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Cowboys Fire OC Scott Linehan

Days after receiving a vote of confidence from head coach Jason GarrettScott Linehan is out of a job. The offensive coordinator has been dismissed, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Soon after Rapoport’s report, the Cowboys made it official with a formal announcement.

According to a statement from Garrett released by the team, this was a “mutual decision” between the Cowboys and the Linehan:

This was not an easy decision because of how highly we regard Scott Linehan as a football coach and as a person. He and I had some really positive, substantive and open discussions which took place in the latter part of this week, and we ultimately agreed that it would be in the best interest of all of the parties involved if we were to make a change at this (offensive coordinator) position,” Garrett said. “This was very much a mutual decision, and there was a great deal of common ground and shared understanding between both of us during our meetings. Scott has had an incredibly positive impact on our football team. He has been instrumental in the development and success of a significant number of our veteran and younger players. He is an outstanding football coach, a great friend and we wish him and his family nothing but the absolute best moving forward.”

On Monday, Garrett told a local radio station that he did not foresee any changes to the coaching staff. Hours later, in a separate interview, he said that nothing was firm either way. Later, Jerry Jones did an interview of his own in which he made it clear that Garrett was not the one making the decision.

There were factors out of Linehan’s control – including the absence of offensive line anchor Travis Frederick – but there’s no way to sugarcoat it: the Cowboys offense underperformed in 2018. The midseason addition of wide receiver Amari Cooper opened things up, but the Cowboys ultimately did not have confidence in Linehan’s ability to steer the ship.

The Cowboys averaged 343.8 yards per game in 2018, good for just 22nd in the NFL. They also finished tenth in rushing yards, which fell below expectations given the presence of Ezekiel Elliott and the team’s reputation for having one of the NFL’s best offensive lines.

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Lions Hire Darrell Bevell As OC

The Lions have hired Darrell Bevell as their new offensive coordinator, the team announced on Wednesday. Bevell guided the Seahawks’ offense for seven seasons and oversaw the Vikings’ attack from 2006-10. 

[RELATED: PFR’s Offensive Coordinator Search Tracker]

Bevell did not coach in 2018, but took part in some interviews during the last cycle, which included his Seattle ouster. It has been Bevell’s plan to coach in 2019, and he’s accomplished that by joining the Lions.

Bevell wasn’t necessarily known to be a leading candidate for the Lions’ job, but he either outshined other candidates or simply hung around long enough to watch the other ones sign elsewhere. Nathaniel Hackett and Todd Monken were both in the running for the job, but they’ve since hooked on with the Packers and Browns, respectively.

With Jim Bob Cooter at the helm in 2017, Matthew Stafford played some of his best football and the Lions finished out with the No. 7 scoring offense in the NFL. Last year, however, Stafford regressed hard. The Lions are hoping that Bevell will be the answer after the QB managed just 3,777 passing yards in 2018.

The Falcons and Jaguars also spoke with Bevell about their respective OC vacancies.

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Steelers’ Ryan Shazier Eyeing NFL Return

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has made tremendous strides in his rehabilitation and wants to continue forward in his recovery with an eye on playing football again, owner Art Rooney says (Twitter link via Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette). Shazier’s contract is up, so Rooney says the team would probably have to sign him as a player in 2019 in order for him to do that.

When Shazier was carted off of the field in December 2017, doctors feared that he might never walk again. After months of grueling rehab, Shazier is now able to walk with some assistance. All along, the linebacker has been hopeful about returning to the gridiron.

There is no ceiling in Ryan’s recovery. He aggressively approaches it every day,” Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said in March of last year. “We support him in every way possible in that endeavor. Where that leads, only he will know and he will determine further down the road. His approach, his mental approach. I can’t tell you how impressive an inspiration he is to us.”

Last May, the Steelers converted $8.26MM of the linebacker’s 2018 base salary into a signing bonus. The move had no cap implications for the Steelers, but it allowed Shazier to collect on the bulk of his pay for the 2018 season immediately rather than waiting for it in increments throughout the year. It sounds like the Steelers are prepared to do right by him once again as he continues on his inspirational journey.

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Jaguars To Hire John DeFilippo As OC

The Jaguars are expected to hire former Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo as their new OC, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). DeFilippo beat out a small group of other candidates, including former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell and former Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy

There were eye rolls around the football world when the Jaguars made contact with McCoy this week and there’s sure to be some eyebrow raises about their hiring of DeFilippo. DeFilippo was hailed as a quarterback whisperer in Philadelphia for his coaching of Carson Wentz and his ability to quickly get Nick Foles ready for primetime at the end of the 2017 season, but he flopped as the OC in Minnesota. The Vikings handed him a pink slip midway through the year as their Kirk Cousins-powered offense floundered.

DeFilippo will have his work cut out for him in Jacksonville. Many believe the Jaguars should move on from quarterback Blake Bortles, but releasing him would leave $16.5MM in dead money on the cap, which may ultimately tie them to the former first-round pick for another season. If they do let him go, they’ll have less money to fill holes elsewhere and that may mean relying on a rookie QB. The Jaguars have the No. 7 overall pick, which will probably be too late to land Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, the consensus top QB in this year’s draft.

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Jets To Hire Gregg Williams As DC

The Jets are finalizing a deal with former Browns’ interim head coach Gregg Williams to become their defensive coordinator, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Williams was the defensive coordinator the Jets were targeting no matter who their head coach was, Schefter adds. 

The Jets have denied pushing certain assistants on candidates Matt Rhule and Mike McCarthy. Whether you choose to believe the Jets on that front is up to you, but it appears that they had a heavy hand in marrying new head coach Adam Gase and Williams.

Williams was widely mocked during the year for his assertion that several teams wanted him as a head coach. He may have been pumping himself up a bit, but things improved on both sides of the ball during his eight-game run as the Browns’ interim coach in 2018. Ultimately, the Browns chose interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens as the man to run things going forward, but Williams managed to boost his stock a bit in the latter half of the year.

With the Jets, Williams inherits an iffy defense, but one that has potential in the secondary and a solid defensive lineman in Leonard Williams. The Jets have no real pass rush to speak of, but they hope to change that with upwards of $100MM in cap room.

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Packers To Hire Nathaniel Hackett As OC

Nathaniel Hackett‘s Packers meeting went well. Green Bay is bringing the former Jacksonville offensive coordinator aboard as its OC, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter).

The Jaguars fired Hackett midway through this season, and he interviewed for the Lions’ OC job. He’ll now join Matt LaFleur‘s staff and play a major role in revamping the Packers’ offense.

The Packers interviewed Hackett and recent Browns OC hire Todd Monken for this job and are set to entrust key Rodgers prime seasons to two recent AFC South offensive coordinators — both 39. LaFleur has less experience being an offensive coordinator than Hackett; they will pair up in hopes of guiding the Rodgers-centered team back to the playoffs.

This will be Hackett’s third NFL OC gig. He served in that role under Doug Marrone at Syracuse and then with the Bills before following Marrone to Jacksonville in 2015. The Jaguars promoted him to OC during the 2016 season. Neither of Marrone and Hackett’s Buffalo units ranked in the top half of the league, and they took a major step back this season. But in 2017, the Jags ranked in the top six in both points and yards on their way to the AFC championship game.

Despite their 2018 descent, the second-generation coordinator will land on his feet. And after working with the likes of E.J. Manuel, Kyle Orton and Blake Bortles, Hackett will now oversee the work of one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Quite the change of scenery.

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Kyler Murray Enters NFL Draft

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner says he wants to play in the NFL. On Monday, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray announced that he has entered the 2019 NFL Draft, which likely means forgoing an opportunity to play professional baseball and join the Oakland A’s. 

In theory, Murray can still alter his plans and join up with the A’s, who may be willing to rework his contract in order to match his potential earning power in the NFL. But, if Murray can convince teams that he is absolutely serious about playing football, he may be able to put himself in the first-round mix, which would result in a hefty four-year guarantee.

Right now, NFL scouts estimate that he’ll be a second- or third-round pick, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. But, given his tremendous athleticism and upside, it’s not hard to see him as a Day 1 selection.

Most evaluators have also told Albert Breer of The MMQB (on Twitter) that Murray projects as a Friday pick, meaning Round 2 or 3. However, QBs tend to inch up the board as the draft draws near, which is why we’ve had 13 first-round QBs taken in the last four years versus just two second-round signal callers in the second round.

In his first season as a starter, Murray threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns and ran for another 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Sooners. Oklahoma reached the College Football Playoff semifinals with Murray at the helm but fell to Alabama 45-34.

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Browns To Hire Steve Wilks As DC, Todd Monken As OC

Steve Wilks wasn’t out of work long. The recently fired Cardinals head coach will be joining the Browns as Cleveland’s new defensive coordinator, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Just moments later, Rapoport reported in a separate tweet that Todd Monken would be joining the Browns as their offensive coordinator.

While Rapoport the deal for Wilks isn’t quite done yet, he writes that the two sides are “close on a deal and it should be done tomorrow.” Things came together quite quickly for Freddie Kitchens’ staff, and the coaching staff now has a lot of star power. Wilks was fired by the Cardinals after just one season after the team limped to a 3-13 record.

Monken received a lot of praise for his work as the Buccaneers’ play caller this season, but wasn’t retained after head coach Dirk Koetter was let go. Monken used a creative, downfield oriented passing offense with Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and his offensive philosophy would seem to mesh well with Kitchens’.

Monken received some head coaching buzz and interviews this cycle, but obviously didn’t land a gig. The Lions and Packers were reportedly interested in talking to him about their offensive coordinator vacancies, but Monken clearly was intrigued by the prospect of working with Baker Mayfield. He also interviewed with the Jaguars a few days ago.

We heard a couple days ago that the Browns were working to bring in Wilks, so this isn’t a surprise. Wilks’ lone season as a head coach clearly didn’t work out, but he was highly regarded as a coordinator with the Panthers before that.

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Rob Gronkowski Leaning Towards Retirement?

Last year, Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski contemplated retirement. This year, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Gronk will once again consider hanging up the cleats, but this time, there is a better chance he will actually walk away from the game.

Before the 2018 draft, New England reportedly had a trade in place that would have sent Gronkowski to the Lions, but when Gronk learned of that news, he threatened to retire rather than play for another club. Of course, there has been some drama between Gronkowski and the Patriots for several years now, some of which may be attributed to the fact that Gronkowski believes he is severely underpaid.

Regardless of the source of tension, we heard at the end of last month that Gronkowski had grown tired of the “Patriot Way,” and underpaid or not, he is financially set. Plus, thanks to his effusive personality, he will have some sort of career outside of football if he so chooses.

The 29-year-old has once again battled injuries throughout the course of the 2018 campaign, and Rapoport says sources close to Gronk have said the season has taken an emotional toll on him. He certainly has not played up to his usual standards, with just three scores and a yards-per-game mark of 52.5 that is higher only than his rookie season figure of 34.1. Teams have largely stopped double-teaming him, and he just does not look like his usual explosive self.

So it would not be surprising to anyone if Gronkowski calls it a career and starts the next chapter of his life whenever the Patriots’ season ends.

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Bears Hire Chuck Pagano As DC

After interviewing with team brass earlier on Friday, Chuck Pagano was hired as the Bears’ new defensive coordinator, the team announced [Twitter link]. 

The former Colts head coach and Ravens defensive coordinator returns to the sideline after a year-long hiatus in 2018. He will replace Vic Fangio, who left for Denver to take the Broncos’ head coaching position. Pagano finds himself in an ideal spot, as he inherits a defensive unit that ranked first in points allowed and in takeaways in 2018.

In addition to the Bears, Pagano received interest from the Browns, Cardinals and Jets for their defensive coordinator vacancy. He was also interviewed for head coach with the Packers and Broncos.

Pagano, 58, seemed like a wise choice for his experience running the same 3-4 defense that brought the Bears success a year ago, and his history with some of the league’s top defensive units, including the Ravens in 2011.

After serving as defensive coordinator in Baltimore for a year, Pagano assumed the head coaching role in Indianapolis. In six seasons on the job, he led the Colts to three 11-win seasons and another pair of 8-8 campaigns before going 4-12 without starting quarterback Andrew Luck in 2017.

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