Matt Eberflus

Texans Interview Jim Caldwell, Josh McCown For HC Job

The NFL’s last remaining head coaching search took another interesting turn Friday. While the Texans have contacted former Colts and Lions HC Jim Caldwell about their vacancy, they also announced they spoke with Josh McCown about the opening Friday as well.

This marks Caldwell’s second interview for the job. The former Lions and Colts HC spoke with the Texans in December, but the team’s search took on a different tone after Nick Caserio‘s GM hire.

McCown began this season with Eagles, residing as the NFL’s oldest practice squad player and operating as a remote emergency quarterback, but signed with the Texans in November. The 41-year-old QB would be one of the most unorthodox choices in modern NFL history, but the Texans are exploring the prospect of hiring McCown and pairing him with at least one former head coach, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

The 19-year veteran has been viewed as a future coach and is interesting under contract with the Texans through 2021. The team viewed the well-regarded backup as a culture-type signing and a player who could help as a coach immediately after retirement. This would certainly spark debate, however. While players jumping straight into HC roles has happened in the NBA — like Jason Kidd or Derek Fisher — McCown would be a controversial hire considering the NFL’s current imbalance between white and minority head coaches.

McCown’s previous plan was to spend time watching his sons play football after retirement. A leap into a head coaching position would certainly change his schedule. And making such a move before gaining any experience as an assistant would represent a risk for McCown. That said, the 49ers hired John Lynch as GM without experience and paired him with Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers won the NFC in that regime’s third year. Of course, this backfired with Matt Millen in Detroit.

A McCown hire would run beyond the “outside the box” label, but this is now something to monitor for a Texans team that began the week interviewing popular HC candidate Eric Bieniemy. The Texans remain interested in Colts DC Matt Eberflus, whom the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin notes (via Twitter) is a frontrunner for the job. Houston has interviewed eight candidates for the position. Eberflus initially declined an interview request but met with Nick Caserio and Co. on Sunday.

Caldwell (feat. Peyton Manning) coached the Colts to a Super Bowl in his first season as Indianapolis’ HC but was out of a job after his third. Caldwell elevated the Lions to a playoff berth in his first year with Detroit in 2014 but was fired after a 9-7 2017 season. The 66-year-old coach experienced a health issue that caused him to step away from his post as Dolphins QBs coach in 2019, but he is back to full health and would certainly represent an experienced right-hand man for McCown or another younger coach.

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Texans Interview Matt Eberflus For HC

Colts DC Matt Eberflus has reversed course. After he initially turned down the Texans’ request for a head coaching interview, Eberflus did indeed meet with Houston brass, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). That interview took place yesterday.

Typically, a team with a quarterback like Deshaun Watson is an ideal landing spot for a new head coach. But reports of Watson’s disenchantment with the Texans have been a major part of the NFL news cycle in recent weeks, and questions about the competence of team ownership have also been raised. Combined with the fact that Houston is currently without a first- or second-round selection in this year’s draft, those troubles indicate that the Texans’ HC post is not particularly desirable.

On the other hand, Houston also appears to be Eberflus’ last chance to get a head coaching job this cycle. He took interviews with the Chargers and Jets, but Los Angeles appears to be favoring Bills OC Brian Daboll, and New York has already hired 49ers DC Robert Saleh. And given that a top HC candidate one year might be completely off the radar the next, Eberflus could be trying to strike while the iron is hot.

The Colts’ defense has become one of the league’s top units under Eberflus’ watch, and since Houston’s incumbent offensive coordinator, Tim Kelly, is a favorite of Watson’s, adding a defensive-minded HC who is willing to keep Kelly aboard might make the most sense. Bills DC Leslie Frazier and Rams DC Brandon Staley are also on the Texans’ radar.

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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

Deshaun Watson Considering Trade Demand?

Multiple reports over the past few days have indicated that quarterback Deshaun Watson is unhappy with the Texans, and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com has thrown his hat into the ring. Mortensen says that the rumblings about Watson’s displeasure are accurate, and that Watson could even demand a trade (Twitter links).

In addition to Watson’s concerns about how the Texans’ GM search unfolded, which we have already detailed, Mortensen says the three-time Pro Bowl passer continues to be concerned about the team’s insensitivity to social justice issues. In Watson’s view, that insensitivity manifested itself in the team’s decision to not interview Chiefs’ OC Eric Bieniemy, who is black, one of the hottest head coaching candidates in this year’s cycle, and a personal favorite of Watson’s (though Mortensen clarified in a later tweet that Watson’s anger is not “strongly connected” to social justice matters and is more related to the state of the franchise).

And according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Watson is not just upset by the fact that owner Cal McNair did not consider the GM or head coaching candidates that Watson endorsed, despite assurances that he would at least take his quarterback’s opinions into account. McNair, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the search firm Korn Ferry assist with the GM and HC hunt, ultimately disregarded the firm’s GM recommendations. Korn Ferry tabbed Steelers vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick as the two most viable candidates for the GM position, but McNair instead forged ahead with Nick Caserio, whom he had been targeting for some time.

Schefter went on to say that Watson, whose anger level on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 2 when the team traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last year, is currently at a 10. While Caserio said in his introductory press conference that Watson is the Texans’ quarterback — thereby implying he would not trade him — Watson could certainly make life difficult for Caserio if he chooses to do so.

Interestingly, a Watson trade would not be as damaging to the Texans’ books as one might think, given that the Clemson product just signed a massive extension earlier this year. A trade would leave Houston with just $21.6MM in dead money for the 2021 season, and as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, multiple GMs believe the Texans could acquire up to three first-round picks in a Watson deal.

Watson does have a no-trade clause written into his new contract, but according to Mortensen, he would consider a trade to the Dolphins. Of course, Houston would have had the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft, but it traded that selection, along with its 2021 second-rounder, to Miami as part of the Laremy Tunsil swap in 2019. The Dolphins, who also hold their own first-round selection in this year’s draft (No. 18 overall) have the capital and the cap space to get a deal done.

Mortensen suggests that Tua Tagovailoa would head to Houston as part of a Watson trade, which would be a controversial and career-defining move if Caserio were to make it. Obviously, that is little more than speculation at this point, but it appears Watson’s feelings towards the Texans will be a major storyline of this offseason.

In related news, Korn Ferry named Colts DC Matt Eberflus as one of the top candidates for the Texans’ HC vacancy, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (via Twitter). McNair at least tried to interview Eberflus, but Eberflus turned down the request. Breer notes in a separate tweet that Houston is also eyeing Bills OC Brian Daboll, who has interviews lined up with the Chargers and Jets.

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Matt Eberflus Turns Down Texans Interview

Thanks, but no thanks. Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has turned down the Texans’ request for an interview, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle

[RELATED: Watson Unhappy With Texans]

The Texans requested an interview with Eberflus just prior to hiring Nick Caserio as their new GM. It’s not immediately clear why Eberflus backed out, but he could see better — and more stable — opportunities elsewhere. Eberflus will be chatting with the Jets and Chargers about their head coaching vacancies soon. The Chargers present an interesting win-now opportunity with perhaps less dysfunction than the Texans. As for the Jets…well, you’ll have to ask Eberflus.

So far, the Texans have interviewed Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady, ex-Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, and former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell. Those men may, or may not, have the opportunity to coach Deshaun Watson in 2021.

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Chargers To Interview Matt Eberflus

Make it three teams for Matt Eberflus. The Chargers plan to interview Colts defensive coordinator for their head coaching vacancy, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

[RELATED: Jets, Texans To Interview Eberflus]

Eberflus has also drawn the attention of the Jets and Texans, signaling that he could be poised to climb the ladder. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is also on the Bolts’ radar; ditto for Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

There’s some belief that the Chargers will look for an offensive-minded coach to groom quarterback Justin Herbert and deviate from the previous administration, but Eberflus comes with credentials. When he arrived in Indy (originally as the chosen lieutenant of Josh McDaniels), the Colts had one of the league’s worst defenses. They’ve made strides with Eberflus, managing to rank eighth in total defense in 2020. If the wheels didn’t come off towards the end of the year, they would have placed even higher.

Eberflus has been eyeing a head coaching opportunity for some time now, and the Chargers job could give him a chance to make an immediate mark in the league. The Bolts were a sub-.500 team in 2020, but they easily could have been a playoff team with a healthy roster and fewer managerial mistakes.

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Jets, Texans To Interview Matt Eberflus

The Jets and Texans requested interviews with Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). There will likely be more on the way for Eberflus, who is considered one of the hottest coaching candidates in this year’s cycle. 

After sacking Adam Gase over the weekend, the Jets are expected to cast a wide net in their search for his replacement. In addition to Eberflus, assistants Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs OC), Matt Eberflus (Colts DC), Don Martindale (Ravens DC), Arthur Smith (Titans OC) and Brandon Staley (Rams DC) are on the radar. Ditto for college coaches Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Matt Campbell (Iowa State), and Dan Mullen (Florida).

Eberflus is in his third year as the Colts’ defensive coordinator, following seven seasons as the Cowboys linebackers coach. With the dysfunctional Jets, he’d have a chance to groom one of this year’s top draft picks and snap the team’s lengthy playoff drought. And, after going with an offensive “guru” last time around, no one would be surprised to see the Jets go back to a defensive specialist.

The Texans have already interviewed Jim Caldwell and Marvin Lewis. Now, they’ll have the opportunity to chat with coaches from all 31 clubs, though they’ll need permission in some cases. It’s believed that the Texans are focused on hiring a coach with pro experience, rather than plucking a candidate straight from the NCAA ranks.

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Jets Plan To Fire Adam Gase

The expected firing of Adam Gase is on track to transpire after Week 17, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. While Gase said earlier this week he has not been notified he will be fired, the Jets’ 0-13 start essentially ensured he would not be back.

This will mark Gase’s second ouster in three seasons; the Dolphins fired him after the 2018 season. He has gone 9-22 with the Jets. Although the former successful OC led his team to upset wins over two potential playoff squads and helped the Jets hire GM Joe Douglas, the past two Jets seasons have involved controversy and continued losing.

As far as a replacement goes, the Jets appear to be looking at a wide array of candidates. Current assistants Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs OC), Matt Eberflus (Colts DC), Don Martindale (Ravens DC), Arthur Smith (Titans OC) and Brandon Staley (Rams DC) are set to be considered. As are college coaches Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Matt Campbell (Iowa State) and Dan Mullen (Florida), according to NFL.com. Harbaugh, a previous Jets candidate, appears a long shot. The former 49ers coach is finalizing an extension to stay at Michigan, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweets.

After leading the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season as head coach, Gase has seen his teams miss the past four postseason brackets. In New York, he feuded with previous GM Mike Maccagnan and was consistently connected to dissatisfaction with Le’Veon Bell‘s contract and performance. Two-plus months after cutting Bell, the Jets will move on from Gase. They were prepared to fire Gase earlier this week had the Browns upset not occurred, according to NFL.com.

The Jets already fired Gregg Williams after the polarizing defensive coordinator made a play call that cost the Jets an excellent chance at beating the Raiders. Gase and Williams feuded as well. Jets ownership sought Williams, which helped lead to then-Baylor HC Matt Rhule declining to leave the college ranks in 2019. Rhule ended up in Carolina a year later.

Gase’s Jets offense rarely generated much excitement. The team has struggled to build an offensive line and did not equip Sam Darnold well at the skill positions. As a result, the former No. 3 overall pick has regressed. And during the months in which the Jets were connected to Trevor Lawrence, Darnold frequently landed in trade rumors. As Darnold’s third season concludes, his status is in limbo. The Jets are set to hold the No. 2 overall pick in April and could well look at a quarterback to begin the post-Gase era.

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NFC East Notes: Eberflus, Eagles, Giants

Matt Eberflus may resurface on the coaching carousel in 2021, given the Colts’ defensive resurgence. This is Eberflus’ third year as the Colts’ defensive coordinator, with the would-be Josh McDaniels assistant coming to Indianapolis after seven seasons as Cowboys linebackers coach. The Cowboys were ready to make a major change to prevent Eberflus from leaving. They were prepared to promote him to defensive coordinator in 2018, Ed Werder of ESPN.com reports, in a move that would have meant Eberflus replacing Rod Marinelli (Twitter link). Eberflus, however, refused to accept that promotion out of respect for Marinelli. The latter served as Dallas’ DC from 2014-19, with his tenure ending after Jason Garrett‘s 2020 firing.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • For the first time since Week 14 of last season, Alshon Jeffery will suit up for a game. The Eagles did not give Jeffery an injury designation going into Week 10, putting the ninth-year wideout on track to make his season debut against the Giants. The Eagles shopped Jeffery for several months, but given the injury-prone receiver’s contract, the team was essentially forced to hang onto the 30-year-old target and wait for his recovery from a Lisfranc injury. Jeffery also battled a calf ailment this season. Jeffery will join previously injured cogs Jalen Reagor, Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert in Philadelphia’s lineup. It will be easily the healthiest Eagles skill-position group this season.
  • The Giants deactivated Golden Tate for their Week 9 game, citing his recent effort and performance. They shopped Tate ahead of the trade deadline, and Tate’s wife expressed frustration about her husband’s role on Instagram. Tate liked another Instagram post championing a change of scenery for him. The 11th-year wide receiver, however, said Friday he did not want to be traded. “No, I wouldn’t say I was trying to get traded,” Tate said, via the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz (on Twitter). “I love this organization, to be honest. I love everything it stands for, and I want to do my part and help us win any way I can.” Waiving Tate would cost the Giants a few million in dead money, but the team is expected to cut or trade him in 2021.
  • Patrick Graham has impressed many around the NFL with his work leading the Giants’ defense this season, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes. The former Dolphins DC and Patriots assistant may soon receive looks for HC opportunities. While the Giants’ defense ranks 22nd in DVOA, that is up from 28th last season. New York entered the season thin at cornerback and at edge rusher but still has one of the league’s best defensive lines.
  • The Giants worked out two former second-round cornerback picks Friday. Former Florida teammates Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor reunited for a Giants workout. The Jets acquired Wilson from the Colts earlier this year but cut him. Tabor has not played since the 2018 season.
  • The Eagles will be without defensive assistant Jeremiah Washburn this week, Tim McManus of ESPN.com tweets. An Eagles coach tested positive for COVID-19 this week. The team has not identified the staffer, but Washburn’s absence provides an indication he contracted the coronavirus. Washburn serves in an interesting capacity with the Eagles, working as a senior defensive assistant and director of player personnel. He previously coached the Bears and Lions’ offensive lines.

Coaching Updates: Arians, Bucs, Cardinals, Bowles, Eberflus, Browns, Munchak, Broncos

Ever since Bruce Arians stepped away from his job with the Cardinals, his name has been buzzed about as a potential head coaching candidate. He sat out the 2018 season while calling games for CBS, but appears set to return to the sidelines. He’s been publicly lobbying for the Browns’ job for a while now, but has seemingly now set his sights on the Buccaneers’ job. Because Arians retired with time still left on his contract with Arizona, the consensus was that whatever team would want to hire Arians would need to give some compensation to the Cardinals, but that’s apparently not the case, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.

Florio notes in a tweet that the Cardinals would’ve needed to exercise their option on Arians in order to have a claim on him, which they didn’t do. As such, Florio writes in his article that the Buccaneers didn’t even bother to notify the Cardinals they were interviewing him. As of now, Arians seems like a strong favorite to be Jameis Winston‘s next coach.

Here’s more from the coaching carousel:

  • We’ve heard that former Jets coach Todd Bowles will be in high demand as a defensive coordinator and possibly even head coach, and he might be even more sought after than anyone realized. Multiple head coaching candidates in this cycle are telling people they’ll try to get Bowles to be their defensive coordinator, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). It’s unclear exactly what teams might be in the mix, although there have been rumors he could reunite with Arians wherever he lands. Bowles was Arians’ defensive coordinator in Arizona for two seasons before being hired by the Jets.
  • We heard on Black Monday that the Browns were hoping to interview Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus for their vacancy, and now the interview has been scheduled. Eberflus will meet with Cleveland’s team tomorrow, the day after his team’s playoff win over the Texans, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN (Twitter link). Eberflus has done a great job running Indy’s young defense this year, and has been a hot name in this cycle.
  • Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak has “strong interest” in the Broncos’ opening, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN. Schefter notes that Munchak has “professional and personal ties to Denver” and that he shares an agent with Broncos GM John Elway. Munchak, who turned down a head coaching job last year according to Schefter, was the Titans’ head coach for three years before being fired and landing in Pittsburgh. Schefter writes that Munchak has been very reluctant to leave “because of his feelings for the Steelers”, but it sounds like the Broncos will be able to pull him away if they want to.