Maccagnan, exec Brian Heimerdinger, and agent Erik Burkhardt huddled up with Christopher Johnson at his Manhattan condo in late November and early December to discuss the possibility of hiring former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, Mehta hears. Bowles, meanwhile, was not dismissed until Dec. 30.
During that same four-week window, Johnson also had back-channel conversations with at least two established coaching candidates without the knowledge of Maccagnan. Those coaches would have had the power to either keep Maccagnan or fire him in favor of their preferred GM.
Eventually, Maccagnan got his turn in the barrel. The Jets sacked Maccagnan in May, but they reached out to at least one potential GM candidate a week before he was handed his pink slip, according to Volin.
After the Cardinals trudged through their worst season in 18 years, Larry Fitzgerald‘s latest retire-or-not decision now features another new coach and offensive system in the equation — this one with no NFL coaching experience. But the future Hall of Fame receiver has not distanced himself from the process that brought Kliff Kingsbury to Arizona. Fitz has exchanged text messages with his new coach, the 35-year-old wideout told TMZ recently (via the Arizona Republic).
“Hell of a coach. … Look at his resume,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s innovative offensively. That’s the wave of the future right now, so I’m excited for the chance to meet him.”
Fitzgerald played out his contract and is a free agent. While it would seemingly be tempting for the 15-year veteran to see if he could land with a team better positioned to compete for a championship, the career-long Cardinal has said multiple times he will only play for the Cards. Fitz continues to deliberate about the possibility of retiring or coming back for a 16th season.
Here is more from the West-division teams that have been working on their offseason strategies.
Former Broncos offensive lineman Chris Kuper will return to Denver as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. Kuper spent the previous three seasons coaching under Adam Gase in Miami. He retired following the 2013 season with the Broncos, who deployed him as a starter for most of his career. Kuper will work under Mike Munchak.
The 49ers are the Las Vegas frontrunners to land Antonio Brown, and The Athletic (subscription required) agrees with that assessment. San Francisco should be viewed as the clubhouse leaders to acquire the disgruntled Steelers wideout, per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows. Kyle Shanahan balked at paying high prices for this past year’s UFA crop, and Barrows writes the 49ers will not be giving up their No. 2 overall pick for a soon-to-be 31-year-old wideout. However, he cautions a team picking in the late first round may be able to outflank a San Francisco trade offer, regardless of the 49ers’ need at this position.
Brentson Buckner‘s position with theRaiders will be defensive line coach, Jon Gruden said Tuesday (via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez). Buckner, who coached the Buccaneers’ defensive linemen last season, will replace Mike Trgovac. The latter, however, will be promoted in some capacity, per Gruden. As for the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach position — vacated by Brian Callahan‘s move to become the Bengals’ OC Tuesday — the team might wait until the Combine to fill that position.
Gruden believes Daryl Worley underwent shoulder surgery recently after ending his season with a torn labrum, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets. Worley, a starter this season prior to landing on IR, is expected to receive an RFA tender from the Raiders.
With the NFL now in the two-week waiting period until its final meaningful game, 30 of the 32 teams are going through offseason motions. And some of those teams are still deciding on coordinators.
Unless another Patriots assistant reneges on an agreement post-Super Bowl, or Zac Taylor makes an 11th-hour decision to remain in Los Angeles rather than taking over in Cincinnati, the eight NFL teams in need of head coaches made their choices.
So, which franchise best positioned itself for long-term success?
The trend being offensive innovation to keep up with some of the ahead-of-the-curve offenses, six of the eight teams hired offensively oriented coaches.
By a substantial margin, the Cardinals won the outside-the-box trophy. After washing out as an NFL quarterback in the mid-2000s, Kliff Kingsbury spent more than a decade as a college coach. The 39-year-old groomed some sought-after NFL talent in Patrick Mahomes, Case Keenum and Davis Webb, while also bringing Baker Mayfield to Texas Tech for a short stay. But he finished his stay in Lubbock, Texas, with a sub-.500 record. The Cards addedVance Josephand Tom Clements to be his top assistants. Because of their unconventional hire, the Cardinals will be one of the most interesting teams in 2019.
Bruce Arians‘ CBS stay lasting one year will bring one of the more interesting coaches in modern NFL history back to the sideline. Tampa Bay’s new coach is the oldest ever hired, at 66 years old. Arians will be tethered toJameis Winston, and it does not sound like he has issues with that. Arians hired several former Cardinals assistants to help him attempt to snap the NFC’s longest active playoff drought. Arians led the Cardinals to their best season, record-wise (13-3 in 2015), since the franchise has been in Arizona but is also barely a year removed from retiring.
The Packers and Browns opted for OCs, the former seeing a major difference inMatt LaFleur‘s vision than those of the other coaches that interviewed. Cleveland made the biggest continuity move of this year’s HC-seeking octet,promoting Freddie Kitchens over candidates with more experience.
LaFleur’s Titans offense regressed from Mike Mularkey‘s final unit, with Tennessee ranking 27th in points scored last season. But the 39-year-old coach, who will be working with ex-Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett in overseeing the back end of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime, trained under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Kitchens rose from position coach to head coach in less than three months, but Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the season was obviously different from his play under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.
Taylor and Adam Gase round out the offensively geared hires, the former being perhaps the highest-variance candidate among the non-Kingsbury wing.
Although Taylor was the Dolphins’ interim OC in 2015 and McVay’s quarterbacks coach this season, he spent 2016 running a Cincinnati Bearcats offense that ranked 123rd (out of 128 Division I-FBS teams) with 19.3 points per game for a 4-8 team and was the Rams’ assistant wideouts coach as recently as 2017. Gase led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016, but Ryan Tannehill‘s issues staying healthy and living up to his draft slot limited the former Broncos and Bears OC. The Jets saw enough to add the formerly in-demand assistant, who may be ready to bring longtime coworker Dowell Loggainswith him to the Big Apple.
Denver and Miami went with defense, with the Broncos having no competition for 2018’s assistant coach of the year and, arguably, this decade’s top DC.
The Dolphins cancelled their Vic Fangio summit, and he will be in charge of elevating a Broncos team that finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1970s. John Elway‘s plan to reinstall Gary Kubiak as OCalso hit a snag, with the longtime friends’ disagreement on staffing leading to the Broncos hiring 49ers QBs coach Rich Scangarello. The Dolphins will become the fifth franchise to hire a Bill Belichick-era Patriotsdefensive coordinator (or de facto DC, in Brian Flores‘ case), following the Browns (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini), Jets (Mangini), Chiefs (Crennel) and Lions (Matt Patricia). Flores helped the Patriots to yet another top-10 ranking in points allowed — their 15th in the past 18 seasons — and another Super Bowl berth.
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Matt LaFleur‘s defection to Green Bay leaves Tennessee without an offensive coordinator. They have not conducted any known interviews and are operating deliberately. GM Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel have met several times this week discussing what the best course of action should be, so interviews are likely coming soon. Whichever way the Titans go, they will be asking Marcus Mariota to learn a fourth offensive system in his five-year career. Ken Whisenhunt ran the Titans’ offense in 2015, before being fired, then Mike Mularkey took over before giving way to LaFleur. Robinson appears to want to retain some of LaFleur’s concepts, however.
“I think if that can happen so that there is some carry-over, some familiarity there, so that not just Marcus but all of our players on offense, the less that we have to put on their plate to learn the different terminology, the different concepts, if there’s carry-over, then I think they can build upon what they’ve kind of gone through the last year,” Robinson said, via Eric Bacharach of The Tennesseean. “So we’ll do our best to try to keep as much continuity as possible carrying over into the offseason and certainly into next season.”
Here is the latest from the AFC:
Eric Berry, Spencer Ware and Malik Hooker are out for today’s Chiefs–Colts divisional-round game. Berry is still dealing with the heel trouble that has sidetracked his career, and Ware is out with a hamstring malady. Hooker started against the Texans but missed practice this week with a foot ailment.
The Ravens’ Greg Romanpromotion partially stemmed from ensuring he would not accept another OC role in the AFC East. The Dolphins sought the former Bills offensive coordinator for their OC role, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. HC frontrunner Brian Flores had Roman on his staff list. Another name to pop up on Flores’ early list: Kliff Kingsbury. The now-Cardinals HC appears to have had a path to Miami as Flores’ play-caller, Breer adds (on Twitter). But despite his sub-.500 Texas Tech record, Kingsbury received a much bigger promotion than the Dolphins had in mind.
Jets staffer Tyler Tettleton will join the Browns as an offensive quality control coach, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports (on Twitter). Tettleton was a graduate assistant at Oklahoma for two years during Baker Mayfield‘s tenure in Norman.
January 9th, 2019 at 5:26pm CST by Dallas Robinson
Longtime NFL defensive coordinator Dom Capers‘ name has been “kicked around” by the Cardinals and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link).
Kingsbury is just 39 years old and has never coached at the NFL level in any capacity, leading Arizona general manager Steve Keim to remark that landing a veteran DC would be an “ideal” outcome (Twitter link via Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com). Moreover, given their history and personnel on defense, the Cardinals are interested in hiring a coordinator who will primarily deploy a 3-4 front.
Capers would fit both of those parameters. At age 68, he’s nearly 30 years older than Kingsbury, and he’s been coaching in the NFL since 1986 (with ample collegiate experience dating back to 1972). Not only has Capers served as a defensive coordinator for multiple clubs, but he’s been a head coach at two stops (Panthers, Texans), meaning he could presumably offer counsel to Kingsbury as the latter enters his first pro job.
Capers also runs a 3-4 scheme, and did so during the duration of his most recent NFL gig, a nine-year stint as the Packers’ DC. Green Bay’s defense admittedly struggled near the end of Capers’ run: in 2017, the Packers ranked just 22nd in total defense and 20th in defensive DVOA.
Arizona’s defense, meanwhile, ranked 17th in DVOA last season, and that figure may be even more impressive that it initially looks. Opposing offenses — on average — started their drives against the Cardinals on their own 29.5-yard line, the seventh-easiest starting position in the NFL. Additionally, Arizona’s offense’s drives were the shortest in the league in terms of elapsed clock (two minutes, sixteen seconds on average), meaning the club’s defense was constantly on the field.
Kingsbury will be calling offensive plays, tweets James Palmer of NFL Network, so he’ll need an established defensive mind in place. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Kingsbury’s collegiate background could mean he doesn’t have the pro connections required to build out a staff. With that in in mind, Kingsbury says he’ll lean on Keim as he formulates his inaugural coaching group, per Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
If you thought the young and green Kliff Kingsbury would automatically surround himself with a grizzled coaching staff, think again. The Cardinals’ new head coach is eyeing Texas State head coach Jake Spavital as an offensive coordinator candidate, according to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic (on Twitter).
Spavital and Kingsbury coached together at Houston, so they have history together. It’s fair to assume that Kingsbury will be calling the plays in Arizona regardless of who the OC hire is, but there’s no official word on that front yet. Assuming Kingsbury wants to call the plays, the 33-year-old Spavital would fit the mold of someone who would accept an OC gig with lessened responsibilities.
From Spavital’s perspective, this could be an opportunity to take a major step up the coaching ladder. He might not call plays as the Cards’ OC, but other coaches such as Matt LaFleur have used similar setups as a stepping stone to head coaching positions.
The Cardinals reached by hiring Kliff Kingsbury, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic opines. Kingsbury satisfies the team’s desire for a young and innovative offensively-minded coach, but his lack of NFL experience is cause for alarm in Somers’ view.
Steve Spurrier, for example, fell on his face as an NFL coach and Chip Kelly‘s luck ran out after his first two years with the Eagles. Some could argue that Kingsbury is a hire in the Sean McVay mold, but as Somers notes, McVay spent nine years as an NFL assistant before landing the Rams gig.
Here’s more on the Cardinals and Kingsbury:
Per the terms of his contract at USC, Kingsbury owes the school a $150K buyout to resign and take the Cardinals head coaching job, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. There was much discussion about the buyout being a barrier to an NFL deal, but it wasn’t nearly enough to keep him from joining the pro ranks. In all likelihood, the Cardinals will pick up the tab for that.
Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill didn’t like former coach Steve Wilks’ plan for the future, as Jonathan Jones of Sports Illustrated writes. “Looking at his plan for 2019 I just didn’t feel like it was a plan that I wanted to get behind,” Bidwill said. With that said, its unclear whether Bidwill actually discussed Wilks’ future plans in depth before firing him on Dec. 31. It’s also curious that he feels more secure in Kingsbury’s five-year plan given that he has never coached in the NFL.
The Cardinals are set to reach outside the box for their next head coach. Kliff Kingsbury is in Arizona finalizing a deal to become the franchise’s next sideline leader, Peter Schrager of Fox Sports reports (on Twitter).
This agreement should be completed soon, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Kingsbury met with the Jets about their HC opening, but it looks like the Cardinals are moving in to form a Kingsbury-Josh Rosen pairing, with Sam Darnold‘s next coach to be determined.
The sides have completed the deal, Rapoport tweets. It is a four-year agreement that includes a fifth-year team option, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).
In an offseason geared around finding coaches that can help teams rejuvenate their offenses, this hire stands out.
Texas Tech fired Kingsbury after six seasons, and the 39-year-old offensive mind landed as USC’s offensive coordinator. The Trojans initially blocked Kingsbury from interviews with the Jets and Cards before allowing them, and it looks like the Pac-12 program will have to find another OC, again. Kingsbury has a small buy-out in his USC contract, per The Athletic’s Jay Glazer, who adds that the university has said Kingsbury did not resign (as rumors suggested he might after being blocked from Jets and Cardinals meetings).
The Cardinals ranked as the NFL’s worst offense, both in yardage and scoring, last season. They had previously not made a coach a one-and-done in more than 65 years. But this ineffectiveness and the team’s plunge toward 3-13 led to Steve Wilks’ ouster. Arizona scored the NFL’s second-most points in 2015 and ranked sixth as recently as 2016, but the Bruce Arians–Carson Palmer era ending gutted the franchise.
A year after Arizona went through a methodical search that ended with a late-January Wilks hire, the franchise is taking a gamble on Kingsbury’s innovative abilities. Every Cardinals candidate — on a list headed by Adam Gase, Jim Caldwell and Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy — had an offensive background.
Kingsbury convinced both Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield to come to Lubbock, Texas, and led one of Division I’s most explosive attacks during his tenure. While the Red Raiders have traditionally deployed such potency on offense, Kingsbury once serving as one of many quarterbacks capable of posting big numbers, the NFL is gravitating increasingly toward college-based schemes. This made Kingsbury an attractive candidate, despite his recent firing and now-brief USC employment. Case Keenum also set NCAA passing records during Kingsbury’s two years as the University of Houston’s co-offensive coordinator.
That said, the Red Raiders went 35-40 under Kingsbury since 2013. In an era where new bowls continue to spawn, Texas Tech failed to qualify for a bowl game in three of those seasons. There was also a noticeable drop from the final Mahomes season (fifth in scoring) to the post-Mahomes teams — 23rd in points in 2017, 100th in 2018 — for the Red Raiders’ offense. Mahomes threw for more than 5,000 yards in 2016, however, and although Mayfield ended up excelling at Oklahoma, his success further attracted teams to Kingsbury.
Still, the Cardinals figure to have one of the NFL’s most interesting offensive setups next season. The Cards fired Mike McCoy midseason and pivoted to Byron Leftwich. But their offense sputtered throughout, accumulating countless injuries up front. This combination stunted Rosen’s growth and essentially squandered a year of David Johnson‘s prime. Kingsbury will be tasked with making Steve Keim‘s Rosen investment pay off.
Former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury will interview with the Cardinals for their head coaching job on Tuesday, a league source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Kingsbury was reportedly blocked from interviews by USC, who recently hired him to be their offensive coordinator, but the Jets and Cardinals have found some sort of work around.
After Kingsbury’s interview with Gang Green on Monday, no one is quite sure about his employment status. As far as we know, he’s still signed up to be the offensive coordinator of the Trojans, but it’s possible that he has resigned from the post in order to pursue his NFL dreams.
January 7th, 2019 at 3:26pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
It’s been only an hour since we heard that former Texas Tech coach and current USC offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury would begin interviewing with NFL teams after USC previously denied his permission, and now he’s already taking his first meeting.
Kingsbury is meeting with the Jets today about their head coaching vacancy, a source told Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports (Twitter link). The Jets and Cardinals have been the two teams most heavily linked to Kingsbury, and the report earlier today was that there was “strong mutual interest” between Kingsbury and the Cardinals. Now it sounds like the Jets might be hoping to steal him away before Arizona ever gets the chance.
Kingsbury was known for always running innovative and creative offenses at Texas Tech, and there’s been a lot of NFL buzz about him as the league’s offenses trend more and more toward adapting college concepts. The Jets are seemingly looking for an offensive mind to pair with Sam Darnold, so Kingsbury would certainly make sense.
New York interviewed Jim Caldwell earlier today, and has been linked to several other offensive coaches like Mike McCarthy and Jim Harbaugh. At this point Kingsbury seems like a solid bet to make the jump to the pro ranks, whether it’s as a head coach or an offensive coordinator.