Callie Brownson

AFC Coaching Updates: Wayne, Raiders, Texans, Browns

Despite the change in head coach from Frank Reich to Shane Steichen, former elite wide receiver Reggie Wayne will remain as the Colts‘ wide receivers coach in 2023, according to a tweet from Wayne’s account. After a challenging first year coaching one of the league’s youngest wide receivers rooms, Wayne will be back for a second year.

Last year, many knew Wayne faced a challenge. The team returned top wideout Michael Pittman, who was coming off of a 1,082-yard, six-touchdown season. The biggest issue following Pittman’s breakout year, though, was his lack of help. Behind Pittman, the Colts’ two leading wide receivers were Zach Pascal with 384 yards and T.Y. Hilton with 331 yards. Wayne needed to coach up some help for Pittman.

Wayne’s efforts of supporting Pittman focused on a healthy season for fourth-year wide receiver Parris Campbell and a strong rookie year from second-round pick Alec Pierce. Campbell had appeared in only 15 of a possible 49 games in his first three seasons and had failed to ever surpass 200 receiving yards. In 2022 under Wayne, Campbell appeared in every game and recorded career-highs in receptions (63), receiving yards (623), and receiving touchdowns (3). Pierce backed him up with a strong rookie campaign that saw him supplement Pittman and Campbell with 41 catches for 593 yards and two touchdowns.

The Colts could certainly use some more support from the depth pieces in the receivers room, but a second year of Wayne overseeing the development of Pittman, Campbell, and Pierce should excite Colts fans. That is, as long Steichen and company can figure out a strong passing option from Nick Foles, Matt Ryan, and Sam Ehlinger.

Here are a few more coaching updates from around the AFC:

  • The Raiders have hired Derius Swinton II as their new assistant special teams coach, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Las Vegas needed to fill the position after former assistant special teams coach Maurice Drayton left to accept the role of head coach at his alma mater, The Citadel. Swinton didn’t coach in the NFL last year after being fired from his job of special teams coordinator by the Chargers following the 2021 season.
  • The Texans have brought on a defensive coaching assistant from the college ranks, hiring Miami (Fla.) defensive ends coach Rod Wright as a defensive assistant, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2. In his first year with the Hurricanes, Wright did a strong job of getting production out of transfers and holdovers from before the era of current head coach Mario Cristobal. This will be Wright’s first position in the NFL after coaching gigs at Texas, Sam Houston State, East Carolina, and UTSA.
  • We’ve covered a couple of new hires to the Browns coaching staff this offseason, but the team made a few changes to current staffers’ roles that necessitate reporting, according to Browns staff writer Anthony Polsal. Callie Brownson received the title of assistant wide receivers coach in addition to her role of chief of staff last season, and she will move into a full-time role as assistant wide receivers coach, dropping the moniker of chief of staff. Formerly an offensive quality control coach, Ashton Grant has been promoted to the role of offensive assistant with a focus on quarterbacks. After serving as a scouting assistant for the team since 2020, Riley Hecklinski has been granted the role of coordinator of coaching logistics. Former assistant defensive backs coach Brandon Lynch has been promoted to cornerbacks coach. Lastly, Kevin Rogers, who has served as a senior offensive assistant with the team since 2020, will move to the role of senior assistant/special projects.

Browns Make Changes To Coaching Staff

The Browns coaching staff will look at bit different next season. Per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Browns have promoted Drew Petzing to quarterbacks coach.

Petzing has made a name for himself as Cleveland’s tight ends coach, leading to him getting an interview for the Raiders offensive coordinator gig. While he didn’t end up getting that major promotion, he will be taking on a larger role on the Browns’ offense.

“We feel like he has a unique perspective that he can contribute with those quarterbacks and help in their development,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said (via Ulrich). “He’s an important piece of our offensive staff, and we’re excited to get him and [offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt] working together.”

Stefanski didn’t have a QB coach on his staff through the first two years of his tenure in Cleveland, with Van Pelt basically holding those duties. The Browns filled their new TEs coach opening by promoting T.C. McCartney.

With McCartney getting a bump, the Browns have also promoted Jonathan Decoster to offensive assistant to offensive quality control coach. Decoster has had coaching stints at Old Dominion, West Virginia State, Nevada, and LSU. Per Josh Alper of, the Browns have also moved Ashton Grant to offensive quality control coach, moved Stephen Bravo-Brown from defensive quality control coach to assistant special teams coach, and added the title of “assistant wide receivers coach” to chief of staff Callie Brownson. The Browns also hired Jordan Thomas as assistant defensive line coach and Jeff Anderson as defensive quality control coach.

Staff Notes: Johnson, Lions, Ravens, Browns

Jets owner Woody Johnson is back running his team, after his United Kingdom ambassadorship under President Donald Trump ended. Johnson now oversees a staff hired while his brother — Christopher Johnson — was operating as owner. Woody Johnson is behind the Jets’ current Joe DouglasRobert Saleh power structure, despite not being involved in their respective hirings.

They’ve got a tremendous amount of leeway,” Johnson said of Douglas and Saleh, via Rich Cimini of “I’m totally in sync with these guys. Chris [Johnson] made some unbelievable choices, and we’re lucky to get both of those gentlemen. I couldn’t be more excited,” he continued. “I’m very optimistic, generally, but I’m particularly optimistic now when I see what happens on the field [in practice].”

It will be interesting to follow Johnson’s relationship with Douglas and Saleh, given the unique circumstances behind this power trio. The returning owner does not plan to interfere with the Douglas regarding personnel, Cimini adds. The Douglas-Saleh partnership follows two unsteady pairings formed during Christopher Johnson’s interim ownership tenure, with the Adam GaseMike Maccagnan tandem lasting less than six months together and Douglas firing Gase — who helped him land the GM gig — after the 2020 season.

Here is the latest from the front office and coaching ranks:

  • Although the Lions hired a new GM (Brad Holmes), several Bob Quinn-era staffers will remain going forward. Holmes will keep Lance Newmark (player personnel director), Dave Sears (college scouting director) and Rob Lohman (pro scouting director) on staff, with select other scouts from Quinn’s regime remaining in place, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Newmark turned down an offer to join Scott Fitterer‘s Panthers front office, per Birkett. Both Newmark, who has been with the Lions for nearly 25 years, and Lohman, who joined the Lions in 2007, interviewed for the Lions’ GM job that went to Holmes.
  • Holmes did hire some new personnel. Former Panthers and Texans exec Mike Martin will join the Lions as director of scouting advancement, while ex-Miami Hurricanes football ops director Don Corzine is now in Detroit as a senior advisor. These two join John Dorsey and assistant GM Ray Agnew as key new arrivals under Holmes.
  • Going into his third season with the Ravens, Nick Matteo will rise to the position of director of football administration. Matteo, who worked in the league office for 10 years, will be involved with the Ravens’ salary cap. Additionally, Andrew Raphael will rise from an area scout to a national scouting role.
  • Browns assistant coach Callie Brownson was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated last month, 92.3 The Fan’s Daryl Ruiter tweets. Brownson pleaded guilty to the charge, and the Browns suspended her. However, Kevin Stefanski said Brownson will be back for training camp. Currently working as the team’s chief of staff, Brownson became the first woman to coach a position group during a regular-season NFL game — when the team’s COVID-19 outbreak led to her coaching wide receivers and tight ends in separate games last season.

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 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 tweets.