Brian Callahan

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

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:

Updated 2-6-23 (6:34pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Poll: Who Will Become Next Colts HC?

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 Quinn hopped 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 Ryans cancelled 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.

Saturday, of course, is the main variable here. Irsay stunned the NFL by hiring the former Pro Bowl center as his interim coach, pulling him off various ESPN sets and onto the sideline. Saturday, 47, won his first game but oversaw a brutal stretch in the weeks that followed. The Colts lost their final seven games and blew an NFL-record 33-point lead during that stretch. While Irsay’s unorthodox choice appeared to backfire, the owner bypassed advice against hiring Saturday in November and is believed to be receiving similar counsel now. Will the Irsay-Saturday partnership somehow continue? The 1-7 record aside, he has consistently been mentioned as a live candidate. With the Panthers passing on Steve Wilks, no interim HC has been promoted in six years.

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section.

Colts To Conduct Second HC Interview With Brian Callahan

Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan had drawn the interest of only one team needing a new head coach until earlier today. Now, though, he is set to be a finalist with the first squad to reach out to him.

The Colts are reaching out to Callahan to conduct a second interview with him, reports Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer (Twitter link). He adds that the sit-down could take place as soon as this Wednesday. In that event, it would precede his (first) interview with the Cardinals by one day.

Callahan, like Cincinnati DC Lou Anarumo, has put himself on the HC radar with his unit’s performances in recent years in particular. Part of head coach Zac Taylor‘s first Bengals staff in 2019, Callahan joined the AFC North squad following stints as the quarterbacks coach of the Lions and Raiders.

His first career OC gig began with underwhelming numbers, to say the least. The Bengals ranked 30th, then 29th in scoring in 2019 and 2020, as the team struggled during the opening campaigns of the Taylor era. Things started to change dramatically last year, however, as quarterback Joe Burrow began to turn into the MVP-caliber player he has since become. The Bengals ranked seventh in the league in points for each of the past two seasons, which has seen the franchise play in consecutive AFC title games and make one Super Bowl appearance.

Much of Cincinnati’s success has come through the air, with the team ranking top-10 in passing yards over that span but outside the top 20 in the NFL on the ground. That comes as little surprise, given the formidable presence of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd as wideouts. Callahan’s tenure has also seen strong play at the running back position, though, with Joe Mixon enjoying a career year in 2021.

Callahan interviewed for the first time with the Colts earlier this month as part of their lengthy search for their full-time bench boss. Controversial interim hire Jeff Saturday remains in the running despite the nature in which his brief tenure unfolded. Callahan represents one several other staffers being seriously considered alongside him, however.

Here is an updated look at the Colts’ search:

Cardinals Request HC Interviews With Lou Anarumo, Brian Callahan, Mike Kafka

2:45pm: In addition to Anarumo and Callahan, the Cardinals are set to meet with Giants OC Mike Kafka, reports ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). That makes Arizona the fourth team to show interest in him, a testament to how quickly he has risen up the ranks in league circles despite his relative lack of experience. The 35-year-old’s time as a coordinator began this past season, his first with the Giants. His success in leading the team to the divisional round to the playoffs may not be enough to land him a HC gig this year, but it will keep him squarely on the radar for years to come. Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets that Kafka’s interview will take place tomorrow.

12:08pm: The Bengals’ success in 2022 led to increasing calls for each of the team’s top assistants to receive head coaching interest. One day after their loss in the AFC title game, both of Zac Taylor‘s most well-respected lieutenants have received requests for interviews.

The Cardinals are seeking an interview with both defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan (Twitter links via Peter Schrager and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network). The former began his NFL coaching career in 2012 as a DBs coach with the Dolphins. He held that role throughout his six-year tenure there, operating as interim DC in 2015.

That led him to the Giants for a single season, then his first full-time coordinator gig with the Bengals in 2019. Like Taylor’s rookie campaign as a bench boss, that season saw the team put up underwhelming numbers. However, Cincinnati’s defense showed improvement from one year to the next in terms of both yards and points allowed. In 2022, the Bengals ranked 16th and sixth, respectively, in those categories.

Given their continued improvement under Anarumo, eyebrows were raised in the early part of this year’s head coaching cycle that no interest was shown in him. Teams have, traditionally, slanted towards offensive candidates though a number of highly-regarded defensive assistants have represented exceptions to that general rule. Anarumo could become the latest such example, as the Cardinals look for a significant step forward defensively in 2023 and beyond.

Callahan, likewise, has flown under the radar relative to several other candidates with an offensive background. The 38-year-old was installed as Cincinnati’s OC as part of Taylor’s initial staff in 2019, following time spent as an assistant with the Broncos, Lions and Raiders. His first coordinator role has been marked by a slow start in terms of production, but a sharp turnaround in recent years with the Bengals assembling one of the top offenses in the league.

Callahan has seen his unit deliver top-10 scoring performances for each of the past two seasons; the Bengals also had an elite showing in terms of yardage in 2022, ranking eighth in that department. Callahan has helped guide the development of the team’s young nucleus on offense, a group led by quarterback Joe Burrow, wideouts Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, and running back Joe Mixon. Their shared success earned Callahan a HC interview with the Colts earlier this month.

It was reported yesterday that the Cardinals are narrowing their list of candidates for second interviews in the event Sean Payton is not acquired. That makes the inclusion of Anarumo and Callahan somewhat surprising, given how late in the process the team appears to be. Nevertheless, the pair are free to interview with Arizona – or any other interested team – at any time.

Here is an updated look at the Cardinals’ HC search:

Broncos, Jim Harbaugh Met Over HC Vacancy; Team To Expand HC Search?

JANUARY 29, 9:40pm: Troy Renck of Denver7 is in line with the NFL Network pair in terms of the new names being added to Denver’s search with things having not gone according to plan so far. However, 9News’ Mike Klis reports (via Twitter) that the Broncos are actually still focused on their original list of candidates who are still available, and that “there is a plan” the organization is on course to follow. In any case, Denver will be a key team to watch as the HC story unfolds in the coming days.

JANUARY 29, 7:30am: Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com hear that, even after Harbaugh’s announcement that he would be remaining at Michigan, he continued to have conversations with Penner and Broncos GM George Paton. Penner did not make an offer to Harbaugh during last week’s summit, though it does not appear that the door to a Harbaugh-Denver partnership is closed quite yet. Indeed, Harbaugh has reportedly said that the Broncos’ job is the one that he would want if he elects to return to the pros.

Both NFL.com and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (via Twitter) say that the Broncos could begin to expand their head coaching search given that some of their top choices in Payton, Harbaugh, Ryans, and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are either out of the running entirely or no longer appear to be likely options. If that happens, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan could get a call, and the club has reportedly done research on Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.

In addition, NFL.com reports that candidates like Raheem Morris, David Shaw, Jim Caldwell, and Ejiro Evero could all be back in play, although Troy Renck of Denver7 suggests otherwise (Twitter link).

JANUARY 28: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was once again one of the names most commonly floated as a candidate in advance of this year’s NFL head coaching cycle. However, he ultimately remained committed to staying in Ann Arbor for at least the 2023 season, a decision which seemed to mark the end of his involvement in discussions surrounding the league’s remaining vacancies.

Despite that, Broncos CEO Greg Penner flew to Ann Arbor to meet in person with Harbaugh last week, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The latter interviewed with Denver virtually as part of their initial list of candidates to replace Nathaniel Hackett; his experience made him – along with Sean Payton – a serious contender for the position before he made it official he will once again stay at the college level.

As Schefter notes (and several others have since corroborated), the sit-down was primarily a matter of Penner doing his due diligence with Harbaugh. Denver’s HC search has been far more methodical this offseason than the one in 2022 which resulted in Hackett being hired for his first opportunity as a bench boss. His marked lack of success in that post has, in part, steered the organization towards an experienced coach. Harbaugh no longer being in the running could change that to an extent, especially if Payton ends up on another staff or remains as a Fox analyst for the 2023 season.

Harbaugh, 59, interviewed with the Vikings last year and was connected to the openings in Denver, Carolina and Indianapolis in 2023 prior to his announcement confirming he will still coach the Wolverines. In the wake of that decision, the Broncos have shifted their attention to the likes of defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans. The latter seems to be a top target for Penner and Co., though signs are now pointing to him being the frontrunner for the Houston vacancy.

That could put more pressure on the Broncos to land Payton, something which would require draft compensation being sent to the Saints and a sizeable contract being doled out for his services. Earlier this week, however, Payton’s second interview with Denver was put on hold, so uncertainty remains on all sides in that situation. In any case, Schefter adds that some feel this cycle was likely be the last in which Harbaugh was a serious candidate to re-join the NFL coaching ranks, though this in-person meeting suggests he could still draw interest in 2024.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

Colts Request To Interview Bengals OC Brian Callahan For HC

Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan could see his second head coaching interview take place after being requested for one as the Colts seek to replace Frank Reich this offseason. Callahan and the Bengals are still alive in the playoffs after surviving a matchup with the division rival Ravens last weekend, so the timing of the interview is still up in the air.

Callahan has had a slow and steady rise in the NFL’s coaching ranks to this point, starting out as an assistant for Denver back in 2010. He followed that up with two seasons as an offensive quality control coach before being promoted to an offensive assistant role which he held until 2015. He got his first role as a position coach the following year in Detroit as the Lions quarterbacks coach. Despite getting offensive coordinator interest, Callahan was not retained by the Lions and he found his way to the same role in Oakland, where his father, Bill Callahan, once reigned as head coach.

The younger Callahan got his first offensive coordinator opportunity when Zac Taylor took over as head coach in Cincinnati. The offense struggled in Andy Dalton‘s final year with the team, finishing 30th in the league in points scored and 26th in yards gained. The team didn’t fare much better in Callahan’s second season, finishing 29th in both points scored and yards gained, but the addition of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow showed lots of promise for the young offense.

That promise paid off in 2021, when the Bengals finished seventh in scoring and 13th in yardage enroute to a Super Bowl berth. This year, Cincinnati performed similarly, ranking eighth and 15th in those respective categories. The team also won its second-consecutive AFC North title after a previous five-year playoff drought.

Callahan earned some head coaching interest after last year’s breakout performance, interviewing to replace Vic Fangio in Denver. He was one of 10 interviewees but failed to qualify as one of the three finalists before the Broncos hired Nathaniel Hackett.

He now joins a much more crowded field in Indianapolis as the 14th name linked to the team’s search for a new head coach. The Colts have already interviewed eight candidates, moved on from one (as Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh chose to remain in the college ranks), plan to interview three others, and have requested an interview with one more.

As long as the Bengals continue to see success on the offensive side of the ball, Callahan will likely continue to field calls for head coaching opportunities. To see where he and other candidates stand in the hiring process, follow our 2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.

Bengals Planning Zac Taylor Extension

In charge of one of the longest-odds Super Bowl entrants in NFL history, Zac Taylor has transformed his career this season. The third-year Bengals HC has gone from the hot seat to extension candidate.

The Bengals are indeed preparing to give their young coach a new contract, with Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com reporting the surprise Super Bowl team is planning to extend Taylor soon after Sunday’s game.

The ex-Sean McVay disciple was 6-25-1 as a head coach coming into this season and had only a partial year of NFL OC work (with the 2015 Dolphins) under his belt. Rumors about Taylor’s firing emerged, but Mike Brown opted to keep his play-caller for a third season. Taylor’s offense took a significant step forward, and Joe Burrow‘s ACL recovery went historically well — despite the burgeoning-superstar quarterback leading the NFL in sacks taken — to the point the Bengals have reached the third Super Bowl in franchise history.

Taylor’s offense features Burrow and near-lock Offensive Rookie of the Year winner Ja’Marr Chase, with Tee Higgins taking a step forward as well. Burrow and his skill-position troops compensated for Cincinnati’s below-average O-line, which the AFC champions will surely aim to bolster in the offseason. Cincinnati’s offense ranked seventh in scoring this season — the team’s highest mark since 2015.

At 38, Taylor is one of the youngest coaches in Super Bowl history. The Bengals, of course, have a track record of patience with their head coaches. Most notably, Brown gave Marvin Lewis 16 seasons — far more than most expected — after the latter turned the team around in the 2000s.

Cincinnati is also planning to keep most of Taylor’s staff. Extensions are in the works for several assistants, per Wilson, who notes wide receivers coach Troy Walters, linebackers coach Al Golden, D-line coach Marion Hobby and tight ends coach James Casey are among those set to receive new deals. Re-ups for DC Lou Anarumo and OC Brian Callahan should be expected as well. Each received moderate interest on this year’s coaching carousel, with Anarumo interviewing with the Giants and Callahan with the Broncos — former employers for each — and no other teams.

2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, seven NFL teams opted to make a head coaching change. Sean Payton stepping away from the Saints created nine full-time vacancies available this year.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 2-7-22 (1:45pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Broncos Request Interview With Bengals OC Brian Callahan

The Broncos are planning a thorough search to replace Vic Fangio. They have run their interview-request list to 10 names as of Tuesday evening.

Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan is the 10th name on the Broncos’ list, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post tweets. Callahan has been in his position since the Bengals hired Zac Taylor in 2019.

While Taylor’s tenure appeared on thin ice after the Bengals won six games from 2019-20, the team’s offense has been one of the NFL’s top storylines this season. Joe Burrow came back successfully from ACL surgery and helped Ja’Marr Chase move toward the Offensive Rookie of the Year doorstep. The Bengals are in the playoffs for the first time in six years, having seen Joe Mixon bounce back after an injury-plagued 2020 as well.

Callahan does not call plays in Cincinnati but has a history in Denver. The 37-year-old Bengals staffer broke into coaching with the Broncos, joining the team during Josh McDaniels‘ ill-fated HC stint. Callahan worked as an offensive assistant in Denver from 2010-15, staying on through the team’s Super Bowl 50-winning season before jumping to the Lions to become their QBs coach.

In Fangio and Vance Joseph, the Broncos have hired back-to-back defensive-oriented coaches. After the team fired Fangio, it would make sense for an offense-based leader to replace him.

Bengals To Hire Brian Callahan As OC

The Bengals are set to hire Raiders quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan as their new offensive coordinator, according to Raiders head coach Jon Gruden (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). New Bengals HC Zac Taylor played for Brian’s dad Bill Callahan at Nebraska, giving the two men a unique connection. 

The younger Callahan was a hot name in NFL coaching circles last year, as he interviewed for the Titans’ offensive coordinator vacancy and the Jets’ quarterbacks coach position. He was also linked to a job with the Giants, but never officially met with the club. Despite that level of interest, the Lions allowed Callahan to seek employment elsewhere in 2018, leading him to the Raiders’ QB job. Now, he’s taking a big step up as he joins Taylor in Cincinnati.

Taylor is expected to call the Bengals’ plays, but Callahan should still have an active role in the offense. And, as evidenced by Taylor and others in the Sean McVay coaching tree, that type of OC job can still be a launching pad to something bigger and better.