Al Saunders

Coaching Notes: Raiders, Browns, Bengals, Broncos

Some assorted coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Before accepting a job as the Arizona Wildcats head coach, Kevin Sumlin interviewed to be the Raiders wide receivers coach, reports Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (via Twitter). The Raiders have yet to fill the role, but Jerry McDonald of the Mercury News believes Sanjay Lal could be an option. The 48-year-old spent 2017 as the Colts receivers coach, and he served in the same role with the Raiders from 2009 through 2011.
  • The Raiders have filled one hole, as Doug Samuels of reports that the team has hired Alabama secondary coach Derrick Ansley for the same role. Ansley had previously agreed to become Colorado State’s defensive coordinator.
  • The Browns announced that senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach Al Saunders will transition to an advisory role with the franchise, as he’s been named senior assistant/special projects. Saunders served as the Chargers head coach back in the 1980s, and he’s since spent time with the Chiefs, Rams, Redskins, Ravens, Raiders, and Dolphins.
  • Before hiring Frank Pollack as the offensive line coach, the Bengals interviewed former Colts coach Joe Gilbert for the role, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Inquirer (via Twitter). Other candidates included Jeff Davidson (Broncos), Harold Goodwin (Cardinals), and Jim Harding (University of Utah).
  • Despite Mike Sullivan being hired as the Broncos new quarterbacks coach, Klint Kubiak is still expected to stay on the coaching staff, reports Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (via Twitter). Kubiak briefly served as the team’s interim quarterbacks coach, and he’s expected to take on his former role of offensive assistant/QBs.

Browns Hire Ray Horton, Other Coaches

FRIDAY, 8:49am: The Browns have officially confirmed the hiring of Horton as the team’s defensive coordinator, along with the other moves noted below and a few more. Here’s the full list of coaches and titles announced today by the team:

  • Ray Horton, defensive coordinator
  • Pep Hamilton, associate head coach/offense
  • Al Saunders, offensive assistant/wide receivers
  • Kirby Wilson, running backs/run game coordinator
  • Hal Hunter, offensive line
  • Mark Hudson, assistant offensive line
  • Greg Seamon, tight ends
  • Bob Saunders, offensive quality control
  • Shawn Mennenga, special teams assistant
  • Stan Watson, special teams quality control

WEDNESDAY, 7:32pm: In addition to naming Saunders, Hamilton and Wilson to his offensive staff, Jackson has hired Hal Hunter as his O-line coach, Breer tweets. Hunter had been the Colts’ assistant O-line coach since 2013. He was at the helm of the Chargers’ line from 2006-12.

5:08pm: The Browns’ Hue Jackson-led coaching staff is rounding into form. Jackson has hired Ray Horton as his defensive coordinator, reports Mary Kay Cabot of (Twitter link).

Additionally, the Browns have addressed their offensive staff by hiring Al Saunders as a senior assistant, according to Cabot (Twitter link), Pep Hamilton as assistant head coach/offense and Kirby Wilson as their running game coordinator (Twitter links via ESPN’s Josina Anderson).

The last few days have been a whirlwind for Horton, who appeared likely to join the Browns before a report came out that he was negotiating a contract extension with the Titans – whose defensive he coordinated over Pep Hamilton (vertical)the last two seasons. However, the extension didn’t come to fruition and Horton interviewed with the Browns to become their new D-coordinator on Tuesday. Horton is familiar with Cleveland, having coordinated its defense to a top 10 ranking in 2013. Before that, he worked in the same capacity in Arizona from 2011-12. Horton’s defense in Tennessee finished 12th overall in 2015-16, but the team seemingly marginalized his role in the offseason when it hired Dick LeBeau as an assistant head coach. LeBeau was given “complete control” of the defense, and Horton had to report to him during the season as a result. Horton has already put in requests to bring some of the Titans’ defensive coaches to Cleveland, according to Cabot (Twitter link), as he tries to improve a Browns ‘D’ that finished 27th in the league in 2015-16.

Jackson and Saunders have a working relationship that dates back to the 2009 season, when both were with the Ravens. Saunders was also on Jackson’s staff when Jackson was the Raiders’ head coach in 2011. This is the fourth decade in which Saunders has worked as an offensive assistant at the NFL level. The 68-year-old spent this season on the Dolphins’ staff and has been an offensive coordinator with four different teams. While the Browns will value Saunders’ input, Jackson will call the plays.

Hamilton was the Colts’ O-coordinator from 2013 until this past November, when they fired him after their third-ranked attack in 2014 regressed significantly. Part of his duties in Cleveland will entail working with quarterbacks, tweets Albert Breer of Cabot reports (via Twitter) that he’ll be the Browns’ passing game coordinator. The 41-year-old has plenty of experience in that realm, having coached QBs with the Jets (2004), 49ers (2006) and Bears (2007-09) at the pro level.

Prior to joining the Browns, Wilson worked with running backs for six different NFL organizations since 1997, having spent the last three years in Minnesota. The Vikings attempted to keep Wilson, according to ESPN’s Ben Goessling, but the expiration of his contract enabled him to land a promotion with the Browns.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ Coaching Staff Targets

9:36pm: The Dolphins wanted to interview Wilson for a running game coordinator position as well, writes Goessling in a full post, but the Vikings blocked Miami’s and Cleveland’s requests with the hope that they could sign Wilson for 2016 and beyond.

9:13pm: Wilson’s Wednesday interview is almost a formality, according to Goessling, who reports (Twitter link) that Wilson is “all but assured” of landing the running game coordinator position.

8:27pm: New Browns head coach Hue Jackson is still working to formulate a coaching staff, and it appears as though several new hires are close to being finalized. Veteran offensive coordinator Al Saunders is expected to join Cleveland as an assistant, according to Mary Kay Cabot of, while former Vikings running backs coach Kirby Wilson will interview with the club on Wednesday with an eye toward becoming the Browns’ running game coordinator, per Ben Goessling of Saunders (Vertical)

Jackson and Saunders have a working relationship that dates back to the 2009 season, when both were working for the Ravens (they also worked together on the 2011 Raiders), so it’s no surprise that Jason La Canfora of reported this morning that Saunders was a “strong candidate” to join the Cleveland staff. The 68-year-old Saunders offers more than thirty years of NFL coaching experience, and while he won’t be calling plays (Jackson will do that), he’ll presumably help design the club’s weekly game plan.

Meanwhile, Wilson’s contract with the Vikings expired today, per Goessling, so he is now free to negotiate with any team. Previous reports indicated that Minnesota had blocked Cleveland’s request to interview Wilson, but now that he is no longer under contract, the Browns don’t need the Vikings’ approval. Wilson would add yet another voice — including Sanders and possibly Pep Hamilton, whom Jackson is also said to be courting — to Cleveland’s offensive meeting room.

Of course, Saunders and Wilson aren’t the only coaches that Jackson is reportedly eyeing, as we heard this morning that — after much trepidation — Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton interviewed for the same position with the Browns. In her report linked above, Cabot confirmed that today’s scheduled meeting did in fact take place.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coach Rumors: Eagles, Schwartz, 49ers, Fins

While there are no head coaching jobs in the NFL that still need to be filled, many clubs are still tweaking their coaching staffs, making changes among position coaches or hiring new coordinators. Here’s a round-up of the latest news and rumors on those changes from across the league:

  • There’s mutual interest between the Eagles and Jim Schwartz for the defensive coordinator role in Philadelphia. Per Ian Rapoport of (via Twitter), if Schwartz and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson hit it off and all goes well at today’s interview, Schwartz will likely end up with the job.
  • Rapoport (Twitter links) also has a couple updates on the 49ers‘ defensive staff, reporting that Eric Mangini will interview to remain in his defensive coordinator role, while former Buccaneers linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson talked to the Niners about the same position in San Francisco.
  • Longtime offensive coach Al Saunders, who has worked recently with the Dolphins, Raiders, and Ravens, is a “strong candidate” to join Hue Jackson‘s Browns coaching staff, according to Jason La Canfora of (via Twitter).
  • Veteran coaches Jim Washburn and Jeremiah Washburn are headed to the Dolphins, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). Jim, the elder Washburn, will work with the defensive line as a senior defensive assistant, while his son Jeremiah will be an offensive line assistant. The duo previously spent time with the Lions, so Jim has a history of working with Ndamukong Suh.
  • Marvez adds (via Twitter) that the Lions denied the Dolphins‘ interview request for defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who would have been a candidate for that DL job in Miami.

Dolphins Notes: Tannehill, Coyle, Saunders

It’s been a busy week in Miami, where the Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin upon returning home from London, replacing him with former tight ends coach Dan Campbell. Campbell has already made some changes on the offensive side of the coaching staff, bringing in ex-Raiders assistant Al Saunders and altering the roles of some of the team’s assistants. Here’s the latest out of Miami:

  • Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill publicly addressed reports about last Saturday’s practice for the first time today, admitting to reporters that he got upset and made some negative comments toward some players during the session. Acknowledging that he made remarks about a “scout team trophy case,” the veteran signal-caller said he has since cleared the air with those players (Twitter links via James Walker of
  • One key detail of the initial report on Saturday’s practice that Tannehill disputed, however, was the idea that he told any player to “enjoy [his] practice squad pay check.” Tannehill adamantly denied saying anything to that effect, calling the report “slanderous” (Twitter link via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald).
  • Campbell said today that he still doesn’t know whether or not Kevin Coyle will stay on as Miami’s defensive coordinator (Twitter link via Beasley). The longer the Dolphins go without announcing a decision or identifying a replacement, the more likely it is that Coyle sticks around, but the fact that Campbell didn’t confirm the DC’s job is safe suggests that it’s still very much in jeopardy.
  • Campbell also provided some details on the hiring of Saunders, suggesting that he’ll work primarily with the Dolphins’ wide receivers (Twitter link via Alex Marvez of FOX Sports). Former wide receivers coach Ken O’Keefe, who was named a senior offensive assistant today, will work with the quarterbacks going forward.

Dolphins Make Changes To Offensive Staff

Like defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor still has a job with the team after the firing of head coach Joe Philbin. However, Miami is making changes to its coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball, as Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports (Twitter links).

According to Breer, longtime coach Al Saunders is coming aboard as an offensive consultant, assistant quarterbacks coach Ben Johnson is taking Dan Campbell‘s old tight ends coach role, and the team is also re-assigning wide receivers coach Ken O’Keefe.

Saunders, who has held various coaching positions around the NFL for more than 30 years, has a history with Lazor — both men were on Washington’s coaching staff in 2006-2007, with Saunders acting as the team’s assistant head coach, while Lazor was the quarterbacks coach.

Breer acknowledges (via Twitter) that there could be more changes coming to the Dolphins’ staff, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, but for now the club is tweaking its offensive coaching roles. Coyle remains in charge of the defense for now, but his job doesn’t appear entirely safe. Breer tweets that the Dolphins have discussed three former head coaches – Mike Smith, Jim Schwartz, and Greg Schiano – as candidates to come in and help on defense, adding that the situation remains “fluid.”

The Dolphins are entering their bye week, so the team will have a few extra days to get its staff in order before it returns to action in Week 6.

Coach Notes: Browns, Ravens, Rams, Austin

Six of the seven teams changing head coaches this offseason have officially hired replacements, and the Falcons appear fully prepared to wait for Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. However, while there may not be much drama left among the league’s head coaching searches, there’s still plenty of intrigue in the coordinator searches, as a number of noteworthy coaches continue to look for jobs. Here’s a round-up of the latest updates:

  • The Browns have canceled their offensive coordinator interview with Raiders senior offensive assistant Al Saunders, a league source tells Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer (on Twitter). The meeting hasn’t been rescheduled, and no reason was given for the cancellation, so it’s not clear why it will no longer happen.
  • In addition to not interviewing Saunders, the Browns also won’t speak to former Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (Twitter link). A Tuesday report had suggested Mornhinweg was expected to talk to the club about the job.
  • While Mornhinweg apparently won’t interview with the Browns, he has drawn interest from the Ravens, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). Baltimore hired Marc Trestman as its new offensive coordinator yesterday, so Mornhinweg would be a candidate for the team’s quarterbacks coach job.
  • The Rams have been denied permission to speak to two of their offensive coordinator candidates, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who reports that the Colts blocked the Rams from talking to Rob Chudzinski, while the Packers thwarted St. Louis’ efforts to talk to Alex Van Pelt. The Rams still hope to interview Adam Gase, who is in Chicago today to speak to the Bears.
  • While Teryl Austin could still technically end up becoming the Falcons‘ new head coach, it sure looks like the Lions defensive coordinator will be returning to Detroit, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press details.
  • The Broncos will hope for a change of heart from the Bengals on secondary coach Vance Joseph, whom Denver targeted as its top defensive coordinator target, but with Cincinnati refusing to release Joseph from his contract, the Broncos are moving forward on other candidates, tweets Jeff Legwold of
  • Mike Smith has been the Raiders‘ top target for defensive coordinator since Jack Del Rio was named head coach, tweets Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune. If an established coach like Smith lands Oakland’s DC job, he’ll have more autonomy than a younger coach would — Del Rio would be more involved on D in that case, says McDonald.

Coach Updates: Texans, Tomsula, Bears

The case of Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn exhibits a need for the NFL to change its rules when it comes to head coaching hires, writes Jason La Canfora of Because Seattle is playing in the Super Bowl, no team can officially hire Quinn as a head coach until February, at which point most top assistants will have found other jobs. The Falcons still appear willing to wait on Quinn, but it would’ve been much more of a sure thing if Quinn were available immediately.

Here’s the latest on a few more coaching openings around the league:

  • Within La Canfora’s piece, the scribe notes that the Texans could be in the market for an offensive coordinator since the team didn’t have one under Bill O’Brien in 2014. Doug Marrone is a good bet to resurface in Houston, according to La Canfora.
  • Jim Tomsula‘s salary as the 49ers‘ head coach is believed to be about $3.5MM per year, reports Matt Maiocco of (via Twitter). That would put Tomsula amongst the bottom five head coaches in the league in terms of annual salary, which isn’t a huge surprise since he wasn’t a high-profile candidate.
  • The Bears have put in an interview request with the Colts in the hopes of speaking to assistant Rob Chudzinski about their offensive coordinator opening, according to Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link).
  • Bears general manager Ryan Pace said today that the team has not made a contract offer to defensive coordinator candidate Vic Fangio, but that doesn’t mean Chicago isn’t interested, tweets Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Fangio is also considered a strong contender for the same job in Washington.
  • Former Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is interviewing with the Raiders today and has two other stops lined up after Oakland, per’s Michael C. Wright (via Twitter).
  • The Browns‘ offensive coordinator interviews for Anthony Lynn and Al Saunders are expected to take place this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, tweets Adam Caplan of

AFC Notes: Rice, Browns, Knighton, Jets

A hearing had been scheduled for today for Ray Rice‘s grievance against the Ravens, which alleged that the club owed him $3.5MM for cutting him hours after in-elevator footage of him striking his then-fiancée surfaced in September. However, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the two sides have reached a settlement agreement. While the exact amount that the Ravens are paying Rice isn’t known, the settlement signals the formal end of Rice’s appeals processes and his relationship with the Ravens. The veteran running back has been paid and reinstated, so now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if any clubs will be willing to sign him to a new contract this offseason.

Here’s more from across the AFC:

  • Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (Twitter links) have a pair of updates on the Browns‘ offensive coordinator search, reporting that Raiders senior offensive assistant Al Saunders and Bills senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler will interview for the job. Saunders will speak to the team on Tuesday, according to Cabot, while Hostler’s interview will happen this week, per Ulrich.
  • Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio today (Twitter link), free-agent-to-be Terrance Knighton indicated that he hasn’t gotten from the feeling from the Broncos that they’ll bring him back for next season. With Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio becoming the new head coach in Oakland, the Raiders figure to be linked to the big defensive tackle as he nears free agency.
  • New Jets general manager Mike Maccaganan is “strongly considering” hiring ex-Jaguars GM Gene Smith to his front office staff, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Alex Marvez of Fox Sports has another Jets update, tweeting that Falcons defensive backs coach Joe Fanna will be joining Todd Bowles‘ staff in New York.
  • Longtime Jaguars fullback Greg Jones, who announced his retirement today, has interest in coaching and said he’d like to eventually become an offensive coordinator (Twitter link via Vito Stellino).
  • Bills president Russ Brandon spoke to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News about the Bills’ new front office structure, which will involve GM Doug Whaley having final say on the 53-man roster, while head coach Rex Ryan decides on the coaching staff and active gameday rosters.

AFC Coaching Notes: McDaniels, Kubiak, Jets

We have already looked at some of the NFC’s biggest coaching stories, and to follow up here are some of the most important AFC rumors:

  • The early game today features a pair of offensive minds that could have head coaching opportunities this offseason, in Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, writes Ian Rapoport of (via Twitter). McDaniels has drawn interest from the Falcons and 49ers, while Kubiak has ties to both the Jets and Bears.
  • Kubiak has not interviewed yet, choosing to wait until the team’s season is over. However, even if Baltimore is eliminated, Kubiak may not interview for a head coaching job. He loves the Ravens and has friends with the organization, reports Rapoport (via Twitter).
  • As former Jets head coach Rex Ryan interviews for potential head coaching jobs, one question teams are curious about is who he plans to bring in as an offensive coordinator. Ryan is pitching a potential union with former Bears coach Marc Trestman, reports Rapoport (via Twitter).
  • Trestman and Raiders quarterback coach John DeFilippo are in the running to replace Kyle Shanahan as the Browns‘ offensive coordinator, writes Jeremy Fowler of Fowler writes that the most important qualities Cleveland is looking for in an offensive coordinator are the ability to work with Johnny Manziel and scheme flexibility in case the team moves on from its young quarterback.
  • The Browns have also asked for permission to interview Raiders assistant coach Al Saunders, who has experience as an offensive coordinator and head coach during his 30 years in the NFL, reports Steve Corkran of the San Jose Mercury News.
  • If former Bills coach Doug Marrone cannot land another head coaching job this year, he would likely be welcome to join the Texans’ staff as a consultant, reports Chris Mortensen of ESPN (via Twitter). Marrone is close with Texans coach Bill O’Brien.
  • The Jets could be waiting for Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, but owner Woody Johnson should be worried about his ability to get the in-demand Seahawks assistant, writes Conor Orr of If the Jets wait on Quinn and loses him to another suitor, it could leave the team in a bad spot.