Kevin O'Connell

Extra Points: Goodell, Hunt, Foster, Redskins, Kyler Murray, Whitehead

Commissioner Roger Goodell gave his annual press conference Wednesday, and was unsurprisingly asked about former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. Goodell said the investigation into the incident that led the Chiefs to cut Hunt “should conclude ‘soon’ and that he’ll go back on the exempt list whenever” he ends up signing with a team, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

As Rapsheet points out, Hunt is looking at a “likely suspension”, although it’s unclear what the length may be. We heard a couple of weeks ago that the investigation was likely to be over by March. Shortly before that, it was reported that the Bears had spoken to Hunt. Chicago seems like a strong possibility for Hunt, as Jordan Howard struggled heavily this year and it would reunite Hunt with his former offensive coordinator in Matt Nagy.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of possible suspensions, Goodell also weighed in on Reuben Foster‘s situation. In the same tweet, Rapoport wrote that Goodell said “just because his charge was dropped doesn’t mean he won’t be suspended.” Foster recently saw the charges dropped for his most recent arrest, but he’s apparently not out of the woods yet. Goodell also said that he plans to speak in person with Foster again before making a decision, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post. Foster was claimed off waivers by the Redskins after the 49ers cut him late in the season, but he’s been on the exempt list ever since.
  • The Redskins recently promoted quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell to offensive coordinator, but that doesn’t mean head coach Jay Gruden is giving up play-calling duties. Redskins team president Bruce Allen said during a recent radio appearance that as of now the plan is still for Gruden to call the plays, according to John Keim of ESPN.com. Allen did leave the door open for things to change, and other sources told Keim that a change is still in play.
  • Despite declaring for the NFL draft, Kyler Murray is still very much undecided about whether he’ll play football or baseball, according to Rapoport (Twitter link). Rapoport notes in the video that Murray hasn’t yet hired an agent for football or committed to attending the combine next month, and says the A’s, the MLB team that holds Murray’s rights, are still negotiating to potentially sweeten his deal and convince him to play baseball. He’ll have to make a decision pretty soon, and we should know a lot more within the next few weeks.
  • Former Cowboys and Jets kick returner Lucky Whitehead was arrested in Virginia earlier this week and charged with driving under the influence, according to TMZ. Whitehead was released by the Cowboys in 2017 after a bizarre incident where it was wrongly reported that Whitehead had been arrested after someone had given his identity to police. He was claimed off waivers by the Jets, and spent the 2017 season with them. Cut this past August, he spent the entire 2018 season out of football. Now arrested for real, this won’t help his chances of getting back into the league.

Teams Wanted Redskins’ Kevin O’Connell

Kevin O’Connell is the Redskins’ new offensive coordinator, but things could have played out differently. Before Washington promoted him to the OC role, other teams inquired about trying to hire him for the same position, sources tell ESPN.com’s John Keim. Right now, it’s not clear which teams reached out to O’Connell, but it sounds like there was interest from multiple clubs.

O’Connell, 33, was bumped up on Tuesday, putting him in the role formerly occupied by Matt Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh, meanwhile, has been moved to a role as the team’s senior offensive assistant.

Prior to the big promotion, O’Connell was Washington’s quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator in 2018. He’s young, but, lately, NFL teams have been happy to eschew experienced candidates for more energetic personalities.

Meanwhile, the Redskins have yet to determine whether O’Connell will call plays, Keim hears. Cavanaugh did not call plays as the team’s OC, but Sean McVay did when he donned the headset in D.C.

Redskins Promote Kevin O’Connell To OC

Two years ago, the Redskins lost their young offensive coordinator to the Rams. They are pivoting back in that direction. Washington promoted quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell to OC on Tuesday.

Two-year OC Matt Cavanaugh will remain with the franchise, being set to shift to a senior offensive assistant role.

Cavanaugh took over for Sean McVay after he took the Rams’ HC job. Now, the 33-year-old O’Connell will be one of the Redskins’ top assistants and continue his climb through the coaching ranks. The former quarterback began his coaching career in 2015, overseeing the Browns’ QBs, and will become a first-time OC. Jay Gruden added “passing game coordinator” to O’Connell’s title in 2018.

It is not yet known if O’Connell will call plays for the Redskins next season, but John Keim of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) it may be heading in that direction. Cavanaugh did not call plays during his two-year run as Washington’s OC, but McVay did when he was in that position.

The Redskins’ QBs coach for the past two seasons, O’Connell received an interesting assignment in 2018. Washington lost both Alex Smith and Colt McCoy for the season and turned to Mark Sanchez in the emergency situation. When Sanchez faltered, workout veteran and AAF-affiliated Josh Johnson took his first NFL snaps in seven years. In three starts, Johnson helped Washington win a game — over the Jaguars, the only contest the Redskins won post-Smith.

Cavanaugh, 62, worked as Washington’s quarterbacks coach under McVay for two seasons before his promotion. These past two slates marked his first work as a coordinator since the mid-2000s, when he was the Ravens’ OC for six seasons. Washington finished 29th in scoring this season, though the team lost two quarterbacks and was without several linemen, but was 16th during Kirk Cousins‘ final D.C. season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Cardinals, Bears, Giants

Pat Shurmur will be a busy man this week. The Vikings offensive coordinator has four interviews lined up in the coming days, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com: in addition to his previously reported Thursday meeting with the Lions, Shurmur will interview with the Cardinals (Thursday), Bears (Friday), and Giants (Saturday). Shurmur is currently linked to four vacancies in the NFL, tied with Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks for tops among candidates. Given that Minnesota has secured a first-round playoff bye, Shurmur is free to interview as he chooses this week.

Here’s more from the 2018 hiring cycle:

  • Although Redskins quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell was reportedly UCLA head coach Chip Kelly‘s “top target” to become the Bruins’ offensive coordinator, he won’t be going anywhere just yet. O’Connell has agreed to become Washington’s passing game coordinator, an elevated title that represents a promotion, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. O’Connell, who enjoyed a five-year playing career, has also coached for the Browns and 49ers.
  • The Texans have fired special teams coordinator Larry Izzo, assistant special teams coordinator Doug Colman, and secondary coach John Butler, while running backs coach Charles London is leaving the club of his own volition, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. Izzo’s departure shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially since Houston’s special teams have ranked in the bottom-seven of DVOA in each of Izzo’s two seasons in charge.
  • ESPN analyst Jon Gruden appears set to become the next Raiders head coach, and he’s reportedly been contacting potential staff members for weeks. Two of those coaches may be Rams quarterbacks coach Greg Olson and Bears offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn, per Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter links). Gruden is also reportedly interested in Jets OC John Morton and Bengals DC Paul Guenther.

Coach Notes: Jackson, Patricia, Coordinators

Hue Jackson has accumulated a stunningly poor 1-30 record in almost two seasons as the head coach of the Browns. However, despite his poor performance, he looks to be safe for next season. Other factors such as a lack of talent and a disfunctional front office certainly play a big role in the team’s failures, but basic logic must win out in determining his coaching future, opines Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

La Canfora notes that while Jackson appears to be “immune to review” at the moment, the team should be thinking about moving on from their second-year head coach. It’s not ideal for a franchise that has shuffled through many coaches in the past, but La Canfora argues that the job is more attractive then some may think when just observing this season.

New general manager John Dorsey has a track record of success and the team could be bringing in a young franchise QB with the number one pick, even though Josh Rosen has reportedly had some reservations about going to Cleveland.

La Canfora notes that finding a better replacement to Jackson shouldn’t be hard, even if the team is unlikely to do so given most of the reports coming from Browns ownership.

Here’s more notes from around the coaching carousel:

  • The Lions have stood behind head coach Jim Caldwell for the past four seasons, despite not winning a playoff game. However, it may be time for the franchise to move on after the team lost to the Bengals on Sunday. Patriots defense coordinator Matt Patricia may be a prime candidate if the job opens up because of his relationship with current Lions general manager Bob Quinn, according to Alex Marvez of Sporting News (Twitter link). The two men worked together in New England when Quinn was a high level decision maker in the Patriots front office, so the hire would be a natural fit.
  • The Redskins missed the playoffs for the second straight season, but could still lose their quarterback coach Kevin O’Connell to another opportunity. O’Connell is reported to be a “top target” for the UCLA offensive coordinator post, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). New Bruins head coach Chip Kelly is looking for another offensive mind to add to his staff and the offensive coordinator job would be a difficult position to turn down if O’Connell was offered, according to Rapoport. Under O’Connell’s guidance, Kirk Cousins has continued to produce solid numbers in 2017, which has certainly helped make him more sought after for promotions at the collegiate level.
  • There’s a number of attractive coordinators who will be free agents this offseason. Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com run down a list that includes defensive coordinators: Gus BradleyPaul Guenther, Vic Fangio and George Edwards. They mention that Bradley in particular is an odd situation because he signed just a one-year deal with the Chargers last offseason and has a great track record as a defensive coordinator with the Seahawks as well. At the moment, the Chargers have the third ranked scoring defense in the league, which should help make him in high demand for open defensive coordinator jobs after this season is over. Guenther on the other hand has been mentioned has a potential replacement for longtime Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, although he would be free to look at other opportunities should the team opt to go in a different direction. The article also makes note that popular Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo and Cowboys passing game coordinator Matt Eberflus would bring widespread interest as well if they move on from their current teams.

Coaching Notes: 49ers, Colts, Jags, Redskins

49ers CEO Jed York has been significantly younger than his two previous head coaches, Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh. As a result, 49ers radio host Tim Ryan believes the executive will have an easier time clicking with new coach Kyle Shanahan, who is only 37-years-old.

“I think the chips fell in favor of Jed and ownership this time,” Ryan (via Eric Branch of SFGate.com). “I think they ended up getting the right guy. I think (Shanahan is) perfect for Jed York, their ability to grow this franchise together. I think (he’s) someone that he actually feels comfortable with sitting in a room and discussing a variety of topics. I can’t imagine being an owner and if you look at Harbaugh — and excluding Jim Tomsula. And I played four years with Harbaugh (with the Bears) so I’m entitled to say what I’m going to say. And then with coach Chip Kelly and kind of how his – I don’t want to say his ego – but just kind of how he conducts himself.

“It’s, I can’t imagine being an owner and being afraid to ask a question. Not afraid, but ‘Man, should I ask this question to this guy?’ Because those guys walk around like you ask them anything it’s ‘I’m going to shut you down.’ I think ultimately for Jed and the ability to communicate with his head coach, and this is his guy moving forward. You look at their ages, you look at their similarities. I’m sure they crossed paths somewhere as kids when Mike (Shanahan) was here (with the 49ers) as the offensive coordinator and Kyle was a kid and Jed was a kid. But I think, ultimately, it’s going to end up being the best hire from a relationship standpoint.”

Let’s take a look at some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Colts owner Jim Irsay has reportedly been looking for ways to upgrade his head coach and general manager, and Stephen Holder of IndyStar.com believes that this could lead to some issues next season. In fact, one current Colts players believes coach Chuck Pagano is already fighting for his job. “I think it’ll be really tough for Chuck,” said the anonymous player. “Our owner wants a championship, and if he doesn’t get it, then it’s going to be a failure. And that’s tough.”
  • The Jaguars announced that they’ve named Keenan McCardell their new wide receivers coach. The former wideout played six seasons in Jacksonville, with his best season coming in 2000 (94 receptions, 1,207 yards, five touchdowns). The two-time Pro Bowler previously served as receivers coach for the Redskins and Maryland.
  • Former NFL signal-caller Kevin O’Connell is expected to be named the Redskins‘ new quarterbacks coach, reports Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports (via Twitter). O’Connell previously served as the quarterbacks coach for the Browns and as an offensive assistant for the 49ers, and Feldman notes that former quarterback was up for several college offensive coordinator gigs.

West Notes: V. Miller, Broncos, 49ers, Weddle

Broncos linebacker Von Miller‘s agent has thus far met with 19 NFL teams, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (Twitter link). Technically Miller is still under contract with Denver, and no other clubs should be talking to his representatives until March 7, the beginning of the two-day legal tampering period prior to the start of free agency. But the league rarely enforces such rules, and additionally, Miller isn’t expected to reach free agency anyway, as the Broncos will likely use the franchise tag on their star pass rusher.

Here are a few more notes out of the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • From the Broncos‘ perspective, it would be ideal if Peyton Manning makes his retirement decision by the middle of next week, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post. If Manning informs Denver of his plans prior to March 7, the club would be able to formulate a more coherent negotiation strategy with fellow quarterback Brock Osweiler, per Renck. Manning’s 2016 base salary of $19MM fully guarantees on March 9, so the Broncos will certainly need a decision before that date.
  • The 49ers have hired former Browns quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell to their offensive staff, according to FootballScoop.com (Twitter link). O’Connell, who was an NFL quarterback himself from 2008-12, spent just one season with Cleveland.
  • Safety Eric Weddle is not expected to return to the Chargers, and a report earlier this month indicated that he’d like to join a contending team. Rand Getlin of NFL.com (Twitter link) doubles down on that notion, adding that Weddle will also be looking for a solid team culture and a good fit (whether that be in the locker room or schematically). Weddle has not discussed financial terms with any interested clubs, tweets Jason Cole of Bleacher Report.
  • Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung plans to act as his own agent during his upcoming free agent negotiations, and as he writes in a Facebook post, a number of other NFL players have approached Okung and expressed an interest following his lead.

Browns Rumors: Manziel, QB, Mayhew, DC

When the Browns hired Hue Jackson as their new head coach, we heard almost immediately that the former Bengals offensive coordinator had made it clear he was prepared to move on from former first-round pick Johnny Manziel. Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) echoes that sentiment, suggesting that the young signal-caller is “all but gone,” and it’s just a formality at this point that Cleveland will part ways with him.

According to Cole, the Browns, who hold the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, are strongly considering using that selection on a quarterback, whether it’s Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, or someone else. Waiting until the second round to nab a QB is also an option for Cleveland — it’s worth noting that, with the Browns and Titans flip-flopping in the second round, and the Patriots not having their first-round pick this year, Cleveland’s second pick will be 32nd overall, essentially making it a first-rounder.

Here are a few more Browns updates:

  • The Browns are attempting to move quickly to fill the vacancy in their front office, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN.com, who tweets that former Lions GM Martin Mayhew is a candidate for the job.
  • The opening in the Browns’ front office is a top personnel position, but not technically a general manager job, which means other teams will have more leeway to deny requests to interview their executives. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), that has already happened with the Bears — the Browns requested permission to speak to Bears director of college scouting Joe Douglas, and Chicago turned them down.
  • Earlier this afternoon, we learned that Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton is considered a top candidate for the Browns’ defensive coordinator job, if Tennessee is willing to let him go. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link) hears that Buccaneers DC Leslie Frazier is also a candidate for the same position in Cleveland.
  • The Browns won’t retain quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell, according to Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. While O’Connell did a decent job with Manziel this past season, Jackson wants to pick his own guy for the job.

Browns Notes: Manziel, Hoyer, Cameron, Skrine

In one of the last media sessions of the day at the combine in Indianapolis, Browns head coach Mike Pettine spoke to reporters this afternoon and addressed a number of topics related to the team’s eventful offseason. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com, and Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle passed along a few of Pettine’s noteworthy quotes, via Twitter, so let’s round up the highlights….

  • Pettine stressed that the Browns have not given up on Johnny Manziel at all. In fact, the head coach visited Manziel last week at his rehab facility and “let him know we’re proud of him.” Pettine believes the young quarterback will make major strides under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell.
  • While Pettine and the Browns are optimistic about Manziel’s recovery and his future, they will approach free agency and the draft as if they need to find a new starting quarterback, since there are too many unknowns with last year’s first-round pick.
  • One possibility for the Browns is Josh McCown, and Pettine confirmed that he’s under consideration, though no meeting or visit has been scheduled yet. The head coach added that the door hasn’t closed on re-signing Brian Hoyer, but that the Browns are weighing all their options.
  • Asked about the possibility of re-signing tight end Jordan Cameron, Pettine said the possibility has been discussed, but it would have to be for the “right price.”
  • The Browns are making an effort to re-sign cornerback Buster Skrine.
  • Discussing the hiring of O’Connell, Pettine said the Browns thought they were doing the right thing by letting him finish his work with Marcus Mariota. Although the team has been said to have interest in Mariota, Cleveland’s new QB coach didn’t teach the Oregon signal-caller the club’s playbook, since he doesn’t know it himself yet, according to Pettine.
  • Pettine “wasn’t thrilled” about Ray Farmer‘s role in ‘Textgate‘ but still feels good about his relationship with the general manager. As for owner Jimmy Haslam, Pettine disputed the notion that Haslam is meddlesome, or that he involved himself in decisions about draft picks or playing time.
  • The NFLPA’s grievance on behalf of Josh Gordon contends that the wideout wasn’t notified or fined for being late to meetings before he was suspended for it. However, Pettine said today that he did fine Gordon for his tardies prior to the suspension.

Extra Points: Browns, Hoyer, NFLPA, L.A.

Executives from rival teams are beginning to complain about the fact that Kevin O’Connell, who is on track to become the Browns‘ new quarterbacks coach, continues to work with Marcus Mariota to help him prepare for the draft, amidst rumors that Cleveland is contemplating trading up to draft a QB.

“So let me get this straight,” said one high-level team executive on another team, to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “The Browns can have their quarterbacks coach in waiting work with a player, teach him the entire offense, etc., but we can’t even talk to any potential draft pick until the combine per league rules? Something is wrong here.”

As Florio notes, the Browns may not technically be violating any rules, since they haven’t officially announced O’Connell as their QBs coach yet, but considering Cleveland is currently under investigation for another rules violation (“Textgate“), the team may want to tread carefully.

Let’s check in on a few more odds and ends from around the NFL:

  • Speaking of the Browns‘ quarterback situation, prospective free agent Brian Hoyer told SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link) that while it’s possible he’ll return to Cleveland, the city he grew up in, he also has do what’s best for himself this offseason. With that said, Hoyer is confident that he could become the Browns‘ starting quarterback again if he stayed with the club. “I did it once [before],” Hoyer said (Twitter link).
  • Three notable quarterbacks from the class of 2004 – Eli Manning (Giants), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), and Philip Rivers (Chargers) – are headed into the final year of their respective contracts. As Jordan Raanan of NJ.com details, contract extensions for the trio won’t come cheaply even as the three players enter their mid-30s, with the price tags likely to be in the neighborhood of $20MM annually.
  • The battle to become the new NFLPA executive director is becoming a crowded field, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report. Cole reports (via Twitter) that, in addition to incumbent union leader DeMaurice Smith, at least three other candidates – Jim Acho, Sean Gilbert, and John Stufflebeem – will run for the position, while two others are considering entering the mix.
  • The NFLPA Committee on Agent Regulation and Discipline (CARD) announced that agent Vincent Porter has been suspended after he was arrested for wire fraud. Porter was the agent for Giants linebacker Devon Kennard and previously worked with Seahawks tailback Christine Michael and Patriots running back Jonas Gray as well.
  • Bryce Johnston of Over The Cap puts his concept of “expected contract value” to the test by using it to break down recent contracts signed by top centers Ryan Kalil (Panthers), Alex Mack (Browns), and Maurkice Pouncey (Steelers).
  • Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson is interested in becoming involved in efforts to get an NFL franchise to Los Angeles, as he tells Jarrett Bell of USA Today Sports.