Alan Williams

NFC Coaching Notes: Eberflus, Bucs, Panthers, Giants, Packers

Although Matt Eberflus landed the Bears job because of the Colts’ defensive performance, Chicago’s new HC is planning more of a CEO-type role for himself. Eberflus is not planning to call defensive plays for the Bears this season, via The Athletic’s Adam Jahns (on Twitter). Instead, new Chicago DC Alan Williams will handle that responsibility. Williams, 52, has previous DC experience, working under Leslie Frazier in Minnesota in the early 2010s, and has enjoyed a few tours as a DBs coach. This will be an interesting transition for Eberflus, a first-time HC. It will not be a notable transition for the Bears, who spent much of the past two seasons with their head coach operating in a CEO-type capacity. Matt Nagy handed off play-calling duties to then-OC Bill Lazor in each of the past two seasons.

Here is the latest from the NFC coaching carousel:

  • The Buccaneers are set to go through a major transition, with Tom Brady‘s retirement ending a brief but successful era that likely doubled as the second-highest peak in franchise history. But Bruce Arians is not eyeing a rebuild. The fourth-year Bucs HC denied a report that indicated the team would allow assistants to pursue other jobs even if the new positions were not promotions, per The Athletic’s Greg Auman (on Twitter). It looks like Arians will keep both coordinators — Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles — for the 2022 season, so Tampa Bay will still feature considerable continuity despite Brady’s departure and the presumptive exits of some key free agents.
  • Circling back to the Bears, the team made some additional hires in recent days. New OC Luke Getsy‘s right-hand man on the Justin Fields front will be Andrew Janocko, Chicago’s new quarterbacks coach. Janocko spent the past seven seasons with the Vikings, ending the run by serving as their QBs coach in 2021. He also worked as the Vikes’ receivers coach and assistant O-line coach at points during his long Minnesota tenure. The Bears also hired James Rowe as their secondary coach. Rowe will come over after serving as the Colts’ cornerbacks coach. David Overstreet, Indianapolis’ assistant DBs coach, will also follow Eberflus and fill the same position with the Bears. Overstreet moved up from the quality control level with Indy in 2021.
  • Former Packers offensive line coach James Campen landed a job as the Panthers‘ O-line coach, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Following a 12-year tenure in Green Bay, Campen will begin the 2022 season with a new team for the fourth straight year. He coached the Browns, Chargers and Texans’ O-lines from 2019-21.
  • Giants running backs coach Burton Burns is expected to retire, Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post tweets. Burns, 69, began coaching in 1981 and spent the past two years as the Giants’ RBs coach — his only NFL position during his career. Fellow college-staff veteran Kevin Sherrer is expected to follow Burns on the way out, per Dunleavy. Sherrer served as the Giants’ linebackers coach last season and migrated to the NFL level, like Burns, for the first time in 2020.
  • To replace tight ends coach Justin Outten, who made a big leap to become the Broncos’ offensive coordinator, the Packers promoted John Dunn. Although this is a promotion, after Dunn spent the 2021 season as an offensive analyst in Green Bay, he coached Jets tight ends from 2019-20.

Bears To Hire Alan Williams As DC

Matt Eberflus isn’t making the move alone. The Bears are set to hire Colts safeties coach Alan Williams as their new defensive coordinator, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter).

[RELATED: Bears Hire Matt Eberflus As Head Coach]

Williams joined the Colts in 2018, the same year as Eberflus. Together, they helped guide the Colts to two playoff appearances across four years. Before that, Williams served as the Lions’ defensive backs coach for four seasons, but he has DC experience dating back to his time with the Vikings. All in all, he’s got more than 20 years of pro coaching on his resume.

Between Eberflus, new GM Ryan Poles, assistant GM Ian Cunningham, and Williams, there’s a clear pipeline forming between Illinois and Indianapolis. There may be even more to come, which means more work for Colts GM Chris Ballard as he reshapes his staff and front office.

“We think it’s win-win,’’ Ballard said recently (via FOX 59). “[The Bears are] getting some really good, only people, but also some really good football coaches coming into your organization as we will going forward here.’’

Colts To Interview Jim Schwartz For DC

With Matt Eberflus departing Indianapolis to become head coach of the Bears, the Colts are in need of a new defensive coordinator. After interviewing Jaguars DC Joe Cullen and WFT defensive backs coach Chris Harris this weekend, the club plans to speak with Titans senior defensive assistant Jim Schwartz for the job.

It was Schwartz’s work as Tennessee’s DC from 2001-08 that landed him the Lions’ head coaching job in 2009, and he remained in Detroit for five seasons, compiling a 29-51 record during that time (though he did secure a rare playoff appearance for the team in 2011). He enjoyed a successful season as the Bills’ defensive coordinator in 2014, but then-HC Doug Marrone resigned following that campaign, and new HC Rex Ryan brought in his own staff.

Schwartz, now 55, served as the Eagles’ DC from 2016-2020, a run that included a championship ring. His Super Bowl-winning defense ranked fourth in the league, and his unit was ranked in the top-10 against the run from 2017-19. After his contract with Philadelphia expired at the end of the 2020 season, he initially planned to sit out 2021, though the Titans convinced him to come back in something of an advisory role. After finishing as a bottom-five defense in terms of yards allowed in 2020, Tennessee was ranked 12th in the league in that regard in 2021.

Colts HC Frank Reich arrived in Philadelphia with Schwartz in 2016 and spent the 2016-17 seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator, so there is an obvious familiarity there. And Schwartz has a long track record of success, so while this is the first reported interest in him in this year’s coaching cycle, Reich could do much worse in his quest to replace Eberflus.

In related news, Reich may be losing his safeties coach, Alan Williams. We heard on Friday that Williams is a candidate to become Eberflus’ defensive coordinator in Chicago, and Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweeted this morning that Eberflus is indeed targeting Williams.

Colts To Interview Joe Cullen For DC

One day after losing Matt Eberflus to the Bears, the Colts have begun their search for a new defensive coordinator. Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reports (via Twitter) that they will interview Jaguars DC Joe Cullen on Saturday. 

Joel Erickson of the Indy Star tweets that the Colts will also be interviewing WFT defensive backs coach Chris Harris on the weekend. The 39-year-old had an eight-year playing career, and immediately transitioned to coaching after his retirement. He has been in Washington since 2020, after stints with the Bears and Chargers.

Cullen was hired one year ago by Jacksonville to take over as DC on Urban Meyer‘s staff. The 54-year-old left his post as the defensive line coach in Baltimore to take the gig, though he already had experience with the Jags in that same position. He has also worked with the Buccaneers, Browns and Lions at the NFL level.

Cullen was most recently named as a candidate to return to the Ravens after they parted ways with DC Don Martindale. Ultimately, Mike Macdonald got hired for that role, but Cullen is set to be one of “a number of outside candidates” the Colts will meet with.

Breer adds that Colts safeties coach Alan Williams will be among the candidates for the Bears’ DC vacancy. Given his connection with Eberflus, a move to Chicago certainly wouldn’t be surprising if it were to happen. Regardless, it was also announced recently that the Colts have parted ways with DL coach Brian Baker, who had been with the team for the past two seasons. Stay tuned for all the latest updates on the various changes to the Colts’ staff.

Coaching Rumors: Jets, Cowboys, Giants

Josh McDaniels‘ decision to break his agreement to become the Colts’ next head coach could hypothetically push the NFL to change its hiring rules, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. Currently, teams aren’t allowed to formally hire coaches who are still employed by playoff clubs, but that hadn’t been an impediment given that no presumptive head coach had backed out of a reported deal. Had McDaniels been able to be officially offered the Indianapolis job several weeks ago, the Colts may have been aware of his wariness at the time. The NFL discussed a possible hiring rule change in 2017, but tabled the discussion, per Florio.

Here’s more from the 2018 coaching carousel:

  • The Jets announced that Jeremy Bates, who was recently promoted to offensive coordinator, will also retain his role as the club’s quarterbacks coach. While Bates will have two jobs, he’ll be able to rely on the expertise of assistant quarterbacks coach Mick Lombardi and longtime NFL offensive coordinator — and new New York offensive line coach/run game coordinator — Rick Dennison. Bates & Co. will likely be working with at least one new signal-caller in 2018, although the Jets are open to re-signing veteran passer Josh McCown.
  • Former Patriots assistant Ray “Bubba” Ventrone will be hired as the Colts‘ new special teams coordinator, according to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Ventrone, who played for four NFL teams, had been a New England staffer since 2015, but this will be his first run as a coordinator. Indianapolis is also expected to hire ex-Lions defensive backs coach Alan Williams for the same role, per Marvez, while Field Yates of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link) former Buccaneers assistant Dave Borgonzi will become the Colts’ next linebackers coach.
  • The Cowboys have finalized their 2017 coaching staff by hiring Doug Colman as their assistant special teams coach, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Colman spent the past four seasons in the same role for the cross-state Texans. He’s expected to be the last major hire on Jason Garrett‘s staff after Dallas promoted Keith O’Quinn to ST coordinator and hired Doug Nussmeier as tight ends coach.
  • Florida Atlantic University defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin is joining the NFL ranks, as he’s agreed to become the 49ers‘ pass rush specialist, according to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated. Kiffin comes from a long line of NFL coaches, as he’s the brother of Lane Kiffin and the son of Monte Kiffin. In San Francisco, he’ll work with young defenders Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, and DeForest Buckner.
  • The Giants have announced new head coach Pat Shurmur‘s staff, and the new list of assistants contains several holdovers. Rob Leonard (assistant linebackers), Ryan Roeder (offensive assistant) and Bobby Blick (defensive assistant) will all stick around.

Coaching Rumors: Colts, Steelers, Morton

John Morton and Jim Harbaugh worked together during the best stretch of 21st-century 49ers football, with Morton coaching San Francisco’s wide receivers from 2011-14. That duo could link up again in Ann Arbor. Michigan is interested in the one-and-done Jets OC to coach its wideouts, Bruce Feldman of SI.com reports. Former Florida head coach Jim McElwain is also in the running for this job, Feldman reports, noting the ex-Gators leader interviewed recently. Morton spent one year as an NFL OC but has experience on the college level, having overseen the 2009 and ’10 USC offenses. He coached the Trojans’ WRs in the two years prior. Morton spent the past seven seasons in the NFL. The Jets fired Morton last month.

Here’s the latest from the coaching ranks, now that every NFL team has a head coach again.

  • Frank Reich has been contacting coaches about joining his first Colts staff over the past few days, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets, and former Lions defensive backs coach (and ex-Vikings DC) Alan Williams is a candidate to join Reich in Indianapolis. If hired, Williams would be returning to Indianapolis, along with Reich. Williams served as Colts DBs coach throughout the Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell tenures, which spanned 10 years from 2002-11. Reich was on Caldwell’s three Colts staffs. Matt Patricia did not retain any Lions defensive coaches upon taking the job in Detroit.
  • A defensive line coach for four NFL teams between 2004 and 2015, Karl Dunbar will join a fifth staff in that capacity. The Steelers hired Dunbar after he’d spent the past two seasons coaching at Alabama. He’ll head up the Pittsburgh D-line and rejoin forces with Mike Tomlin. Dunbar served under Tomlin for one season with the Vikings (2006) before the defensive assistant took the top coaching job in Pittsburgh. Dunbar, who coached in Minnesota for six years, also was an eighth-round Steelers pick in 1990. John Mitchell served as Pittsburgh’s defensive line coach from 1994-2017. The longtime Steelers assistant will remain on staff and retain his assistant head coach title next season.
  • The Steelers also promoted Shaun Sarrett to assistant offensive line coach, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic tweets. Sarrett has worked with Steelers blockers since 2012.
  • Ricky Manning Jr. will not return for a third season with the Seahawks, Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk tweets. The former NFL cornerback had been the teams’ assistant defensive backs coach the past two seasons.

Coaching Rumors: Titans, Lions, Packers

Although at least one report indicated new Titans head coach Mike Vrabel would overhaul the majority of Tennessee’s coaching staff, that’s not necessarily the case, says Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com (all Twitter links). Tight ends coach Arthur Smith, assistant special teams coach Craig Aukerman, and assistant wide receivers coach Luke Steckel will join previously-reported defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend in interviewing with Vrabel during the Senior Bowl. Among the coaches who will part ways with the Titans include offensive line coach and NFL Hall of Famer Russ Grimm (who is retiring), quarterbacks coach Jason Michael, running backs coach Sylvester Croom, defensive assistant Brandon Blaney, and assistant defensive backs coach Steve Jackson.

Here’s more from the 2018 coaching carousel:

  • The Lions are expected to revamp their defensive coaching staff under new head coach Matt Patricia, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). That should come as no surprise given Patricia’s defensive background, and the current Patriots DC spoke with members of the Detroit staff last week to inform them they aren’t part of the club’s 2018 plans, per Birkett. Specifically, Lions linebackers coach Bill Sheridan and defensive backs coach Alan Williams have been fired, reports Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. The Lions, of course, have already lost a number of defensive staffers to other teams, as former defensive coordinator Teryl Austin joined the Bengals while ex-defensive line coach Kris Kocurek landed with the Dolphins.
  • The Packers will continue their staff overhaul under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine by hiring former Bowling Green safeties coach Ryan Downard, likely as a defensive quality control coach, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links). Downard was an assistant under Pettine in Cleveland before heading to BGSU, so there is a level of familiarity between the two. Downard’s addition does not have an effect on the status of incumbent cornerbacks coach Darren Perry, per Silverstein. Meanwhile, La Canfora (via Twitter) has clarified Jason Simmonsrole change with Green Bay, noting that he’s been moved to secondary coach.
  • The Panthers are interviewing Seahawks assistant special teams coach Heath Farwell for the same position, reports Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link). If hired, Farwell would work alongside former NFL linebacker Chase Blackburn, who was recently named Carolina’s new special teams coach. Farwell, an ex-NFL ‘backer in his own right, joined the coaching ranks in 2016.
  • The Seahawks have mutually parted ways with senior defensive assistant Travis Jones, the club announced today. Jones had served as Seattle’s defensive line coach from 2013-16 before being bumped to a new role last season. He’s just the latest coach to leave the Seahawks’ staff this month, adding to a growing list that includes OC Darrell Bevell and DC Kris Richard.