Mike LaFleur

West Rumors: Pulley, 49ers, Broncos

The Chargers received upper-echelon production from Matt Slauson last season, with the veteran continuing to function well at center despite being a natural guard. Slauson being moved back to guard this offseason opens the door at center, and the Bolts have 2016 third-round pick Max Tuerk seemingly waiting in the wings after essentially redshirting as a rookie. But second-year UDFA Spencer Pulley is throwing off that natural succession plan presently. Pulley is currently the Bolts’ starting center, Eric Williams of ESPN.com notes, while pointing out that it’s still May and Tuerk will have a chance to compete.

I have a great comfort level with Spencer,” Philip Rivers said, via Williams. “That’s what he played in college his whole time there at Vandy. Slauson was great there last year, and Spencer played some there in that Cleveland game and a few other times, so I have a good feel with him. He’s had a heck of an offseason, so he’s in there right now with the first group and we’ll see how it goes.”

Pulley being ahead of Tuerk, who started at USC before catching the Mike McCoy-led Chargers’ eye last April, complicates matters for the former Trojan. Because the Chargers used their most recent third-round pick on Indiana interior lineman Dan Feeney, who joins second-round pick Forrest Lamp in the interior-line mix for Los Angeles. Williams doesn’t mention Feeney as a prime candidate here, so the Bolts could work him in at guard for now. Feeney did take reps at center earlier this offseason. Regardless of how this situation works out, the Chargers will have a remade interior line after relocating Slauson and cutting D.J. Fluker and Orlando Franklin.

Here are some more Western-division notes.

  • Kyle Shanahan plans to divide offense-management responsibilities based on how the ball travels. The new 49ers coach did not hire an offensive coordinator, as he’ll function in that role after serving as an OC for three different teams since 2013, but he assigned two assistants jobs. Mike McDaniel will be in charge of the ground game, and Mike LaFleur will oversee the passing attack, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports. Bobby Turner, who worked with both in Atlanta after many seasons on Mike Shanahan‘s staffs in Denver and Washington, is the team’s running backs coach. So, it looks like he and McDaniel will be working together for a 49ers team that saw Tom Rathman move on after many years of being involved with the team’s rushing attack.
  • Carlos Henderson rated as Broncos wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert‘s No. 5 wide receiver prospect, according to Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post. The Louisiana Tech prospect went to the Broncos in the third round and was the 10th wide receiver off the board. Wolfe expects Henderson to challenge for a return job as well after taking back three kickoffs for scores in his three-year college career. He and fifth-round rookie Isaiah McKenzie (five punt-return TDs from 2014-16) figure to enhance a Denver return game that’s struggled since Trindon Holliday‘s short but explosive run ended after the 2013 season.
  • It is clear to Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post that the Broncos want to give Paxton Lynch every chance to win the starting quarterback job over Trevor Siemian. Lynch is a high-risk, high-reward gunslinger, while Siemian is a no-nonsense game manager, but Kiszla points to the division rival Chiefs to explain why Denver wants Lynch to win the job. Kansas City’s Alex Smith, the definition of a solid, game-manager type quarterback, has been just good enough to get the Chiefs beaten in the playoffs, which prompted the team to jump through hoops to draft the immensely talented but erratic Patrick Mahomes in the first round of this year’s draft.
  • Derek Carr‘s extension talks with the Raiders are expected to ramp up, with the fourth-year passer believed to be in position to sign a deal that is a “strong step aboveAndrew Luck‘s five-year, $122.97MM deal.

Rory Parks contributed to this report.

Staff Notes: Chargers, 49ers, Falcons, Colts

Former Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith is interviewing for the Chargers‘ linebackers coach position, according to Jack Wang of the Orange County Register. Smith was fired by Atlanta on Wednesday after leading a defense that finished just 27th in DVOA, but linebackers are his specialty, as he’s coached the position at four other NFL stops. Smith’s interview could mean Los Angeles expects Robert Saleh, the team’s other candidate for ‘backers coach, to land the 49ers DC gig.

Here’s more from the 2017 hiring cycle:

  • New 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has lured yet another former Falcons staffer to San Francisco, as ex-Atlanta assistant Mike LaFleur will be the 49ers’ next wide receivers coach, tweets Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. LaFleur, who spent the previous two seasons with the Falcons after working in Cleveland during the 2014 campaign, is the brother of Matt LaFleur, who recently left Atlanta to become the Rams’ offensive coordinator. The 49ers also announced they’ve hired Nick Kray (administrative assistant to the head coach), T.C. McCartney (offensive assistant), and Ray Wright (strength and conditioning).
  • Although Chris Ballard left Kansas City to become the Colts‘ new general manager, Chiefs GM John Dorsey doesn’t expect Ballard to poach any KC staffers “right now,” tweets Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. Typically, an executive will try to bring at least a few low-level front office employees along to a new job, but it sounds like Ballard will be starting from scratch, and rolling with the incumbent Indianapolis staff for the time being.
  • The Falcons promoted Marquand Manuel to defensive coordinator earlier today, but that wasn’t the only change the club made to its defensive staff. As expected, Bryant Young has been named as Atlanta’s defensive line coach, replacing the fired Bryan Cox, while defensive assistant Doug Mallory has been promoted to secondary coach, taking over for Manuel, the club announced today.
  • Broncos assistant defensive backs backs coach Samson Brown had been set to join ex-Denver coordinator Wade Phillips on the Rams‘ coaching staff, but he’s experienced a last-minute change of heart and will be staying in Denver, per Marvez (Twitter link). It’s unclear how Brown’s decision will affect longtime NFL coach Johnnie Lynn, who was reportedly hired to replace Brown with the Broncos.
  • The Buccaneers have made a series of changes to their coaching staff and personnel department, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, who reports the Bucs have promoted Zack Grossi to offensive quality control coach, hired Anthony Perkins to replace Grossi as the club’s assistant to the head coach, and hired former NFL tight end Alex Smith as a pro scout. Tampa Bay has also hired Skyler Fulton as an offensive assistant, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com.
  • Vikings offensive assistant Drew Petzing could be a candidate for the club’s vacant wide receivers coach role, reports Andrew Kramer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter link). Longtime Minnesota WRs coach George Stewart defected for the Chargers earlier this offseason.

49ers To Hire Co-Defensive Coordinators?

Soon-to-be 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s staff appears to be taking shape, as Sporting News’ Alex Marvez details (Twitter links here). Among the offensive-minded Shanahan’s most important calls will be deciding who will run the 49ers’ woeful defense, and he’s actually targeting two assistants – Falcons defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson and ex-Jaguars linebackers coach Robert Saleh – to work as co-coordinators in San Francisco.

Kyle Shanahan (vertical)

Saleh’s candidacy is no surprise, as FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer reported Sunday that he could land with the 49ers, but Henderson’s emergence is a new development. Henderson is fresh off his first season in Atlanta – where he worked with Shanahan, of course – and is only a year removed from interviewing for the Browns’ then-vacant head coaching job.

Along with potentially taking Henderson from Atlanta, Shanahan is likely to tab Falcons offensive assistant Mike McDaniel as his wide receivers coach in San Francisco. Falcons offensive assistant Mike LaFleur will also go with Shanahan, reports Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (Twitter link).

Another NFC South assistant, Buccaneers tight ends coach Jon Embree, is poised to oversee the 49ers’ TEs and serve as an assistant head coach, per Marvez. And a pair of current 49ers assistants, linebackers coach Jason Tarver and defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley, are good bets to stay on under Shanahan. Tarver nearly headed elsewhere last month, when he met with the Redskins about becoming their defensive coordinator (a job that ultimately went to onetime 49ers DC Greg Manusky) and discussed a role with the Saints.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chip Kelly Legit OC Candidate For Falcons

Just over a week after the Falcons expressed interest in having Chip Kelly become their next offensive coordinator, the former Eagles and 49ers head coach has emerged as a “legitimate candidate” to land the role, reports Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Kelly would take over for Kyle Shanahan, who will replace Kelly as the 49ers’ head coach after the Falcons take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LI this Sunday.

Chip Kelly (vertical)

The fact that there aren’t any other proven offensive coordinator candidates on the market makes Kelly a viable option for Atlanta, Schultz notes. Long an offensive guru, the 53-year-old Kelly would inherit an enviable collection of talent in Atlanta, whose attack has laid waste to opposing defenses this season. The Matt Ryan-, Julio Jones– and Devonta Freeman-led unit topped the NFL in both scoring and DVOA during the regular season, and it has combined for 78 points in playoff wins over the Seahawks and Packers.

Kelly is known for running a fast-paced offense, which helped lead to his downfall in both Philadelphia and San Francisco, but the ex-Oregon head coach’s NFL failures have “humbled” him, according to Schultz. As a result, Kelly is willing to slow things down, which he’d have to do in order to accommodate the Falcons’ offensive weapons and make life easier on the team’s defense.

Shanahan, meanwhile, won’t be able to take any significant members of head coach Dan Quinn‘s staff with him to San Francisco. The Falcons will prevent him from pilfering the likes of assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Raheem Morris, running backs coach Bobby Turner and offensive line coach Chris Morgan, a source told Schultz. However, offensive assistants Mike McDaniel, Mike LaFleur and Matt LaFleur could end up with Shanahan’s 49ers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Falcons, Colts, Saints, Texans

In addition to announcing Dan Quinn as their new head coach today, the Falcons confirmed several other members of their coaching staff, via a team release. As previously reported, Kyle Shanahan will serve as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta, while Richard Smith will be the defensive coordinator and Raheem Morris will hold the title of assistant head coach and defensive passing game coordinator.

Other members of Quinn’s staff include Bobby Turner (RBs coach), Mike LaFleur (offensive assistant), Keith Armstrong (ST coordinator), Bryan Cox (DL coach), Wade Harman (TEs coach), Terry Robiskie (WRs coach), and Eric Sutulovich (assistant ST coach).

Here’s more on the Falcons and a few other teams from the NFC South and AFC South:

  • Perhaps more interesting than any of the Falcons‘ assistant coach announcements was the revelation that Quinn will indeed have control of the 53-man roster, as had been speculated (Twitter link via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution). As Albert Breer of the NFL Network tweets, GM Thomas Dimitroff still has final say over the draft and free agency, so it’s a setup similar to the one in Seattle.
  • Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will get paid, but Stephen Holder of the Indy Star doesn’t necessarily see it happening this offseason. When Luck does get that fat contract, likely worth $20-$25MM annually, it won’t leave the Colts completely thin across the board as the team has been anticipating this for quite some time. The Colts currently rank in the bottom half of the league in current spending, giving them significant flexibility both this year and in years to come.
  • Evan Woodbery of The Times-Picayune writes that the Saints will still have to do some serious financial maneuvering this offseason beyond turning roster bonuses into signing bonuses. That maneuvering, while keeping the Saints “legal” for the start of the new league year on March 10, would leave no room for signing new players or improving the roster. Many have said that the Saints will be impeded by their big spending, but Woodbery notes that they have found themselves in this spot before. Last offseason, they didn’t find themselves with a lot of breathing room, but they still found a way to sign safety Jairus Byrd to a large multi-year deal.
  • The Texans have hired Mike Devlin (OL coach), Pat O’Hara (offensive assistant), and Paul Pasqualoni (DL coach), and promoted Anthony Pleasant to a defensive assistant role, the team announced today in a press release.

Zach Links contributed to this post.