Mike Smith

Buccaneers Fire DC Mike Smith

The Buccaneers have fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Linebackers coach Mark Duffner will serve as Tampa Bay’s interim DC, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Smith’s firing shouldn’t come as a total surprise, as the Buccaneers have fielded one of the NFL’s worst defenses this season. Tampa Bay ranks dead last in points allowed per game (34.6) and 31st in yards per game, and has allowed a whopping 82 points over its past two contests, both of which were losses. The Buccaneers are now on pace to give up the most points in NFL history, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Advanced metrics aren’t a fan of Smith’s Buccaneers defense, either, as the club ranks last in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, which measures overall efficiency. Tampa Bay also ranks poorly in pace stats, as the team is 31st in both yards allowed per drive and points allowed per drive. All of Football Outsiders’ metrics were calculated before the Buccaneers gave up 34 points to the Falcons on Sunday.

The Buccaneers attempted to revamp their defense over the offseason, especially along the defensive line, where they acquired Jason Pierre-Paul via trade, signed Vinny Curry and Beau Allen, and drafted Vita Vea in the first round. However, Tampa Bay ranks just 27th in adjusted sack rate. That’s an untenable lack of pressure, especially given the Buccaneers’ problems in the secondary, where starters Chris Conte and Vernon Hargreaves are on injured reserve.

Smith, 59, was hired as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator prior to the 2016 campaign, and the Buccaneers made him the NFL’s highest-paid DC, per Rapoport (Twitter link). While the Bucs’ defense finished a respectable 13th in defensive DVOA in 2016, the unit fell to 32nd in 2017 before its struggles continued into this season. Smith, of course, was the Falcons’ head coach from 2008-14, compiling a 66-46 record during that time.

Duffner, meanwhile, offers a wealth of coaching experience, both at the collegiate and pro level. He’s been with the Buccaneers since 2016, and has previously held linebacker coach positions with the Bengals, Packers, Jaguars, and Dolphins. Duffner served as defensive coordinator (in addition to his positional duties) in 2001-02.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Panthers, Cardinals, Bengals, Bucs

There’s plenty of uncertainty when it comes to the Panthers organization, as owner Jerry Richardson is shopping the team and they’re currently rolling with an interim general manager in Marty Hurney. However, the team is looking to establish some stability by locking up head coach Ron Rivera.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the organization is prioritizing locking up their head coach long term. While talks have just started, the reporter expects negotiations to quickly heat up. Meanwhile, many in the organization are hoping that Hurney is promoted to full-time general manager, although the team will presumably explore their options before committing to the executive.

Rivera last signed a three-year deal worth $19.5MM. That deal would take the head coach through the 2018 season, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of urgency for the organization to lock up their head coach this offseason.

Let’s take a look at some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hasn’t informed the organization about his future, but Rapoport reports that the team is “more confident than ever” that he’ll return. Still, since there is some uncertainty, the organization is exploring other potential options, and Rapoport notes that one of those candidates is Texans coach Bill O’Brien. If available, the Cardinals have made it clear that O’Brien would be atop their list of targets. Arians is under contract through the 2018 season, but there’s been chatter that the 65-year-old could retire to better focus on his health.
  • Unsurprisingly, there’s some concern that Browns head coach Hue Jackson may have lost his locker room, reports Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. This concern recently came to a head when running back Isaiah Crowell “liked” a series of tweets that were critical of Jackson. Meanwhile, Florio notes that there are whispers that some of the team’s defensive players are upset with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his son, Blake, who is the Browns’ linebackers coach.
  • The Bengals are eyeing Jackson or Jay Gruden for their impending head coaching vacancy, reports Florio. It’d be a homecoming for the pair, as both Jackson and Gruden served as offensive coordinators for Marvin Lewis. The writer notes that Lewis could ultimately be promoted to a front office role.
  • Even if Dirk Koetter sticks around as the Buccaneers head coach, Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders is convinced the organization will require some other coaching changes. Specifically, defensive coordinator Mike Smith could be on the hot seat, and the team could look towards former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley as a replacement.

NFC East Notes: Giants, Redskins, Jones

Now that the Giants front office and coaching staff is set to go through a number of changes after the firing of Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo, there’s a ton of speculation of who could be the person put in charge to bring the franchise back to perennial success.

While many people think the hire will come outside the organization, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network thinks interim GM Kevin Abrams should not be overlooked as the Giants begin their search.

Garafolo notes that Abrams is a “cap guy by trade”, but has worked on his scouting ability in recent years and has “attended multiple NFL seminars” to prepare to lead a football operations department. A number of names are likely to be floated for the job given that the team will likely have a high pick and has a track record of winning, but Abrams seems like he might get a realistic shot at turning his interim tag into a full-time position.

Here’s more from around the NFC East:

  • Apart from Abrams, Mike Sando of ESPN.com speculated a few candidates from outside the organization who could be contenders for the Giants general manager and head coaching gigs. Sando names front office guys like Nick Caserio from the Patriots, former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman and former Colts President Bill Polian. He also highlights many well known up-and-comers such as Eric DeCosta (Ravens), George Paton (Vikings), Eliot Wolf (Packers) and Terry McDonough (Cardinals) among many others. Sando added that former GM’s Scott Pioli (Falcons) and John Dorsey (free agent) could be intriguing hires as well. In terms of potential head coaching candidates, Sando names guys who were on the teams original list back before they hired McAdoo prior the 2016-17 season. This would include current coordinators like Teryl Austin (Lions) and Mike Smith (Buccaneers). An under-the-radar name to watch is Texans defensive coordinator, Mike Vrabel, who is best known for his time leading the Patriots defense to Super Bowl titles.
  • While the Redskins are out of the NFC playoff race after losing to the Cowboys last Thursday, that doesn’t mean that team will start resting their players, states John Keim of ESPN.com. He passes along that Head coach Jay Gruden said that he wouldn’t rest some of their injured starters just because the games don’t have postseason implications for the team. “They’re all trying to get back in the lineup,” Gruden said. “They’re going to play hard because they want to win and want to do well. That’s the reason they’re all here. We try to target guys that love football, are passionate about the game and are going to play hard no matter what. For the most part, we’ve got that here. So whether you are on one year left or five years left, doesn’t really matter.” Starters like left tackle Trent Williams, right tackle Morgan Moses and tight end Jordan Reed have all dealt with nagging injuries this season, but it appears that the Redskins won’t just solely be resting key players hoping that could lead to a better draft pick.
  • Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones has not played in a game this season as he’s continued to rehab the achilles that he had torn back in March. However, the rookie has yet to participate in practice, reports Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Jones has been eligible to start practicing since the beginning of Week 7, but has just a 21 day time period to be activated to the roster once he does begin to take part in practice. It’s important to note that Berman explains in a follow-up tweet, Jones could just use the last three weeks of the regular season to get extra reps and get a head start on his offseason training. The Eagles currently have corners Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Ronald Darby and Rasul Douglas patrolling the defensive backfield.

NFC Notes: Giants, Bradham, Gholston

The Giants coaching questions are now back in full force after the team lost to Washington on Thanksgiving night. There was some reprieve from the consistent rumors after Giants head coach Ben McAdoo beat the Chiefs two weeks ago, but now there is speculation about where the front office may turn if they chose to replace McAdoo at the end of this season.

Ralph Vacchiano of SNY speculated a number potential candidates to replace McAdoo if the team were to move on from the second-year head coach. Vacchiano had a number of former head coaches on his list, which included Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith. He also included big college names that seem a little more like long shots in Stanford head coach David Shaw and Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Up and coming coordinators Teryl Austin and Frank Reich rounded out his list.

New York is a pretty big draw that could get a few more well known coaches to at least consider the position. Plus, the team will have a top pick, solid defense and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. to build around. More coaching rumors will be popping up as the seasons moves along, but it’s interesting to see what names may be on the radar, even though there’s been no indication that the front office will assuredly to fire McAdoo.

  • The Giants have dealt with a number of injuries this season. The team has likely lost two more players for the season in cornerback Donte Deayon (fractured forearm) and linebacker Curtis Grant (knee), reports Dan Duggan of NJ Advanced Media. New York has placed seven defenders on IR so far this season, so losing two more depth pieces doesn’t bode well for how competitive the Giants can be in the final six weeks of the regular season.
  • The Eagles are the best team in the NFL right now, and are in the process of deciding which of their building blocks to lock up for the long haul. The team already agreed to a contract extension with Timmy Jernigan earlier in the month and now may be turning their attention to linebacker Nigel Bradham, opines Jeff McLane of The Inquirer. A former fourth round pick back in 2012, the 28-year-old leads the team in tackles with 56 and ranks as the 33rd best linebacker in football, according to Pro Football Focus. The Eagles have 13 players heading for unrestricted free agency after the season, so they’ll definitely have to make some tough decisions regarding who they want to build around and who they’re willing to let go.
  • The Buccaneers will likely welcome back William Gholston this Sunday after the defensive end missed the team’s previous two games with a neck injury, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. While the absence seems short when compared to some other more serious injuries, Gholston is thankful that the ailment wasn’t more severe. “The neck is a little worrisome, because you have to think about everything else, think about family and all that,” Gholston said. “They definitely took all of the correct steps. … I’m not glad it happened, but I’m glad they took the right steps for me to get back.” Tampa Bay will try to extend their win streak to three games when travel to Atlanta for a Sunday afternoon matchup.

Buccaneers Extend DC Mike Smith

The Chargers’ coaching search will no longer include Mike Smith, who signed an extension to remain the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Smith also withdrew his name from the Chargers’ HC search earlier today, per Schefter (via Twitter).

Smith will now coach a second season with the Bucs, who hired the former Falcons coach to replace Leslie Frazier last year. The newly branded Los Angeles Chargers will continue to go through their options after Smith, Vance Joseph and Sean McDermott removed their names from consideration due to respective job offers elsewhere.

Anthony Lynn remains a strong candidate for the Bolts’ HC gig, with the former Bills interim head coach entering his interview today as the frontrunner to become the relocating franchise’s next sideline leader, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Lynn remains at his Chargers interview, Tom Pelissero of USA Today tweets. The Chargers have interviewed six coaches for their HC vacancy, with Lynn being the only one to do so after news of the team’s relocation to Los Angeles became public.

Smith interviewed for the Chargers’ job last week, becoming the first candidate to do so. The 57-year-old coach also interviewed for the Jaguars’ HC job. His initial Tampa Bay defense ranked 23rd, with the unit falling off its top-10 perch from 2015. Frazier’s defense slotted 10th in 2015.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Reactions to Jaguars’ Hirings

The Jaguars have officially announced the hiring of head coach Doug Marrone and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin. The organization also announced the two-year extension for general manager Dave Caldwell. Owner Shad Khan released a statement regarding the moves (via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport on Twitter):

“I have confidence that one day soon we’ll look back on today’s news as the moment that inspired and ultimately established the Jacksonville Jaguars as a football team that wins, week to week and season to season.

“I am honored to welcome Tom Coughlin back to Jacksonville, where winning was customary under his leadership. I know he expects the same in his return to head our football operations, and that’s good news for us and Jaguars fans everywhere. The extension of Dave Caldwell’s contract speaks to his excellent work thus far and the continued importance of complementing our talented and promising roster. 

“I am particularly enthused to introduce Doug Marrone as our new head coach. Doug is a strong football man in every respect and offers us qualities that will serve us well in all facets of the team, from the meeting rooms to game day and much more. The results will speak for themselves in time, but with Tom coming in to join Dave and Doug, there is no question the Jacksonville Jaguars are a stronger football team today.”

Let’s take a look at some reactions out of Jacksonville following the organization’s busy day…

  • Caldwell will report to Coughlin, reports ESPN.com’s Mike DiRocco. The writer assumes that Coughlin “will have final say over personnel issues as well as the draft,” although the organization hasn’t confirmed whether this will be the case. A source told Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union (via Twitter) that Coughlin presumably “has the final say on everything.”
  • Marrone believes Blake Bortles can be a franchise quarterback, and this mindset played a significant role in the hiring, reports Rapoport (via NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal). The organization clearly valued continuity, but Rosenthal notes that there will be “pressure on Marrone and Caldwell to turn Jacksonville’s fortunes around quickly.”
  • Bortles certainly sounded optimistic about the hiring. “I think Doug has earned the respect of the offensive players and I’m excited for him to get this opportunity and the direction of this team,” Bortles told DiRocco.
  • Rosenthal notes that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will presumably keep his role. Hackett worked under Marrone with Syracuse and the Bills.
  • Meanwhile, Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets that the Jaguars’ defensive coaches were told they’d be retained if Marrone got the job. Alex Marvez of The Sporting News provides even more clarity (on Twitter), noting that the team will at least be keeping defensive coordinator Todd Wash and linebackers coach Robert Saleh.
  • Mike Smith was thought to be a close second for the Jaguars job, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports tweets. The former Falcons head coach served as the Buccaneers defensive coordinator this past season. In seven seasons in Atlanta, Smith led his squad to a 66-46 record and four playoff births. Roy Cummings of FloridaFootballInsiders.com writes that Smith is still in the running for the Chargers‘ head coaching gig.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Coaching/FO News & Rumors: 1/5/17

The Saints will have a significantly different coaching staff next year, as the team parted with assistants Joe Vitt (assistant head coach/linebackers), Bill Johnson (defensive line), Greg McMahon (special teams coordinator), Stan Kwan (assistant special teams) and James Willis (assistant linebackers) on Thursday, according to Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link). These changes are a sign that head coach Sean Payton isn’t going anywhere, observes Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Vitt is the longest-tenured staff member to go, having served with the club since 2006. He filled in as New Orleans’ interim head coach when the NFL suspended Payton for the entire 2012 season because of the Bountygate scandal.

Let’s check in on more of the latest coaching- and front office-related happenings:

  • 49ers: With vacancies at general manager and head coach, the Niners are set to to interview a couple members of the Carolina organization. Panthers assistant general manager Brandon Beane and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will meet with the 49ers next week, per FOX Sports’ Peter Schrager (Twitter links). Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable will also discuss the 49ers’ head coaching opening with the team next week, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link).
  • Bills: Buffalo still has not submitted an official request to interview Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, per Tim McManus of ESPN.com. There has been follow-through after the initial contact between the two sides, he adds (Twitter link).
  • Broncos: Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, whose contract is expiring, is unlikely to return to Denver, reports Marvez. If Dolphins D-coordinator Vance Joseph becomes the Broncos’ head coach, Denver’s defensive backs coach, Joe Woods, would likely succeed Phillips (Twitter links).
  • Chargers: Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith interviewed with the Bolts on Thursday, becoming the first candidate to do so, reports Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The aforementioned Sean McDermott will follow him Friday, relays Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. The club has also requested permission to interview Bills interim head coach Anthony Lynn, according to Rapoport (Twitter links here).
  • Rams: Los Angeles’ previously reported interview with Anthony Lynn will go down on Sunday, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Redskins: In addition to bouncing defensive coordinator Joe Barry, the Redskins also canned defensive line coach Robb Akey and defensive backs coach Perry Fewell on Thursday, via James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link). Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks is a name to watch as the Redskins look for Barry’s successor, Rapoport tweets. Wilks has a history with Josh Norman dating back to their time together in Carolina.
  • Bookmark PFR’s Head Coaching Search Tracker for an up-to-date primer on who’s interviewing where.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Latest On Chargers’ Head Coaching Search

The Chargers’ list of candidates to take over for fired head coach Mike McCoy continues to grow. Former Falcons head coach and current Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith is likely to interview with the Chargers, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Meanwhile, Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub will meet with the Bolts this week, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, and FOX Sports’ Peter Schrager adds that San Diego has asked Carolina’s permission to interview defensive coordinator Sean McDermott (all Twitter links)

Mike Smith

The Chargers now have five potential successors to McCoy – and no offensive coordinators – on their radar, as PFR’s head coaching search tracker shows, though Smith is the only one with previous experience.

The 57-year-old was at the helm with the Falcons from 2008-14 in a stint that began swimmingly but ended poorly. Atlanta started Smith’s tenure with five straight above-.500 seasons, four of which resulted in double-digit-win campaigns and playoff berths, and then went a combined 10-22 during his final two years on the job. All told, the Falcons posted a 66-46 regular-season record and a disappointing 1-4 playoff mark under Smith. Of the other five teams in need of head coaches, only the Jaguars have shown interest in Smith to this point.

Toub, who’s on a bye with the AFC West champion Chiefs, will also meet with the Broncos this week, relays Biggs. McDermott has a Wednesday interview set up with the Bills.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Shanahan, Rams, Broncos

It’s a New Year and a new start for many teams on the sidelines. With a zillion interviews being requested today, we’ll run down the latest coaching rumors and requests here:

  • The Rams and Broncos have requested permission to talk to Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, as Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets. GM John Elway says the team will consider “three or four” candidates for the job, which means that Shanahan is on the short list. It will be interesting to see if the rocky relationship between Elway and Shanahan’s father, Mike Shanahan, plays a role in his candidacy.
  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians confirmed that the Bills and Rams have asked permission to interview offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin (Twitter link via Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic). As previously reported, the Jaguars will interview Goodwin today.
  • The Bills will make a push for former Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley as their defensive coordinator, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets. La Canfora, like many, expects Anthony Lynn to shed the “interim” title this offseason and take over as head coach.
  • The Rams have requested interviews with Lynn and Matt Patricia (Patriots defensive coordinator), according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link).
  • The Jaguars will interview Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith for their head coaching vacancy, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
  • Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said teams have contacted Miami about talking to Vance Joseph for head coaching jobs, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald tweets.

AFC Notes: Jags, Pats, Browns, Jets, Chiefs

Thanks to the now-fired Gus Bradley‘s disastrous stint as a first-time head coach, the Jaguars are unlikely to hire a replacement who doesn’t bring prior experience, league sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. That makes it all the more probable the team will tab a previously reported candidate like Tom Coughlin, who interviewed Wednesday, interim head coach Doug Marrone or ex-Falcons head coach and current Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Steelers O-coordinator Todd Haley have also been head coaches, but it’s unlikely either will end up a match for Jacksonville, per Mortensen.

More from the AFC:

  • Patriots receiver Michael Floyd could face a mandatory 180 days in jail, not the previously reported 45, for his Dec. 12 arrest in Arizona on a Super Extreme DUI charge, report Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Whether the harsher punishment will enter the fray will come down to whether the courts in Arizona regard this as a second offense for Floyd, who has a prior DUI arrest under his belt from his time at Notre Dame. If Floyd gets 180 days, it could put his availability for next season in jeopardy. The impending free agent is currently slated for a pretrial hearing on Feb. 24, just two weeks before he’s scheduled to hit the open market.
  • With the first pick in next year’s draft in their sights, Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown and vice president Andrew Berry attended Friday’s Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, to scout North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, writes Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Brown and Berry were previously on hand Wednesday at the Houston Bowl to observe Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, another potential No. 1 overall pick. Trubisky, a junior, hasn’t yet declared for the draft, but the Ohio native is expected to forgo his senior season in favor of the pros. The Browns reportedly “love” the 22-year-old.
  • The Jets brought free agent cornerback Chris Culliver in for a Friday visit – but not a workout – tweets Courtney Fallon of NFL Network. Meanwhile, fellow corner Tharold Simon worked out for Gang Green, relays ESPN’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link). Culliver, whom the Dolphins released Nov. 19, didn’t play a game this year after a torn ACL limited him to just six contests as a member of the Redskins last season. Simon appeared in nine games with the Cardinals earlier this season, but the ex-Seahawk barely made a dent on the stat sheet (five tackles).
  • The Chiefs tried out free agent defensive backs Elijah Shumate and Jeff Richards on Friday, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle and Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (Twitter links). Neither has appeared in an NFL game.