Matt Rhule

GM Notes: Colbert, Patriots, Panthers, Rhule, Bears, Pace

We brought you a new batch of coaching notes earlier, and now we’ve got a new collection of front office bullets to pass along as the Browns and Steelers wrap up wild card weekend:

  • Let’s start with the Steelers, who could be in danger of losing their GM this offseason. We heard last week that the Lions were going to pursue Kevin Colbert, and Jason La Canfora tweets their interest in making that happen is still “very real.” While La Canfora’s sources don’t think Colbert would actually make the jump, he says the Lions “continue to gather info and strategize on how to possibly lure him.” Colbert, in the midst of his 21st season in Pittsburgh, has also flirted with retirement recently. Perhaps a first-round exit at the hands of the Browns could convince him to jump ship?
  • The Patriots just lost one key exec when Nick Caserio got hired by the Texans, and fortunately for them it doesn’t look like they’ll lose another. Dave Ziegler has pulled himself out of contention for the Broncos’ GM job, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. Rapsheet writes that the “organization has committed to Ziegler’s future, and Ziegler has committed to” New England, so it sounds like the Pats gave him an extension and/or raise to stay.
  • There was another big withdrawal on Sunday, as Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds removed himself from the Panthers’ search, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets. He had interviewed for the job last week. Dodds declined an interview request from the Browns back in January, so he appears to be waiting for the right opportunity to leave Indy.
  • Meanwhile as the Panthers’ search chugs along, they’ll take a look at a couple of internal candidates. Carolina will interview Director of Player Negotiations & Salary Cap Manager Samir Suleiman and Director of Player Personnel Pat Stewart for their GM vacancy (Twitter link via Joe Person of The Athletic). The Panthers are conducting an exhaustive search, so it’s possible these are just courtesy interviews.
  • One last note on the Panthers for now. No matter who they hire, it looks like it may be Matt Rhule who’s in charge at the end of the day. “Rhule will essentially be running the show in Carolina,” after they replace the fired Marty Hurney, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. That’s not all that surprising after owner David Tepper paid him a fortune to lure him from Baylor and Rhule earned strong marks for his first season with the Panthers, getting a bare-bones roster to fight hard and play a bunch of close games against good teams. Florio writes that whoever gets the gig “surely won’t get the job without Rhule’s agreement.” Rhule seems like a strong coach, but obviously these kind of arrangements can get dangerous, as we’ve seen with the Texans and Bill O’Brien.
  • Matt Nagy is going to be back with the Bears in 2021, but GM Ryan Pace’s future apparently isn’t entirely secure. Chicago could target Chiefs exec Mike Borgonzi this offseason, multiple sources told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. As Biggs points out, it would make sense for them to bring in someone familiar with Nagy if they’re going to change GMs but not coaches. Nagy, of course, coached in Kansas City under Andy Reid for a while. The Bears’ blowout loss to the Saints today certainly isn’t working in Pace’s favor, and the drafting of Mitchell Trubisky second overall never worked out. This will be an interesting situation to monitor this week.

QB Dwayne Haskins To Meet With Panthers

Dwayne Haskins will have his first visit since being unceremoniously cut by Washington last month. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the former first-round quarterback will meet with the Panthers on Monday. We had previously heard of Carolina’s interest, but there was no word on potential visits.

Rapoport describes the meeting as “a fact-finding mission for both sides.” As Joe Person of The Athletic observes on Twitter, the timing is a bit interesting for the Panthers, as the team is currently operating without a general manager. While Matt Rhule previously said he doesn’t want control over personnel decisions, Person believes the head coach may be pushing for this move. Rhule has known Haskins since the quarterback was in high school, and Haskins’ college coach, Ryan Day, previously coached alongside Rhule at Temple.

Further, the Panthers have some question marks at quarterback, so the organization may simply be doing their homework on low-risk acquisitions (Rapoport notes that teams would “likely only pay Haskins the minimum”). Teddy Bridgewater didn’t complete his final appearance of the 2020 season, and Rhule declared that the veteran would need to have a “tremendous offseason” (via NFL.com’s Kevin Patra) in order to definitively retain his gig.

Before getting cut, Haskins was averaging 6.3 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 16 games and 13 starts for Washington. After getting waived, Haskins mutually parted ways with agent David Mulugheta, and he’s since caught on with Goal Line Football agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule says Christian McCaffrey remains week-to-week with an injured shoulder. But, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears that he’s pretty unlikely to play this week against the Vikings.

McCaffrey has barely been on the field this year, thanks to his injured shoulder and his previous ankle issue. Up until 2020, CMC had perfect attendance for the Panthers. With the playoffs likely out of reach, the Panthers’ decision on McCaffrey’s status will involve more than just his present condition. The star running back — recently signed to a whopping four-year, $64MM extension – could theoretically be held out with an eye on next year. The Panthers haven’t addressed such a scenario on record, however.

Mike Davis has done a solid job in McCaffrey’s stead, averaging 4.0 yards per carry on the year. His last outing — 64 yards on 19 carries — was less productive than usual, but the Panthers still cruised past the Lions by a score of 20-0, thanks in part to Davis’ early one-yard touchdown.

The Panthers have a Week 13 bye coming up, which could allow for CMC to return on Dec. 13 vs. the Broncos.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Notes: Newton, GM, Rebuild

While the Panthers and Cam Newton are clearly parting ways, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports the team may have been open to a reunion. A source tells Fowler that Carolina was open to bringing Newton back for the 2020 season, but was unwilling to extend his contract, something they expected him to want. Instead, the team signed free-agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $60MM contract that gives them a proven starter with long-term flexibility.

Here are some more notes from around the Panthers organization:

  • The assistant general manager hire in Carolina may have higher stakes than usual. Per Joseph Person of The Athletic, whoever is hired will be the successor to current general manager Marty Hurney (who extends back to the Ron Rivera regime). The Panthers, of course, moved on from Rivera this offseason and hired Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule will obviously have a lot of input on who becomes the assistant general manager as that will soon be his primary partner in player personnel decisions.
  • There does seem to be some uncertainty surrounding the short-term plan in Carolina. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reports the front office has changed its tune away from a full rebuild towards a “mixed reboot.” Robinson notes that around the scouting combine the team had seemed to suggest that all players were available in trades, but that tone has, at least on the surface, shifted. Granted, Rhule could want to wait until they hire an assistant general manager.

NFC Coaching Turner, Peetz, Linguist, Harris,Whitted

Norv Turner will not be returning to the Panthers coaching staff, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Turner had served as a special assistant to former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera, of course, was recently replaced by Matt Rhule and has since taken over in Washington. While nothing has been reported, it would not be a surprise to see Turner follow Rivera to the nation’s capital to work with young quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

At the same time, Carolina blocked running backs coach Jake Peetz from interviewing for other positions, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Breer adds that Rivera wanted to take Peetz with him, but Carolina general manager Marty Hurney valued Peetz and the team decided to reward him with a promotion to quarterbacks coach.

Here’s some more notes from coaching staff’s around the NFC:

  • The Cowboys hired Texas A&M cornerbacks coach Maurice Linguist to serve as the team’s defensive backs coach alongside Al Harris. Linguist did not have a history with either head coach Mike McCarthy or defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, but his personality impressed the pair so much that they offered him the job on the same day of his interview, according to Dallas Cowboys reporter Lindsay Cash Draper. Harris had been an assistant with Kansas City, but more notably, played under McCarthy during his tenure in Green Bay at cornerback.
  • Harris’ former team will be making a change at wide receivers coach. According Rob Demovsky of ESPN, the Packers have let Alvis Whitted go and have begun the process of searching for his replacement. Whitted was hired just a year ago to join Matt LaFleur’s staff, but it appears LaFleur will be going in a different direction.

Position Coaches: Gilbride, Flaherty, Lupoi, Tolbert

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is beginning to fill out the position coaching spots in Carolina. Kevin M. Gilbride will be in charge of the team’s tight ends and Pat Flaherty is expected to be named the team’s offensive line coach, per Alex Marvez of Fox Sports. Gilbride has extensive experience as a tight ends coach, serving in the position with the Giants from 2014-17 and with the Bears from 2018 until he was fired last month.

The Panthers will be the fifth NFL organization to hire Flaherty as an offensive line coach. Flaherty worked as the offensive line coach from 2004-2015 with the Giants followed by a one-year stint with the 49ers, a two-year stint with the Jaguars, and a a short period with the Dolphins in 2019. While Flaherty brings a long line of experience, he was fired in Miami prior to the end of training camp after struggling to implement the team’s scheme.

  • The Falcons have named Browns defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi as the team’s defensive line coach and run game coordinator, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Lupoi was a collegiate defensive lineman at Cal, where he began his coaching career in 2008. After a stint with the University of Washington as the defensive line coach, he joined the staff at Alabama, eventually becoming the team’s defensive coordinator in 2018. Lupoi moved to the professional coaching ranks for the first time when he joined Freddie Kitchens‘ staff prior to this season.
  • Giants new head coach Joe Judge will not be making changes to the entire coaching staff. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, reports that Judge is expected to retain wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. While New York struggled in many areas this season, the receiving corp showed impressive depth. Tolbert was credited with helping late-round pick, Darius Slayton, become a legitimate receiving option.

Extra Points: Thielen, Panthers, Falcons, Raiders

Vikings WR Adam Thielen suffered a bad cut on his ankle during Wednesday’s practice, reports NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). The cut required stitches, but the team is optimistic that he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s playoff game against the 49ers. As the reporter notes, the organization is “still gathering information and will proceed with caution.”

The wideout appeared in 10 games this season – the first time in his NFL career that he didn’t appear in all 16 regular season contests. He finished the regular season with 30 receptions for 418 yards and six scores. He had a standout game during the Vikings win over the Saints last weekend, hauling in seven receptions for 129 yards.

If Thielen was forced out of the lineup, Kirk Cousins will predictably lean on wideout Stefon Diggs. The team could also turn to the likes of Olabisi Johnson, Alexander Hollins, and Laquon Treadwell.

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

  • Panthers general manager Marty Hurney will turn to head coach Matt Rhule as the team continues to rebuild the front office. Hurney told The Athletic’s Joe Person (Twitter link) that he’ll collaborate with Rhule as the organization hunts for an assistance GM. The executive cautioned that the search could take some time.
  • The Falcons will hire Joe Whitt Jr. for a defensive position on the coaching staff, reports ESPN’s Vaughn McClure. Whitt Jr. previously served as the Browns pass-game coordinator/secondary coach, and he was Atlanata’s assistant defensive backs coach back in 2007. It’s uncertain what specific role Whitt Jr. will take on under defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.
  • Vic Tafur of The Athletic opines that the Raiders should add a playmaking wideout this offseason, and he notes that the organization “really like[s]” one impending free agent: Jets receiver Robby Anderson. Current Raiders senior offensive assistant John Morton was the Jets offensive coordinator when Anderson had his most productive season in 2017.

NFC East Notes: Giants, Judge, Cowboys

Before signing a whopping seven-year, $60MM+ deal with the Panthers, coach Matt Rhule asked if the Giants were willing to match the offer. The organization ultimately passed, and co-owner John Mara said the team wasn’t comfortable paying that kind of money for a first-time NFL coach.

“For a new head coach in the NFL, I just didn’t think that was a reasonable way to go,” Mara told SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano (Twitter link). The executive noted that the organization was also already excited about the prospect of hiring Joe Judge.

We heard yesterday that the Giants asked Rhule to meet with them in person, but Rhule pressed for a more definitive answer. When the Giants informed him that they would not match on the money or length of the deal, Rhule cancelled his Giants interview and accepted the Panthers offer, out of fear that owner David Tepper would pivot to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Let’s check out some more notes out of the NFC East…

  • Speaking of Judge, when Mara first met with the former Patriots ST coordinator, he wasn’t “really expecting all that much because I didn’t really know him” (via Vacchiano on Twitter). When asked if Judge was on Mara’s initial list of candidates, the executive gave a candid response: “If you asked me a week ago, 10 days ago, I would have said it probably would have been a long shot.”
  • Texas associate head coach and run game coordinator Stan Drayton was scheduled to meet with the Cowboys today, as ESPN’s Todd Archer passes along. Drayton does have a connection to the offense, as he coached Ezekiel Elliott back at Ohio State. The 48-year-old also previously served as the Bears running back coach. Archer adds that running backs coach Gary Brown could still return to the organization.
  • In case you missed it, former Redskins’ senior VP of player personnel Doug Williams will now serve as senior vice president of player development. The organization also parted ways with football operations vice president Eric Schaffer.

David Tepper Non-Committal On Cam Newton’s Panthers Future

Cam Newton is recovering from foot surgery and has one season remaining on his Panthers contract. Team owner David Tepper did not halt speculation that the former MVP will be traded.

While the second-year owner obviously did not indicate Newton would not be part of the 2020 Panthers, the prospect of the 30-year-old quarterback being dealt did not decrease after Matt Rhule‘s introductory presser.

Every player that buys into this, the more they buy into this, the more things can work,” Tepper said. “And that’s what we’re going to need here, is buy-in from people, OK? If we can get that kind of buy in sooner rather than later, no matter what the personnel is. We will try to use our personnel to the best possible [advantage], whoever that personnel is.”

Rhule stopped short of saying he wanted Cam Newton back but noted (via ESPN’s David Newton) he “certainly looks forward” to working with the nine-year veteran. The former Temple and Baylor HC did not articulate a precise course of action for the Panthers at the quarterback position, per GM Marty Hurney.

That’s something that we are going to have to sit down and talk about the whole time,” Hurney said. “But, you know, we’ve got a guy that was MVP of the NFL. [Rhule] knows that. This is all going to be a process. He’s going to have to get to know these guys and the roster.”

After an initial surge, the Panthers cratered without Newton this season. But losing their final eight games puts the Panthers in the No. 7 spot. That may be in range to nab a quarterback. However, the Dolphins and Chargers at Nos. 5-6 are prime landing spots for Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. Carolina moving Newton would supply the franchise with more draft capital for a potential trade-up while also running the risk of thrusting a team with several accomplished veterans into quarterback no man’s land.

Newton is attached to a manageable $18.6MM salary next season. Depending on how/when he recovers from his foot procedure, the former Heisman winner’s status with Carolina will be one of the offseason’s defining storylines.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.