Bill Callahan

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Pocic, Ravens

The Steelers are trending in the wrong direction to start the 2022 season, one which came with a number of questions on offense. After last week’s 38-3 loss to the Bills, though, no shake-up on the sidelines is expected.

When speaking to the media after the loss, head coach Mike Tomlin stated that he has been “highly involved” in the team’s offense, a unit led by Matt Canada. The latter has been the subject of plenty of scrutiny dating back to last season, his first as offensive coordinator. As Tomlin stressed, however, he will not make “changes for the sake of changes” with respect to the maligned play-caller (Twitter links via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor).

Through five weeks, Pittsburgh ranks 30th in the NFL in both yards (308.6) and points (15.4) per game. The underwhelming play of veteran signing Mitch Trubisky led to first-round rookie Kenny Pickett being installed as the starting quarterback, something which certainly didn’t produce the desired results in Week 5. He and the team face another tough matchup this Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Here are some other notes from around the AFC North:

  • Beside Tomlin, another high-profile coach who has had a hand in offensive game-planning has been Brian Flores. The former Dolphins head coach sat in on that unit’s meetings prior to the Steelers’ game against the Patriots, per SI’s Albert Breer. More generally, Breer notes, Flores has been operating as an “over-the-top assistant” with the offense, in addition to his primary responsibilities as LBs coach. The expanded role comes as the team “hopes” Flores is able to land another HC opportunity down the road.
  • As for the QB position, a deal could be coming soon. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic points out that, with Pickett having assumed No. 1 duties, it would make sense for Pittsburgh to move on from one of Trubisky or Mason Rudolph at the upcoming trade deadline (subscription required). The latter is a pending free agent and was the subject of trade talks this offseason, though the Steelers held on to him. Trubisky, meanwhile, is under contract for 2023 with a cap hit of $10.625MM.
  • The Browns have the league’s top rushing attack, something owing in no small part to the play of their offensive line. That includes center Ethan Pocic, who signed in Cleveland this offseason after five years in Seattle. When weighing the options presented by a modest free agent market, the 27-year-old chose to work with Browns o-line coach Bill Callahan. “As soon as I wasn’t going to get a big contract, a long-term contract, everything was pretty low, league minimum for the most part, I just went to the team with the best coaches and the best players,” he said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. After the season-ending injury suffered by Nick Harris, Pocic assumed a starter’s role and currently ranks as PFF’s fourth-highest rated center.
  • The first few weeks of the season have offered a glimpse into a new element in the Ravens’ offense. The team has implemented more looks from under center for QB Lamar Jackson, as detailed by the Washington Posts’ Jason La Canfora. Jackson operated almost exclusively from the shotgun prior to entering the NFL; Baltimore deployed plenty of pistol formations during the first four years of his career. 2022, however, has seen a dramatic uptick in his under-center looks, especially in the passing game – part of OC Greg Roman‘s attempts to diversify the team’s run-heavy offense. Overall, that has so far translated to just 213 passing yards per contest (23rd in the league), so the degree to which the team remains committed to this new element will be interesting to monitor as the season progresses.

Packers’ Getsy Expected To Become Bears’ OC

It looks like Matt Eberflus is getting the guy to run his offense as ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted out that Packers’ quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator Luke Getsy is expected to be hired as the Bears’ new offensive coordinator.

Getsy has spent his entire NFL coaching career in Green Bay joining the Packers as an offensive quality control coach in 2014. He worked his way up to wide receivers coach before taking a year away from the team to be the offensive coordinator at Mississippi State University. He returned to Green Bay in 2019 as the quarterbacks coach and added the passing-game coordinator title to his job for the following two seasons.

The Packers have been a top ten passing offense in each of Getsy’s two years as passing-game coordinator, helping them to earn the top-seed in the NFC and setting up quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a potential fourth MVP award.

Getsy’s departure leaves holes for Green Bay at two offensive positions. The Packers have lost former-offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who took the position of head coach for the Broncos and now are expected to be without their quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator.

It’s expected that Eberflus will consider Getsy’s input in putting together the rest of the offensive staff. We wrote earlier about the Bears’ interest in Browns’ offensive line coach Bill Callahan and a few other expected hires for Chicago. Eberflus’ first NFL staff is starting to come together nicely.

Updates To Eberflus’ New Bears’ Staff

New head coach Matt Eberflus has wasted no time in starting to piece together his new coaching staff in Chicago. 

The Colts’ former defensive coordinator will bring some familiar names with him from Indianapolis on the defensive side of the ball. According to Zak Keefer, of The Athletic, it’s been confirmed that linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi will follow Eberflus to Chicago to retain the same position. Borgonzi has played a crucial role in the development of players like Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, and Bobby Okereke. Rumors have been circulating that cornerbacks coach James Rowe and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli could soon follow in Borgonzi’s footsteps.

On the offensive side of the ball, Eberflus will have to build a new system. We’ve already seen Eagles’ passing-game coordinator Kevin Patullo’s name surface as a potential coordinator, especially being a former coworker of the Bears’ new skipper in Indianapolis. We’ve also seen Packers’ quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy‘s name mentioned as the favorite candidate to land the coordinator job.

Still nothing has been announced, but Sanjay Lal, who has coached wide receivers for six different NFL teams, most recently in Jacksonville, is reportedly interviewing today for the offensive coordinator job, according to Jane Slater of NFL Network. A London-native, Lal started out coaching in a California high school for about six years before earning opportunities to coach at a few local colleges, culminating in a position as the quarterbacks coach at the University of California, Berkeley. Lal got his first NFL opportunity joining Lane Kiffin‘s Oakland Raiders staff in 2007 as a quality control coach, getting promoted to wide receivers coach in 2009. The journeyman coach then spent time as a wide receivers coach for the Jets, Bills, Colts, and Cowboys before not being retained in Dallas when Mike McCarthy took over. After spending a year as a senior offensive assistant in Seattle for a year, Lal got another chance to coach wide receivers for the Jaguars under Urban Meyer, where he spent the past season.

The only other offensive position we’ve heard about comes from Sports Mockery writer Erik Lambert who reports that Eberflus and the Bears will pursue Browns’ offensive line coach Bill Callahan. Callahan has coached a laundry list of Pro Bowl players over the years and has two connections to the Bears’ job. Firstly, he worked with Eberflus in Dallas for about three seasons, and, second, Callahan was born and raised in Chicago.

Two names have surfaced so far at the special teams coordinator position. Lambert mentions Raiders’ interim-head coach Rich Bisaccia as the favorite to take over the special teams unit in Chicago as it becomes less and less likely that he’ll be retained as the head ball coach in Las Vegas. The other name mentioned came from Jordan Raanan who covers the Giants for ESPN. Ranaan tweeted out that Giants’ special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is scheduled to interview for the same position with the Bears tomorrow. McGaughey has already interviewed for the Chargers’ special teams coordinator job and has not ruled out remaining with the Giants.

It’s an impressive potential lineup for Eberflus as he attempts to put together his first full staff as a head coach. Updates should be expected shortly as all the names mentioned so far are no longer participating in the playoffs.

Browns Activate Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson From Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Browns will have more of their regulars in uniform Sunday in Kansas City than they did in Pittsburgh last week. They activated cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson off their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

Both players missed the past two games after testing positive for the coronavirus. NFL protocols would have permitted Ward to return last week, but he did not clear the necessary hurdles to return. The Browns beat the Steelers anyway, though Pittsburgh’s wide receivers enjoyed big days in Week 17 and in the teams’ opening-round matchup. The Chiefs are quite talented at this position as well.

An offseason addition, Johnson has operated as a part-time starter for the Browns. Ward has been the team’s No. 1 corner essentially since arriving in Cleveland in 2018. The Browns hope to have Joel Bitonio and wideout KhaDarel Hodge against the Chiefs as well.

Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan also returned to practice Wednesday. The veteran NFL staffer experienced COVID symptoms, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, who adds Kevin Stefanski has encountered symptoms as well. However, Stefanski is expected to coach against the Chiefs. Wideouts coach Chad O’Shea was also symptomatic, per Cabot, but he is also back at practice. Assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard remain out due to COVID.

Denzel Ward To Miss Wild-Card Game

The Browns’ uphill battle in their first playoff game in 18 years became steeper Saturday. The team announced it will be without top cornerback Denzel Ward in Pittsburgh.

Ward will remain on the Browns’ reserve/COVID-19 list. So will fellow starting cornerback Kevin Johnson, who also tested positive last week. Both missing last week limited a Browns secondary in a game when Mason Rudolph threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns.

Based on his timeline, coronavirus protocols would have allowed Ward to suit up against the Steelers. But this would have required Ward being asymptomatic and passing the necessary tests. The third-year corner has not hit the necessary checkpoints, which will leave the Browns shorthanded Sunday night. The NFL found some COVID-19 spread within the Browns but did not move to postpone the AFC North playoff matchup.

However, the Browns will have some players back for their Steelers tilt. The team activated safety Ronnie Harrison, linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant from its virus list. Harrison tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, but the NFL deemed it a false positive, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Browns corner Terrance Mitchell was held out of practice Friday after testing positive, per Cabot, but that has also since been deemed a false positive.

The returns of Harrison, Smith and Bryant leave Ward, Johnson, Joel Bitonio and KhaDarel Hodge on Cleveland’s COVID list. Several coaches, however, will miss the game. Kevin Stefanski, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard are out Sunday night. After coaching the Browns’ wide receivers last week, first-year Cleveland assistant Callie Brownson will coach tight ends this week, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweets.

Another Browns Coach Tests Positive For COVID-19

January 3, 8:02am: Browns CB Kevin Johnson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last night, as Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. He was supposed to start this afternoon’s critical matchup with Pittsburgh in place of Denzel Ward, who is also on the list. Instead, the club will rely on a combination of Terrance MitchellTavierre Thomas, M.J. Stewart, and Robert Jackson.

Cleveland also elevated UDFA rookie A.J. Green from the practice squad, who may start opposite Mitchell. Green has played one defensive snap this season.

January 2, 1:47pm: The Browns will be without both offensive line coaches Sunday. The team announced Bill Callahan and assistant O-line coach Scott Peters will not coach against the Steelers. Assistant Ryan Cordell will oversee Cleveland’s offensive front during the team’s win-and-in Week 17 assignment. Cordell spent five years with the 49ers, working as both a front office and coaching assistant, and is in his second season as a Browns football research analyst.

While the Browns will be down three coaches, they announced their latest round of contact tracing did not result in more players being identified as high-risk close contacts, Ulrich tweets.

January 2, 9:06am: There’s been another positive COVID-19 test on the Browns’ coaching staff, but as of right now, it doesn’t sound like it will impact Sunday’s game against the Steelers. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports that the Browns had a positive test and have closed their facility (via Twitter). Josina Anderson tweets that the Browns will not practice this morning.

The Browns released a statement confirming the news (via Twitter):

“The Cleveland Browns were informed this morning that a member of their coaching staff has tested positive for COVID-19. The team will continue virtual meetings as the facility is currently closed while contact tracing is conducted. We will consult with league medical professionals on the appropriate next steps.”

Browns wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea had already been declared unavailable for tomorrow’s game after testing positive earlier this week. Despite the second positive test result, a source told Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal that there’s been no change to that status of tomorrow’s game (Twitter link).

This is obviously poor timing for Cleveland, as the Browns are on the verge of clinching their first playoff spot since the 2002 season. A win against Pittsburgh will secure that postseason appearance, but there are plenty of scenarios where Cleveland could make the playoffs with a loss tomorrow.

With O’Shea testing positive earlier this week, the Browns were forced to close their facilities. The team finally got their first full team practice in yesterday, and everyone understands the significance of preparing for tomorrow’s game.

“We have to be ready,” Browns wideout Jarvis Landry told Ulrich. “We have to win this game. There’s no secret about it.”

Browns To Hire Bill Callahan As OL Coach

Shortly after his run as Redskins interim head coach ended, Bill Callahan will land on his feet in a familiar role. The Browns are expected to hire Callahan as their next offensive line coach, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

They will be the fifth team to bring Callahan in as O-line coach, following the Eagles, Jets, Cowboys and Redskins. While Callahan has held higher-profile titles, most notably Raiders head coach, his primary NFL role has been as an O-line instructor.

Callahan will work with new Browns HC Kevin Stefanski for the first time. This takes the 63-year-old assistant out of the running for a Giants job. He was in play for Big Blue’s offensive line coach position, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link). Former Cowboys boss Jason Garrett was named OC recently. Callahan worked under Garrett as Dallas’ OC from 2012-14 but accepted a job with the Redskins in 2015. He remained with Washington through the end of the 2010s.

Callahan will replace James Campen, who spent one season working as Browns O-line coach. While the Browns’ offensive line struggled in pass protection — namely at tackle — it ranked 11th in adjusted line yards, helping Nick Chubb to a second-place rushing finish.

Redskins To Part Ways With Bill Callahan

Offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell could keep his job under new head coach Ron Rivera, but the same can’t be said for Bill Callahan. The Redskins will move on from the offensive line coach and one-time interim head coach, according to John Keim of ESPN.com (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Redskins To Hire Jack Del Rio]

Callahan expressed interest in staying in Washington, though his comments came before the Rivera hire. It’s not clear if he would have been open to staying on as an assistant, however.

The Redskins went 0-5 under Jay Gruden and didn’t fare much better with Callahan at the helm. After a 3-8 showing in the final eleven games, they gave Callahan some consideration full-time post, but it might have been more of a courtesy than anything.

There should be plenty of opportunities out there for Callahan if he wants to serve as an assistant elsewhere.

Latest On Redskins’ HC Plans, Front Office

After little emerged on the Redskins front for weeks following Jay Gruden‘s firing, the struggling franchise is dominating the early-weekend news cycle. Bruce Allen‘s role as team president is not safe, with a Black Monday dismissal being considered.

The Redskins are considering firing their 10-year front office czar, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports, adding that Allen may have a chance to remain with the organization in a non-football role. That would be an interesting setup given Allen’s tumultuous tenure in Washington, but Dan Snyder is pondering widespread changes to his football operations department.

Replacement options for Allen include ex-Texans GM Rick Smith and former NFL executive-turned-TV analyst Louis Riddick, La Canfora adds, noting Snyder has done research on a few personnel execs. Smith resigned from his Houston post after the 2017 season but is open to returning to the league. Riddick worked with the Redskins from 2001-07, serving as a scout and pro personnel director. He subsequently held the same role with the Eagles.

As for Washington’s HC opening, Snyder has “strong interest” in Ron Rivera, per JLC. The longtime Redskins owner is also interested in Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, ex-Jets HC and current Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles, longtime Bengals HC Marvin Lewis and former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. These are consolation prizes, though, with La Canfora reporting Snyder’s primary hope is to work out a trade for Mike Tomlin. Snyder is not optimistic about such a deal. The prospect of bringing the Virginia native to Washington surfaced two-plus months ago.

The prospect of bringing aboard a defensive coach opens the door to Washington sticking with top offensive incumbents Bill Callahan and Kevin O’Connell. Snyder is high on both his interim HC and first-year OC, according to La Canfora. Callahan expressed interest in staying on, though it’s not known if he would stick around under another head coach, and O’Connell has been the primary Dwayne Haskins developer this season. Snyder was the driving force behind the Redskins’ Haskins pick, overruling Gruden.

Allen has not excelled in Washington, but neither have most of the head coaches under Snyder. The Redskins have not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons under the 21st-year owner.

Redskins’ Bill Callahan Wants To Stay

Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan wants to shed the interim label, as Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post writes. Callahan, who took over in October, believes the team has made significant strides under his watch. 

I look at the fight of our players,” Callahan said. “I look at the resiliency, and [I] tried to bring back a work ethic into the program that I thought was lacking. I thought our players could have been better fundamentally. . . . I saw our players get better and compete for four quarters. I saw our players have stamina through four quarters of play. I thought long and hard about improving the team and what aspects I would really focus on. A lot of that was the second-half finish, and I thought we did that.”

The Redskins were 0-5 under Jay Gruden, but they’ve gone 3-7 under Callahan in the last ten games. Many believe that the Redskins will opt for a splashy hire, rather than staying the course with Callahan, but the 63-year-old isn’t giving up hope.

As Copeland notes, veterans were freelancing outside the scheme under Gruden in an effort to pad their stats. That didn’t necessarily stop under Callahan, but there have been fewer instances of players operating outside of play calls in recent weeks. Still, the Redskins still rank 31st in scoring offense and 24th in scoring defense.

Callahan will reportedly be considered for the gig, but he’s certainly not the frontrunner.