Matt Canada

Coaching Notes: Chargers, Steelers, Ravens, Taylor, Marrone

After adding Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator and Renaldo Hill as defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley has found the coach who will lead his special teams unit. The Chargers announced this evening that they’ve hired Derius Swinton as their special teams coordinator.

The 35-year-old has made his way up the coaching ranks over the past decade-plus, spending time with the Rams, Chiefs, Broncos, Bears, 49ers, Lions, and Cardinals. He served as San Francisco’s special teams coordinator in 2016, and he helped the 49ers improve their kickoff return average by nearly six yards that season.

We’ve already heard of some other additions to the Chargers’ coaching staff. The team added Joe Barry as their defensive passing game coordinator, and they’ve hired Frank Smith to be their new offensive line coach and run game coordinator.

Let’s check out some more coaching notes…

  • Today, the Steelers officially announced the promotion of Matt Canada to offensive coordinator. Canada served as quarterbacks coach during the 2020 season, and Ben Roethlisberger finished with one of the lowest interception rates (1.6) and sack totals (13) of his career. As Teresa Varley of Steelers.com points out, Canada helped implement jet sweeps and pre-snap motions to the Steelers’ offense.
  • The Ravens have added D’Anton Lynn as their new defensive backs coach, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley (via Twitter). The 31-year-old previously spent time on the Jets, Bills, Chargers, and Texans coaching staff, and he earned a promotion to Houston’s defensive backs coach for the 2020 campaign.
  • Press Taylor won’t be back in Philly next season. Mike Kaye of NJ.com reports (via Twitter) that the Eagles won’t be retaining their quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator. The 33-year-old had been with the organization since the 2013 season, and after serving as QBs coach in 2018 and 2019, he took on the additional role of passing game coordinator in 2020. The Eagles passing game was dreadful this past season, ranking either 31st or 32nd in the NFL in passer rating, completion percentage, yards per attempt, and interceptions.
  • Doug Marrone is joining the Alabama coaching staff as offensive line coach, per a team announcement. Marrone, of course, spent the past four seasons as the Jaguars head coach, including a 2017 campaign that saw him make the AFC Championship. The 56-year-old has plenty of familiarity with new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, as the two coaches worked alongside each other during their stints with Georgia Tech back in the 1990s.

Steelers To Interview Pep Hamilton For OC

We heard last week that the Steelers were expected to promote Matt Canada to offensive coordinator to replace Randy Fichtner, but that is not a done deal just yet. As veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson was first to report (via Twitter), Pittsburgh requested an interview with Chargers quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton for its OC position, and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweeted that the Steelers will meet with Hamilton today.

This jibes with a recent report from Dulac, whose sources indicated that Canada was a “candidate” for the OC gig but that nothing had been finalized. Obviously, the Steelers are still in search mode, which means that Hue Jackson is presumably still in the running as well.

Hamilton certainly has a more extensive NFL resume than Canada, who was in the college game for his entire career except 2020, when he joined the Steelers as their QB coach. Hamilton, meanwhile, served as the Colts’ OC from 2013-15, and he has also had stops with the Jets, 49ers, Bears, and Browns.

After two years working under Jim Harbaugh as the University of Michigan’s assistant head coach/passing game coordinator, and after an ill-fated gig as the head coach and GM of the XFL’s DC Defenders, the 46-year-old Hamilton rejoined the NFL ranks in 2020, when he hooked on with the Chargers. The success of rookie QB Justin Herbert has helped Hamilton boost his stock, as he is also a candidate for the Dolphins’ OC position.

If he joins the Steelers, Hamilton will be tasked with getting more out of a unit that finished 25th in the league in total offense in 2020 despite the presence of some highly-talented weapons. He will also try to develop the games of potential Ben Roethlisberger heirs Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers To Promote Matt Canada To OC

For the second time in four offseasons, the Steelers are preparing to promote their quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Matt Canada is expected to replace Randy Fichtner in that role, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com report (on Twitter).

A career college coach until last season, Canada interviewed for the Dolphins’ OC position this week. But the Steelers evidently liked what they saw in Canada’s first year as their QBs coach.

While this is nominally the same as the Steelers promoting Fichtner to replace Todd Haley in 2018, Canada has only been with the franchise a year. Fichtner had worked with the team throughout Mike Tomlin‘s tenure. This promotion decision will involve a new voice rising to the top of Pittsburgh’s offensive staff.

Prior to joining the Steelers last year, Canada enjoyed a nomadic career at the college level. Although the 48-year-old coach became Maryland’s interim HC in 2018, Canada served as offensive coordinator at eight schools between the 1997 and 2017 seasons — including LSU, Wisconsin and North Carolina State.

Despite the Steelers’ 11-0 start, they deteriorated quickly. Pittsburgh’s run game became a stunning nonfactor down the stretch, and the offense overall ended up 24th in total yardage by season’s end. The Steelers committed five turnovers in their opening-round loss to the Browns, and they parted ways with Fichtner this week. With Ben Roethlisberger‘s future uncertain and multiple longtime starters due for free agency, the Steelers will turn to Canada in an attempt to get their offense back on track.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Six OC Candidates Emerge For Dolphins

The Dolphins are moving quickly on their third offensive coordinator search in three years. They have identified six candidates to succeed Chan Gailey, and some will be interviewing for the position.

Steelers quarterbacks coach Matt Canada interviewed for the post Thursday, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The team has also identified Chargers QBs coach Pep Hamilton and 49ers run-game coordinator Mike McDaniel as OC options, according to ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe, who adds Dolphin position coaches Eric Studesville and George Godsey will be considered as well (Twitter link).

Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott also emerged on Miami’s radar, but veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson reports (via Twitter) the college assistant has opted against making a move to the pros at this time. The Titans also reached out to Elliott about their OC job, which Arthur Smith may well vacate soon given his interview frequency thus far, but Dabo Swinney‘s top offensive assistant will stay put in South Carolina.

Of this group, only Hamilton and Godsey have been NFL OCs previously. Hamilton spent three years in that role, serving as Colts OC from 2013-15. Godsey became the Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach during the season, Wolfe tweets. He served as Bill O’Brien‘s OC in Houston from 2015-16 but has been a position coach since. Hamilton is coming off a notable year, with Justin Herbert developing from a player expected to sit behind Tyrod Taylor for a while into an Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner.

McDaniel has worked with Kyle Shanahan with multiple teams; the 49ers assistant also popped up on the radar during the Browns’ most recent HC search. Studesville has been with the Dolphins in each of Brian Flores‘ two seasons at the helm. He served as Broncos interim HC in 2010 and was retained by multiple Denver HCs to stay on as running backs coach, a title he currently holds in Miami.

Canada spent more than two decades as a college coach before making the move to the Steelers last year. From 2003-18, Canada served as offensive coordinator at eight colleges — including LSU, Wisconsin and Maryland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Conner, Steelers

We learned that Ravens tight end Mark Andrews was the latest member of Baltimore’s organization to test positive for COVID-19 in yesterday’s round, and there apparently were more this morning. There were multiple player/staff positives in Sunday’s round of testing, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. At least one of those positives was receiver Willie Snead, Jamison Hensley of The Athletic tweets. As he notes, Snead is the seventh offensive starter to test positive, and there have now been eight consecutive days with a positive test within the team.

Florio writes that it’s believed the league will opine these positives are a result of the “tail end” of the outbreak, and that Tuesday’s game against the Steelers is still on for now. Meanwhile the Ravens are planning on convening at their facility tonight in order to condition and then have a walkthrough tomorrow, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports tweets. He notes that all work will be done on outdoor fields and players won’t be allowed inside the locker room.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • While the Ravens have obviously had it worse, the Steelers have also had their fair share of COVID-19 issues as they approach Tuesday night. Pittsburgh will be without both special teams coordinator Danny Smith and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada due to illnesses, Brooke Pryor of ESPN tweets. Canada plays a pretty large role in the offensive game-planning, so that’s a significant loss.
  • Pivoting away from COVID news for a moment, the Steelers have some big question marks to address this offseason. One of those is what to do with running back James Conner, who is set to be a free agent. His production has declined since his breakout 2018 campaign, and he’s also dealt with frequent nagging injuries. With those issues, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic writes that he “can’t imagine” Conner getting brought back on anything more than a one-year, prove-it deal. Kaboly thinks the team is grooming Benny Snell to potentially take over for Conner. The Pittsburgh product recently tested positive for COVID-19 himself, which obviously won’t help with his next contract. He’s shown flashes of being a potential featured back, and it’ll be very interesting to see what the market for him looks like. It’s very possible he’s not back with the Steelers in 2021.

Coaching Notes: Giants, Kitchens, Cowboys

The Giants have interviewed both former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and incumbent offensive coordinator Mike Shula for their vacant OC position, but new head coach Joe Judge may have a few other names in mind, as well. Judge is interested in speaking to ex-Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens and former Dolphins OC Chad O’Shea about positions on his staff, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Kitchens served as the Browns’ offensive play-caller during the latter portion of the 2018 campaign before becoming head coach in 2019, while O’Shea lasted only one year in Miami. Both could presumably also be considered as position coaches on Judge’s staff.

Here’s more from the coaching circuit:

  • The Broncos have formally announced the addition of former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur as their new offensive coordinator, and Shurmur will receive a two-year contract, tweets Mike Klis of 9 News. Shurmur reportedly had other offers on the table, but chose the opportunity in Denver after the Broncos surprisingly fired first-year play-caller Rich Scangarello earlier this week. A longtime NFL OC, Shurmur will bring in his own quarterbacks coach, as incumbent T.C. McCartney has been fired, per Benjamin Allbright (Twitter link).
  • Former Maryland interim head coach Matt Canada has been hired as the Steelers‘ new quarterbacks coach, the club announced. Pittsburgh did not have a formal QBs coach in 2019, as offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner held the role. Canada, who has a long history of coaching in the collegiate ranks, took over as the Terrapins’ interim coach in 2018 after D.J. Durkin was placed on administrative leave.
  • New Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has hired Skip Peete as running backs coach, reports Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Peete, who previously coached in Dallas from 2007-12, spent the last four seasons with the Rams, and also has experience with the Raiders and Bears. He’ll be replacing Gary Brown, who had taken over for Peete in 2013.
  • The Panthers requested permission to interview Saints assistant offensive line coach Brendan Nugent, but New Orleans rejected the ask because Carolina is a division rival, according to Jeff Duncan of The Athletic (Twitter link), who adds Nugent is a longtime friend of new Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Nugent previously spent time with the Bears as well as in the collegiate ranks.
  • Michigan linebackers coach Anthony Campanile is joining the Dolphins‘ staff in an as-yet unspecified role, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Campanile recently turned down an opportunity to become the defensive coordinator at Rutgets, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link).