Rams Rumors

Former Jets OC Mike LaFleur Has “Inside Track” On Rams OC Position

It’s been known since before the season ended that former Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen was on his way back to Kentucky. He finished out the season in Los Angeles, but now head coach Sean McVay is on the search for his next offensive coordinator. Reportedly, former Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleurhas the inside track” on the position, according to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports.

LaFleur’s first stint as an offensive play caller ended days after the season concluded, when he and the team “mutually” parted ways. With the Jets defense making strides of improvement that had the team competing for a playoff spot through most of the season, lots of pressure was placed on LaFleur’s unit to bring the team the rest of the way. Despite the Jets keeping seven of their last nine opponents to 20 points or fewer, the Jets only managed to pull out two wins and end the season on a six-game losing streak as the offense could only provide 13.33 points per game down that stretch.

Much of the season’s struggles were placed on the failed development of young quarterback Zach Wilson. Wilson’s inability to improve and lead the team to the postseason was blamed (by the front office) on LaFleur. The coaching staff, though, retains that LaFleur was not the issue that held Wilson back and would’ve welcomed LaFleur in 2023.

LaFleur was linked to the Rams’ position almost two weeks ago, soon after when he and New York first agreed to part ways. LaFleur’s older brother, Matt LaFleur, had worked in the same position beneath McVay six years ago. The move would make a lot of sense for the younger LaFleur, as it would technically be something of a demotion for the 35-year-old. Since McVay would most likely retain play calling duties, LaFleur’s title of offensive coordinator in Los Angeles would hold far less responsibility. This would give LaFleur time to step back and a learn a little bit more under McVay, now that he has an idea of what the job entails.

Nearly two weeks after the rumor linking him to the Rams, though, and we’re still talking about it. Anderson reports that he is apparently the favorite, but LaFleur has options and a pivot in communications could change things. Anderson points out that “until papers are signed,” it’s all still up in the air.

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Flores, Evero

By far the biggest name on this year’s coaching carousel, Sean Payton looks to have seen his momentum stall a bit. While Payton is interviewing with the Cardinals today, his candidacy has not produced a second interview anywhere yet. The Panthers met with Payton this week but just hired Frank Reich. While the Texans remain on the radar for the longtime Saints HC, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com does not get the sense much momentum is present for such a partnership. The Broncos have been connected to other names recently as well, but that path may be dwindling as well. There might not be a place for Payton — as odd as that sounds, given his track record — on this year’s market, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com offers (video link)

Trade compensation being required to land the Super Bowl XLIV-winning HC, with the price varying from a first-rounder and other early picks to two first-rounders, has affected teams’ plans here. Payton, 59, has also been mentioned as waffling on this year’s lot of jobs. Returning to FOX for another year and surveying the 2024 market, when two jobs he has long been connected to (Chargers, Cowboys), could be available might be what comes out of this run of interviews. Payton remains in this year’s mix, but buzz has died down.

Here is the latest from the coaching landscape:

  • Regarding the Cardinals‘ search, Brian Flores remains firmly in the mix. GM candidates received the impression Arizona is high on the three-year Miami HC-turned-Pittsburgh linebackers coach, Fowler notes. Previously mentioned as a frontrunner — due partially to the Cards hiring ex-Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort as GM — Flores may have a right-hand man on defense lined up. Some around the league expect the ex-Dolphins HC to bring Gerald Alexander, Miami’s defensive backs coach for the past three years, with him to Arizona, per Fowler. With the Dolphins looking for a new DC, Alexander may be on the move anyway. While ESPN colleague Dan Graziano points to Vance Joseph and Aaron Glenn remaining strong candidates, Flores has generated the most buzz to this point. Flores has also interviewed for the Falcons and Vikings’ DC posts.
  • Raheem Morris booked a second HC interview with the Colts and also met with the Broncos and Texans. Should the Rams‘ DC land a second HC opportunity, Albert Breer of SI.com notes Ejiro Evero is the team’s top candidate to replace him. The Denver DC is no lock to be available. He is under contract with the Broncos, who blocked a Falcons DC interview, and has gone through second HC interviews with the Colts and Texans. Denver could pass on retaining Evero by hiring a defensive-minded coach, of course. Evero came to Denver from Los Angeles; he spent five years on Sean McVay‘s staff.
  • The Browns considered bringing in Vic Fangio for a DC interview, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, but they stood down and ended up hiring Jim Schwartz. Cleveland having run a 4-3 defense in recent years may have been a reason for passing on a Fangio meeting, Cabot offers. Fangio has remained quite popular still, having interviewed for three DC jobs — the Dolphins, Falcons and Panthers — already.
  • The Bills are making a change to their defensive staff. They fired safeties coach Jim Salgado, Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN.com tweets. Salgado had been on McDermott’s staff throughout the head coach’s six-season tenure.
  • Giants DC Don Martindale is attached to a three-year contract, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Giants thought enough of the veteran coordinator, whom the Ravens did not bring back last year, they gave him the three-year deal as opposed to the more common two-year pact. Giants ST coordinator Thomas McGaughey also received extensive interest from other teams, with Duggan adding the Chargers joined the Panthers in offering him their ST coordinator jobs. McGaughey, who has been with the Giants since 2018, turned down a Bears interview and opted to stay and work for Brian Daboll.

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers’ hire, this year’s vacancy count sits at four. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.

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

Updated 1-26-23 (4:36pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spins, many of the league’s offensive and defensive coordinator positions are open as well. Teams seeking new head coaches will soon begin OC and DC searches — some have already started those processes — but a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

The Browns and Patriots have begun 2023’s coordinator hires. Here are the rest of the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 1-26-23 (10:06pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Carolina Panthers 

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

Jim Irsay Still Pushing For Jeff Saturday Hire; Eric Bieniemy, Raheem Morris In Mix

The Colts lost seven of their final eight games, finishing 4-12-1. The team had not lost seven games to close out a campaign since its inaugural season in 1953. But Jim Irsay still looks to be pushing to keep Jeff Saturday, the interim head coach he stunned the NFL by hiring in November.

Saturday is going through his second interview Wednesday, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, who adds as many as seven candidates will advance to the second round of interviews (Twitter link). That list includes Ejiro Evero, and ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano tweets Rams DC Raheem Morris will receive an in-person meeting. The Colts held virtual interviews with 13 candidates — the most of any HC-seeking team this year — but Irsay was not involved in those sessions. He will be there for the second interviews.

Irsay said in November he hoped Saturday would stay on as a full-time HC, and although no team has made an interim coach a full-time hire since the Jaguars removed Doug Marrone‘s interim tag in 2017, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson notes Irsay is still pushing for Saturday. More pushback has emerged, however. Just as Irsay confidants attempted to dissuade him from hiring Saturday two months ago, Anderson adds (via Twitter) those close to the owner are again attempting to convince him Saturday is the wrong choice.

Indianapolis should also be expected to meet with Eric Bieniemy and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone for a second time. Each remains in the mix, Graziano adds, though no second interviews with either have been scheduled. Bieniemy has generated extensive OC interest around the league, being connected to open jobs and likely on the radar for some that will soon be available, but ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes the longtime Chiefs OC is focused on potential HC gigs. Only the Colts, however, have interviewed him for their job.

Some around the league believe this will come down to Bieniemy or Saturday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk adds. Considering the backlash both the Saturday hire and Bieniemy’s extended time on the HC carousel have each generated, the Colts choosing Saturday in that instance would create more controversy.

Andy Reid has been the Chiefs’ primary play-caller since 2013, and while Bieniemy has been labeled as a poor interviewer at points during his long run as Reid’s right-hand man, the fifth-year OC has been in place in this role throughout Patrick Mahomes‘ QB1 stay. Considering Mahomes is about to win a second MVP award and will do so after the Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill, that should reflect well on Bieniemy. Judging by the Arizona, Carolina, Denver and Houston searches, however, teams are not closely connecting the Reid lieutenant to such success. Bieniemy and Colts GM Chris Ballard worked together during the latter’s time in the Chiefs’ front office, though Fowler adds the Saturday-Irsay relationship continues to loom over this process.

Ballard ran the first set of Colts HC interviews, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes, adding that Carlie Irsay-Gordon (Jim’s daughter) has played a key role throughout this process as well. Ballard attempted to talk Irsay out of the Saturday hire in November and admitted as much this month. It should be expected the seventh-year GM will keep pushing for a different hire, but Irsay obviously will make the final call. This process should drag into next week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (video link).

Saturday promised extensive changes if he were to land the full-time job. He offered ex-Frank Reich staffers Scott Milanovich and Scottie Montgomery OC duties, but each turned down the job. That led to assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier receiving the opportunity. The Colts started three QBs during Saturday’s stay (Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger) but only won one game under interim coach. The team’s NFL-record collapse in Minnesota and other shaky performances did not exactly give Saturday momentum coming out of the season. If Irsay bucks staffers’ advice and goes in this direction again, it would make for one of the most interesting decisions in coaching history.

Coaching Notes: Colts, Rams, Patriots

The Colts are moving on to second interviews with some head coaching candidates, but they’re still hoping to get one individual in the building for a first interview. According to Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, the Colts still want to speak with 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

The Colts have been trying to nail down an interview with Ryans for a few weeks. The organization was expected to finally speak with him on Sunday, but with the 49ers advancing to the NFC Championship Game, the coach once again put his interview on hold.

The coordinator already spoke with the Texans and Broncos about their HC jobs, and he also postponed an interview with the Cardinals. As Maaddi details, NFL rules allow Ryans to have second interviews with the Texans and Broncos next week, regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s game. However, the NFL’s “window for first interviews” has close, so he’ll have to wait until the end of the 49ers’ season to speak with the Colts and Cardinals.

We heard earlier today that Ejiro Evero will be getting a second interview with the Colts, and per Maaddi, the organization is expected to advance “six or seven other candidates” to the second round. Another name that should get a second meeting with the organization is interim head coach Jeff Saturday, according to Maaddi.

More coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Sean McVay continues to shake up his coaching staff, and that’s led him to an assistant coach in Chicago. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter), the Rams have requested permission to interview Bears assistant offensive line coach Austin King. The former NFL player would presumably be eyeing a promotion in Los Angeles, and he could fill multiple roles considering his experience coaching tight ends with the Raiders.
  • Former Patriots lineman Adrian Klemm previously interviewed for New England’s offensive coordinator job, a position that ultimately went to Bill O’Brien. However, it sounds like the Patriots are still considering recruiting Klemm to their staff. According to TheMMQB’s Albert Breer (on Twitter), another meeting is anticipated between the coach and the Patriots. Klemm spent the 2022 season as Oregon’s associate head coach, run game coordinator, and offensive line coach. He previously spent time on the Steelers staff, serving as assistant OL coach before earning a promotion to OL coach in 2021.
  • With O’Brien back in New England, focus turns to the status of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge after the duo led the Patriots‘ offense in 2022. ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes that Patricia should be able to carve out a role on New England’s staff in 2023 considering his familiarity with the organization and his relationship with Bill Belichick. However, since the Lions are no longer picking up the tab, it remains to be seen if the Patriots will be willing to compensate the coach accordingly. Meanwhile, Reiss could see see Judge sticking around New England, but the writer is skeptical about the coach returning to his natural ST role. Judge officially spent last season as the Patriots quarterbacks coach, a designation that “surprised people both inside and outside the organization,” according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
  • There’s still no clarity on what Jerod Mayo‘s new role will be in New England, but he could be facing a significant promotion. Some pundits have suggested that Belichick could be preparing the former linebacker to eventually take over as head coach, and Breer tweets that Mayo was alongside his boss for all of the organization’s offensive coordinator interviews last week.

Chargers, Commanders To Interview Rams’ Thomas Brown For OC

Thomas Brown interviewed for the Texans’ head coaching job, but he will have the chance at two coordinator positions soon. The Chargers and Commanders will meet with the Rams’ tight ends coach this week.

Mentioned previously as a Commanders candidate, Brown will meet with the NFC East team Tuesday and has a Chargers summit scheduled for Wednesday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Despite only being an NFL assistant for three years, Brown has impressed to the point he could be the next Sean McVay assistant to move up the ladder.

McVay’s coaching tree is already one of the league’s sturdiest. Matt LaFleur, Zac Taylor and Brandon Staley have become head coaches after short spans on McVay’s staff, and Raheem Morris has rebuilt his stock in Los Angeles as well. Wes Phillips became the Vikings’ offensive coordinator last year — a position for which Brown interviewed — while Ejiro Evero‘s value is surging after relocating from L.A. to Denver for a DC opportunity. Joe Barry‘s Rams stay restored his value; he is now going into his third season as the Packers’ DC. Shane Waldron is now entering Year 3 as Seattle’s OC.

Brown was on McVay’s staff with a few of these coaches, coming to L.A. in 2020 after nine years in the college ranks. Viewed as a rising talent for a bit now, the 36-year-old staffer will interview to replace Scott Turner and Joe Lombardi. The Commanders are further along in their search, having fired Turner several days before the Lombardi ouster created the chance to work with Justin Herbert. Washington has some intriguing pieces on offense, though it once again features quarterback uncertainty. Conversely, Herbert’s presence should make the Bolts job one of the most coveted positions available this year.

Rams Interviewed Marcus Brady, Brian Johnson

Mike LaFleur still appears to be the favorite for the Rams offensive coordinator job, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from considering other candidates. According to Albert Breer of SportsIllustrated.com, the Rams have interviewed Eagles QBs coach Brian Johnson and former Colts OC Marcus Brady for the job.

[RELATED: Mike LaFleur Expected To Join Rams’ Staff]

The Rams are now searching for their fourth offensive coordinator under Sean McVay, following Kevin O’Connell, Matt LaFleur, and the recently departed Liam Coen, who officially rejoined the University of Kentucky earlier this month. Coen’s departure lined up with LeFleur’s mutual parting with the Jets, and we heard immediately that New York’s now-former OC could be the favorite for Los Angeles’ open position. We also heard that Thomas Brown and Zac Robinson were internal candidates for the vacancy, and the Rams reportedly had interest in Frank Reich. Now, we’re getting wind of two outside candidates.

Johnson and Brady are both new additions to the list of known (and potential candidates). Johnson’s candidacy isn’t a huge surprise considering the progress of Jalen Hurts. Johnson has been Hurts’ quarterbacks coach for each of the past two seasons, and the QB took a clear step forward in 2022 with career-high passing marks (66.5 completion percentage, 3,701 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns). The 35-year-old Johnson interviewed for the Jets offensive coordinator vacancy earlier this month.

Similar to Johnson, Brady is also a candidate for the Jets opening and spent the 2022 campaign with the Eagles (as an offensive consultant). The 43-year-old was the Colts QBs coach for two years before a year-plus stint as their offensive coordinator. He was fired by the Colts in November before quickly catching on with Philly.

Chargers To Conduct OC Interviews With Luke Steckel, Greg Olson

The Chargers’ search for a new offensive coordinator is continuing, and two more names have been added to the list of candidates. Los Angeles will conduct an interview with Titans tight ends coach Luke Steckel this week, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

The 37-year-old began his coaching career with the Browns in 2009. He spent four years in Cleveland under the title of assistant to the head coach. He held a similar one the following year when he joined the Titans staff, and began working with the team’s offense in a number of different capacities.

One of those came as an assistant wide receivers coach, a post which the Princeton graduate held in 2017. For three seasons after that, he returned to the general position of offensive assistant. Over the course of the past two years, he has operated as the team’s TEs coach, including this past campaign where veteran Austin Hooper rebounded to a degree from a down 2021 season in Cleveland and rookie Chigoziem Okonkwo flashed potential as the campaign progressed.

Meanwhile, Pelissero’s colleague Ian Rapoport tweets that the Chargers will also interview Rams assistant Greg Olson tomorrow. The 59-year-old, unlike Steckel, has a plethora of NFL experience, including 14 years as an OC at the pro level. Most recently, that involved a four-year stint with the Raiders in which his units generally put up middling numbers.

Olson rejoined the Rams’ staff last offseason, having spent one year as the team’s QBs coach during Sean McMay‘s first season as head coach. The latter recently confirmed that he will remain in place for 2023, though many changes (including OC Liam Coen returning to Kentucky) have already taken place. Olson could be in line for a larger role with the Rams given their multiple shake-ups, but the Chargers would also represent an intriguing opportunity.

L.A’s AFC franchise suffered a shocking Wild Card defeat this season, contributing in part to Joe Lombardi‘s dismissal. Their search for his replacement will include an attempt to build off of his success in the passing game, but also find more balance for the unit and maximize Justin Herbert‘s potential. Steckel and Olson represent intriguing, yet very different, options for the team to consider.

Rams’ Zac Robinson OC Candidate For Chargers, Ravens

After parting ways with offensive coordinators Joe Lombardi and Greg Roman, the Chargers and Ravens are both searching for new play callers to lead their young quarterbacks next season. Both teams took a step towards filling their empty roles today, requesting an interview with Rams passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson, according to reports from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport.

Robinson enjoyed a short career as an NFL quarterback after being drafted in the seventh round out of Oklahoma State in 2010. He bounced around from the Patriots to the Seahawks to the Lions all within his rookie season. After being waived by Detroit just prior to the 2011 NFL season, Robinson signed with the Bengals. He would remain in Cincinnati until injuries would effectively end his playing career in 2013.

After then-Rams quarterback coach Zac Taylor left to become the head coach of the Bengals, Robinson was hired as the assistant quarterbacks coach six years later in Los Angeles. He would momentarily be asked to change rooms as the assistant wide receivers coach but would switch back to assistant quarterbacks coach with the first departure of Liam Coen to Kentucky. When Coen returned as offensive coordinator, Robinson was promoted to passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, officially dropping the assistant moniker from the title.

The Rams offensive unit had an uncharacteristically poor statistical season this year. They were surely hampered by injuries and losses to key players such as quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and last year’s leading rusher Sony Michel. Still, for a Rams offense that has routinely finished top-ten in the league in yards and scoring since Sean McVay took over in 2017, finishing 27th in the league in scoring and dead last in yards gained this season is a stark change from the norm in Los Angeles.

This downturn in production hasn’t stopped the Chargers and Ravens from showing their interest in the 36-year-old assistant. The other Los Angeles team is set to interview Robinson on Monday, according to Albert Breer of NBC Sports. The date and time of his interview with Baltimore has yet to be determined.

Robinson has a connection to Chargers head coach Brandon Staley, who coached alongside him for the Rams in 2020, when Staley served as the team’s defensive coordinator. Los Angeles is a potentially attractive destination full of offensive talent. With a young quarterback in Justin Herbert, star running back in Austin Ekeler, veteran receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and others, Robinson would be gifted a full cupboard of weapons.

The Ravens pose a different challenge for a rookie coordinator. The team certainly has weapons with former-MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson expected to return, a dangerous one-two punch of running backs in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, a star tight end in Mark Andrews, and young wideouts Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, who were both having career years before getting injured. The challenge comes from the style of offense that Baltimore has run lately. Under Roman, the Ravens ran several run-pass option plays that utilized the team’s rushing ability while allowing Jackson to punish defenses with his arm, as well. With some speculation that Jackson and company could move towards a pro-style offense, similar to what Jackson ran at Louisville, Robinson or any other new offensive coordinator would be tasked with implementing a whole new playbook in Baltimore.

The name Matt Weiss had been floated around Baltimore, as well, for the offensive coordinator position, but after being fired by the University of Michigan as he undergoes criminal investigation, according to Josh Alper of NBC Sports, Weiss is likely no longer being considered. Weiss had spent 12 years with the Ravens in a vast array of roles before joining the younger Harbaugh brother in Ann Arbor. He was promoted to co-offensive coordinator for the Wolverines this season before his off-the-field activities led to his termination.

Regardless, Robinson will throw his hat in the ring for both jobs. The Chargers and Ravens are the first teams to kick the tires on Robinson, but they surely won’t be the last. Robinson looks to continue the branching out of McVay’s coaching tree, adding to the list of young assistants who have found success out from under McVay’s wing.