Perry Fewell

Panthers To Interview Kevin Stefanski

Add another name to the list. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports (via Twitter) that Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is scheduled to interview for the Panthers head coaching vacancy next week. The interview is tentatively set for Thursday, although that could change if Minnesota tops New Orleans tomorrow.

Stefanski has served in a variety of roles for the Vikings since joining the organization back in 2006, including stints as the tight ends coach, running backs coach, and quarterbacks coach. The 37-year-old was named interim offensive coordinator following the firing of John DeFilippo during the 2018 season, and he earned the full-time gig prior to the 2019 campaign.

During Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points. The coach led the trio of Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, and Mike Boone to top-six rankings in rushing yards and touchdowns, and he also helped quarterback Kirk Cousins have one of the best seasons of his career.

We previously heard that Stefanski was set to interview for the Browns head coaching gig, and NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero passes along (via Twitter) that the coach will indeed interview with Cleveland this week. Stefanski was a finalist for the Browns job last year.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports (via Twitter) that Panther interim head coach Perry Fewell is scheduled to meet with the team on Wednesday. As our head coaching tracker shows, Stefanski and Fewell are two of five coaches who will interview for the gig, a grouping that also includes Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, and former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule has also been mentioned as a potential candidate, but no interview has been scheduled.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Perry Fewell To Interview For Panthers Job

Perry Fewell says he has accepted the Panthers’ invitation to interview for the full-time head coaching job. Fewell, who started the year as the club’s secondary coach, is 0-3 thus far as the team’s interim head coach. 

Panthers owner David Tepper says he’ll cast a wide net in the team’s quest to replace Ron Rivera. On the whole, he’s seeking to blend old school philosophies with modern intel to restore the Panthers to their former glory.

“What I want, just for the organization in general, is a mesh of old and new,” Tepper said in early December. “Old football discipline. Modern processes, modern analytics, statistics, and the rest of that. But I respect old discipline, too. Listen, I was with a team in Pittsburgh that was the epitome of old-school discipline, so I want to see that brought in, I want to see that mesh. And what I want to have more than anything…I want to put the best people in the best positions to be successful. And I want those coaches to put our players on the field in the best positions to be successful, period.

“This whole process – they don’t build Rome in a day. People think if I make a magic change today, it’s going to make the organization better tomorrow… it is not. This is going to be a process.”

Fewell is the second known candidate to schedule an interview with the Panthers. The first, ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy, chatted with the Panthers on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Owner Discusses Coaching Change, Front Office, Future

Panthers owner David Tepper was forced to make a difficult decision today, firing long-term coach Ron Rivera. Since Tepper took over ownership of the organization in 2018, he’s had Rivera on the sideline. Now, the team will turn a page and start hunting for their next head coach.

Secondary coach Perry Fewell will serve as the Panthers head coach on an interim basis. The shakeup also will see offensive coordinator Norv Turner transition to special assistant to the head coach as quarterbacks coach Scott Turner moves to offensive coordinator. When it comes to the front office, GM Marty Hurney will keep his job, but Tepper revealed that he’ll be searching for an assistant general manager and/or a vice president of football operations.

Tepper sat down with Bill Voth of Panthers.com (Twitter link) this afternoon to discuss the coaching change, the owner’s outlook for the organization, and the team’s future shuffling of the front office. We’ve snagged all of the notable soundbites below:

On why he decided to fire Ron Rivera:

“[It was] a very hard move. Ron Rivera, besides being a good coach, is one of the finest men I’ve ever met in my life.

“Look, I came here two years ago. I wanted to show patience on the football side to see how it was going. On the business side, we made vast and sweeping changes. I didn’t want to make those vast and sweeping changes on the football side. I wanted to take time and patience to see how it could go.

“I just thought it was time, given the way things have gone the last two seasons, to put my stamp on the organization on the football side, as we’ve done on the business side of the organization. As much respect as I have for Ron, I think a change was appropriate to build things the way I want things to be built.”

On why the move was made now instead of after the season:

“There are competitive reasons why I wanted to make sure we were out there looking at all personnel possible for the future. I didn’t want to be having inquiries where Ron didn’t know what I was doing.

“I didn’t want to be doing things not upfront; thats not who I am. So I’d rather be straight-up and honest, and if I’m going to make a change, I’m going to make a change. And not to get a competitive disadvantage over other teams; if I need to talk to people, i want to talk to them, and I want to do it in a straight-forward, honest way.”

On why Fewell was chosen as the interim head coach:

“I have different coaches on the staff and I’m looking at the future now. And the future is: who may I have as potential candidates for different roles. Perry is a person who can command a room, can be a general, and I think that he is the right person to have that interim role… and to be auditioning for that role in the future.

“As far as the other choice we’ll probably make is to make Scott Turner a play-call offensive coordinator. In that respect, same thing: I want to see what Scott can do. Again, in an audition sort of way, see how he does it. He has some new ideas, and we’ll see how they get implemented.”

On the decision to move Norv Turner from offensive coordinator to special assistant to the head coach:

“Norv Turner is obviously still a tremendously knowledgable coach who I respect a lot. Norv has been around and is very knowledgable. Scott is potentially a future offensive coordinator of some sort. Why not see what he has to offer here.”

On what he’ll be looking for in a new head coach:

“What I want, just for the organization in general, is a mesh of old and new. Old football discipline. Modern processes, modern analytics, statistics, and the rest of that. But I respect old discipline, too. Listen, I was with a team in Pittsburgh that was the epitome of old-school discipline, so I want to see that brought in, I want to see that mesh. And what I want to have more than anything…I want to put the best people in the best positions to be successful. And I want those coaches to put our players on the field in the best positions to be successful, period.

“This whole process – they don’t build Rome in a day. People think if I make a magic change today, it’s going to make the organization better tomorrow… it is not. This is going to be a process.”

On how an assistant GM can help the front office:

“Marty Hurney is one of the best recognizers of college talent in the nation. I don’t want to lose that. And he’s also not a bad manager. There’s also new processes that I want to bring in. I think the modern football organization needs a couple people there [in the front office].”

On what today’s move means for the future of the organization:

“As far as a process is concerned, it’s the first step in a process. I’m making sure we have a standard of excellence on all sides of this business.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Rumors: Colts, Panthers, Bucs, Saints

The Colts parted ways with offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo earlier this week, a move which raised eyebrows around the NFL given the excellent play of Indianapolis’ front five in 2018. Head coach Frank Reich is reportedly searching for his “own guy” to coach the position, while the Colts also want someone who is “stronger at teaching fundamentals,” according to Stephen Holder of The Athletic (Twitter link). DeGuglielmo is more of a motivator than an instructor, per Holder. Either way, the Colts’ 2018 results are hard to dispute, as they ranked as a top-five club in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate per Football Outsiders., while DeGuglielmo has historically performed well wherever he’s gone, according to research done by Justis Mosqueda of Optimum Scouting.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

  • The Panthers have hired Bills/Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell as their new defensive backs coach, the club announced. Fewell, who served as Buffalo’s interim head coach for seven games in 2009, worked with Carolina coach head coach Ron Rivera in Chicago in 2005. The Panthers still have Richard Rodgers in place as a secondary coach, but they’ve lost multiple defensive backs coach within the past year. Curtis Fuller resigned as the team’s secondary coach last summer, while assistant Jeff Imamura was fired as part of a housecleaning in early December.
  • Former Steelers wideout Antwaan Randle El will join the Buccaneers‘ coaching staff as an offensive assistant, the club announced today. New Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians coached Randle El — who is now embarking on his first NFL coaching gig — for one season (2010) with the Steelers. Kacy Rodgers, whose role with Tampa was up in the air, is officially the team’s defensive line coach, while former Browns special teams coordinator Amos Jones is in tow as assistant ST coach.
  • In addition to announcing the hiring of new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the Jaguars have made a number of other coaching moves. Jason Rebrovich has been promoted to defensive line coach, Joe Danna is now Jacksonville’s safeties coach, and John Donovan was promoted to assistant running backs coach.
  • Before signing veteran defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker to help replace Sheldon Rankins, the Saints also worked out fellow DLs Jarvis Jenkins, Chris Okoye, and Sealver Siliga, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. The Colts also held a late season audition, taking a look at linebacker Richard Jarvis, per veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link).

NFC South Notes: Bucs, Falcons, Panthers

New Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will call plays in Tampa Bay, head coach Bruce Arians told The Rich Eisen Show (Twitter link via Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times). That’s something of a surprise, as Arians led the offense when he was the Cardinals’ head coach. Leftwich took over as Arizona’s OC after Mike McCoy was fired four games into the 2018 campaign, but he couldn’t get the Cardinals out of the NFL rankings cellar in terms of points and yards. Arians will still have a heavy hand in Tampa Bay’s offense, while new run game coordinator Harold Goodwin will also have input.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Former Redskins special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica has joined the Falcons in the same capacity, Atlanta announced today. He’ll replace Keith Armstrong, who was one of three Atlanta coordinators fired after the 2018 campaign. Washington ranked two spots higher in special teams DVOA than Atlanta a season ago, per Football Outsiders, finishing with better results in kickoffs and punt returns. Kotwica has worked in the NFL since 2007, working his way up from quality control coach to special teams coordinator with the Jets.
  • Armstrong, meanwhile, will take over as the Buccaneers‘ new special teams coach, tweets Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. He’d been linked to Tampa Bay ever since Arians was rumored to be taking the head coaching position, and for good reason: as Auman notes, Armstrong played for Arians at Temple 35 years ago. Armstrong, who was a candidate for the Cardinals’ head coaching job in 2018, was fired by the Falcons last week, but quickly interviewed for a gig with the Bills before landing with the Buccaneers.
  • The Buccaneers have hired former Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler for the same position, reports Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). The Bills also had interest in interviewing Kugler before he signed on with Tampa Bay, according to Ryan Talbot of New York Upstate. Kugler, previously the head coach at UTEP, joined Denver in 2018 and guided a Broncos front five which ranked as a top-12 unit in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate. Other Tampa Bay hires include former Jets coach Mike Caldwell (linebackers) and ex-Cardinals coach Rick Christophel (tight ends), per Auman (Twitter links).
  • After being fired by the Jaguars last week, Perry Fewell is interviewing for the Panthers‘ secondary coach job on Wednesday, tweets Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. A former defensive coordinator for the Bills and Giants, Fewell worked with Carolina coach head coach Ron Rivera in Chicago in 2005. The Panthers still have Richard Rodgers in place as a secondary coach, but they’ve lost multiple defensive backs coach within the past year. Curtis Fuller resigned as the team’s secondary coach last summer, while assistant Jeff Imamura was fired as part of a housecleaning in early December.

AFC Coaching Rumors: Jets, Broncos, Jaguars, Dolphins, Browns

Two coaches fired after the 2017 season look to have secured additional interviews about possible 2019 top jobs. Jim Caldwell will interview with the Jets, according to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. Chuck Pagano is now expected to interview with the Broncos, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Caldwell has already met with the Packers and been connected to the Browns’ wide-ranging search as well.

Here’s the latest from the AFC’s side of the coaching carousel.

  • Another year, another issue with the Jets‘ OC. After John Morton‘s stay in New York featured conflict, apparently Jeremy Bates‘ did as well. A growing frustration sprouted about Bates’ play-calling, something Jets GM Mike Maccagnan became aware of, Vacchiano reports. Bates is now in limbo after Todd Bowles‘ firing, and one agent suggested the Jets would have had to fire their OC if they wanted to land impact free agents on offense. Jermaine Kearse was also not happy with Bates’ work, per Vacchiano. The Jets may have more than one major hire to make in the coming weeks. Bates spent 2017 as New York’s QBs coach before taking over for Morton.
  • The expansive Browns search thus far does not include Josh McDaniels, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com tweets. A Cleveland-area native, McDaniels was part of the Browns’ turbulent 2014 coaching search that ended with Mike Pettine. The Bengals have requested a meeting with McDaniels, but he has not yet accepted. McDaniels can interview this week because of the Patriots’ bye week.
  • The Broncos are monitoring Mike McCarthy, but no interview is as of yet scheduled, Klis tweets. McCarthy has been connected to just about every opening thus far. The 13-year Packers coach may sit this cycle out, unless he sees a perfect fit, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link).
  • Rex Ryan contacting possible assistant coaches about the Dolphins‘ vacancy appears to have been premature. He is not in the running to land the Miami job, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports (on Twitter). This would have been Ryan’s third AFC East job. The former Jets and Bills coach has not been mentioned on Black Monday as a candidate for any of the eight openings.
  • The latest Leonard Fournette incident appears to have cost a coach his job. The Jaguars fired running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley on Monday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Jacksonville is retaining Doug Marrone but is looking for a new offensive coordinator, so there will now be another position available. Wheatley just finished his second season as the Jags’ RBs coach.
  • In addition to Wheatley, the Jags are canning three other assistants — defensive backs coach Perry Fewell, offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and defensive line coach Marion Hobby, Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio reports (on Twitter). Both Fewell and Flaherty spent extensive time with Tom Coughlin on Giants coaching staffs. This was Hobby’s first NFL job.

Coaching/FO Notes: Manning, Redskins, Jaguars, Broncos

Despite Jim Irsay’s dream of a superstar decision-making duo featuring Peyton Manning and Jon Gruden failing to come to fruition, the Colts‘ owner is still trying to land Manning in a key front office role, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reports (on Twitter). During an appearance on Fox NFL Sunday, Glazer described Irsay as making a “strong push” to bring Manning back to the Colts.

However, the 40-year-old recently retired quarterback may not be ready to do that at this time. Previously loosely connected to a pursuit of a front office career, Manning coming back to the Colts is unlikely at this time, Bob Kravitz of WTHR tweets. The Colts did release Manning in 2012, but the future Hall of Fame passer did return for a special Colts-centric retirement ceremony last year.

Nevertheless, the owner’s faith in the Ryan Grigson/Chuck Pagano tandem may be wavering, despite each being tentatively expected to keep their jobs. Although, Irsay has yet to come out publicly and confirm that.

Here’s the latest from the NFL’s post-regular-season hiring period.

  • Today’s revelations have Irsay going after splashy candidates for jobs that aren’t yet open, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports the owner has yet to reach out to Nick Saban about the HC job. The Colts have been connected to Saban via rumors for a while now, but nothing substantial has come out of it.
  • The Redskins are “very likely” to promote quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh to their OC position to take Sean McVay‘s place, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. This arrangement would entail Jay Gruden calling plays, La Canfora notes. Cavanaugh has previously served as OC for two different franchises, doing so for the Bears and Ravens, but hasn’t functioned in that capacity since 2004. The 60-year-old longtime assistant has been with Washington since 2015.
  • Tom Coughlin has thus far either shown faith in the existing Jaguars assistants or brought in former Giants coaches in his first week in Jacksonville. The newly hired executive went in the latter direction on Saturday, hiring former Giants DC Perry Fewell to coach the Jags’ defensive backs, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union reports (on Twitter). This will mark Fewell’s second stay in this role. His first NFL coaching gig came as the Jags’ secondary coach under Coughlin from 1998-2002. The 54-year-old coach served as the Redskins’ DBs boss during the past two seasons. Fewell was Coughlin’s DC from 2010-14, serving as the coach whose Super Bowl champion 2011 team unveiled its famous NASCAR package. But Fewell will serve under retained DC Todd Wash and work a sixth stint as a secondary coach.
  • Manning’s second NFL team continued to piece together its Vance Joseph-led coaching staff. The Broncos are retaining strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson, Mike Klis of 9News reports (via Twitter). Richesson will enter his sixth year in this position.

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.

NFC Notes: Lions, Highsmith, Fewell

Throughout the course of last offseason and in the season, Lions GM Martin Mayhew made a plethora of moves to try and improve the team. Some worked and some didn’t and Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com broke it all down. Mayhew hit on some, like wide receiver Golden Tate, who proved to be one of the best free agent pickups in the entire NFL. The same can’t be said for tight end Brandon Pettigrew, however, who was brought back on a deal with $8MM in guaranteed money and hardly used in the passing game. More from the NFC..

  • The Packers denied Washington‘s request to interview personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith, a league source tells Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Texans were blocked from hiring him a few years ago, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter) notes.
  • Washington announced that they have hired former Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell as their new defensive backs coach, as Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. Fewell replaces Raheem Morris, who was plucked away by the Falcons earlier this week.
  • Brandon LaFell doesn’t understand why Panthers GM Dave Gettleman rebuilt the roster after a successful 2013, but he’s not dwelling on it, as Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer writes. “They didn’t give me an explanation for why they did it. They didn’t owe me one,” LaFell said. “I appreciate those guys drafting me and giving me an opportunity to play ball. I love those guys and wish them the best.” LaFell got a three-year, $9MM offer from New England and Carolina chose not to match.
  • Panthers offensive assistant John Ramsdell is retiring, as Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com writes. Ramsdell has spent 19 years as an NFL coach and 19 more as a college coach.

Coach/Exec Notes: Washington, Jets, Raiders

Former Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will be joining one of New York’s division rivals, having accepted a job as Washington‘s defensive backs coach, reports Jordan Raanan of NJ.com (via Twitter). The 49ers also had an offer out to Fewell, and one other suitor may have been in the mix, but staying close to his family in New York was a major factor in the coach’s decision, tweets Dianna Marie Russini of NBC Washington.

Here are a few more Tuesday afternoon items on coaches and front office execs around the league:

  • Reports have suggested for some time that Rams scout Brian Heimerdinger would be joining the Jets‘ front office, and the team has now announced the hiring in a press release. According to the club, Heimerdinger will serve as the director of player personnel under new GM Mike Maccagnan, who previously worked with him in Houston.
  • The Raiders formally announced four new additions to their coaching staff, with three of the names – Bobby Johnson (TE coach), Rob Moore (WR coach), and Bernie Parmalee (RB coach) – having been previously reported. The new name on the list is Tracy Smith, who will be the club’s assistant special teams coach.
  • Asked at Media Day in Arizona if he’d like another shot at becoming a head coach, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said he’d “love to do it again” in the right situation, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald (Twitter link).
  • Joel Corry of CBSSports.com takes a look at the seven teams that made head coaching changes this offseason and attempts to predict how the new coaches could affect those clubs’ plans in free agency.