Mike Bajakian

Falcons, Lions, Texans Interested In Pat Fitzgerald?

Buzz surrounding Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald may be more relevant this year. Two years after he declined NFL interest, the Big Ten HC is interested in making a jump, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

He appears to have a few suitors. The Falcons and Lions are interested in Fitzgerald, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. And despite a previous report indicating the Texans are not looking to hire a college coach, La Canfora adds that Houston is interested as well.

The Falcons and Lions are moving forward with their respective searches. Both teams are interviewing Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy and Titans OC Arthur Smith. Each team interviewed its interim coach — Raheem Morris and Darrell Bevell, respectively — and Michigan native Robert Saleh has been a frontrunner for this post for a bit now. But Fitzgerald has displayed impressive credentials at Northwestern.

The Wildcats have won 10 games three times since Fitzgerald, a Northwestern player on one of those teams (1995), took over in 2006. In the program’s previous 100-plus years, it only reached the 10-win plateau twice. Northwestern went 7-2 this year. Fitzgerald, 46, is not expected to take every interview possible, JLC adds, but he is squarely back on the NFL radar after not being connected to any pro jobs last year. He would be the third college coach to jump in the past three years, following Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Rhule. Northwestern OC Mike Bajakian, the Buccaneers’ QBs coach from 2015-18, has also received interest as an NFL assistant, La Canfora notes.

It now appears Nick Caserio will be offering key input into Houston’s HC hire, so it would be interesting if the 20-year NFL exec and Division III alum would go with a longtime college coach.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Luck, Chiefs, Mariota

Let’s take a look at some interesting notes as we wrap up this Pro Bowl Sunday:

  • Reports have suggested that the Colts will make their star quarterback Andrew Luck the highest-paid player in the NFL, but Luck hasn’t had a chance to worry about his contract as of yet, writes Stephen Holder of IndyStar.com“There’s nothing there right now,” Luck said. “I didn’t think about it all during the season and it’s only been a few days since it ended. I haven’t thought about it. I will have conversations with my agent just because you have to prepare, but I’m not sure where that report came from.”
  • The Chiefs will need to address a number of weaknesses this offseason if they have any hope of getting back to the playoffs in 2015. Their top priorities will be across the offensive line and at wide receiver. Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star highlights seven potential free agents that could come in and have an immediate impact. He chooses four offensive lineman the team could target, as well as receivers Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin to end the infamous “consecutive weeks without a touchdown to a wide receiver” streak.
  • The speculation on whether Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston will be the first quarterback selected in the 2015 NFL draft will undoubtedly dominate that part of the offseason, but Chris Mortensen of ESPN painted a picture that had the Buccaneers taking Mariota first overall, writes Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). Mortenson connected the dots between Mariota and Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, under whom Mark Helfrich began his career in offensive coaching. He also referenced Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian’s history running the spread offense.
  • ESPN put together an evaluation of the rosters of all 30 NFL teams that missed the Super Bowl this year, with the goal of finding out how far away their rosters are from realistic Super Bowl contention. Using Pro Football Focus player grades for the 2014 season, the list ranks every team based on how many above average players they need to add (or develop) before having enough to field a team strong enough to win its conference. ESPN’s report places the Cowboys as the closest to the Super Bowl, and place the Jaguars furthest away.

Coach Updates: Eagles, Raiders, Bucs, Fewell

We’ve already seen one club make a defensive coordinator hire today, as the 49ers promoted Eric Mangini from tight ends coach to DC. Let’s take a look at some position coach hires and news from around the league…

  • The Eagles are expected to add Boston College offensive coordinator Ryan Day as their quarterbacks coach, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link). Day, who’s been at BC for nine years, will replace Bill Musgrave, who left to take the Raiders’ OC position. Day has a history with Eagles HC Chip Kelly, as Day played under and coached with Kelly at New Hampshire.
  • The Raiders have also found a new QB coach, as they are set to hire Bills quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, per Caplan (on Twitter). Downing also interviewed for roles with the Browns and Buccaneers, according to Caplan.
  • Not to be outdone, the Buccaneers have become the third team to hire a new QBs coach, as they’ve brought in Mike Bajakian to fill their vacancy, reports Roy Cummings of the Tampa Bay Tribune (Twitter link). Bajakian, previously the offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee, worked under Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith with the Bears. The Bucs have also added ex-Falcons assistant Andrew Weidinger as an offensive quality control coach, writes Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times.
  • Ex-Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has an interview lined up with the 49ers, according to Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4 (via Twitter). San Francisco just hired Mangini, so Fewell is presumably a candidate for the Niners’ DB coach job, as Cam Inman of the Mercury News tweets.
  • Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com expects (Twitter link) that Falcons assistant offensive line coach Wade Harman will remain on staff as the tight ends coach; as McClure notes, Harman held that same role in Baltimore from 1998-2013.
  • Former 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell has accepted the same position with the Bears, but as Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes, Donatell might have missed out on other opportunities in the past. In each of the last two offseasons, San Francisco blocked Donatell from accepting interview requests from the Buccaneers and the Saints, per Maiocco.