Leslie Frazier

Coaching Notes: Bieniemy, Texans, Falcons

With the Eagles requesting an interview with Eric Bieniemy, the Chiefs offensive coordinator is now 7-for-7 in meeting requests during this hiring period. However, the third-year OC has again run into issues on the interview circuit. Despite being Andy Reid‘s right-hand man during the most successful period in Chiefs history, Bieniemy may go a third cycle without landing a coaching job. It is trending in that direction, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports tweets. Bieniemy did not interview well on the whole last year and has encountered similar issues during this cycle, according to Tony Pauline and Benjamin Allbright of ProFootballNetwork.com.

Although the Texans changed course and submitted a request to speak with Bieniemy, as they deal with a disgruntled Deshaun WatsonCBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora notes that interview is doubtful to commence. With the Chiefs’ bye week over, any team wishing to meet with Bieniemy going forward must wait until Kansas City’s season ends. If the No. 1-seeded Chiefs make it back to the Super Bowl, the remaining jobs may be filled by then. Three teams have filled their positions; the Lions are soon expected to hire Saints assistant Dan Campbell; the Chargers may be zeroing in on Bills third-year OC Brian Daboll. This would leave only the Houston and Philadelphia jobs available. Though Bieniemy not being his team’s primary play-caller makes him an atypical HC candidate from the offensive side of the ball, it would certainly be strange if he exited another offseason without landing a coaching gig.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Staying with the Texans, they will interview another Bills coordinator this weekend. They will speak with Buffalo DC Leslie Frazier on Sunday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Frazier, who has been Buffalo’s defensive play-caller, has re-emerged on the HC radar after four seasons as Buffalo’s DC under Sean McDermott. Support is building for Frazier with the Texans, La Canfora notes. Since the Vikings ended Frazier’s three-plus-year run as their head coach after the 2013 season, he has been a coordinator for two teams (the Bucs and Bills) and coached the Ravens secondary in between.
  • In hiring Arthur Smith, the Falcons almost certainly have their offensive play-caller in place. But they have identified a Smith right-hand man in Bears passing-game coordinator Dave Ragone. The Chicago assistant has emerged as an early favorite to become Atlanta’s OC, with ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweeting a Smith-Ragone partnership running the Falcons’ offense has a “good chance” of happening. Ragone has been with the Bears since 2016.
  • Now that Chuck Pagano has retired, the Bears are on the lookout for a new defensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and safeties coach Sean Desai stand to be the top internal candidates to succeed Pagano, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). Rodgers served as D-line coach under John Fox in Denver and followed him to Chicago in 2015. Rodgers’ contract expires next week, and Rapoport notes he is expected to be a DC candidate for other teams as well in the coming days.
  • Marion Hobby will make a move to another AFC team’s defensive staff. The Bengals are hiring the veteran assistant as their D-line coach, Ben Baby of ESPN.com tweets. Hobby, who spent six seasons as Clemson’s co-defensive coordinator under Dabo Swinney, coached the Dolphins and Jaguars’ D-lines in the four seasons since. Hobby was with Jacksonville when the team’s “Sacksonville” D-line drove a run to the AFC title game.

2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-17-21 (10:58am CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Texans To Interview Bills DC Leslie Frazier For HC Opening

The Texans’ top priority right now should probably be patching things up with face of the franchise Deshaun Watson, but in the meantime their coaching search is plowing full steam ahead. Houston will interview Leslie Frazier for their opening, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com (Twitter link).

This is an interesting one, as Frazier makes a lot of sense on paper for teams with openings but we haven’t heard too much buzz about him. He’s currently the defensive coordinator (although Sean McDermott ultimately runs the defense) and assistant head coach with the Bills, who are obviously experiencing a lot of success at the moment. Buffalo thought highly enough of him to promote him to AHC back in March. 

Frazier played a handful of years with the Bears back in the ’80s, and then broke into the league as a coach with the Eagles in 1999 coaching DBs. He eventually became the defensive coordinator in Minnesota, and was named interim head coach after Brad Childress was fired midway through the 2010 season. After finishing 3-3, Frazier was promoted to full-time head coach.

He led the Vikings for the next three seasons, leading them to a 10-6 record and playoff appearance in 2012. Following a 5-10-1 2013 campaign he was let go, and became the DC in Tampa Bay for the next couple of years. If the Texans do elect to hire a defensive coach like Frazier, perhaps they’d be inclined to keep current offensive coordinator Tim Kelly on staff, who Watson has raved about.

Extra Points: Coaches, GMs, Schedule, OTAs

After the NFL expanded the Rooney Rule this offseason, it has a “ready list” of minority candidates for head coaching jobs, offensive and defensive coordinator positions and GM candidates, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. Beyond some of the big names — Eric Bieniemy, Marvin Lewis, Todd Bowles, Leslie Frazier among them — coaches like Clemson OC Tony Elliott, Penn State HC James Franklin and Michigan State HC Mel Tucker appear on the HC portion of the list. On the GM side, some first-time candidates include Bills pro scouting director Malik Boyd, Raiders pro scouting director Dwayne Joseph, Ravens exec Vincent Newsome and Chargers player personnel director JoJo Wooden. Former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson — now the franchise’s pro scouting director — also appears on the GM portion of the list. The Rooney Rule now mandates teams interview two minority HC candidates and expanded the rule to include coordinator positions. Franchises must also open their senior-level executive jobs to minority and female candidates.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • Normal NFL offseasons feature several weeks’ worth of OTAs preceding a June minicamp, but the NFLPA would like a schedule that looks closer to this year’s virtual offseason. Union executive director DeMaurice Smith said “there is absolutely no reason” for the NFL to return to full-scale OTAs, per Sports Business Daily’s Ben Fischer (subscription required). Having seen no decline in performance after this atypical offseason, union president J.C. Tretter agrees with Smith. This would be a stretch for coaching staffs, which have steadily seen their time with players cut back. The past two CBA agreements have significantly limited offseason and padded training camp workouts, and 2020’s COVID-19-altered offseason created steeper acclimation challenges for young players.
  • The NFL has agreed to a formula for its 17th regular-season game, making it increasingly likely this season will be the last one of the 16-game era. In what will be the first shift to the league’s scheduling setup since 2002, the 17-game schedule will feature a fifth interconference game. The schedule will pit an AFC division winner against an NFC division winner, and on down the line within each division, but the extra interconference game will not feature two teams who played the previous year, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. In the event the NFL moves to the 17-game season in 2021, the Chiefs and Buccaneers could not play again next season; the earliest such a regular-season rematch would occur would be 2022.
  • Roger Goodell may well be on board with shortening the preseason slate from four games to two. The commissioner “seemed in favor” of halving the preseason schedule at last week’s owners meetings, according to ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham, but some high-profile owners are not. Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, John Mara and Art Rooney II dismissed the idea of going from three preseason games — the new number as of the 2020 CBA — to two, according to ESPN. No vote occurred on the matter, though Goodell discussing the idea publicly points to it remaining an issue going forward.

Bills’ Ownership Urging Teams To Hire DC Leslie Frazier As HC

When an offensive or defensive coordinator has success, he often finds himself as a hot head coaching candidate. And while the team that loses its successful coordinator will invariably wish him well in his next endeavor, it will nonetheless lament having to fill his shoes.

But according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula are actually “leading the charge” to get Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier the head coaching consideration the Pegulas believe he deserves. La Canfora says the Pegulas have reached out to owners around the league to make them aware of Frazier’s key role in the Bills’ turnaround over the past several seasons and to express their belief that he would make a terrific HC.

Of course, Frazier served as the Vikings’ head coach for three-plus seasons earlier this decade. He took over on an interim basis in the middle of the 2010 campaign after Brad Childress was fired, and he had the interim tag removed at the end of that season. That was a difficult time for the Minnesota franchise, as QB Brett Favre announced his retirement the day before Frazier was named the permanent HC, and the roster as a whole was trending in the wrong direction. Still, after a horrible 3-13 season in 2011, Frazier led the Vikings to a 10-6 showing and a playoff berth in 2012.

He was fired after a disappointing 5-10-1 record in 2013, and after stints as the Bucs’ DC and the Ravens’ secondary coach, he became Sean McDermott‘s defensive coordinator when McDermott was hired as the Bills’ head coach in 2017. While McDermott rightfully gets plenty of credit for turning Buffalo into an AFC power, Frazier’s contributions should not go unnoticed. Though his defense is not as stout in terms of yards allowed per game in 2020 as it has been over the past two seasons, the Bills are poised to host their first playoff game in 25 years, which will certainly help Frazier’s cause.

Plus, the 61-year-old is highly-respected around the league and is beloved by his players. Many teams are seeking out the next great offensive mind in their HC search, but Frazier — who received the added title of assistant head coach back in March — could garner plenty of attention as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Promote Leslie Frazier

On Wednesday morning, the Bills promoted Leslie Frazier from defensive coordinator to defensive coordinator/assistant head coach. The new title likely comes with a pay bump for the veteran coach, who has guided a very effective defense in recent years. 

“Upon taking the job in Buffalo, it was important to me to add a coach with previous head coaching experience like Leslie,” head coach Sean McDermott said in a press release. “His fingerprints are all over our operation and I’m extremely grateful for all the years we have worked together. Leslie’s impact on our team is felt every day through his guidance, wisdom, and his genuine care for people. He is a great example to everyone within our organization.”

The Bills’ D has ranked top 5 in the league for the past two seasons. Last year, they placed third in the league overall and second in points surrendered. They were also top 10 in first downs allowed, third down defense, sacks, and total takeaways, something they had not done as a franchise since 1999. For his part, Frazier says he’s excited about the new title.

It definitely highlights that my role here goes beyond just being the defensive coordinator,” said Frazier. “What message it sends to owners I’m not all together sure, but it helps illuminate what my role is here in Buffalo.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fritz Pollard Alliance Recommends HC Candidates

Every year, the Fritz Pollard Alliance releases a list of recommended minority head coaching candidates. This year’s edition is nearly double in size and features the likes of Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard, as Mike Jones of USA Today writes. 

Here’s the complete list of suggested candidates:

  • Keith Armstrong (Falcons special teams coordinator)
  • Teryl Austin (Former Bengals defensive coordinator)
  • Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator)
  • Jim Caldwell (former Lions and Colts head coach)
  • George Edwards (Vikings defensive coordinator)
  • Brian Flores (Patriots linebackers coach)
  • Leslie Frazier (Bills defensive coordinator)
  • Raheem Morris (Falcons assistant head coach/wide receivers coach)
  • Hue Jackson (special assistant to the head coach of the Bengals; former Browns head coach)
  • Kris Richard (Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator)
  • Duce Staley (Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach)

Flores, the de facto defensive coordinator of the Patriots, figures to be a hot coaching candidate this year. The same goes for Bieniemy, who is helping to guide one of the league’s most dangerous offenses.

Others on this list, such as Jackson and Austin, seem unlikely to garner real consideration for head coaching positions this offseason. The Browns turned the corner after dumping Jackson and appointing Gregg Williams as the team’s interim head coach, which isn’t a great endorsement for the offensive guru. Meanwhile, the Bengals hired Austin in January but fired him earlier this month as his defense was one of the lowest ranked in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Notes: Allen, McCoy, Staff, CBs

Despite the quarterback battle between Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen being close during the preseason, the Bills did not want their No. 7 overall pick to have to play so soon. They hoped Peterman would keep the job “for a while” while Allen learned, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports. However, after Peterman’s 0.0 passer rating against the Ravens, little debate ensued about making the move to the rookie for Week 2.

You wish you had more to go on than just the three starts, and it might be different if this was a veteran with a five-year body of work,” a Bills source told La Canfora, recalling Peterman’s five-interception start against the Chargers last season. “But you don’t have anything else to go on, and after it happens a second time you can’t just write it off as an anomaly.”

Allen is now the starter, but La Canfora reports the Bills remain on the lookout for quarterbacks — via the waiver wire and on other teams’ depth charts. However, as for their QB1 job, it’s Allen’s. Sean McDermott confirmed as much Monday (via Joe Buscaglia of WKBW, on Twitter). Citing the Wyoming product’s intellect, the Bills did not envision their draft prize sitting an entire season like some expected, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). In his first start, a loss to the Chargers, Allen completed 18 of 33 passes for 245 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

Here’s the latest from Buffalo:

  • Allen may not have LeSean McCoy available to take handoffs in Week 3. The former All-Pro running back cracked rib cartilage against the Chargers, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, adding McCoy will be questionable to face Vikings. Worries existed this injury indeed was cracked ribs, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter), who adds this injury won’t be classified as a fracture. Chris Ivory resides as Buffalo’s backup running back.
  • McDermott took over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier mid-game, he confirmed after the Bills’ loss to the Chargers. “I just thought we needed a spark and that’s my background,” McDermott said. Frazier said during his tenure he and McDermott have worked collaboratively, per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • Vontae Davis‘ mid-game retirement obviously caught the Bills by surprise, and it’s final. McDermott will not be reaching out to the cornerback, who signed with the Bills this offseason. “I have not been in touch with Vontae today,” McDermott said (via Buscaglia, on Twitter). “His actions were loud and clear. My focus is on my team right now.”
  • Despite the 30-year-old corner retiring, the Bills received a roster exemption for Davis, Rapoport tweets. It’s a left-squad designation, per NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link).
  • Phillip Gaines will now be counted on to start opposite Tre’Davious White, but he’s encountered some injury trouble. Gaines dislocated one of his elbows, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets. That may not stop him from playing in Week 3, but it’s a concern at this point, per Rodak. After a shaky stay with the Chiefs, Gaines joined Davis in signing with the Bills this offseason. The Bills have fourth-round rookie Taron Johnson and third-year player Lafayette Pitts on their roster. With Davis gone and Gaines injured, Buffalo has three available corners at this moment.

Colts To Interview Leslie Frazier

Leslie Frazier will meet with the Colts about their HC vacancy on Saturday, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets.

This will be the third confirmed interview of the team’s second search process, with the Bills’ DC joining Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell and Eagles OC Frank Reich.

Frazier’s last head-coaching job came with the Vikings from 2011-13. He spent last season with the Bills and has been a defensive coordinator for four teams. The 58-year-old assistant also has Colts history, having spent the 2005 and ’06 seasons working for the Jim Irsay-owned franchise. The owner is reportedly fond of the former Indianapolis assistant head coach, who collected a Super Bowl ring for his Colts work.

As the only defensive-minded candidate among the three early interviewees, Frazier would bring a different style to the Colts — who were obviously all set to hire an offensively geared HC prior to the Josh McDaniels snafu. Counting six games as the Vikings’ interim HC in 2010, Frazier went 21-32 in his time leading the Vikes in the early 2010s.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Request Interview With Leslie Frazier

The Colts have officially requested an interview with Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier for their vacant head coaching position, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Rapoport hears that owner Jim Irsay is a big fan and he is of the belief that Frazier might restore normalcy in Indianapolis following the bizarre chain of events that have taken place. Leslie Frazier (vertical)

Frazier is now the third confirmed candidate for the Colts’ head coaching job. On Wednesday, the Colts lined up interviews with Saints assistant Dan Campbell and Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Campbell will interview with the team on Thursday while Reich’s meeting will take place on Friday.

Frazier previously served as the Vikings’ head coach and just wrapped up his first season as the Bills’ defensive coordinator. He also offers familiarity with the organization thanks to two years as a Colts staffer.

The Bills’ D didn’t light the world on fire, but the unit did okay considering that they traded away core players such as cornerback Ronald Darby and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.