Kevin Colbert

GM/HC Notes: Colbert, Panthers, Jets, Smith

Here is the latest from the GM/head coach carousels. Five GM vacancies and seven HC openings remain as of Wednesday afternoon.

  • Before making his way to Pittsburgh, Kevin Colbert spent many seasons in Detroit. The Lions have been connected to making a push for a Colbert Motor City return, but they have not asked the Steelers for permission to interview him, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. The Steelers gave Colbert an extension last year. After working with the Lions throughout the 1990s as their pro scouting director, Colbert has been with his hometown Steelers since 2000.
  • The Panthers continue to go through second interviews. After meeting with 49ers exec Adam Peters and Titans staffer Monti Ossenfort again this week, Carolina brought back Chiefs assistant player personnel director Ryan Poles and met again with Seahawks VP of football operations Scott Fitterer. Poles is one of a few Chiefs execs to receive interest this offseason, while Fitterer has been on the GM interview circuit for a few years. The Seahawks promoted him in September.
  • The Jets finished up Robert Saleh‘s second interview Wednesday but appear set to identify more finalists soon. They want to speak with Titans OC Arthur Smith again, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The Jets are not alone in pursuing Smith, who has interviewed for six HC jobs thus far. The Falcons are also high on the second-year OC.
  • Although Brian Daboll has not completed quite as extensive an itinerary as Smith has, he has impressed the Jets. Gang Green is high on the third-year Bills OC, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Daboll met with the Jets on Sunday. He cannot meet with the team in person until the Bills’ season concludes.

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team

GM Notes: Colbert, Patriots, Panthers, Rhule, Bears, Pace

We brought you a new batch of coaching notes earlier, and now we’ve got a new collection of front office bullets to pass along as the Browns and Steelers wrap up wild card weekend:

  • Let’s start with the Steelers, who could be in danger of losing their GM this offseason. We heard last week that the Lions were going to pursue Kevin Colbert, and Jason La Canfora tweets their interest in making that happen is still “very real.” While La Canfora’s sources don’t think Colbert would actually make the jump, he says the Lions “continue to gather info and strategize on how to possibly lure him.” Colbert, in the midst of his 21st season in Pittsburgh, has also flirted with retirement recently. Perhaps a first-round exit at the hands of the Browns could convince him to jump ship?
  • The Patriots just lost one key exec when Nick Caserio got hired by the Texans, and fortunately for them it doesn’t look like they’ll lose another. Dave Ziegler has pulled himself out of contention for the Broncos’ GM job, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. Rapsheet writes that the “organization has committed to Ziegler’s future, and Ziegler has committed to” New England, so it sounds like the Pats gave him an extension and/or raise to stay.
  • There was another big withdrawal on Sunday, as Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds removed himself from the Panthers’ search, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets. He had interviewed for the job last week. Dodds declined an interview request from the Browns back in January, so he appears to be waiting for the right opportunity to leave Indy.
  • Meanwhile as the Panthers’ search chugs along, they’ll take a look at a couple of internal candidates. Carolina will interview Director of Player Negotiations & Salary Cap Manager Samir Suleiman and Director of Player Personnel Pat Stewart for their GM vacancy (Twitter link via Joe Person of The Athletic). The Panthers are conducting an exhaustive search, so it’s possible these are just courtesy interviews.
  • One last note on the Panthers for now. No matter who they hire, it looks like it may be Matt Rhule who’s in charge at the end of the day. “Rhule will essentially be running the show in Carolina,” after they replace the fired Marty Hurney, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. That’s not all that surprising after owner David Tepper paid him a fortune to lure him from Baylor and Rhule earned strong marks for his first season with the Panthers, getting a bare-bones roster to fight hard and play a bunch of close games against good teams. Florio writes that whoever gets the gig “surely won’t get the job without Rhule’s agreement.” Rhule seems like a strong coach, but obviously these kind of arrangements can get dangerous, as we’ve seen with the Texans and Bill O’Brien.
  • Matt Nagy is going to be back with the Bears in 2021, but GM Ryan Pace’s future apparently isn’t entirely secure. Chicago could target Chiefs exec Mike Borgonzi this offseason, multiple sources told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. As Biggs points out, it would make sense for them to bring in someone familiar with Nagy if they’re going to change GMs but not coaches. Nagy, of course, coached in Kansas City under Andy Reid for a while. The Bears’ blowout loss to the Saints today certainly isn’t working in Pace’s favor, and the drafting of Mitchell Trubisky second overall never worked out. This will be an interesting situation to monitor this week.

Lions To Pursue Seahawks GM John Schneider

The Lions are leaving no stone unturned in their search for a new GM. In addition to three in-house candidates and myriad external options, including a few high-profile targets, the club is expected to make a run at Seahawks GM John Schneider, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports.

Schneider has long been considered one of the best executives in the game, and he and Pete Carroll have forged a remarkably productive GM-HC tandem since they came to Seattle in 2010. Under their leadership, the ‘Hawks have compiled a 111-63-1 record, five division titles, two NFC championships, and a Super Bowl.

But Carroll, not Schneider, has final authority over all personnel decisions. That means that a club like the Lions could interview Schneider if it offers him full control (though as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes, it may not be quite that simple, and Detroit may need to send compensation to Seattle if it wants to hire Schneider away). Plus, while Carroll signed a long-term extension several months ago that will run through the 2025 campaign, Schneider is only under contract through the 2022 draft, as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets. Rapoport says that, in addition to Detroit, Schneider is expected to get a call from at least one other team,

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says the Lions would also be interested in Steelers GM Kevin Colbert. Colbert has gone year-to-year with Pittsburgh for awhile, but that’s because he wants to leave open the possibility of retirement. He plans to be back with Pittsburgh in 2021, so it looks like another one-year pact is on the horizon.

Vikings assistant GM George Paton, who has been a fixture on the GM rumor mill in recent years, is also on the Lions’ radar, per Rapoport, and there is a new and interesting connection between Minnesota and Detroit. Paton’s boss, Rick Spielman, is the brother of new Detroit exec Chris Spielman, who is expected to have an integral role in the Lions’ search process.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Bears, Packers, Tomlin, Browns

The Bears became the latest team to work out Jamon Brown, with SI.com’s Albert Breer tweeting the guard was in Chicago for an audition. The free agent guard, a Falcons cut last month, has already worked out for the 49ers. Brown was a full-time Rams starter in 2017, but a 2018 suspension derailed his momentum. The Rams waived him shortly after he returned from that ban, but he ended the ’18 season as a Giants first-stringer. The Bears are returning four starters from last season and have been trying ex-Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi at guard.

Here is the latest from the North divisions:

  • The Steelers will let Mike Tomlin enter a contract year. Signed through 2021, Tomlin will not be extended this year, Art Rooney II said (via The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette, subscription required). The Steelers gave Tomlin his most recent extension last July, and he managed an eight-win season despite the largely Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers ranking 32nd in offensive DVOA. Rooney said he plans to address the contracts of Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert, who just signed a one-year extension, in 2021.
  • One of the league’s healthiest teams last season, the Packers may be down a starter in Week 1. Billy Turner suffered a knee injury during a scrimmage and is uncertain for Green Bay’s opener, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. Turner played guard for the Packers last season but is competing with free agency addition Ricky Wagner at right tackle this year. Lane Taylor, who missed all of last season, is expected to play right guard opposite emerging talent Elgton Jenkins on the left side.
  • For the second time in three weeks, the Browns brought in Cody Parkey for a visit. The veteran was part of a kicker group to work out for the Browns in August, though it was reported at the time the team was organizing a COVID-related emergency kicker list. Parkey briefly kicked for the Titans last season.
  • Bears training camp coaching intern Henry Burris will stay on the team’s staff all season, Matt Nagy announced. Known mostly for his 17-season CFL run, Burris also was a Bears quarterback for a short time in the early 2000s. This will be his first NFL coaching gig.
  • Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith underwent successful open-heart surgery recently, according to the Associated Press. Mike Zimmer said the second-year defender, who landed on Minnesota’s IR list, will remain in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future to recover.

Longest-Tenured GMs In The NFL

When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.

A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.

Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000[4]
  5. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  6. Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006[5]
  7. Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
  8. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010[6]
  9. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
  10. John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011[7]
  11. Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
  12. David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
  13. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
  14. Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
  15. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
  16. Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
  17. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
  18. Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
  19. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
  20. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
  21. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
  22. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
  23. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
  24. Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
  25. Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
  26. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  27. Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
  28. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  29. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019[8]
  30. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020[9]
  31. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  32. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
  5. Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
  6. While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
  7. Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
  8. In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
  9. Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.

Steelers GM Pushing For Three Extra NFL Draft Rounds

The coronavirus has radically changed the NFL Draft process and Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has offered up one proposal to help teams adjust to the lack of workouts and Pro Days. Colbert has asked league officials to add an additional three rounds to this year’s draft, bringing the total number of rounds to ten, as Manish Mehta of the Daily News writes. 

In lieu of drills and auditions, teams are permitted to hold up to three hour-long video conferences per week with any prospect. Still, coaches and executives like Colbert feel like they are flying blind. The draft is already wildly unpredictable; now teams have less intel than ever before. Because there are bound to be many misfires, Colbert believes the Steelers (and other clubs) can offset things a bit with a greater margin for error.

It’s not immediately clear whether the league is giving real consideration to Colbert’s idea, but anything is possible given these unprecedented conditions. This year’s draft will be “fully virtual” with executives conducting their business in separate locations, rather than the initial plan of allowing teams to gather their front office officials in one room.

The league has done its best to adjust. For example, Tua Tagovailoa recently underwent a voluntary medical re-check via the league’s combine committee. Ordinarily, his surgically-repaired hip would have been examined by scores of team doctors in separate exams, Instead, every team was allowed to request specific tests and the results were then shared with all 32 clubs.

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert On Contract Status, Ben Roethlisberger

Last summer, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert indicated he did not want to enter into a multi-year extension with the team, as he prefers to take things on a year-to-year basis. Earlier this month, the 63-year-old signed another one-year contract with the club to remain in his general manager post through the 2020 campaign.

But in a meeting with Steelers beat writers today, Colbert indicated he is not thinking about quitting anytime soon. “As long as the Rooneys and the Pittsburgh Steelers want me to be a part of this organization and it’s a good thing for our family, we’ll be here,” Colbert said. “I’m not looking to ever go anywhere else again as long as the Rooneys and the Steelers are interested in me” (Twitter link via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com).

So while Colbert may prefer the flexibility that his one-year extensions afford him, it sounds as if he will continue to lead the Pittsburgh front office for as long as the team wants him to and for as long as his personal life permits. And for good reason. Colbert joined the Steelers in 2000, was promoted from director of football operations to GM in 2010, and has helped build two Super Bowl-winning teams and 12 playoff squads over the years.

In his conversation, Colbert also discussed the status of QB Ben Roethlisberger. We heard in December that Big Ben is expected to make a full recovery from surgery to reattach three tendons in his right arm, and Colbert said today that he believes Roethlisberger’s rehab is going in the right direction (Twitter link via Pryor). The veteran signal-caller has a checkup in Los Angeles on February 21.

Colbert further indicated that the injuries that plagued JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Vance McDonald last year would not impact their long-term availability (Twitter link via Pryor). And in other Steelers news, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that the Steelers are expected to hire a new WR coach any day now. The team is deciding between Jerricho Cotchery and Bryan McClendon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Sign GM Kevin Colbert To Extension

Kevin Colbert will stay in Pittsburgh for at least one more year. On Wednesday, the Steelers announced a one-year contract extension with their longtime GM. 

I am happy to announce we have extended Kevin Colbert’s contract for an additional year,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II. “Kevin continues to play a key role in our success and his dedication to our personnel efforts is unparalleled. We are pleased he will lead those efforts for at least one more year.”

This will mark Colbert’s 21st year with the Steelers. Understandably, the GM has been keeping his options open. Last summer, Colbert declined to discuss a long-term extension with the club, citing a preference to go year-to-year with the Steelers.

The 63-year-old first joined the Steelers in 2000. Then, in 2010, he was promoted from director of football operations to GM. Over the years, he’s helped the Steelers build two Super Bowl winning teams and 12 playoff squads.

Of course, things didn’t go as planned for Colbert & Co. in 2019 – after losing star Ben Roethlisberger to injury, the Steelers finished out the year 8-8 and missed the playoffs. The other stars that helped the Steelers become a perennial contender – Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell – are long gone, so it’s up to Colbert to retool the offense with Big Ben remaining at the helm.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers “Optimistic” About Kevin Colbert Return

Kevin Colbert doesn’t have a contract for the 2020 season, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be going anywhere. On Wednesday, owner Art Rooney II said he’s “optimistic” about Colbert continuing with the club.

I’m optimistic about Kevin being back next year,” Rooney said (Twitter link via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “We have to get something done. The sooner, the better.”

Colbert’s current contract takes him through the draft, so the Steelers’ front office won’t be in flux during the key parts of the offseason. Beyond that, Rooney envisions “at least” one more season for the longtime exec.

Colbert, 63, has been with the Steelers since the start of the new millennium. After a decade as the team’s director of football operations, he he was elevated to the GM post. In 2016, the Steelers added the VP title to his business card. Along the way, Colbert has collected two Super Bowl rings (XL, XLIII).

Last year, the Steelers lost star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to injury as they flopped to an 8-8 finish.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.