a popular man, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). He’s drawing interest elsewhere, which could lead to a promotion of Scott Linehan. Bills head coach Rex Ryan is among those with interest, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (on Twitter).
  • LSU has been in contact with Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker about their opening at the same position, according to Ross Dellenger and Scott Rabalais of The Advocate. Tucker, who was rumored to be on the hot seat in Chicago, remains under contract with the team.
  • While ex-Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has discussed joining the Cardinals coaching staff (Twitter link via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), it will not be as DC, tweets Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports 910, who adds that LeBeau could be brought aboard in something of an advising capacity.
  • Meanwhile, the Steelers have not met with any outside candidates to replace LeBeau, meaning it’s increasingly likely that linebackers coach Keith Butler will be promoted to DC, writes Scott Brown of ESPN.com. Butler has been in his current role since 2003.
  • The Giants met with Washington secondary coach Raheem Morris on Friday about their open DC position, but will go in another direction, according to Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4 (Twitter link). Per Russini, Morris will now interview for Washington’s defensive coordinator job.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Sunday Roundup: Austin, Ravens, Steelers

Let’s take a look at some links from around the league as Day 2 of the Divisional Round gets underway:

  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets that Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is also on the Bears‘ radar.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com provides an offseason outlook for the Bears.
  • Manish Metha of the New York Daily News tweets that the Jets, despite their heavy interest in Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, still want to interview Kubiak for their head coaching vacancy.
  • Rapoport tweets that Dick LeBeau‘s departure took the Steelers by surprise, and he adds (via Twitter) that LeBeau likely wanted to leave Pittsburgh with Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor, with whom he had established a close relationship.
  • Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, reiterating what he passed along yesterday, tweets that Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler, whom the Titans attempted to hire last season, is the most likely candidate to be elevated to defensive coordinator.
  • In a series of Baltimore items, Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun writes that Ravens outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is expected to cash in on the free agent market and Steve Smith has no plans to retire.
  • Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer describes how the departure of Kyle Shanahan might impact the Browns‘ quarterback situation.
  • Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com writes that, with the Bills‘ hiring of Rex Ryan and the emergence of Dan Quinn as the frontrunner for the Jets head coaching vacancy, Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich may stay put in San Diego.
  • Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News tweets that, had the 49ers hired Ryan, Vic Fangio was likely to stay as the team’s defensive coordinator. However, now that Ryan has been hired by the Bills, Inman believes Fangio will be promoted to head coach. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, though, tweets that San Francisco will conduct a second interview with Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

Dick LeBeau Resigns As Steelers DC

7:27pm: The Steelers have officially announced LeBeau’s resignation in a press release.

“We want to thank Dick for his many years of service with the team and all that he has done for this organization,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in a statement. “His coaching helped lead us to many successful seasons and championships. We are very appreciative of his efforts, and we wish him well.”

4:04pm: Longtime Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will not return to the team in 2015, announcing his decision in the Urbana Daily Citizen in Ohio, according to Steve Stout.

The 77-year old coach has decided to resign, but says he is not retiring. “I’m resigning this position, not retiring,” LeBeau said. “I had a great run in Pittsburgh. I’m grateful for all the things that have happened to me and thankful for all the support I had in Pittsburgh.”

Lebeau spent the last 11 seasons with the Steelers, winning two Super Bowls and establishing himself as one of the most respected defensive coordinators ever. He played defensive back for the Lions, drafted in 1959, and his 62 interceptions rank him seventh all-time in NFL history.

As a coach, he is credited with inventing and perfecting the zone blitz, and although his head coaching career was short lived and unsuccessful, he has experienced great success as a coordinator with the Eagles, Packers, Bengals, and Steelers. LeBeau was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

The Steelers could promote linebackers coach Keith Butler to replace LeBeau, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). The team has pegged him as a defensive coordinator in waiting for the past few years.