Mike Nolan

Bengals Considering Mike Nolan For DC?

The Bengals and new head coach Zac Taylor have “kicked the tires” on hiring Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com.

Cincinnati previously expressed interest in hiring Nolan’s boss, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, but New Orleans quickly locked up the latter to a new three-year contract. As indicated in PFR’s Coordinator Tracker, the Bengals also spoke with former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio (but decided the fit was not correct) and have been linked to ex-NFL head coach John Fox.

All three of those coaches offer prior head coaching experience, and Nolan would as well. In addition to working as a defensive coordinator for seven NFL clubs, Nolan also served as the 49ers’ head coach from 2005-08. Taylor, a first-time head coach at the age of 35, may feel the need to bring in a seasoned coach on the defensive side of the ball, perhaps emulating the setup employed by his former Rams club. When Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay was first hired at age-31, one of his first moves was to add veteran DC Wade Phillips to his staff.

Nolan, for his part, has historically preferred to run 3-4 schemes (although he’s worked in a 4-3 defense for the past two years in New Orleans). The Bengals used a 4-3 look for the duration of Marvin Lewis‘ time with the club, and there’s been no indication Cincinnati will move in a 3-4 direction. Given the prevalence of nickel and dime packages, the different fronts mean less than they once did.

The Bengals’ defense was a train wreck in 2018: the unit allowed 6,618 yards, the most yardage given up by a defense since the 2015 Giants. Lewis fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin at midseason and took on defensive play-calling duties, but Cincinnati’s defense arguably declined following Austin’s dismissal. The Bengals finished 27th in defensive DVOA, Football Outsiders‘ efficiency metric, but ranked 31st in weighted DVOA, which puts greater emphasis on more recent games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

GM/Staff Notes: 49ers, Colts, Saints, Broncos

The 49ers’ shocking general manager choice, John Lynch, will face a “steep” learning curve as a front office neophyte, ex-Lions GM Matt Millen told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. As was the case with Millen, whom Detroit hired in 2001, Lynch is coming from the broadcasting booth to take the helm of a franchise. It didn’t go well for Millen, under whom Detroit went 31-84 before it fired him in 2008. “You need to be schooled,” said Millen. “You need to be mentored. You need to have somebody you can go to. That’s not easy.” Lynch could have a less difficult time breaking into his new job than Millen, notes Branch, who points out that soon-to-be 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is likely to have 53-man roster control. Assistant GM Tom Gamble will also be around to help Lynch make the transition.

More on the NFL’s front offices and coaching staffs:

  • Newly minted Colts GM Chris Ballard received a five-year contract, according to Mike Chappell of FOX59. Colts vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye III was among the candidates Ballard beat out for the role, and owner Jim Irsay revealed Raye nearly got the job, per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. Irsay assured Raye, who will remain in the Colts’ Ballard-led front office, that someone else will give him a shot as a GM if the Colts orchestrate a turnaround (all Twitter links here).
  • While Ballard reportedly isn’t committed to going forward with Chuck Pagano beyond the 2017 season, he spoke glowingly of the five-year head coaching veteran Monday. “There were no other options. Chuck Pagano is a great coach,” said Ballard (Twitter link via Holder). Upon Ballard’s hiring, Pagano stated Sunday that he’s “extremely excited” to work with the rookie GM (via the Colts’ Twitter account).
  • The Saints have hired Mike Nolan to coach their linebackers, his previous employer, SiriusXM NFL Radio, announced (on Twitter). Nolan coached the Chargers’ linebackers in 2015 and has been a defensive coordinator with seven teams, though he’s best known for an 18-37 run as San Francisco’s head coach from 2005-08.
  • Broncos head coach Vance Joseph has added “assistant head coach” to running backs coach Eric Studesville‘s title, tweets Mike Klis of 9News. Studesville drew interest from the Jets earlier this month in their search for an offensive coordinator, but he elected to stay in Denver, where he has coached RBs since 2010.

Coaching Notes: Jets, Saints, Jaguars, Bears

Jets head coach Todd Bowles wasn’t blindsided by former offensive coordinator Chan Gailey‘s retirement. The second-year coach told Darryl Slater of NJ.com that Gailey had told him last offseason that 2016 would be his final season in the NFL. Bowles acknowledged that this made it easier to plan for the upcoming offseason, and he refuted suggestions that Gailey’s impending retirement had a negative impact on the Jets’ offense.

“No, I respect Chan to the utmost,” Bowles said. “He doesn’t do anything without thinking about it — and for a reason. And I respect his privacy. I won’t even go into that. But I love him to death. I still do. I’m happy for him. He wanted to go out his way, and he did.” 

So who will replace Gailey as the team’s new offensive coordinator? Bowles is apparently leaning towards one candidate, but he wouldn’t reveal who that is.

“I’m pretty sure where I’m going,” Bowles told Connor Hughes of NJ.com. “I can’t say anything. When we hire somebody, I will let you know.”

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

  • The Saints were busy today. Alex Marvez of The Sporting News reports (via Twitter) that the team interviewed former Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis for the same position, and he notes that the team will interview both Brian VanGorder and Mike Nolan for defensive staff positions. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweets that the organization also interviewed 49ers outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver to be their next linebackers coach.
  • Speaking of Nolan, Marvez tweets that the longtime coach has taken himself out of the running to become the Jaguars linebackers coach. However, the former 49ers head coach is still “considering other opportunities.” The 57-year-old last worked in the NFL as the Chargers’ linebackers coach in 2015.
  • While Nolan and others are potentially looking to join the Saints coaching staff, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com caught up with Bill Johnson, who was recently let go as the team’s defensive line coach. Johnson had spent eight seasons in New Orleans, including the team’s Super Bowl-winning campaign. However, he understood that all good things must come to an end. “I was there a long time,” he said. “Everybody’s got a shelf life, and you move on. But, it was good.”
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets that the Bears still haven’t hired a replacement for outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, who left the organization to join the Seahawks. Biggs notes that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive quality control assistant Sean Desai have been working with the outside linebackers during practice for the Senior Bowl.

Coaching Notes: 49ers, Jaguars, Broncos

During their head coaching search, which is now down to Kyle Shanahan and Tom Cable, the 49ers have admitted to candidates that their “roster is in shambles,” writes Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. As such, CEO Jed York and executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe have promised during interviews that they’ll exhibit patience and a willingness to expend resources. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels bowed out of the race for San Francisco’s head coaching job Monday, but he did praise both York and Marathe. “I was really impressed with Jed York and Paraag and Brian (Hampton), and people that came for the 49ers organization,” McDaniels told reporters (via Maiocco). “They did a great job with their presentation.” 

More coaching updates:

  • Speaking of San Francisco, the Jaguars plan to interview Mike Nolan for their vacant linebackers coach position, reports Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link). Nolan, 57, is best known for serving as San Fran’s head coach from 2005-08, during which the team went just 18-37. He also has extensive experience as an assistant, having worked as a defensive coordinator for seven different clubs. Now an analyst, Nolan last served as a linebackers coach with the Chargers in 2015.
  • The Broncos are set to hire Marcus Robertson as their defensive backs coach, according to Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). He’ll take over for Joe Woods, whom new Broncos head coach Vance Joseph promoted to defensive coordinator. Robertson, who played in the NFL from 1991-2002, has coached secondaries in Tennessee, Detroit and Oakland since 2007. He was the Raiders’ DBs coach over the past two seasons.
  • Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl is stepping down to spend more time with his family, tweets Jordan Rodrigue of ESPN.com. The former wideout was Carolina’s receivers coach for four years.
  • The Jaguars will add Clemson assistant Marion Hobby to their staff, likely as the defensive line coach, per Marvez (Twitter link). Hobby has been the co-defensive coordinator and defensive ends coach at Clemson since 2011, and is coming off a national championship-winning season with the Tigers.

NFC QB Notes: Cousins, Rodgers, 49ers, Giants

The Redskins didn’t put forth much of an effort to sign quarterback Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal in advance of Friday afternoon’s deadline for franchise-tagged players, reports Mike Garafolo of NFL Media. In fact, the offer the Redskins presented Cousins at February’s scouting combine – $16MM per year and a total of $24MM in guarantees – never changed before the deadline, per Garafolo. Accepting that would’ve placed Cousins an underwhelming 21st among QBs in average annual salary, notes Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com. Cousins will instead play the year under the $19.95MM franchise tender he signed in March, and while that doesn’t give the 2015 breakout star long-term security, he is set to lead all signal-callers in 2016 salary. If Cousins proves last year wasn’t a fluke and the Redskins tag him again as a result, he’ll rake in an even richer amount, $23.94MM.

More on Cousins and some other NFC passers:

  • Although the Redskins’ offer to Cousins wasn’t in line with his outstanding production from last season, the organization thought it better to err on the side of caution and continue to make the 27-year-old prove he’s worthy of a substantial commitment over the long haul, writes John Keim of ESPN.com. Cousins has fans within the franchise, but others lack full certainty that he isn’t a one-year wonder. “It’s a critical moment for Kirk and the franchise,” one of Cousins’ teammates told Keim in regards to the upcoming season. “If this pans out, the franchise is set for the next eight years.” Like the anonymous player, Keim expects the Redskins to give Cousins a multiyear contract if he has another strong season.
  • In an interview with HBO’s Bill Simmons, the PackersAaron Rodgers relayed the possible reason why the 49ers passed on him with the first pick in the 2005 draft (via CSNBayArea.com). “The story that I heard—and I don’t know if it’s true or not—that Mike Nolan said that when he saw Alex (Smith) open the car door for his mom that he knew that was the quarterback he wanted,” Rodgers said of Nolan, who was then the 49ers’ head coach. “And I said, ‘Well, I was at lunch with him. My mom wasn’t there and my dad wasn’t there.” Smith, now with the Chiefs, has experienced a fine career after some initial growing pains, but Rodgers – who fell to the 24th selection that year – is a Super Bowl champion and a Pro Football Hall of Fame shoo-in. Nolan, who may have taken the wrong QB based on preposterous rationale, is out of work after spending last season as the linebackers coach in San Diego. The 49ers went 18-37 during his three-plus-year tenure.
  • The Giants plucked Logan Thomas off waivers less than a month ago, but his time with Big Blue could be short-lived, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. Rookie head coach Ben McAdoo‘s predecessor, Tom Coughlin, was a proponent of keeping two QBs, and Schwartz writes that it wouldn’t be a surprise for McAdoo to operate the same way. With Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib atop the Giants’ depth chart under center, Thomas might not make it to Week 1 in their uniform.

West Notes: Lynch, Irvin, Nolan, Cardinals

Appearing on Dave Mahler’s radio show on 950 KJR, former Seahawks fullback (and current NFL Network commentator) Michael Robinson said “it’s fair to assume” that Seattle will part ways with running back Marshawn Lynch prior to next season, per Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk. Seahawks general manager John Schneider said last month that Lynch may retire, but the smart play for Beast Mode is probably to force the team to release him, as he wouldn’t have to return signing bonus money if he’s cut. If Seattle does release Lynch, they’d save $6.5MM against their 2016 salary cap.

Let’s take a look at a few more notes from the West divisions:

  • Vinny Curry‘s recent extension with the Eagles is a good sign for Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin, opines Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. Curry’s contract — five years, $47MM, $18MM guaranteed — could set a target for Irvin, who is heading for unrestricted free agency, and as Kapadia notes, is probably a more versatile player than Curry. Irvin did suggest last month that he’d accept less money to stay in Seattle.
  • Longtime NFL coach Mike Nolan expressed interest in the 49ers defensive coordinator position earlier this year, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (Twitter link). Nolan, of course, served as San Francisco’s head coach 2005-08, but spent last season as the Chargers’ linebackers coach. He’s been linked to the Cowboys’ defensive backs position this offseason.
  • Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill believes that with a “couple more pieces,” his club will be a Super Bowl contender in 2016, writes Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. Bidwill voiced his faith in Arizona’s “core players,” which makes it sound as though the club will target upgrades on the margins. Indeed, head coach Bruce Arians said last month that while the Cardinals will look for pass rush help this offseason, they don’t expect to make a big splash in free agency.
  • In their efforts to complete a deal for a new stadium, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and Chargers owner Dean Spanos have spoken by phone this week, but have yet to meet face-to-face, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The two sides are expected to begin more formal talks soon, per Acee.

East Notes: Cowboys, Dolphins, Bromley

Earlier today, we heard that the Cowboys were set to talk to former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan about their defensive backs coach position, but Nolan isn’t the only candidate for the opening. According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Twitter), the Cowboys will also interview Tim Lewis, lost his job as the Niners’ defensive backs coach last month.

Alex Marvez of FOX Sports adds a few more names to the Cowboys’ list of possible targets, tweeting that the team has already interviewed Titans assistant secondary coach Steve Brown, former Colts assistant Mike Gillhamer, and former Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden, who has since been hired by the Lions. Even with Golden off the table, it certainly seems that Dallas has no shortage of candidates to replace Jerome Henderson.

Here are a few more items of interest from around the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • It’s only been a few hours since word broke that the Browns are expected to cut Johnny Manziel when the 2016 league year officially begins, but that’s plenty of time for the speculation about Manziel landing with the Cowboys to rev up. As Todd Archer of ESPN.com and David Moore of the Dallas Morning News observe, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted to select Manziel during the 2014 draft, but was talked out of it by other members of the team’s front office, and the quarterback has shown little since then – on or off the field – to make the club regret that decision. Still, Jones may still harbor some optimism for Manziel’s potential, and as Mike Sando of ESPN.com (Insider link) writes, the team hasn’t shied away from signing players with character red flags.
  • The linebacker position “will be of particular interest” for the Dolphins throughout this offseason, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, who writes that the club will be looking for two starting-caliber linebackers. Salguero suggests Miami will likely try to replace middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and outside linebacker Koa Misi this winter, if possible.
  • A police source tells Ryan Sit and Rocco Parascandola of the New York Daily News that investigators have uncovered “significant discrepancies” in the story told by the woman who accused Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley of assaulting and attempting to rape her. Bromley has steadfastly denied his accuser’s allegations.

Coaching Notes: Cowher, McDermott, Hirings

With CBS broadcasting this year’s Super Bowl, Bill Cowher is in San Francisco to cover the game for the network. But just because he’s on the media side of things now doesn’t mean he can avoid questions about a potential return to coaching.

Asked on Monday about that possibility, Cowher said that he didn’t have any contact with the Giants about their head coaching job after Tom Coughlin resigned, but the former Steelers head coach didn’t rule out a return to an NFL sideline, as Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News details.

“You know what? I’ve never shut a door,” Cowher said. “I don’t think you need to shut a door that you don’t need to. I’m very happy at CBS. I love what I’m doing. I’m 58 years old. I feel young. I still feel involved in the game. But this element of the game gives me a life that I was never able to experience before…. I never say never, but I’m very, very satisfied with where I’m at.”

Here are several more coaching-related updates from around the NFL:

  • Speaking to the media on Monday night, Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott confirmed that he spoke to Howie Roseman about the Eagles‘ head coaching opening, despite not having a formal interview with the team, writes Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We had some preliminary talks,” McDermott said. “It was clear from the beginning they wanted to go offense.”
  • The Cowboys are looking to hire a replacement for defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, who joined the Falcons, and the next coach Dallas is talking to is former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
  • Alex Marvez of FOX Sports has the details on a couple additions to the Browns‘ coaching staff, reporting (via Twitter) that the team has hired Johnny Holland and Eric Sanders. Holland, who had been working in the CFL, resigned from the B.C. Lions last month because he knew he would have a position on Hue Jackson‘s staff, according to Marvez, who adds that Holland will be the Browns’ inside linebackers coach (Twitter links). Sanders, a Stanford defensive assistant, will join the Browns in the same capacity.
  • The Chargers have hired former Titans quarterbacks coach John McNulty as their new tight ends coach, according to Marvez (via Twitter). McNulty has a longtime connection to former Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who has now returned to the offensive coordinator role in San Diego.
  • The Titans have completed their coaching staff, hiring Keith Willis as the team’s assistant defensive line coach and Brandon Blaney as a defensive assistant, the club announced in a press release.

Coach Rumors: Koetter, Bucs, Babich

Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, the presumed favorite to replace Lovie Smith as Tampa Bay’s head coach, has finally had a formal interview with the team, tweets Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

While Koetter’s name surfaced as a candidate for the job within minutes of the team parting ways with Smith, the Buccaneers interviewed two other candidates first — Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott sat down with the Bucs during their respective teams’ bye weeks.

Let’s check in on a few more coaching-related stories from around the NFL….

  • The Chargers have hired former Jacksonville DC Bob Babich as their new linebackers coach, as Ricky Henne of Chargers.com writes. The job was previously held by Mike Nolan, who has moved on to other opportunities. Babich has 33 years of coaching experience, including his DC job in Jacksonville from 2013-2015.
  • Cowboys defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, who interviewed with the Browns for their head coaching position, has elected to remain with the Cowboys, tweets Josina Anderson of ESPN.com. Henderson never seemed likely to land Cleveland’s HC job, but there were rumblings suggesting he would join Adam Gase‘s staff with the Dolphins.
  • Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer announced today that he has not renewed Jeff Davidson‘s contract, meaning Minnesota will be in the market for a new offensive line coach (Twitter link via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). Per Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter link), Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty will interview for the Vikings’ position.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

NFC Rumors: Packers, Falcons, Saints

With playoff seeds potentially set to be finalized across the NFC this weekend, let’s look at some news coming out of some of the conference’s locales.

  • The Packers‘ decision to sign rookie long snapper Rick Lovato instead of a veteran special teams presence surprised some coaches, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. “I want a veteran,” an NFC special teams coach told McGinn. “Try a rookie in camp, not on a playoff run.” Another coach called Lovato’s game tape “terrible” but saw marketed improvement at his pro day this past spring, and the rookie agreed with that assessment. Two AFC special teams coaches didn’t rank Lovato among their top four draft-eligible snappers, McGinn writes.
  • Mason Crosby could command a deal that pays him $4MM per year and guarantees him $8MM this offseason, Tom Silverstein of the Journal-Sentinel writes. The Packers’ patience with Crosby after a 2012 season where he missed 12 field goals has paid off, with the ninth-year kicker missing just 14 over the past three seasons. “Obviously, I want to be a Packer. I love playing here. This is all I know. It’s home to me,” Crosby told media, including Silverstein. “It’s a special place. I would love nothing more than to just continue my career here.”Stephen Gostkowski is the only kicker who makes more than $4MM per year. Justin Tucker and Adam Vinatieri are a couple of the notable kickers that comprise the upcoming free agent class.
  • Marques Colston, Jahri Evans and Zach Strief could be part of the next batch of Saints veterans cut for salary cap relief, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com writes. The Saints are again in cap turmoil, residing $4MM+ over the 2016 cap presently. Set to play on an $8.2MM cap number, and $7.1MM worth of dead money, Evans has the best chance of sticking around, Duncan notes, due to a potential release of the perennially durable guard netting the team barely $1MM in cap savings. Cutting Colston, who’s been usurped by Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, would save $3.2MM. A Strief release, however, would save the Saints just $1.3MM.
  • Embattled Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff‘s penchant for allowing his coaches significant input in key personnel decisions has led to some slip-ups in recent years, Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Mike Smith preferred the Falcons select Ra’Shede Hageman in the second round last year, and then-defensive coordinator Mike Nolan convinced the GM to build a 3-4 defensive front around Paul Soliai and first-round bust Tyson Jackson a year earlier, Schultz writes.