Aaron Glenn has been part of the past two head coaching cycles, making his stock something to monitor during the 2023 campaign. The Lions defensive coordinator is facing increased expectations this season, and he is looking to parlay success into a top job at some point in the future.
The 51-year-old joined the Lions in 2021, when they gave him the first coordinator opportunity of his career. Detroit has generally struggled on that side of the ball during Glenn’s time at the helm, and after four games last season head coach Dan Campbell needed to publicly shout down speculation the former corner could be on the hot seat. A defensive turnaround to close out the campaign aided the Lions’ playoff push, however.
Between that brief period of success and the plethora of moves made this offseason to bolster the defense, Glenn’s unit is expected to take a dramatic step forward in 2023. A rebuilt secondary in particular should elevate a Lions team which ranked 30th against the pass last season and surrendered more than 25 points and 392 yards per game. Improvement could boost Glenn’ head coaching stock, something he is acutely aware of.
“Listen, I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t want to be a head coach, Glenn said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I do. I understand the patience that it takes to wait your turn until that happens. And even when it does happen, listen, I know there’s going to be a learning curve in that aspect, but I would say the thing these last three years, I learned so much about being in that position and understanding what that position takes to be successful.”
Glenn reportedly earned himself a multi-year extension in Detroit this winter, giving him stability ahead of a critical year for himself and his unit. He interviewed with the Saints last year and met with the Cardinals and Colts during the 2023 hiring cycle, though, illustrating the interest already shown in him around the league. Meeting or exceeding expectations could accelerate his track to a head coaching role, or at a minimum earn him a higher standing within the Lions’ organization.
Both the Lions’ offensive and defensive coordinators interviewed for HC jobs during this year’s hiring period. Neither ended up being hired, and each will stay in Detroit after contract adjustments.
Aaron Glenn is expected to receive a multiyear extension to stay on as Detroit’s defensive coordinator, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. This move comes weeks after the Lions agreed to a raise with OC Ben Johnson, who backed out of the HC derby — including a potentially viable path to the Panthers’ top coaching position — to stay on as Lions OC for a second season.
This will be Glenn’s third season as Detroit’s DC. A multiyear pact will provide Glenn with some financial security, though it does not automatically ensure he will be with the Lions beyond the 2023 season. The team fired Dan Campbell‘s initial OC, Anthony Lynn, after one year and was rumored to be considering a Glenn ouster a few months ago. But the former cornerback stayed on and helped drive the team’s late-season turnaround. That led to HC interest.
Glenn, 50, met with the Saints about their HC job last year, interviewed with the Cardinals and met twice with Colts brass during this year’s coaching carousel. He did not advance to the finals of Arizona’s search, which ended with Philadelphia DC Jonathan Gannon being hired, and Indianapolis went with an OC (Shane Steichen). Should the Lions’ defense continue to make strides, Glenn stands to be back in the mix for HC jobs next year as well.
Moving from Browns assistant DBs coach to Saints secondary coach to Lions DC, Glenn has climbed the ladder effectively since retiring. This extension, however, is on track to commence following a season in which the Lions ranked 28th in defensive DVOA. Their offense ranked fifth, spearheading the second-half charge. Following their 1-6 start, the Lions did see their defense assist in the turnaround. They held the playoff-bound Giants and Jaguars under 20 points, won by two scores over the division champion Vikings and prevailed at Lambeau Field in Week 18 to eliminate the Packers. More will be expected of Glenn’s defense in 2023, but the team continues to show confidence in its leader on that side of the ball.
Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers, Broncos and Texans’ hires, this year’s vacancy count sits at two. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.
Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:
Five years after their Josh McDaniels-to-Frank Reich pivot, the Colts are again conducting a rather interesting head coaching search. This process may well produce an unusual stage.
Indianapolis potentially planning a third round on HC interviews, after holding 12-hour meetings — in some cases — with candidates during the second round, adds a memorable wrinkle to its search to replace Reich. A third round of a coaching search has not happened in at least 40 years, Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star notes. GM Chris Ballard has run the search, but Jim Irsay will make the call. Where will this search end up?
Almost everyone involved in this Indy journey has been mentioned as a finalist or scheduled a second interview. Dan Quinnhopped off the ride midway through, doing so hours after he scheduled a second meeting about the position. Ben Johnson backed out after his virtual interview, staying with the Lions. Giants OC Mike Kafka also has not been mentioned as being summoned for a second meeting. DeMeco Ryanscancelled his virtual interview and chose the Texans over the Broncos. Jim Harbaugh was mentioned as a candidate in December, but the ex-Colts QB did not interview. Otherwise, this search remains one of the most wide open in memory.
Rich Bisaccia, Brian Callahan, Ejiro Evero, Aaron Glenn, Don Martindale, Raheem Morris, Jeff Saturday and Shane Steichen have either gone through a second interview or will do so soon. Eric Bieniemy and Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone have also been mentioned as potential finalists, though neither is believed to have scheduled a second meeting.
This search has produced the rare mix of all three phases, with Bisaccia and Ventrone representing the special teams wing. Ventrone, 40, was Reich’s ST coordinator throughout the latter’s HC tenure, while Bisaccia, 62, is the rare interim HC to have guided his team to the playoffs. The Raiders passed on Bisaccia, leading him to Green Bay. Could he join John Harbaugh as a former ST coordinator to become a head coach?
Irsay went offense twice in 2018, hiring McDaniels and then Reich. This year’s lot of OCs in contention includes Andy Reid‘s right-hand man. Ballard and Bieniemy worked together in Kansas City for four years, and since Ballard left for Indiana, Bieniemy has become Reid’s top lieutenant. Of course, that has famously not led to a head coaching opportunity. Both Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy earned HC chances as Reid’s HC, but teams have paused on Bieniemy, 53. After this latest Chiefs attack led the NFL in offensive DVOA despite trading Tyreek Hill, will the Colts be the team that goes with the oft-bypassed candidate?
Callahan and Steichen are the only other offense-based candidates linked to having paths to the job. Steichen is just 37 and worked with Reich during the future Colts leader’s time as Chargers OC. Ex-Reich lieutenant Nick Sirianni gave Steichen the play-calling reins midway through last season, and it made a major difference in the Eagles’ trajectory. Philadelphia led the NFL in rushing in 2021 and has produced a top-three attack this year, as Jalen Hurts has made considerable strides as a passer. Callahan, 38, does not call plays in Cincinnati but is a candidate for both the Colts and Cardinals’ HC gigs. Joe Burrow is primed to book one of Zac Taylor‘s assistants a promotion, and Callahan is this year’s candidate.
Evero, 42, leads the league in connections to jobs during this year’s cycle, being summoned by all five HC-seeking teams for interviews and being pursued for DC gigs. It appears the Broncos’ DC will land on his feet, despite Nathaniel Hackett‘s one-and-done, and Denver remains interested in keeping him. The Rams also have Evero in mind as a Morris contingency plan. Morris, 46, would be a second-chance HC, but the ex-Buccaneers leader’s first chance came more than 10 years ago. He has rebuilt his stock in Los Angeles, helping the Rams to a Super Bowl LVI win, and Sean McVay staffers are quite popular on coaching carousels. Morris also has a near-three-month run as an interim leader under his belt, having replaced Quinn with the 2020 Falcons.
Martindale, 59 is believed to have interviewed well in his second meeting (the Irsay stage), and he played a key role in the Giants making a surprising surge to the divisional round. He coached the Ravens to three top-five defensive finishes in four DC seasons. Glenn, 50, started late in coaching due to his playing career spanning 16 seasons. The ex-cornerback joins Evero and Callahan as Cards candidates.
Aaron Glenn is getting a second look in Indy. According to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (via Twitter), the Colts will conduct a second interview with the Lions defensive coordinator regarding their head coaching vacancy. The second interview is expected to take place tomorrow.
Glenn is also considered a finalist for the Cardinals head coaching job, and Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets the NFC West team would like to talk more with him ahead of its decision. While the Cards’ HC search has not received as much attention as the Colts’ expansive process, the they added some new candidates to the mix Monday. Glenn was part of the original process and went through his first interview Jan. 21.
The 50-year-old helped boost his stock following a strong second half of the season in Detroit. During the Lions’ 8-2 finish, the defense yielded 20.2 points per game, the 11th-best mark in the league. Glenn also earned praise for his development of defensive players like Aidan Hutchinson, James Houston, Jeff Okudah, and Kerby Joseph, putting the coach firmly on the HC radar.
Among all the teams with head coaching vacancies, the Colts have cast the widest net, interviewing 13 candidates for the position. We’ve heard recently that the organization had moved on to the second phase of their search. The team conducted a second interview with Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan today after having previously conducted second interviews with interim HC Jeff Saturday, Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, and Rams defensive coordinator RaheemMorris.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, Giants defensive coordinator Don Martindale, Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, and Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone have also been mentioned as finalists. Considering all the names that are still in the running, Nate Akins of the Indy Star is a bit skeptical that these are indeed “finalists” and hints that the organization could require another round of interviews after this (Twitter link).
The Cardinals appear to be narrowing their head coaching search. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com recently reported on The Pat McAfee Show, the team will either work to hire Sean Payton — whom they interviewed on Thursday — or will look to bring in another candidate for a second interview (video link). Per Rapoport, Brian Flores, Aaron Glenn, and Ejiro Evero would receive a second look if Arizona does not bring Payton aboard.
Rapoport added that the Cardinals are “resetting” in the wake of the Payton interview, though it’s unclear exactly what that means for Payton’s candidacy. The formers Saints HC, who is still under contract with New Orleans, has seen his momentum towards a return to the league stall a bit, and an earlier report from Rapoport indicated that Payton might not secure an HC job this year. Part of the reason for that could be the fact that the Saints are said to be demanding two first-round picks in exchange for Payton’s rights, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports (via NFL reporter Dov Kleiman on Twitter). That is consistent with a report from NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan earlier this month.
We recently heard that Flores was “firmly in the mix” for Arizona’s HC post, with several outlets suggesting that he is the frontrunner. Of course, the Cards hired former Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort as their general manager, and team owner Michael Bidwill is reportedly interested in pairing Ossenfort with Flores, the Patriots’ former defensive coordinator. Flores has also been connected to several current defensive coordinator vacancies, though one would imagine he would accept an offer to become the Cardinals’ head coach if Bidwill goes that route.
Glenn, meanwhile, boosted his HC stock thanks to the Lions’ strong finish to the 2022 campaign. Detroit’s defensive coordinator oversaw a unit that started the season 1-6 but ended on an 8-2 run that nearly led to a playoff berth. During that impressive stretch, the club’s defense yielded 20.2 points per game, the 11th-best mark in the league. Glenn has also earned praise for his development of defensive players like Aidan Hutchinson, James Houston, Jeff Okudah, and Kerby Joseph. As Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports observes, Glenn has known Murray and his family for some time, which could help his cause (Twitter link).
Along with Flores and Glenn, Evero would be another defensive-minded finalist. The Broncos’ defense was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2022, and in addition to the work he did with Denver, Evero has apparently acquitted himself nicely in his sit-downs with NFL clubs during this year’s cycle. The 42-year-old secured interviews with all five teams in need of a new head coach, and he advanced to the second round with the Colts and Texans,
By far the biggest name on this year’s coaching carousel, Sean Payton looks to have seen his momentum stall a bit. While Payton is interviewing with the Cardinals today, his candidacy has not produced a second interview anywhere yet. The Panthers met with Payton this week but just hiredFrank Reich. While the Texans remain on the radar for the longtime Saints HC, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com does not get the sense much momentum is present for such a partnership. The Broncos have been connected to other names recently as well, but that path may be dwindling as well. There might not be a place for Payton — as odd as that sounds, given his track record — on this year’s market, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com offers (video link)
Trade compensation being required to land the Super Bowl XLIV-winning HC, with the price varying from a first-rounder and other early picks to two first-rounders, has affected teams’ plans here. Payton, 59, has also been mentioned as waffling on this year’s lot of jobs. Returning to FOX for another year and surveying the 2024 market, when two jobs he has long been connected to (Chargers, Cowboys), could be available might be what comes out of this run of interviews. Payton remains in this year’s mix, but buzz has died down.
Here is the latest from the coaching landscape:
Regarding the Cardinals‘ search, Brian Flores remains firmly in the mix. GM candidates received the impression Arizona is high on the three-year Miami HC-turned-Pittsburgh linebackers coach, Fowler notes. Previously mentioned as a frontrunner — due partially to the Cards hiring ex-Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort as GM — Flores may have a right-hand man on defense lined up. Some around the league expect the ex-Dolphins HC to bring Gerald Alexander, Miami’s defensive backs coach for the past three years, with him to Arizona, per Fowler. With the Dolphins looking for a new DC, Alexander may be on the move anyway. While ESPN colleague Dan Graziano points to Vance Joseph and Aaron Glenn remaining strong candidates, Flores has generated the most buzz to this point. Flores has also interviewed for the Falcons and Vikings’ DC posts.
Raheem Morris booked a second HC interview with the Colts and also met with the Broncos and Texans. Should the Rams‘ DC land a second HC opportunity, Albert Breer of SI.com notesEjiro Evero is the team’s top candidate to replace him. The Denver DC is no lock to be available. He is under contract with the Broncos, who blocked a Falcons DC interview, and has gone through second HC interviews with the Colts and Texans. Denver could pass on retaining Evero by hiring a defensive-minded coach, of course. Evero came to Denver from Los Angeles; he spent five years on Sean McVay‘s staff.
The Browns considered bringing in Vic Fangio for a DC interview, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, but they stood down and ended up hiring Jim Schwartz. Cleveland having run a 4-3 defense in recent years may have been a reason for passing on a Fangio meeting, Cabot offers. Fangio has remained quite popular still, having interviewed for three DC jobs — the Dolphins, Falcons and Panthers — already.
The Bills are making a change to their defensive staff. They fired safeties coach Jim Salgado, Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN.com tweets. Salgado had been on McDermott’s staff throughout the head coach’s six-season tenure.
Giants DC Don Martindale is attached to a three-year contract, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Giants thought enough of the veteran coordinator, whom the Ravens did not bring back last year, they gave him the three-year deal as opposed to the more common two-year pact. Giants ST coordinator Thomas McGaughey also received extensive interest from other teams, with Duggan adding the Chargers joined the Panthers in offering him their ST coordinator jobs. McGaughey, who has been with the Giants since 2018, turned down a Bears interview and opted to stay and work for Brian Daboll.
Day by day, the Cardinals continue to add names to their head coaching search. The latest candidate is Aaron Glenn, with NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reporting (via Twitter) that the Cardinals have requested permission to interview the Lions defensive coordinator for their head coaching vacancy. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that Glenn will meet with the organization on Saturday.
It was only a few months ago that Glenn was rumored to be on the hot seat following Detroit’s 1-6 start to the 2022 campaign. The Lions managed to turn around their season with an 8-2 finish, putting Glenn back on the coaching radar. A year after having interviewed for the Saints’ head coaching position, Glenn got an interview with the Colts for their current vacancy. BenJohnson was also a popular coaching candidate following the Lions’ season, but the offensive coordinator ultimately decided to stick in Detroit.
Glenn made a name for himself as the Saints defensive backs coach, a role he held for five years. He took over the Lions gig in 2021, and while the defense still allowed the most yards and the fifth-most points in the NFL in 2022, he earned praise for his development of defensive players like Aidan Hutchinson, James Houston, Jeff Okudah and Kerby Joseph.
We heard last night that the Cardinals had requested permission to interview Broncos defensive coordinator EjiroEvero. He was added to a growing list of candidates that also includes Steelers linebackers coach BrianFlores (who was also mentioned as a potential favorite), Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, former Saints head coach Sean Payton, former Colts head coach Frank Reich, and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. Besides Payton and Reich, the coaching candidates all come with a defensive pedigree, which is perhaps a hint that the Cardinals are looking to pivot from the offensive-focus of former head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
On display knocking the Packers out of the playoff race, the Lions finished off a remarkable turnaround this season. Early interest is coming in for Dan Campbell‘s coordinators.
Following a Texans interview request, OC Ben Johnson received another from the Colts, whom Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) are interested in speaking with Lions DC Aaron Glenn. Jeff Saturday is believed to remain in the equation for Jim Irsay‘s team, but the owner said last month he looked forward to meeting with a host of candidates for the gig. The Colts will also attempt to meet with Rams DC Raheem Morris, per CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (on Twitter), and Eagles OC Shane Steichen, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
This run of HC interest represents quite the rise for Johnson, who started last season as Detroit’s tight ends coach. For Glenn, the HC interest comes a few months after rumors of his potential ouster as Detroit’s DC surfaced. The Lions, however, completed an incredible bounce-back effort by going from 1-6 to 9-8.
Glenn’s defense did not cross the finish line with particularly strong marks. The Lions’ late-season surge still ended with their defense in last place in yards allowed and 28th in scoring. A crucial December loss to the Panthers ended with Carolina setting franchise records in total yards and on the ground. Still, the development of players like Aidan Hutchinson, James Houston, Jeff Okudah and Kerby Joseph reflects well on Glenn, who was up for the Saints’ HC job that went to Dennis Allen last year. Glenn, 50, took over Lions DC duties in 2021 but spent the previous five years on Sean Payton‘s staff.
Jared Goff finished the season fifth in QBR — by far the highest placement of his career — and closed his second Lions campaign with a 29-7 TD-INT ratio. Behind one of the league’s better offensive lines, Jamaal Williams also put together a 1,000-yard season that ended with him leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns (17 — a number that broke Barry Sanders‘ 31-year-old Lions record). Johnson, 36, has gone from never calling plays at any level prior to 2022 to being a sought-after interviewee.
Morris, a former Buccaneers coach and Falcons interim HC, wrapped his second season as the Rams’ DC. While 2022 proved to be a rough year for the defending Super Bowl champions, Morris’ work shaping the 2021 Rams’ defense will still make him an intriguing candidate. Morris, 46, has experience coaching on both sides of the ball at the NFL level. Mostly a defensive coach, he helmed the Falcons’ wide receivers from 2016-19.
The Texans also requested a Steichen meeting, but the Eagles’ continued growth on offense — as Jalen Hurts morphs from a player with long-term questions to a surefire extension candidate — has been expected to generate looks for their play-caller. Ex-Colts OC Nick Sirianni gave Steichen play-calling duties midway through last season, and the 37-year-old assistant drove the team to becoming the league’s top rushing attack. The Eagles rank third in total yards and points this season, and Hurts took a major leap as a passer.
Despite the Colts completing their worst regular season in at least 11 years, Irsay has stumped for Saturday on multiple occasions since making the controversial hire. Saturday wants to stay on as head coach, Mike Chappell of CBS4 notes, adding that while no interview has been scheduled one should be expected. It would be odd (and wildly unpopular) for the coach in charge of the Colts’ first seven-game losing streak to end a season since the team’s 1953 expansion year would stay on, but that scenario remains in play.
The Lions have shown a dramatic turnaround on offense this season, but their performance on the other side of the ball has led to them owning a 1-3 record. Defensive changes are coming, according to head coach Dan Campbell, but that will not include replacing defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
Detroit leads the NFL in points and yards per game on offense one month into the 2022 campaign. However, they rank dead last defensively in both of those categories, as showcased most recently in Sunday’s 48-45 loss to the Seahawks. In response, Campbell, Glenn and the rest of the team’s defensive staff are eyeing alterations to their personnel packages and scheme (Twitter link via team reporter Tim Twentyman).
One of those could involve more diversity in the ways rookie Aidan Hutchinsonis deployed. This year’s No. 2 overall pick had a noteworthy second career game with three sacks, but has been held without one in the three other contests. He has six tackles for loss and eight QB pressures, but could be used in different alignments within the formation moving forward, Twentyman tweets.
Glenn, meanwhile, has been a rising name in the coaching ranks around the league. Detroit hired the former defensive back last season, amidst interest from several other teams. That was the case again this offseason, with the Saints eyeing a return to New Orleans for the 50-year-old to fill their head coaching vacancy representing one of many interviews he received. Despite his unit’s struggles early on, Campbell is backing Glenn to retain his position.
“I’ve had to do this before and I’m not afraid to make a hard decision,” Campbell said yesterday, via the Detroit Free Press. “If I really believed that was the cause of it and I don’t believe it is. I believe that Aaron Glenn was the right man for the job and he gives us our best hope, our best option, to run this defense. I just do.”
The Lions will look to improve defensively against another 1-3 squad, the Patriots, in Week 5. New England is facing a number of questions at quarterback, so that game could represent a useful opportunity to begin a turnaround.