Marquand Manuel

Bengals Cast Wide Net In DC Search

The Bengals are casting a wide net in their search for a defensive coordinator and other defensive staffers, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The club is expected to request (or has requested) interviews with former Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, Texas A&M DC Mike Elko, Florida DC Todd Grantham, and Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn.

The Bengals made an offer to veteran coach Dom Capers this week, but he turned them down and is now believed to be Miami-bound. Capers, 68, would have given the Bengals a Rams replica of sorts as he would have supported 33-year-old head coach Zac Taylor. The Bengals also flirted with former Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, an indication they would prefer a veteran counterweight to Taylor.

Outside of Grantham, however, the coaches they’re now considering are on the younger side of 50. That could indicate a change in philosophy for Cincinnati. Or, it could be a case of the old adage – beggars can’t be choosers.

As previously reported, the Bengals also requested an interview with Rams DB coach Aubrey Pleasant.

Falcons Fire Steve Sarkisian

Dan Quinn’s job is safe, but the Falcons are firing almost everybody else. The team is letting go offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, and special teams coach Keith Armstrong, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

The Falcons have gone downhill since their Super Bowl run two seasons ago, sneaking into the playoffs as a six seed last year before falling apart this season. Injuries were partially to blame, but the team finished just 7-9 despite having a ton of talent, and regressed heavily on defense. The offense hasn’t been the same since Kyle Shanahan left to coach the 49ers, and Sarkisian had received a ton of criticism for his playcalling, especially in the red-zone. With the defense becoming one of the worst units in the NFL this season, it’s no surprise that Manuel was let go. The firing of Armstrong, who has been considered for head coaching jobs in the past, cements this as a total house cleaning.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link), the Falcons will conduct searches for new offensive and special teams coordinators, but Quinn is expected to take over the defense. Matt Ryan has put up big numbers over the last couple of years but it hasn’t translated to wins.

Interestingly, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets to “keep an eye on Gary Kubiak” for the offensive coordinator role, and James Palmer of NFL Network tweets that he’s heard the same. Kubiak, the former Texans and Broncos head coach who won a Super Bowl in Denver, has been rumored to be mulling a return to the sidelines as a coordinator. Owner Arthur Blank has expressed confidence in Quinn, but these moves clearly suggest that Quinn is feeling the heat. If he can’t get Atlanta back to the playoffs next year, he could be out of a job just a few years removed from an NFC Championship.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Coaching Rumors: Koetter, Quinn, Marrone, Rivera

It has been assumed that the Buccaneers and head coach Dirk Koetter would be parting ways at the end of the season, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) does not necessarily believe that assumption is a safe one. Rapoport says Koetter could certainly be fired — which would then make him a very appealing OC candidate for rival clubs — but the Glazer family has not ruled out keeping Koetter and the entire “upper structure” of the team. After all, Tampa Bay’s offense is the most prolific in franchise history, and the club’s defense has become a league-average unit since former DC Mike Smith was fired in October.

Now for more rumors on head coaches in the league’s south divisions:

  • Rapoport also says Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is expected to be back for 2019. There has not been much national chatter about Quinn’s job security anyway, so that does not come as much of a surprise. but Rapoport does expect “significant changes” at the coordinator spots. We already learned that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is likely on his way out, and Rapoport confirms that Darrell Bevell will be on the short list to replace him. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel also appears in danger of losing his job [SOURCE LINK].
  • At the end of November, Rapoport said that Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone is in no danger of losing his job, and he doubled down on that report today, saying that Jacksonville owner Shad Khan and executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin believe in Marrone. The team will seek a new QB and a new offensive coordinator, but it currently sounds as if Marrone will get another shot in 2019. Of course, there have been rumblings that Coughlin himself will consider taking over the head coaching reins, but Rapoport’s sources seem to refute to notion.
  • Despite rumors of a potential shakeup, Rapoport says the Panthers are expected to retain head coach Ron Rivera. New owner David Tepper reportedly believes in Rivera, who recently took over defensive play-calling duties and who would become one of the top head coaching candidates on the market if he were let go. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, though, suggests that Tepper could indeed go in another direction at season’s end, but if he does, it will be difficult to find someone who would represent a clear improvement over Rivera [SOURCE LINK].

Falcons Likely To Fire Steve Sarkisian

There’s a “strong possibility” of significant changes to the Falcons’ coaching staff this offseason, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). This includes potential changes at offensive and defensive coordinator, which could put Steve Sarkisian and Marquand Manuel out of work. 

As Pelissero notes, head coach Dan Quinn‘s background is in defense and he exercises a great degree control on that side of the ball. The team’s hire at offensive coordinator will likely have a larger impact on the squad, which renders the OC choice as a more crucial decision than DC.

The next OC of the Falcons could be an old friend of Quinn’s. Former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell could be a strong candidate for the job, Pelissero hears, particularly since Bevell spent time with Atlanta coaches in the spring.

Under Bevell’s command, the 2017 Seahawks finished roughly league-average on offense, ranking 15th in yards, 11th in points, and 14th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which measures efficiency. Bevell had been an offensive coordinator since 2006, spending five seasons with the Vikings before joining Seattle in 2011.

During his dozen seasons as an OC, Bevell’s units have finished as a top-10 DVOA offense five times. Despite his success, he’s widely blamed for Seattle’s controversial call at the end of Super Bowl XLIX, even though he might not have been the one who dialed up the play.

Despite a bevy of offensive weapons, the Falcons are 5-9 and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The dismissal of Sarkisian feels like an inevitability and Bevell could wind up as the man to replace him, even if Falcons fans are largely opposed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.