Marvin Lewis

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 1-27-21 (7:05pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Jets Meet With Marvin Lewis

The Jets interviewed Marvin Lewis for their head coaching vacancy on Thursday, per a club announcement. This marks’ Lewis third interview, following chats with the Texans and Lions. 

Lewis is best known for his time as the Bengals’ head coach and the Ravens’ defensive coordinator before that. His most recent stop was in Arizona State, where he served as the co-DC under one-time Jets HC Herman Edwards.

Lewis’ career 131-122-3 regular season record doesn’t get fans too excited, nor does 0-7 playoff record. Still, his Bengals teams won the AFC North four times, and he remains a well-respected defensive mind. The Jets are at least interested in the experienced head coach, though they’re also willing to consider an up-and-comer like Aaron Glenn. In addition to Lewis and their longtime cornerback, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith are also among those on the radar.

None of the candidates will be directly interviewed by owner Woody Johnson, though he will reportedly be kept in the loop.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Interview Marvin Lewis For HC

Thus far, the Lions’ GM search has generated more headlines than their hunt for a new head coach, but their HC pursuit will soon kick into high gear. Detroit started that process by interviewing longtime Bengals HC Marvin Lewis several days ago, as Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero, and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report.

[RELATED: Lions to pursue Seahawks GM John Schneider]

Lewis interviewed with the Texans for their HC vacancy last month, so the 62-year-old appears to be firmly back on the NFL radar. He currently serves as the co-defensive coordinator on Herm Edwards‘ staff at Arizona State.

The defensive acumen that he displayed while working as the Ravens’ DC from 1996-01 helped Lewis secure the Cincinnati gig in 2003, a position he held for 16 seasons. Though his 0-7 record in the postseason has garnered plenty of attention and ultimately contributed to Lewis’ ouster, the fact that he got the formerly moribund Bengals to the playoffs seven times during his tenure was in and of itself a major accomplishment.

Detroit is considering a wide variety of candidates for its HC post. Robert Saleh, the current 49ers defensive coordinator, is said to be high atop the team’s wish-list, but the Lions are also considering offensive-minded coaches. Chiefs offensive coordinator and hot commodity Eric Bieniemy is a target, as is Titans OC Arthur Smith.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports that Saleh, Bieniemy, and interim HC Darrell Bevell are expected to interview this week (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Bengals Sign HC Marvin Lewis To Two-Year Extension

On this date in 2018, Cincinnati fans weren’t too high on Marvin Lewis. The Bengals head coach had just missed the postseason for the second-straight season, but it’s not like anyone would have had much faith in the team had they found a way to sneak into the playoffs. After all, Lewis had (and still has) his infamous 0-7 playoff record, with the head coach guiding the organization to first-round exits every year between the 2011 and 2015 campaigns.

So, with the team having only won 13 combined games between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, it only seemed natural to move on from Lewis, right? Nah. Instead, on January 2nd, 2018, the Bengals signed Lewis to a two-year extension that would last through the 2019 campaign. As an aside, Lewis had traditionally inked one-year extensions with the organization, so the two-year pact was met with plenty of ire.

A Bleacher Report article said the extension was a “commitment to mediocrity,” while Will Brinson of CBS Sports described the move as “stunning.” If you want a take on fan reactions, you can check out the comments section of our own article.

Lewis and the organization didn’t do much to calm fans’ nerves when discussing the extension. The coach acknowledged that he probably would have been fired in any other city (per USA Today), while Bengals President Mike Brown admitted that the team had recently “fallen short of our expectations.”

“My job is to win a World Championship,” Lewis said in a statement that day. “We have a talented roster full of veteran leaders and emerging young stars, and I am committed to making the necessary improvements to put this team in the best position to win.”

Critics of the extension were punching air through the five weeks of the 2018 season. With Lewis serving as the second longest-tenured head coach in the NFL (behind Bill Belichick), the Bengals held the top spot in the AFC North with a 4-1 record, and they entered their bye week at 5-3. Then the wheels fell off. The Bengals dropped five consecutive contests and finished the season with a 6-10 record. Raise your hand if you know what happened next. The Bengals and Lewis decided to mutually part ways with a year remaining on the coach’s contract.

Cincinnati bottomed out in 2019 with new head coach Zac Taylor at the helm, allowing them to snag Joe Burrow with the top pick. Lewis hasn’t really committed to returning to the NFL, but he’s still been connected to a number of openings. Over the past few years, Lewis has been linked to head coaching gigs in Washington and Dallas, and he interviewed for the lead position with the Texans in late December. The 62-year-old has been on the Arizona State coaching staff for the past two seasons.

When the extensions was signed three years ago today, Lewis and the Bengals organization probably weren’t envisioning their present-day status. Everyone else? I think we all saw this coming.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Interview Marvin Lewis

Expected to have a chance at multiple NFL HC jobs, Marvin Lewis landed his first known interview of this hiring period. The former Bengals head coach interviewed for the Texans’ HC position, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report (via Twitter). The Texans announced the interview took place.

The longest-tenured HC in Bengals history, Lewis has been with the Arizona State program for the past two seasons. But he is on multiple NFL teams’ radars, and several jobs figure to be open by season’s end.

Currently the Sun Devils’ co-defensive coordinator on Herm Edwards‘ staff, Lewis surfaced on the NFL radar — to some degree — last year upon meeting with the Cowboys about the job that went to Mike McCarthy. Mike Zimmer also offered his former boss an assistant job in 2019. But a genuine Lewis push back to an NFL coaching gig now appears on tap.

Lewis, 62, coached the Bengals for 16 seasons. Known for revitalizing a long-moribund franchise in the 2000s, Lewis failed to snap Cincinnati’s playoff win drought — twice losing opening-round games to the Texans — and surprised most with his job security at his last NFL post. The former Ravens defensive coordinator is 131-122-3 as an NFL head coach.

The Texans have already interviewed former Lions and Colts HC Jim Caldwell for the job and have been connected to Seahawks OC Brian Schottenheimer as well. Eric Bieniemy, however, has loomed as a Deshaun Watson favorite — though, the quarterback is also believed to want OC Tim Kelly to stay — and has appeared to be on Houston’s radar for several weeks. Lewis has far more HC experience than both and has more such service time than almost anyone currently coaching in the NFL. It will be interesting to see how many interviews the current Pac-12 assistant lands over the next few weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Coaching/GM Notes: Hurney, Lewis, Morris, Lynn, Gettleman

The Panthers made a big splash Monday by firing GM Marty Hurney. Although the timing was interesting since Carolina’s season will be over in just a couple of weeks, it wasn’t the result of any sudden developments or changes. The move had apparently been in the works for a while, as Albert Breer of SI.com was told that Hurney was in the final year of his contract and that he and owner David Tepper had been talking about an exit for weeks now (Twitter link). Breer adds that the analytics-minded Tepper wants to “modernize” the personnel side. As for names to keep an eye on for the now vacant role, Breer tweets that 49ers VP of player personnel Adam Peters is one to watch. Peters played for Panthers head coach Matt Rhule back when Rhule was the defensive line coach at UCLA.

It sounds like Tepper knows more or less what he wants, and accordingly the relatively new owner told the media on Monday he won’t be using an outside search firm like some teams for the GM opening. To clarify on the modernization, David Newton of ESPN.com reiterates that the Panthers will look for a new GM who “is driven by data and analytics, characteristics that didn’t define” Hurney. Carolina seems to have found their coach of the future with Rhule but they’ve still got plenty of questions to address moving forward, like whether or not Teddy Bridgewater is the long-term answer under center. Who they hire here should tell us a lot about the direction they plan to take.

Now that we’ve broken down most of the Hurney fallout, let’s pivot to the rest of the front office and coaching staff talk around the league:

  • Former Texans GM Rick Smith looks like a hot candidate this cycle. Smith recently interviewed with the Falcons, and sources told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports that he’ll interview with the Lions soon. That’s not all, as sources also told La Canfora that Washington is interested in having Smith run their football operations. We heard back in January that Washington almost hired Smith before electing not to hire a front office head for the time being, so this isn’t too surprising. VP of player personnel Kyle Smith is currently overseeing things for Washington, but sources told La Canfora that the team is “very likely to fill a traditional general manager spot” this offseason. Smith left Houston after the 2017 season when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and is generally well regarded around the league.
  • Speaking of guys looking to get back into the league after a hiatus, we might not have seen the last of Marvin Lewis. The former long-time Bengals coach is “under consideration for several head coaching opportunities in 2021,” sources told La Canfora. Lewis was never able to make a deep playoff run in Cincy, but he undeniably did an incredible job turning them from a perennial laughing stock and doormat to annual contender in the AFC North for a while. After spending an impressive 16 season roaming the Bengals’ sideline, he’s spent the past couple years on Herm Edwards’ staff at Arizona State. La Canfora writes that “numerous teams have indicated an interest in speaking to Lewis,” although he doesn’t specifically name any. Lewis reportedly received strong interest from both the Cowboys and Washington during last year’s cycle, and it sounds like this could be the year he makes it back in.
  • Finally, a few notes via Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com. The Falcons managed to turn their season around a bit after firing Dan Quinn, although things have started to go off the rails again in recent weeks. The initial success led to some buzz that interim coach and former Bucs head coach Raheem Morris could be a candidate for the full-time job, although Pauline throws some cold water on that. Pauline says there’s a “very slight chance” they keep Morris, noting people who he has talked to won’t completely rule it out. That being said, he hears that Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy is still at the top of their list.
  • Anthony Lynn and the Chargers have now won back to back games, but Pauline writes he’ll need a “miracle” to save his job. One source he talked to put the odds of Lynn returning at 20 percent, and he writes that’s a best-case scenario for the embattled Los Angeles coach. Lynn has made a number of high profile game management blunders in recent weeks, and Pauline writes the consensus of “well-connected” people is that he’ll be fired. With a talented roster and a stud young quarterback in Justin Herbert, the Chargers’ job should be an attractive one.
  • While a lot of these decisions already appear to be more or less set in stone, Pauline says that Giants GM Dave Gettleman’s status is genuinely undecided and up in the air. He writes that it’ll depend on what happens the rest of the year (presumably whether the G-Men win the NFC East), and that there’s been no “definitive decision.” However, Pauline does say that as of right now he hears the Giants are “more comfortable” getting rid of Gettleman and bringing in someone new to work alongside first-year coach Joe Judge, who people inside the building are apparently “ecstatic” about. As one that could seemingly go either way, the situation in New York will be one of the most interesting to monitor the last couple weeks. What happens with Gettleman could also very well determine whether the team runs it back with Daniel Jones or looks for a new quarterback this offseason.

Coaching Notes: Jets, Lewis, Bears, Daboll

The Adam GaseGregg Williams arranged marriage dissolved at the 11th hour, after the defensive coordinator’s bizarre final-seconds play call ended up keeping the Jets winless. To some degree, Gase had soured on the polarizing DC earlier this season. The second-year Gang Green head coach “fumed” after Williams’ indirect shot at the Jets’ offense, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes, adding that the soon-to-be-fired HC was upset Williams voiced frustration in that manner. In a split setup in which Gase ran the offense and Williams oversaw the defense, Cimini adds Gase would learn of Williams’ defensive lineup changes on Fridays before games on certain occasions. This regime’s issues may cause the Jets to re-evaluate how they pair coaches next year.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Josh Allen‘s rise could well push Bills OC Brian Daboll to a coaching job in 2021. The expectation around the league is that the third-year Bills coordinator will land an HC gig, Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com note. Several jobs will be available, and the ESPN duo adds that the Chargers — given that Daboll and Bolts GM Tom Telesco went to high school together — may be the destination to monitor. While the Chargers have not fired Anthony Lynn, who is well-liked by Bolts players, the team is 3-9 after a 5-11 season. This would point to Lynn likely being ousted after his fourth season in Los Angeles.
  • Unlike the Texans, the Falcons and Lions will not be using a search firm as they look for new HCs, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Longtime front office exec Rich McKay will presumably lead Atlanta’s search, while team president Rod Wood remains in power in Detroit.
  • After two seasons out of the NFL, Marvin Lewis has resurfaced on coaching radars. The longtime Bengals HC’s name has continued to come up for possible 2021 gigs, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah tweets. He is expected to land interviews, according to ESPN. Lewis interviewed for the Cowboys post that went to Mike McCarthy and was connected to the Washington job that went to Ron Rivera. The Vikings also sought him for a defensive role in 2019. Lewis, 62, currently serves as Arizona State’s co-defensive coordinator under Herm Edwards.
  • While Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald would stand to be the Bearstop choice — were they to replace Matt Nagy — the prospect of the longtime Big Ten leader rising to the NFL is quiet, per Graziano and Fowler. After Northwestern’s 2018 season, Fitzgerald said he would not consider NFL jobs. But the pandemic may have made him more receptive to making the jump. The Bears figure to be the leading candidate, were Fitzgerald to express interest. And Bears minority owner Pat Ryan, also a Northwestern alum, is a big fan of the current Wildcats HC, per ESPN.
  • The Broncos will have their defensive coordinator back after his extensive bout with COVID-19, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Ed Donatell, 63, believed he was nearly recovered from the coronavirus, but on Day 9 of his battle with it, he experienced symptoms severe enough he needed to be hospitalized. The second-year Denver DC, who had never previously missed a game in his coaching career, missed six games. He will coach from the press box Sunday against the Panthers.

North Notes: Bevell, Lewis, Ravens, Browns

The first Lions interim head coach in 15 years, Darrell Bevell will have five games to run the team. While it should be expected the Lions go in a different direction when they make a full-time hire in 2021, Bevell said team president Rod Wood informed him he is not out of the picture for the permanent gig, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter). Although Bevell was a Matt Patricia hire, the former Seahawks offensive coordinator did not join the Lions until Patricia’s second season. Prior to Bevell spending seven seasons as Seattle’s OC, he oversaw the Vikings’ Brett Favre offenses and held that job for five seasons. His latest offense ranks 20th, though it has been without Kenny Golladay for a big chunk of the season.

Here is the latest from the North divisions:

  • Mike Zimmer replaced defensive coordinator George Edwards by dividing the DC duties between his son (Adam Zimmer) and Andre Patterson. But the Vikings HC wanted a more experienced hand in the room, even before Edwards’ exit. Prior to Edwards’ 2020 departure, Mike Zimmer wanted to hire his former boss — ex-Bengals HC Marvin Lewis — as a defensive assistant, Dan Pompei of The Athletic notes (subscription required). This interest came in 2019, and Zimmer sought Lewis for a part-time role, Pompei adds. Lewis ended up on Herm Edwards‘ Arizona State staff, in an advisory role, last year and is now the Sun Devils’ co-defensive coordinator.
  • Robert Griffin III indeed suffered a hamstring pull in the Ravens‘ Wednesday loss to the Steelers, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. He is not expected to practice when Baltimore reconvenes for workouts. The earliest Lamar Jackson could practice would be Sunday, which would give the Ravens starter one full practice and a Monday walkthrough in advance of a Tuesday return against the Cowboys. It is not known if Jackson will be ready by then, but he will be eligible to return after testing positive for the coronavirus on Nov. 26.
  • The Browns will not have one of their starters for a while. They placed Ronnie Harrison on IR this week, and Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes the third-year safety’s shoulder injury is expected to keep him out between four and six weeks. This is a big setback for the Browns; Pro Football Focus slots Harrison as its 12th-highest-graded safety this season. Cleveland’s secondary is already down Denzel Ward, who is rehabbing a calf strain.
  • Joe Burrow underwent surgery on his injured knee Wednesday, the Bengals announced in a brief statement. The No. 1 overall pick suffered ACL and MCL tears as well as other structural damage. He is not expected to be ready to return until around the start of next season.
  • Seeking kicker insurance in the COVID-19 era, the Packers worked out Roberto Aguayo, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. The Packers, who have used Mason Crosby as their kicker since 2007, do not have a kicker on their practice squad currently. Aguayo has not caught on with a team since the Chargers cut him in 2018; the former second-round pick has not kicked in a game since his 2016 rookie season.

Extra Points: Brown, Olsen, Lewis, Colts

Marvin Lewis is back in the coaching ranks. Doug Haller of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that the former Bengals head coach has been named co-defensive coordinator at Arizona State.

Former defensive coordinator Tony White left for a new gig at Syracuse, providing an opening for Lewis. He’ll coach alongside fellow co-defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce.

After being fired by the Bengals following the 2018 season, Lewis joined his buddies Ray Anderson and Herm Edwards at ASU. He served last season as a special advisor, and the 61-year-old had said he didn’t intend to coach again. Despite his declaration, Lewis met with the Cowboys about their head coaching vacancy back in January.

While Lewis didn’t help the Bengals achieve any playoff success (0-7 in seven appearances) during his 16 years in Cincy, he did finish his tenure with a 131-122 record. Those 131 victories are the most all-time among Bengals coaches, while his seven playoff losses without a win is an NFL record.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • When Greg Olsen was released by the Panthers, it was described as a mutual parting. However, the veteran tight end said he would have been open to returning to Carolina in 2020. “I told them all along that if they wanted me back…obviously I would have been back,” the veteran said (via WFNZ-AM/FM on Twitter). “The ‘mutual parting’ might have been a little overblown. The reality was…they weren’t going to bring me back…I understood it but I didn’t force my way out of here.”
  • We learned this past weekend that former Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh was joining the Colts coaching staff. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets that the 48-year-old will be Indy’s new wide receivers coach. Groh was a natural fit for the Colts, as he actually replaced current Colts head coach (and former Philly offensive coordinator). Frank Reich in 2018. Kevin Patullo, who previously held the role of wide receivers coach, will remain on the staff in a different role.
  • Marquise Brown had a standout rookie campaign for the Ravens, but ‘Hollywood’ was battling an injury throughout the season. ESPN’s Jamison Hensley writes that the first-rounder never fully healed from a foot injury suffered earlier in the year. Despite the ailment, Brown still finished the season having hauled in 46 catches for 584 yards and seven touchdowns, leading quarterback Lamar Jackson to compare him to one of the NFL’s top receivers. “Even though he was hurt with his foot, he still felt like he should be Julio (Jones) already,” Jackson said. “I told him, ‘Bro, you’re good. Your foot not already 100 and you’re making plays.’ This year, he’s going to be dangerous.”