Matt LaFleur

Poll: Which Team Made Best HC Hire?

With the NFL now in the two-week waiting period until its final meaningful game, 30 of the 32 teams are going through offseason motions. And some of those teams are still deciding on coordinators.

Unless another Patriots assistant reneges on an agreement post-Super Bowl, or Zac Taylor makes an 11th-hour decision to remain in Los Angeles rather than taking over in Cincinnati, the eight NFL teams in need of head coaches made their choices.

So, which franchise best positioned itself for long-term success?

The trend being offensive innovation to keep up with some of the ahead-of-the-curve offenses, six of the eight teams hired offensively oriented coaches.

By a substantial margin, the Cardinals won the outside-the-box trophy. After washing out as an NFL quarterback in the mid-2000s, Kliff Kingsbury spent more than a decade as a college coach. The 39-year-old groomed some sought-after NFL talent in Patrick Mahomes, Case Keenum and Davis Webb, while also bringing Baker Mayfield to Texas Tech for a short stay. But he finished his stay in Lubbock, Texas, with a sub-.500 record. The Cards added Vance Joseph and Tom Clements to be his top assistants. Because of their unconventional hire, the Cardinals will be one of the most interesting teams in 2019.

Bruce Arians‘ CBS stay lasting one year will bring one of the more interesting coaches in modern NFL history back to the sideline. Tampa Bay’s new coach is the oldest ever hired, at 66 years old. Arians will be tethered to Jameis Winston, and it does not sound like he has issues with that. Arians hired several former Cardinals assistants to help him attempt to snap the NFC’s longest active playoff drought. Arians led the Cardinals to their best season, record-wise (13-3 in 2015), since the franchise has been in Arizona but is also barely a year removed from retiring.

The Packers and Browns opted for OCs, the former seeing a major difference in Matt LaFleur‘s vision than those of the other coaches that interviewed. Cleveland made the biggest continuity move of this year’s HC-seeking octet,promoting Freddie Kitchens over candidates with more experience.

LaFleur’s Titans offense regressed from Mike Mularkey‘s final unit, with Tennessee ranking 27th in points scored last season. But the 39-year-old coach, who will be working with ex-Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett in overseeing the back end of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime, trained under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Kitchens rose from position coach to head coach in less than three months, but Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the season was obviously different from his play under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.

Taylor and Adam Gase round out the offensively geared hires, the former being perhaps the highest-variance candidate among the non-Kingsbury wing.

Although Taylor was the Dolphins’ interim OC in 2015 and McVay’s quarterbacks coach this season, he spent 2016 running a Cincinnati Bearcats offense that ranked 123rd (out of 128 Division I-FBS teams) with 19.3 points per game for a 4-8 team and was the Rams’ assistant wideouts coach as recently as 2017. Gase led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016, but Ryan Tannehill‘s issues staying healthy and living up to his draft slot limited the former Broncos and Bears OC. The Jets saw enough to add the formerly in-demand assistant, who may be ready to bring longtime coworker Dowell Loggains with him to the Big Apple.

Denver and Miami went with defense, with the Broncos having no competition for 2018’s assistant coach of the year and, arguably, this decade’s top DC.

The Dolphins cancelled their Vic Fangio summit, and he will be in charge of elevating a Broncos team that finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1970s. John Elway‘s plan to reinstall Gary Kubiak as OC also hit a snag, with the longtime friends’ disagreement on staffing leading to the Broncos hiring 49ers QBs coach Rich Scangarello. The Dolphins will become the fifth franchise to hire a Bill Belichick-era Patriots defensive coordinator (or de facto DC, in Brian Flores‘ case), following the Browns (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini), Jets (Mangini), Chiefs (Crennel) and Lions (Matt Patricia). Flores helped the Patriots to yet another top-10 ranking in points allowed — their 15th in the past 18 seasons — and another Super Bowl berth.

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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Packers Notes: LaFleur, Rodgers, Murphy

Here’s the latest on the Packers and new head coach Matt LaFleur:

  • LaFleur will report directly to team president/CEO Mark Murphy, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Such arrangements can lead to problems sometimes in the NFL, but GM Brian Gutekunst is presumably on board with the plan.
  • LaFleur told reporters that he that he had the opportunity to speak with Aaron Rodgers prior to accepting the job. “I cannot wait to get to work with him. I think he’s equally excited,” LaFleur said of Rodgers (Twitter link via Olivia Reiner of the team website).
  • The Packers interviewed a number of candidates for the job, but Murphy was unimpressed by everyone outside of LaFleur “Quite honestly, no one stood out,” Murphy said (Twitter link via Pelissero). After talking with other coaches, they interviewed LaFleur in Nashville on Sunday afternoon and found him to be “the most prepared candidate.”

North Notes: Packers, LaFleur, Ravens, Brown

It’s a four-year deal with a fifth-year option for the Packers and Matt LaFleur, a source tells Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). LaFleur is a fast riser who is becoming a head coach for the very first time, but he appears to have solid job security in Green Bay. The financial terms of the deal are not yet known, but it would not be a surprise if he was on the lower end of the scale given his age and lack of experience at this level.

Here’s more from the North divisions:

  • Ravens wide receiver John Brown says he’d love to return in 2019, but he’s unlikely to accept a one-year deal this offseason (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic). Brown, 29 in April, had a bit of a resurgence in Baltimore with 42 catches for 715 yards and five touchdowns in 2018.
  • Ozzie Newsome is transitioning out of his role as the Ravens‘ GM, but he isn’t retiring, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic hears. Newsome will remain under contract with the Ravens for the next couple of years, though his title and duties are not yet known. Per the succession plan, longtime assistant Eric DeCosta will take over as GM from here.
  • The Lions parted ways with VP of football operations Matt Harriss, who was touted as a salary cap expert. To take his place, the Ravens have hired Mike Disner. Disner spent the last six seasons with the Cardinals and was directly involved in their cap planning, so he appears to be a natural replacement.

Coaching Rumors: Packers, LaFleur, Rhule

Matt LaFleur has the Packers job and he has Rams coach Sean McVay to thank. The two are close friends and it’s likely that McVay lobbied for him, Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel tweets.

McVay employed LaFleur as his offensive coordinator in 2017, but McVay called the plays himself. Then, last offseason, he allowed LaFleur to fly the coop and call plays for the Titans. Without that stepping stone, LaFleur probably wouldn’t have gotten the big gig in Green Bay.

Meanwhile, the Packers are over the moon about LaFleur because his offensive focus will allow the club to keep defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the rest of the staff, provided that LaFleur is not keen on making major changes.

Here’s the latest round of coaching rumors from around the NFL:

Packers Hire Titans OC Matt LaFleur As HC

It looks like the first head coaching search of the offseason might be coming to an end. The Packers are “zeroing in on” hiring Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The team has since confirmed the hire via press release.

While nothing is official yet, Schefter writes that the Packers “have begun notifying other HC candidates that they’ve interviewed that they’re out and the team has made its choice.” Schefter then posted a follow up tweet noting that the team offered the job to LaFleur. It’s a rapid ascent for LaFleur, who last season wasn’t even calling plays. LaFleur was the Rams’ offensive coordinator for the 2017 season, but Sean McVay called the plays. He was the Falcons’ quarterbacks coach before that from 2015-2016, and learned under two of the league’s most highly regarded offensive minds in Kyle Shanahan and McVay.

He was then hired away by the Titans to become part of Mike Vrabel’s first staff, where he served as the playcaller. Despite Marcus Mariota being frequently hurt, LaFleur helped guide the team to nine wins, with Tennessee ultimately falling just short of the playoffs. LaFleur is only 39, and his hiring continues the trend of teams looking for young offensive gurus as head coaches.

Despite dealing with a nerve injury in his throwing arm that limited him for several games and knocked him out of several others, Mariota averaged the most yards per attempt of his career under LaFleur. While the offense wasn’t nearly as dynamic as the one LaFleur helped build in Los Angeles, it was a lot more creative and innovative than the one Mike Mularkey had been running in Tennessee. Aaron Rodgers had clearly grown frustrated with the offense during Mike McCarthy’s last years with the Packers, and LaFleur should at the very least provide a much needed breath of fresh air to the offense.

While the offensive side of the ball is set to undergo a total makeover, there might be some continuity on defense. The move means the team is likely to keep defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the rest of the defensive staff in place, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN (Twitter link). Rapoport notes in a separate tweet that former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken was the “other really strong candidate” for the Packers, but the team settled on LaFleur without conducting a second round of interviews.

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Packers To Meet With Matt LaFleur

The Packers and Matt LaFleur have set a date for their interview. Green Bay will meet with the Titans offensive coordinator on Sunday, according to Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com

As of this writing, LaFleur is one of seven known candidates for the position. Jim Caldwell and Chuck Pagano have already interviewed while Josh McDaniels, Brian Flores, Mike Munchak, and Dan Campbell are on deck.

LaFleur spent the 2017 season as McVay’s OC, though McVay called the Rams’ plays. LaFleur, though, made the move to play-caller in 2018 with Tennessee. He joins Rams QBs coach Zac Taylor and tight ends coach Shane Waldron as current or recent McVay assistants to receive meeting requests. McVay may be in his early 30s, but he may soon wind up with an impressive coaching tree of his own.

LaFleur, 39, called plays for a Titans team that had trouble keeping Marcus Mariota healthy. The Titans struggled without their starting QB at 100% and finished the year ranked 27th in points and 25th in total yards. Plagued by an elbow issue, Mariota threw just 11 touchdown passes in 2018.

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Packers Request Matt LaFleur Meeting

Sean McVay‘s influence continues to intrigue teams. The Packers requested a head coach interview with Titans OC Matt LaFleur, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

LaFleur spent the 2017 season as McVay’s OC, though McVay called the Rams’ plays. LaFleur, though, made the move to play-caller this year in Tennessee. He joins Rams QBs coach Zac Taylor and tight ends coach Shane Waldron as current or recent McVay assistants to receive meeting requests.

Just 39, LaFleur wrapped up his first year calling plays, doing so for a team that had trouble keeping Marcus Mariota healthy. The Titans, however, often struggled on offense. They finished the year ranked 27th in points and 25th in total yards. Mariota battled an elbow problem early and only threw 11 touchdown passes this season. The Titans fired Mike Mularkey, in large part, to accelerate Mariota’s development.

But Tennessee also did not feature many passing-game weapons, after the Week 1 loss of Delanie Walker. The Packers have requested interviews with LaFleur and Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak and have also already met with Jim Caldwell and Chuck Pagano.

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Titans Hire Matt LaFleur As OC

The Titans announced that they have hired Matt LaFleur as their new offensive coordinator. LaFleur previously served as the Rams’ offensive coordinator. Matt LaFleur (Vertical)

Technically, this represents a lateral move for LaFleur, though he did not call plays in Los Angeles when he worked under head coach Sean McVay. Serving under a defensive-minded coach in Mike Vrabel, LaFleur should have flexibility to do things his way.

LaFleur is inexperienced as an OC, having served just one season in the role. In his favor, LaFleur did guide Matt Ryan to an MVP campaign just a year ago as quarterbacks coach in Atlanta. Then, last year, Jared Goff excelled under LaFleur’s tutelage. Given the 38-year-old’s QB acumen, the Titans are hopeful that he can get the most out of Marcus Mariota.

On Tuesday morning, the Titans also made the hiring of Dean Pees as defensive coordinator official.

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Titans Interview Matt LaFleur

The Titans have announced that they have finished their interview today with Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. The sides had to push back the scheduled meeting a day because of weather-related issues, but LaFleur has now completed his first interview for a head coaching role.

Matt LaFleur (Vertical)

LaFleur is young for a potential head coach at just 38 years old. He also is inexperienced as an offensive coordinator having served just one season under Sean McVay in Los Angeles. In his favor, LaFleur does have a tremendous track record as a quarterbacks coach, most recently helping to guide Matt Ryan through an MVP campaign just a year ago.

The Titans and former head coach Mike Mularkey parted ways because of the team’s wish to get the right guy for Marcus Mariota‘s development moving forward. LaFleur seems to fit the bill with what the front office is looking for.

With that said, Tennessee is still considering candidates of many background, including Mike Vrabel (HOU DC), Steve Wilks (CAR DC) and Frank Reich (Eagles OC). Just Wilks and Vrabel have been interviewed along with LaFleur.

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Coaching Rumors: Titans, Cowboys, Texans

Weather-related concerns are forcing the Titans to shift the timeline of their head coaching search, as Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets. Whereas Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel and Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur were originally scheduled to interview with Tennessee on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, Vrabel and LaFleur will now sit down with Titans general manager Jon Robinson on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Vrabel, LaFleur, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks — whose is currently en route to Tennessee for his interivew, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer — are the only definitive candidates for the Tennessee job thus far, but reports have indicated the Titans could also have interest in Eagles OC Frank Reich.

Here’s more from the 2018 hiring cycle:

  • Former NFL defensive coordinators John Pagano and Ray Horton will meet with the Cowboys, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Pagano, the longtime Chargers’ DC, spent last season as an assistant head coach (and later, interim DC) for the Raiders, while Horton — formerly the defensive play-caller for the Cardinals, Titans, and Browns, didn’t work in the NFL in 2017. Dallas already has a defensive coordinator in Rod Marinelli, but the Cowboys were reportedly willing to promote Marinelli to assistant head coach in order to keep ex-LBs coach Matt Eberflus.
  • While the Cowboys are apparently considering additions to their defensive coaching staff, they’ve made a hire on the offensive side of the ball in new wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal, tweets David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. Lal, 48, originally joined the NFL ranks with the Raiders in 2007, and has since coached wideouts for Oakland, New York, and Buffalo. Former Cowboys wide receiver/current Cowboys scout Miles Austin also reportedly interviewed for the position.
  • The Texans have hired former Raiders special teams coach Brad Seely for the same position, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Seely was forced out in Oakland earlier this month when the Raiders hired Rich Bisaccia as their new assistant head coach/special teams. He’ll replace Larry Izzo, the former NFL linebacker who led Houston to a No. 31 ranking in special teams DVOA a season ago. Seely, 61, has been an NFL ST coach since 1989, and the Texans will be his eighth professional stop. He should have a working relationship with Houston head coach Bill O’Brien, as the pair spent time together with the Patriots from 2007-08.