Kris Kocurek

Coaching Rumors: Rizzi, Dennison, Browns

Darren Rizzi interviewed for the Dolphins coaching job that is likely to go to Brian Flores, but the special teams coordinator is a coveted commodity around the league. The Packers are set to interview him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Miami wants to retain Rizzi, who has been with the team throughout the 2010s, but has given him permission to seek employment elsewhere. That may soon prompt an extensive interview circuit. Five teams are interested in bringing him aboard, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. The Vikings look to be one of those. Rizzi, 48, has only coached for one NFL franchise. His pre-Dolphins gigs were college jobs in the northeast, including a one-season stay (2008) as Rhode Island’s head coach.

As week three of many teams’ offseason begins, here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Todd Monken‘s rise to Buccaneers play-caller earned him interest in teams’ OC jobs. He ended up landing with the Browns, but the other recent play-caller on this staff will call Cleveland’s plays next season. Freddie Kitchens will be the game-day director for the Browns’ offense next season, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). This won’t be too new for Monken, who spent the first two seasons as Bucs OC watching Dirk Koetter call plays.
  • The Vikings announced Klint Kubiak (quarterbacks coach) and Brian Pariani (tight ends) are following Gary Kubiak to Minnesota, with the latter’s official title being assistant head coach/offensive advisor. Expected to be part of the Gary Kubiak gang getting back together up north, Rick Dennison was not included in this announcement. But Mike Klis of 9News notes the former Broncos and Bills OC is indeed believed to be part of the next Vikings staff (Twitter link). When Kubiak agreed to reprise his longtime role as Broncos OC, he wanted Dennison to oversee the team’s offensive line concepts, per Klis. The Broncos’ pursuit of Mike Munchak overruled this, and Dennison — the Jets’ O-line coach in 2018 — could be set to have a role in aiding the Vikings’ blockers next season.
  • Speaking of Munchak, the Broncos went beyond their usual offensive line coach budget to bring him over from Pittsburgh, Klis notes (on Twitter). Munchak, who has coached for just two franchises (the Oilers/Titans and Steelers), has family in the area.
  • The Steelers promoted Shaun Sarrett to replace Munchak as their O-line coach, the team announced. Sarrett had previously served as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. He has been with the Steelers for seven seasons, helping instruct their offensive linemen for most of that time.
  • After the Steelers let running backs coach James Saxon go, he will move to Arizona. The Cardinals are hiring Saxon to coach their running backs, Aditi Kinkabwala of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). He will replace Kirby Wilson and attempt to revive Arizona’s No. 32-ranked ground game. Saxon has 19 years’ experience coaching running backs in the NFL — the past five with the Steelers, where he oversaw Le’Veon Bell‘s rise and James Conner and Jaylen Samuels‘ quality replacement efforts — and should help rookie NFL coach Kliff Kingsbury.
  • Kris Kocurek will move from south Florida to the Bay Area, shifting from the Dolphins’ defensive line coach to the same role with the 49ers, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM tweets. Kocurek, 40, was the Lions’ D-line coach for nine seasons prior to moving to Miami.

East Notes: Brady, Flores, Cowboys

The knee injury that Patriots QB Tom Brady has been battling this season is an MCL sprain, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who reports that Brady sustained the injury when going out for a pass against Tennessee on November 11. However, Brady has no structural damage, and Rapoport says the 41-year-old will head into today’s playoff game as healthy as he has been since the start of the season. He will likely not require any offseason procedures.

Let’s round up a few more east-related rumors:

  • The Dolphins are simply waiting for the Patriots‘ season to end so that they can finalize a deal with New England de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores to become their next head coach, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. No one anticipates this turning into another Josh McDaniels situation, and Flores is fully expected to join Miami. Schefter also says that Miami is already planning its rebuild and is looking to the 2020 crop of rookie QBs, which is expected to include Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
  • Albert Breer of SI.com names Patriots defensive line coach Brendan Daly as a potential replacement for Flores on New England’s staff, while Mike Reiss of ESPN.com sees former Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano — who was rumored to be a candidate for the Pats’ DC job last year following Matt Patricia‘s departure — as a logical choice. Rapoport (video link) agrees with Reiss.
  • Dolphins LB coach Frank Bush is expected to follow Adam Gase to the Jets, and while DL coach Kris Kocurek may do the same, Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio says that four to five teams are interested in Kocurek’s services (all Twitter links).
  • Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, whom the Jets reportedly preferred to Gase, confirms that he did not join Gang Green because the team wanted to pick his staff for him. Per Jake Nisse of the New York Post, Rhule said, “[a]t the end of the day, I’m never going to be in an arranged marriage.” 
  • Longtime Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is technically under contract through 2019, but the club could save $7MM against the cap by cutting him, and given the emergence of quality younger options and Lee’s injury history, it is difficult to imagine that Dallas will bring him back under his current deal. Lee, of course, could retire, and Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News says that the 32-year-old will sit down with his family and make a decision on his football future, though Lee did not provide a timeline for that decision.
  • After the Cowboys‘ playoff loss to the Rams last night, which saw defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli‘s unit get thrashed, Marinelli was unwilling to address speculation that he could step into an advisory role while Kris Richard takes over as DC. Per Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News, Marinelli said, “[w]hy do people keep asking me the same question? I can’t figure it out? Can somebody tell me why everybody asks me that?”

AFC East Notes: Jets, Dolphins, Landry, Pats

John Morton‘s firing may have come as a surprise to many, especially given that the Jets’ 2017 offense performed much better under Morton than most could have hoped. However, there may have been more to the dismissal, as Connor Hughes of NJ.com reports Morton and New York head coach Todd Bowles “clashed” throughout the season. Per Hughes, Bowles often made suggestions to Morton that were ignored, while other assistants on the Jets’ staff also took issue with Morton’s style. Meanwhile, Lions quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan could emerge as a candidate to replace Morton, as the Jets wanted to hire Callahan a year ago, per Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link), adding that Callahan has garnered offensive coordinator interest in each of the past two offseasons.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Jarvis Landry says that while he and the Dolphins have exchanged contract figures, the negotiations between the two sides have been “disrespectful,” as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Per Landry, the Dolphins made an extension offer in December, but haven’t responded to a counteroffer made by the slot receiver and his agent. It’s possible that Landry is seeking a Davante Adams-esque contract, which could mean a $14MM annual salary and more than $30MM in guarantees. Earlier today, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald outlined several of the Dolphins’ concerns regarding talks with Landry.
  • The Dolphins have hired former Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek for the same position in South Beach, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. In Miami, Kocurek will not only reunite with star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who worked with Kocurek in Detroit from 2009-13. Kocurek, whose possible defection to Miami was first reported by Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, will replace ex-Dolphins DL coach Terrell Williams, whose contract was not renewed. The Lions have now lost several assistants from the defensive side of the ball, including coordinator Teryl Austin, who took the same role with the Bengals.
  • Running back Rex Burkhead will be available when the Patriots face the Jaguars in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). While Burkhead hasn’t been on the field since mid-December while dealing with a knee injury, he was apparently “close” to suiting up when New England faced Tennessee in the Divisional Round. Burkhead managed 264 yards rushing and 254 yards receiving during the regular season, but those numbers belie the fact that his role grew as the season progressed.

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Dolphins, Landry

The Patriots are on the verge of losing both of their coordinators, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels, to head coaching jobs. Will things roughly stay the same, even after two of the league’s most talented young assistants move on?

I mean, I believe so,” said Patriots captain Duron Harmon (via Phil Perry of CSNNE.com). “The culture is built. The culture is built. This is two decades of winning. A winning franchise. Coach Belichick is going to make sure whoever is in the defensive room is going to be the right guy to display the message and the picture that he wants his defense to play with. That goes through the defensive coordinator, whoever he hires.”

Replacing both Patricia and McDaniels will be a tall task, but the belief in Foxboro is that Bill Belichick will be able to keep things moving with new coaches in each role. For now, that’s all on the backburner as the Pats get set for the conference title game against Jacksonville.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Jarvis Landry‘s upcoming negotiations with the Dolphins will be about more than just money, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. The wide receiver has been productive, but he also loses focus at times and doesn’t run the right routes. He has also allowed his emotions to get the best of him at times and the team is worried about how he’ll hold up in the long run. Sources have described Landry as “a pain” to deal with and “hard to reach,” according to Salguero. Of course, money will still be a major factor in talks. Big name receivers like Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Davante Adams, and Demaryius Thomas average between $14-14.5MM per season and Landry believes he deserves to be in that group or perhaps make more. The Dolphins, meanwhile, might prefer to pay him something in the neighborhood of $10-$11MM/year. Ultimately, it sounds like there is a disparity between how the Dolphins view Landry and how Landry views himself. The Dolphins probably see Landry as being a very good wide receiver, but not in the same tier as, say, Antonio Brown.
  • The Dolphins are trying to pluck defensive line coach Kris Kocurek from the Lions after receiving permission to interview him, Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets. Kocurek coached Ndamukong Suh for five years in Detroit, so he could help Miami get the most out of the mercurial defensive tackle.
  • It sounds like the Jets could move on from tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins this offseason.
  • Over the weekend, the Bills hired a new offensive coordinator.
  • The Dolphins hired a new running backs coach on Wednesday.

Coaching Notes: Campbell, Saints, Golden

New Saints hire Dan Campbell has been brought aboard as an assistant head coach to Sean Payton, but it is not accurate to say that he is the assistant head coach in New Orleans. Campbell, who was hired just weeks ago in New Orleans, will share the assistant head coach title with linebackers coach Joe Vitt, as Evan Woodbery of The Times-Picayune writes. With that matter cleared up, Payton says there is only one minor open matter remaining on his staff – finding an offensive assistant to work with receivers coach John Morton.

More coaching news from around the NFL:

  • Former Miami/Temple coach Al Golden is in line for a defensive assistant job with the Cowboys, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports hears (via Twitter). Golden, 46, coached Miami to a 32-25 record from 2011 through 2015.
  • The Titans made some moves on their coaching staff, as Jim Wyatt of Titans Online reports (via Twitter links). Nick Eason will be the team’s defensive line coach, Bob Bratkowski is the Titans’ new wide receivers coach, and Sylvester Croom will remain as the team’s running backs coach. Croom has had many stints as an NFL RBs coach and also served as the head coach of Mississippi State from 2004-2008.
  • The Eagles requested permission to interview Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, but they were denied, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (on Twitter). Kocurek is an advocate for an attacking 4-3 front which would have made him a good fit under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Coach Rumors: Eagles, Schwartz, 49ers, Fins

While there are no head coaching jobs in the NFL that still need to be filled, many clubs are still tweaking their coaching staffs, making changes among position coaches or hiring new coordinators. Here’s a round-up of the latest news and rumors on those changes from across the league:

  • There’s mutual interest between the Eagles and Jim Schwartz for the defensive coordinator role in Philadelphia. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), if Schwartz and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson hit it off and all goes well at today’s interview, Schwartz will likely end up with the job.
  • Rapoport (Twitter links) also has a couple updates on the 49ers‘ defensive staff, reporting that Eric Mangini will interview to remain in his defensive coordinator role, while former Buccaneers linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson talked to the Niners about the same position in San Francisco.
  • Longtime offensive coach Al Saunders, who has worked recently with the Dolphins, Raiders, and Ravens, is a “strong candidate” to join Hue Jackson‘s Browns coaching staff, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Veteran coaches Jim Washburn and Jeremiah Washburn are headed to the Dolphins, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). Jim, the elder Washburn, will work with the defensive line as a senior defensive assistant, while his son Jeremiah will be an offensive line assistant. The duo previously spent time with the Lions, so Jim has a history of working with Ndamukong Suh.
  • Marvez adds (via Twitter) that the Lions denied the Dolphins‘ interview request for defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who would have been a candidate for that DL job in Miami.