Al Holcomb

Coaching Notes: Vrabel, Fangio, Dolphins, Eagles, Marrone, Saints, Titans, Bills

Seeing as Mike Vrabel went from highly regarded HC to trade candidate to bumped off this year’s carousel entirely, potential reasoning behind the ex-Titans boss’ standing is certainly relevant. Vrabel’s old-school, intimidating style may have been a factor in him not landing a job, with a GM going so far as to mention to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini this even could even extend to his physical stature. The former NFL linebacker also may have found himself pigeonholed as a slightly older candidate, even at 48, than some owners wanted, Russini offered during an appearance on The Athletic Football Show. Only Jim Harbaugh (60) and Dan Quinn (53) was older among this year’s eight HC hires. Vrabel interviewed for the Falcons, Panthers and Chargers’ jobs.

Some teams were interested in hiring Vrabel as a defensive coordinator, Russini adds, but the six-year NFL HC has not been connected to any specific coordinator jobs. With not many DC positions left, Vrabel seems likely to join Bill Belichick as coaches on the outside looking in this year. Vrabel may stand to have a better chance of landing another HC job moving forward, with Belichick set to turn 72 in April. For now, however, he is out of the league. The reports about Vrabel clashing with Titans ownership may have impacted his chances as well.

Here is the latest from the coaching ranks:

  • On the subject of coaching clashes, Vic Fangio‘s style did not appear to draw universal praise while with the Dolphins. Jalen Ramsey, Jevon Holland and rookie Cam Smith expressed issues with the veteran DC,’s Adam Beasley notes. While praising Fangio’s old-school demands, Tyreek Hill also relayed a rumor about others indicating behind closed doors the team’s 2023 DC wanted to return to Philadelphia. Previously mentioned as rubbing some in Miami the wrong way, Fangio is indeed back with the Eagles. The Dolphins have hired ex-Ravens D-line coach Anthony Weaver to replace him.
  • Preparing to hire Klint Kubiak as offensive coordinator, the Saints will not extend Doug Marrone‘s second stint with the team into the 2024 season. In place as the Saints’ offensive line coach from 2022-23, Marrone will not be asked back, Nick Underhill of tweets. The Saints have veteran O-line coach John Benton as a frontrunner to fill the spot,’s Luke Johnson adds. Benton, 60, would be a logical hire. He worked as Gary Kubiak‘s O-line coach for eight years in Houston and was the 49ers’ O-line coach under Kyle Shanahan from 2017-20. After following Robert Saleh to New York in 2021, Benton spent this past season out of football.
  • Former Falcons assistants Steve Jackson and Frank Bush will be part of new Titans DC Dennard Wilson‘s staff,’s Turron Davenport tweets. A former Texans DC and interim Jets DC, Bush was on Arthur Smith‘s Falcons staff as linebackers coach for three years. This will be a return trip for Jackson, who has a history as a player and a coach with the franchise. A former Oilers cornerback, Jackson finished his career in Super Bowl XXXIV with the Titans. He later served as assistant DBs coach under Mike Mularkey in Tennessee from 2016-17. Jackson spent the past two seasons with the Falcons.
  • The Bills are moving senior defensive assistant Al Holcomb to a position coach role. The former Panthers DC will replace Bobby Babich as Buffalo’s linebackers coach,’s Alaina Getzenberg notes. Babich is now Buffalo’s DC. Holcomb, who worked with Sean McDermott in Carolina, joined the Bills last year. The AFC East champs are also promoting Marcus West from assistant defensive line coach to D-line coach to replace Eric Washington, who became the Bears’ DC last month.

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spun for several weeks, many teams made coordinator changes as well. Teams seeking new head coaches are conducting OC and DC searches, and a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

This is a big year for offensive coordinator hires, with nearly half the league making changes. Here are the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 3-1-23 (3:31pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals 

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Ben McAdoo)

  • Thomas Brown, tight ends coach, (Rams): Hired
  • Jim Bob Cooter, passing-game coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed

Dallas Cowboys (Out: Kellen Moore)

  • Brian Angelichio, tight ends coach (Vikings): Interviewed 2/2
  • Thomas Brown, tight ends coach (Rams): Interviewed
  • Jeff Nixon, running backs coach (Panthers): Interviewed
  • Brian Schottenheimer, offensive consultant (Cowboys): Hired

Denver Broncos (Out: Justin Outten)

Houston Texans (Out: Pep Hamilton)

Indianapolis Colts (Out: Parks Frazier)

  • Jim Bob Cooter, passing-game coordinator (Jaguars): Hired
  • Tee Martin, wide receivers coach (Ravens): Interview requested

Kansas City Chiefs (Out: Eric Bieniemy)

  • Matt Nagy, quarterbacks coach (Chiefs): Hired

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Shane Steichen)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals (Out: Vance Joseph)

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Buffalo Bills (Out: Leslie Frazier)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Al Holcomb)

  • Ejiro Evero, former defensive coordinator (Broncos): Hired
  • Vic Fangio, former head coach (Broncos): Interviewed
  • Marquand Manuel, safeties coach (Jets): Interviewed
  • Kris Richard, co-defensive coordinator (Saints): Interviewed

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans 

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Renaldo Hill)

  • Derrick Ansley, defensive backs coach (Chargers): Promoted
  • Doug Belk, defensive coordinator (Houston): Interviewed
  • DeMarcus Covington, defensive line coach (Patriots): Interviewed

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

New Orleans Saints (Out: Ryan Nielsen, Kris Richard)

  • Joe Woods, former defensive coordinator (Browns): Hired

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Jonathan Gannon)

San Francisco 49ers (Out: DeMeco Ryans)

  • Vic Fangio, former head coach (Broncos): On radar
  • Chris Harris, defensive backs coach (Commanders): Interviewed 1/31
  • Kris Kocurek, defensive line coach (49ers): On radar
  • Steve Wilks, former interim head coach (Panthers): Hired

Coaching Notes: Bills, Panthers, Dolphins, Saints, Lions, Packers

Another former member of the Panthers organization is heading to Buffalo. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter), the Bills are hiring Al Holcomb as a senior defensive assistant. ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg tweets that the two sides have yet to officially finalize a deal but are heading in that direction.

After having previously spent five seasons as the Panthers linebackers coach, Holcomb returned to Carolina in 2020 as their defensive run game coordinator. When Steve Wilks became the Panthers interim head coach this past season, Holcomb was promoted to the team’s interim defensive coordinator/assistant head coach.

Holcomb worked under former Panthers defensive coordinator (and current Bills head coach) Sean McDermott in Carolina. He also worked alongside current Bills GM Brandon Beane, who previously served as Carolina’s director of football operations and assistant GM.

Speaking of the Panthers, they made their own coaching move today. The team announced that they’ve agreed to terms with linebackers coach Peter Hansen. The coach served in the same role with the Broncos last season, where he coached under new Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. The 43-year-old Hansen was previously the defensive coordinator at UNLV.

More coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • The Dolphins are hiring Butch Barry as their new offensive line coach, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (on Twitter). Barry was recently canned by the Broncos after serving as their OL coach for one season, but now he’ll get another opportunity in Miami. The veteran coach will be replacing Matt Applebaum, who was let go after only one season with the Dolphins organization.
  • The Saints have been busy adding to their coaching staff. Cardinals defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson is heading to New Orleans, per Mike Jurecki (on Twitter). Robertson, who spent the past four years in Arizona, will presumably be serving in the same role with the Saints. Meanwhile, Nick Underhill of tweets that the Saints are closing in on a deal with Clancy Barone to serve as their tight ends coach. The veteran coach most recently served in that same role with the Bears, and he previously worked alongside Saints head coach Dennis Allen when the two were with the Broncos and with Texas A&M. Finally, Underhill tweets the the Saints are retaining offensive assistant Kevin Petry. The young coach “was coveted for a position by Sean Payton” in Denver, per Underhill, but the Saints ultimately convinced him to stick in New Orleans.
  • The Lions have made some changes to their coaching staff. Most notably, the team promoted J.T. Barrett to assistant quarterbacks coach and Shaun Dion Hamilton to assistant linebackers coach. Barrett, a former star at Ohio State, bounced around the NFL before joining the Lions coaching staff as an offensive assistant last offseason. Hamilton, a former sixth-round pick, spent a year on the Lions’ roster before joining their coaching staff last year. Per Tim Twentyman of the team’s website (on Twitter), the Lions also promoted Brian Duker to defensive backs coach, Tanner Engstrand to passing game coordinator, and Steve Oliver to assistant offensive line coach. The Lions have also added Dre Thompson as a defensive quality control coach.
  • The Packers are hiring former Cardinals cornerbacks coach Greg Williams, according to Tom Silverstein of Packers News. It’s uncertain what role Williams will fill on Matt LaFleur’s staff, but Silverstein expects him to help fill the void left by defensive passing game coordinator Jerry Gray, who left Green Bay for the Falcons. Prior to his four-year stint in Arizona, Williams served as the Broncos and Colts defensive backs coach.

Falcons Request DC Interviews With Brian Flores, Al Holcomb

The list of potential candidates to fill the Falcons’ defensive coordinator vacancy continues to grow. Atlanta has requested interviews with Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores and Panthers DC Al Holcomb (Twitter links via Josina Anderson of CBS Sports and ESPN’s Adam Schefter).

Flores has received interest in multiple coaching opportunities this offseason, including a recent interview with the Browns for their DC position. A move to Cleveland would represent a step up in title relative to his current arrangement in Pittsburgh, though the 41-year-old played a more sizeable role on Mike Tomlin‘s staff than an average position coach, of course.

The Cardinals have also reached out to Flores seeking an interview for their head coaching vacancy. If he were to land that job, it would mark a quick turnaround from his firing by the Dolphins last offseason. That move ended his three-year tenure in Miami, one which has been followed by his ongoing racial discrimination suit against the NFL in general and several teams in particular. The controversy surrounding his exit – and its subsequent effect on the 2022 coaching cycle, among other things – was a key storyline around the league.

Holcomb, 50, has been an NFL staffer since 2009. His lone season as a full-time defensive coordinator came with the Cardinals in 2018, under head coach Steve Wilks. The pair were reunited in Carolina, and Holcomb spent the 2020 and ’21 campaigns serving as the Panthers’ defensive run game coordinator. Following the firing of Matt Rhule – and the subsequent departures of multiple members of his staff, coupled with Wilks taking over – Holcomb was promoted to the role of interim DC to finish the season.

This news comes after it was reported earlier today that the Panthers put in an interview request for Jets safeties coach Marquand Manuel. That meeting is likely to concern Carolina’s DC position, so Holcomb’s future will be worth monitoring as the coaching (and coordinator) cycles take shape in the coming days. He and Flores join the Packers’ Jerry Gray and the Saints’ Ryan Nielsen as targets for Atlanta to replace Dean Pees following his retirement.

Panthers Request Permission To Interview Marquand Manuel For Coordinator Position

The Panthers have requested permission to interview Jets safeties coach Marquand Manuel for “a coordinator position,” per Jeremy Fowler of (via Twitter). Presumably, Carolina is interested in installing Manuel as its defensive coordinator.

Manuel, 43, enjoyed an eight-year playing career in the NFL from 2002-09 and joined the coaching ranks as an assistant special teams coach with the Seahawks in 2012. He worked as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator from 2017-18, but Atlanta finished in the bottom-five in total defense in 2018 after boasting a top-10 unit the year before, and the team parted ways with Manuel at the conclusion of the campaign.

After one year as a DBs coach with the Eagles in 2020, Manuel joined Robert Saleh‘s first Jets staff in 2021 and has served as Gang Green’s safeties coach over the past two seasons. The Jets allowed the fourth-fewest yards per game and the third-fewest passing yards per game in 2022, which is certainly a feather in Manuel’s cap (though this is the first time we have heard of outside interest in his services in the current coaching cycle).

Of particular interest here is what the interview request could mean for Steve Wilks‘ candidacy as the Panthers’ head coach. Wilks, who stepped in as interim HC upon Matt Rhule‘s ouster in October, guided the club to a surprising 6-6 finish to the season, and he nearly captured a division title in the process. He also appears to have the full support of his locker room.

Nonetheless, as David Newton of tweets, Al Holcomb is Wilks’ defensive coordinator. So if the team is going in a different direction at DC, it could mean that it is, by extension, planning on going in a different direction at head coach.

While two of Carolina’s HC candidates, Jerod Mayo and Jim Harbaugh, are no longer in the running, there are nine other options (including Wilks) as of the time of his writing. The full list is as follows, and the majority of the remaining candidates have an offensive background, which Wilks does not have but which may be a priority for team ownership:

Panthers Activate QB Sam Darnold

The Panthers have added another name to the mix regarding their fluid quarterback situation. The team announced on Monday that Sam Darnold has been activated from IR. This will be their second activation of the year.

Carolina had until this Wednesday to make the move. If not, Darnold would have been ineligible to return this season. Interim head coach Steve Wilks‘ comments on the matter left the situation somewhat murky, but it comes as little surprise that Darnold will be available moving forward after his return to practice.

The 25-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason, leading to the expectation of a prolonged absence to begin the campaign. That opened the door to offseason trade acquisition Baker Mayfield having an even firmer grip on the starting QB job in the opening weeks of the season, but he struggled mightily before suffering the same injury himself. P.J. Walker took over the No. 1 role for the next three games.

His level of play left Mayfield on the bench despite retuning to health, until halftime of yesterday’s blowout loss to the Bengals. Walker had guided one of the worst offensive performances through two quarters in franchise history, leading Wilks to replace him with Mayfield for the remainder of the game. That move left the starting spot wide open in advance of Carolina’s upcoming Thursday night game against the Falcons. Darnold – who, like Mayfield, is a pending free agent – will now factor into the team’s plans in the coming days.

In other Panthers news, more changes have been made along the team’s coaching staff. Cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper and defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni were fired today, as detailed by ESPN’s David Newton. Cooper had been one of several assistants with ties to Matt Rhule, and his job description included a scouting role. He will be jointly replaced by defensive staffer Bobby Maffei and interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb. Pasqualoni, 73, has five years of DC experience in the NFL; this was his first season in Carolina. Don Johnson and assistant d-line coach Terrance Knighton will occupy his vacated role.

These moves come less than one month after Rhule and DC Phil Snow were fired, of course, as the turnover in the organization continues. With a new configuration on the sidelines, and, potentially, another new face under center, the 2-7 Panthers will host the Falcons to begin Week 10 as they hope to rebound from yesterday’s loss.

Latest On Panthers Coaching Staff

The Panthers organization will have an important decision to make when it comes to replacing Matt Rhule, but the team is more than happy with their current arrangement. Steve Wilks took on the role of interim HC, and Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post writes that this was always the team’s plan if things didn’t work out with their now-former head coach.

[RELATED: Panthers Fire Matt Rhule; Steve Wilks Named Interim HC]

The Panthers convinced Wilks to step away from his defensive coordinator gig at Missouri to be their defensive passing game coordinator/secondary coach. The team made this hiring as a contingency in case they had to move on from Rhule; Wilks was still highly regarded within the organization thanks to his previous stint with the Panthers, and ownership was more than happy to hand him the reigns. Per La Canfora, Wilks will get a legitimate chance to keep the head coaching gig beyond this season.

While Panthers owner David Tepper is more than willing to make a big splash on the sideline, sources tell La Canfora that Sean Payton is not a realistic target. Those sources don’t believe Payton would mesh with Tepper, and the organization’s lack of draft picks and a foundational QB means a quick rebuild is unlikely. Plus, one GM told La Canfora that the Saints would prefer to trade Payton to an AFC squad, and it’s especially unlikely they trade him within the division.

Elsewhere on the coaching staff, Al Holcomb will take over as the defensive play caller. The 51-year-old coach was originally hired as Carolina’s defensive run game coordinator. He’ll replace defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who was fired alongside Rhule. Wilks told Joseph Person of The Athletic that it was his decision to move on from Snow, and Person later wrote that the interim HC had some “philosophical differences” with the DC.

“It was my call and my decision,” Wilks said. “I just felt like I wanted a different approach moving forward … The schemes aren’t gonna change much,” he added. “But I think you have to be creative in the process of what you’re doing. And everything is predicated on who we’re playing.”

Panthers Fire DC Phil Snow

The Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule earlier today, but he wasn’t the only member of the team’s staff to receive his walking papers. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow has also been let go, reports NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). 

The 66-year-old has been a longtime lieutenant of Rhule’s. The pair worked together at Temple and Baylor from 2013-19, making it little surprise that they were both hired by the Panthers in 2020. That move marked only the second NFL gig for Snow, who spent four years on the Lions’ sidelines from 2005-08.

During his two full seasons in Carolina, Snow was tasked with overseeing a defense which added a plethora of young pieces. In the 2020 draft, the Panthers notably used each of their selections on defense, a class led by defensive tackle Derrick Brown. That year, the team ranked 18th in the league in both points and yards allowed. Significant improvement was seen last season, as Carolina climbed to second in terms of yardage.

That shifted attention to the offensive side of the ball with respect to improvements in 2022. The Panthers’ inability to find sustained success in the passing game in particular stressed Snow’s unit even more than usual, leading to below-averaging rankings across the board. As a result, Snow will join Rhule in seeking new employment. The same is also true of special teams assistant Ed Foley, who likewise has ties to Rhule (Twitter link via Joe Person of The Athletic).

In the aftermath of Rhule’s dismissal, some wondered if interim HC Steve Wilks would assume defensive play-calling duties. Instead, it appears that responsibility will be given to Al Holcomb, Rapoport tweets. The 51-year-old spent five seasons as the Panther’s linebackers coach before following Wilks to Arizona in 2018. That tandem lasted just one season in the desert, as the team finished with a 3-13 record. Now, though, they will have the opportunity to resume their respective roles as they look to right the ship in Charlotte.

Extra Points: Patriots, Texans, Caserio, Panthers, Holcomb, Broncos, Chubb, Steelers, Dupree

The Patriots have a big offseason ahead of them. Obviously there’s still the Tom Brady situation to work out, but there are some important behind the scenes decisions that need to be made as well. The front office is in a bit of limbo, as two prominent execs in Nick Caserio and Monti Ossenfort are both on expiring contracts that run out in May. The Texans originally tried to hire Caserio as their GM last year, which resulted in tampering charges. There’s now a good chance that both Caserio and Ossenfort move on from the Pats before the 2020 season, per Albert Breer of

Even though we just heard recently that the Texans weren’t going to hire a GM and would continue with Bill O’Brien running the show, Breer writes that the “Texans would find a way to hire him as GM” if Caserio wanted to work in Houston. If Caserio and Ossenfort both leave, Breer writes that the Patriots would likely promote Dave Ziegler. It was rumored that Josh McDaniels might’ve wanted to take Ziegler with him had he landed the head coaching job in Cleveland.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Al Holcomb is back in Carolina. The Panthers have hired Holcomb to be their run game coordinator, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Holcomb was linebackers coach under Ron Rivera in Carolina for five years from 2013-17, so this is a homecoming for him. He spent last year as the Browns’ run game coordinator, and found himself in need of a new job after Freddie Kitchens got bounced from Cleveland. He had previously served as defensive coordinator with the Cardinals under Steve Wilks in 2018. He was a grad assistant at Temple back in the day, which could explain his connection to new Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who was previously the head coach at Temple.
  • Broncos pass-rusher Bradley Chubb showed a lot of promise as a rookie, racking up 12 sacks in 2018. Unfortunately his sophomore campaign was cut short, as he tore an ACL in Denver’s fourth game. On the bright side his recovery seems to be going well, and GM John Elway recently said that he should be ready for OTAs in a few months, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post. Chubb was the fifth overall pick out of N.C. State two years ago.
  • The Steelers are likely to place the franchise tag on impending free agent outside linebacker Bud Dupree, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While Pittsburgh very much wants to retain him for 2020, Dulac writes that the team is unlikely to pursue a longterm extension with Dupree because the “money is being earmarked for a big contract” for fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the near future. Dupree was drafted in the first round back in 2015, and his career got off to a rocky start. He’s since become more reliable though, starting at least 15 games in each of the past three years. He had his best year as a pro this past season, when he started all 16 games and racked up 11.5 sacks. Amusingly, Steelers president Art Rooney II said the Le’Veon Bell debacle isn’t going to impact how they use the tag moving forward. “I don’t think that affects the way we think about franchise tags or anything at this point,” Rooney said. “We had one, I’ll call it unusual experience, and I think it was that — an unusual experience.

Browns Hire Ex-Cardinals DC Al Holcomb

The Browns have hired former Cardinals defensive coordinator Al Holcomb as run game coordinator/linebackers coach, according to Tom Pelissero of (Twitter link).

Cleveland hired ex-Arizona head coach Steve Wilks as its new defensive coordinator earlier this week, so it’s no surprise to see Holcomb follow him to the Browns’ staff. Wilks and Holcomb’s history together dates back to 2013, when Wilks served as the Panthers’ assistant head coach/defensive back while Holcomb was Carolina’s linebackers coach. Holcomb continued to work under Wilks when he was promoted to the Panthers’ DC role in 2017, and followed him to the desert last season.

In Cleveland, Holcomb will helm a linebacker group that’s high on talent but lacked results last season, at least in the run game. While the Browns ranked 11th in Football Outsiders‘ adjusted line yards (meaning their defensive line was productive), the club finished next-to-last in second level yards, an indication that opposing running backs weren’t being tackled by Cleveland’s ‘backers. Joe Schobert, notably, tied for third among all defenders in missed tackles in 2018, but ranked second among linebackers in Pro Football Focus‘ pass coverage grades.

The Browns will also add Alabama defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi to their staff as defensive line coach, tweets Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports. Lupoi — who’d been with the Crimson Tide since 2014 — led a number of future NFLers at Alabama, but this will mark his first coaching gig in the pro ranks.