Marquand Manuel

Falcons Promote Marquand Manuel To DC

Falcons secondary coach/senior defensive assistant Marquand Manuel will be promoted to defensive coordinator, a source tells Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. He replaces Richard Smith after he was let go earlier this week. Marquand Manuel (vertical)

Manuel, 37, doesn’t boast any play-calling experience, but did interview for the Jaguars’ coordinator gig last offseason. Atlanta passing game coordinator Jerome Henderson, linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, and receivers coach Raheem Morris were also thought to be potential candidates for the job. Morris boasts head coaching experience, but the Falcons are giving the opportunity to the younger Manuel, who was an active football player as recently as 2010.

This past season, Atlanta ranked just 27th in defensive DVOA and Manuel will be charged with turning things around. The team will also have a new coordinator on the other side of the ball in Steve Sarkisian.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Fire DC Richard Smith

The Falcons have fired defensive coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox, according to Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Smith could eventually be re-assigned within the organization, sources tell Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com.Richard Smith (Vertical)

[RELATED: Falcons Hire OC Steve Sarkasian]

Atlanta may look to fill the DC vacancy with an internal hire, per McClure, who identifies secondary coach Marquand Manuel as a “strong” contender for the job. Manuel, 37, doesn’t boast any play-calling experience, but did interview for the Jaguars’ coordinator gig last offseason. Other internal candidates to become the Falcons’ next coordinator could include pass game coordinator Jerome Henderson, linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, and receivers coach Raheem Morris, adds McClure. Henderson is on the 49ers’ radar, as well, as new head coach Kyle Shanahan reportedly wants to hire co-defensive coordinators.

Smith, meanwhile, has coached NFL defenses since the late-1980s, and has coordinated units in Miami and Houston in addition to Atlanta. Since joining the Falcons in 2015, Smith never led a defense that finished among the top half of the league in DVOA, with the team’s best finish coming in 2015 (22nd). This past season, Atlanta ranked just 27th in defensive DVOA, although the club improved as the season progressed. As McClure hinted at, Smith may stay with the Falcons, but is currently exploring his options, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Cox is also on the outs after Atlanta’s defensive line ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of sacks, but finished just 24th and 25th in adjusted sack rate and adjusted line yards, respectively. Although he deserves credit for helping second-year end Vic Beasley flourish (and lead the NFL with 15.5 sacks), Cox’s unit was subpar overall. Cox, who’s coached in the NFL since 2006 following a long playing a career, is now a coaching free agent.

Given that Shanahan has left Atlanta, the Falcons will begin the 2017 campaign with new coordinators on each side of the ball. Steve Sarkasian has already been hired to replace Shanahan on offense, but the club also lost a respected offensive mind in quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, who was hired as the Rams’ new OC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: 49ers, Panthers, Cardinals

Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf is among the general manager candidates the 49ers and soon-to-be head coach Kyle Shanahan will invite to Atlanta for an interview next week, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link). The team will also conduct second meetings with one of Wolf’s Packers colleagues, Brian Gutekunst, and Vikings assistant GM George Paton, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

More from San Francisco and a couple other NFC cities:

  • Falcons secondary coach Marquand Manuel could become the 49ers’ defensive coordinator under Shanahan, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com hears (Twitter link). The two are on the same staff now, of course, and Manuel garnered prior coaching experience in Seattle from 2012-15. The 37-year-old was an NFL safety from 2002-09.
  • The Panthers worked out free agent quarterback Aaron Murray on Tuesday, reports Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Murray spent 2016 on the Eagles’ practice squad, but he has been available since they elected against signing him to a reserve/futures deal earlier this month. The 26-year-old was a star at Georgia, where he became the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions and touchdowns, but he hasn’t recorded an NFL statistic since the Chiefs took him in Round 5 of the 2014 draft. With Panthers QBs Cam Newton, Derek Anderson and Joe Webb under contract next year, there’s no clear fit for Murray in Carolina.
  • Cardinals defensive lineman Josh Mauro‘s recently signed two-year contract is worth just over $2MM total, per Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Mauro will make $750K next season and $1.3MM in 2018.

AFC South Notes: Colts, Jaguars, Titans

On the heels of a disastrous 2015 season, Mike Wells of ESPN.com isn’t so sure that Colts general manager Ryan Grigson will be his usual aggressive self when it comes to signing veteran free agents this winter. As Wells observes, Andre Johnson, Trent Cole, and Todd Herremans were among last year’s additions who didn’t live up to expectations for Indianapolis in ’15.

Let’s round up a few more items from out of the AFC South…

  • Based on a comment made today by Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that it sounds like Atlanta kept defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel from the Jaguars. Jacksonville interviewed Manuel for their defensive coordinator position and if the team had been prepared to offer him that job, I find it hard to believe the Falcons would have stood in his way — if the Jags wanted to hire him in a lesser role though, it makes sense that Atlanta would have pushed to hang onto him.
  • Armed with a ton of cap space this winter, the Jaguars should enter the free agent period ready to spend on players to complement their young core, with the goal of competing right away, writes Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap. Fitzgerald points to the offensive line and the secondary as a couple key areas for Jacksonville to focus on as the team considers possible upgrades.
  • The Titans formally announced their latest coaching staff hires today, confirming the previously-reported addition of Russ Grimm as the club’s new offensive line coach. In addition to Grimm, Tennessee hired Deshea Townsend as its secondary coach and Steve Jackson as an assistant secondary coach.
  • After spending the 2015 campaign on the Colts‘ practice squad, wide receiver Duron Carter is officially headed back to the CFL for 2016, the Montreal Alouettes announced today in a press release.

NFC South Notes: Manuel, Falcons, Olsen

The NFC South champion Panthers are set to take on the Cardinals tomorrow in the NFC Championship, and while wait for that contest, let’s take a quick look at some notes out of Carolina’s division:

  • Falcons secondary coach Marquand Manuel turned an offer to become the Jaguars defensive passing game coordinator and will remain with Atlanta, reports D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Manuel, who interviewed for Jacksonville’s defensive coordinator vacancy before the club promoted internal candidate Todd Wash, will enter his second season with the Falcons.
  • In a separate piece for the AJC, Ledbetter examines whether the Falcons should consider reuniting with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who’s spent the 2015 season with the Cardinals after five years with Atlanta. The Falcons did offer Weatherspoon an incentive-laden deal last offseason, reports Ledbetter, but Arizona offered $1.25MM in guarantees. For his part, Weatherspoon seems happy with his current situation, but did allow that “part of [his] heart is in Atlanta.”
  • Tight end Greg Olsen is the Panthers‘ No. 1 option in the receiving game, but at one point not long ago, he looked like a middling pass-catcher as a member of the Bears. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune looks back at the 2011 trade that brought Olsen from the Windy City to Carolina.

Sunday Roundup: Manziel, Forsett, Jags

As the Panthers have their way with the Seahawks in the early going of this afternoon’s Divisional Round matchup, let’s take a look at some news and notes from around the league:

  • We heard just a few days ago that new Browns head coach Hue Jackson was prepared to move on from Johnny Manziel, and the comments he made during a Bleacher Report interview this morning reaffirmed that sentiment. Per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jackson told Bleacher Report that if Manziel was, in fact, in Las Vegas during the season finale, that would indicate to him that Manziel is not starter material. Jackson then went on to say, “I do believe that this team does need a quarterback.”
  • Although it’s certainly not a lock, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com believes the Ravens will bring back Justin Forsett next season. The team would gain only $900K of salary cap space by cutting Forsett, and although the other backs on the team’s depth chart have shown some promise, they have significant flaws and are largely unproven.
  • Packers WR Randall Cobb suffered a bruised lung in last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Jason Wilde of ESPN.com tweets that the team does not yet have an update on Cobb.
  • Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has finally begun his search for a new defensive coordinator in earnest, bringing in Marquand Manuel and Lou Anarumo for interviews last week. Per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Bradley hopes to have the search wrapped up by January 25, and Manuel and/or Anarumo could join the Jacksonville coaching staff even if they don’t land the coordinator position. O’Halloran adds that current defensive line coach Todd Wash could still be promoted to DC.
  • In a separate piece, O’Halloran looks at the issues facing the Jaguars‘ new DC, whoever it may be, including what to do with Jonathan Cyprien and whether the team should pursue an elite corner like Prince Amukamara or Greg Toler in free agency or if it can afford to look for a second-tier option.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com offers his breakdown of the Titans‘ cap situation and free agency outlook.
  • Mark Maske of the Washington Post observes that the teams looking for a new head coach this offseason were thinking offensively. Of the seven new hires, five were offensive coordinators, and the other two (Mike Mularkey and Chip Kelly) are of course offensive-minded.

Coach Rumors: Bengals, Titans, Philbin, Colts

The Browns struck a deal today to bring Hue Jackson aboard as their new coach, leaving five teams with active head coaching searches. Additionally, plenty more clubs are looking to hire assistants to fill out their staffs, so we’ve got plenty of coaching-related notes and rumors to round up this afternoon. Let’s dive in….

  • According to Michael Silver of NFL Media (via Twitter), before Jackson agreed to join the Browns, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis approached his offensive coordinator with a last-ditch attempt to keep Jackson in Cincinnati. Silver notes that the proposal included a succession plan, which would mean Jackson eventually replacing Lewis as the Bengals’ coach, but it wasn’t enough to keep him from moving on.
  • The Titans‘ interview with Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will take place on Friday, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link), the club will interview Doug Marrone one day earlier, on Thursday.
  • The Colts have reached out to former Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin to see if he’s interested in the team’s offensive line coach job, a source tells Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post.
  • Falcons secondary coach Marquand Manuel had a good meeting with Gus Bradley regarding the Jaguars‘ defensive coordinator opening, but Jacksonville has yet to make a decision on the position, tweets Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com.
  • Alex Marvez of FOX Sports has several updates on assistant jobs around the NFL. Here’s the breakdown:
    • The Colts have agreed to a deal with former Giants linebackers coach Jim Herrmann for the same position in Indianapolis (Twitter link).
    • Former Dolphins head coach and current 49ers assistant Tony Sparano is interviewing today for the Vikings‘ offensive line coach opening and is a strong candidate to get the job (Twitter links).
    • Former Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson is interviewing for the same role with the Chargers (Twitter link).
    • Former Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is expected to replace Vance Joseph as the Bengals‘ defensive backs coach (Twitter link).

Coach Rumors: Giants, L. Smith, Bucs, Dolphins

Asked today on The Michael Kay Show if the Giants will consider Lovie Smith for their head coaching opening, team co-owner John Mara said he’s “certainly aware” the former Buccaneers head coach is available. According to Mara, he’ll talk to his fellow decision-makers about Smith, but he isn’t sure yet whether the club will try to bring him in (Twitter links via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News).

For now, New York is targeting highly-regarded assistants, having interviewed their own coordinators, as well as Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

Here are a few more coaching-related updates from around the NFL:

  • Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets that he would be “very surprised” if former Falcons head coach Mike Smith doesn’t emerge as a strong candidate for the Buccaneers‘ vacancy. Smith interviewed with the Dolphins this week and has been mentioned as possible candidate for the Titans as well.
  • According to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (Twitter link), the Dolphins would’ve been one of the teams – along with the Eagles – that had interest in John Harbaugh if he became available, but Harbaugh isn’t going anywhere. The Dolphins continued their head coaching search today by interviewing Dan Campbell and, per a team release, Doug Marrone.
  • The Jaguars will interview Falcons secondary coach Marquand Manuel for their defensive coordinator job, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). ESPN’s Vaughn McClure tweets that the meeting will take place on Tuesday.
  • As first reported by Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter links), linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald was fired by the Colts today. Indianapolis hired a new defensive coordinator this week, bringing in former Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino, so it looks like he has already started making changes to the unit.
  • Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, the Colts are interviewing John Benton (Dolphins), Pat Flaherty (Giants), and Chris Foerster (49ers) for their offensive line coach position, tweets Marvez.

NFC South Notes: Benson, S-Jax, Falcons

A court in San Antonio ruled yesterday that Saints owner Tom Benson needs help in managing his assets in Texas, as Katherine Sayre of The Times-Picayune writes. Meanwhile, Benson’s daughter Renee is seeking to overthrow Tom as trustee in the Texas trust, arguing he has mismanaged assets and is in declining health.

Benson, who owns the NBA’s Pelicans in addition to the Saints, suffered another loss in court today, when a New Orleans judge ruled that the 87-year-old must undergo evaluations by three different doctors to determine whether he remains competent to control his NFL and NBA franchises. As Andy Grimm of the Times-Picayune details, one doctor will be appointed by Benson, one by his daughter Renee, and the third will be named by those first two physicians.

Here’s more on the Benson story, along with a couple other notes out of the NFC South:

  • Saints owner Tom Benson issued a statement regarding his current situation and it sounds like he has no intention of backing down. “I have instructed my attorneys to spare no effort in defending my rights and the decisions I have made. The decisions I have made are well within my rights to make at any point in my life, and rest assured that I am making sound decisions. I need not look any further than to read the allegations made against me in these multiple lawsuits to rest easy that I have made the correct decisions,” Benson said in the statement (via Saints VP of communications Greg Bensel on Twitter).
  • Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (on Twitter) doesn’t expect Steven Jackson to be back with the Falcons next season. McClure notes that Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan declined to address Jackson’s future with the team, though that would ultimately be more in the court of head coach Dan Quinn.  Jackson, 32 in July, appeared in 15 games for the Falcons last season, running for 707 yards off of 190 carries with 6 TDs. Cutting Jackson would save Atlanta $3.75MM against the cap.
  • The Falcons officially announced the rest of their coaching staff for the upcoming season. Atlanta hired Keith Carter as assistant offensive line coach, Matt LaFleur as quarterbacks coach, Doug Mallory as defensive assistant/linebackers coach, Marquand Manuel as secondary coach/senior defensive assistant, Mike McDaniel as offensive assistant, Chris Morgan as offensive line coach, Jeff Ulbrich as linebackers coach, and Chad Walker as defensive assistant/defensive backs.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Coaching Notes: Steelers, Falcons, Raiders

Former Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler is now the club’s defensive coordinator, so a pair of assistants have received promotions to fill the hole on the staff. The Steelers announced today that Jerry Olsavsky will coach the team’s inside linebackers, while Joey Porter will coach the outside linebackers, according to Steelers.com. Both coaches played linebacker for the Steelers before coming back to coach with the organization.

Here are some other coaching notes from around the NFL:

  • We heard earlier this week that Seahawks assistant Marquand Manuel was expected to follow Dan Quinn to Atlanta, and Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com confirms that news today, tweeting that Manuel signed his two-year deal to join the Falcons. He’ll serve as the club’s defensive backs coach and senior defensive consultant. McClure gives credit to his colleague Josina Anderson for the report.
  • After announcing earlier today that Ken Norton Jr. would be their new defensive coordinator, the Raiders are filling out the defensive staff under Norton. University of Miami defensive line coach Jethro Franklin will be headed to Oakland to accept the same job with the Raiders, reports Thayer Evans of SI.com (via Twitter).
  • Central Michigan University has hired Lions special teams coach John Bonamego to be their new head coach, reports Hondo Carter of SpartanNation.com (via Twitter). It will be Bonamego’s first head coaching opportunity.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.