Champ Kelly

Latest On Interim Raiders HC Antonio Pierce

Having started out 2-0 after the firings of Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, the Raiders saw a turnaround under interim head coach Antonio Pierce. The latter’s change in attitude regarding the locker room has been well received throughout the organization, something which could help his chances (and those of interim GM Champ Kelly) of remaining in place beyond 2023.

Pierce had no experience as a head coach at the college or NFL levels prior to his Vegas appointment. As a result, the 45-year-old has turned to a veteran in search of advice during the early days of his time at the helm of the Raiders. Pierce has consulted with Tom Coughlin for advice, reports Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports. Pierce played for Coughlin’s Giants for much of his career.

Heading into Week 11, the system in place for the Raiders has been not only player-friendly but also effective. Vegas won games against the Giants and Jets, teams which will offer less of a challenge than future opponents on the Raiders’ schedule. Still, the improved atmosphere around the organization has been telling for players, staffers and front office personnel. Both Jones and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport report owner Mark Davis is pleased with the early showings of the Pierce era.

That is particularly signficant given recent Raiders history. In the wake of Jon Gruden‘s scandal-induced resignation in 2021, Rich Bisaccia was given the head coaching position on an interim basis. The latter guided the team to the postseason, but he was allowed to depart to Green Bay while McDaniels was hired to replace him. By Year Two of the Patriots-flavored regime, though, another change had been made. Jones reports that Davis has since come to regret not giving Bisaccia the full-time gig, so a continuation of the team’s recent success by Pierce would greatly bolster his case for being tapped as McDaniels’ long-term successor.

While the early results have been encouraging, there are still questions in the organization regarding how far a much more player-centric environment can go, as noted by Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required). Stiffer tests (beginning with today’s close loss in Miami) will go a long way in determining the Raiders’ fate with respect to postseason contention or at least development from rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who is in place as the starter moving forward.

Davis did not lay out specific targets for the Pierce-Kelly pairing to meet during their time at the helm of the organization, but the door appears to be open to them staying in place for the foreseeable future. With Davis already on the hook for the McDaniels and Ziegler firings at a cost of $85MM (at least before offsets brought on by new employers), it will be interesting to see how aggressively he pursues outside options in the offseason as opposed to reversing his actions from the Bisaccia situation.

More Raiders Fallout: McDaniels, Ziegler, Davis, Harbaugh, Brady, Kelly

When the Raiders begin the search for a new head coach and general manager to replace Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, they could have a difficult time attracting the most desirable talent. Per Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required), owner Mark Davis vowed that he would give the duo a minimum of three years to return the Raiders to contention, but he fired them midway through their second season. Once seen as a patient owner, Davis has undermined his reputation in that regard, and most of the coaches and execs that Howe spoke with believe that the quick trigger will have a negative impact on his search.

One executive said, “I don’t know who you’re going to convince to take those jobs. I think Mark Davis made it harder on himself,” while another added, “[i]t definitely makes the jobs less appealing.”

To be clear, Davis will likely have plenty of candidates to choose from thanks to the desirability and rarity of a top job in the NFL coaching and personnel ranks. Still, it would not be surprising for the biggest fish in the upcoming hiring cycle to rebuff Davis’ overtures.

“If you’re only going to give me two years, just be upfront and honest with me,” a rival coach said. “I can handle that. It’d change the entire way you’d try to build the team. If you’re thinking about setting up to take off and win by Year 3, that’s how you’re going to manage your roster.”

McDaniels, of course, is a proponent of “hard coaching,” and it appears he alienated many Raiders players with his demanding style. As Ian Rapoport of writes, players “ripped into” McDaniels during the team meeting in which he allowed his charges to air their grievances, and players were especially critical of (among other things) McDaniels’ micromanaging and the way he deflected blame for issues with play-calling. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer adds that interim HC Antonio Pierce attempted to speak on behalf of McDaniels at that meeting, but Pierce’s use of the Super Bowl-winning Giants team he played on as an example of what a good locker room culture can do irked McDaniels, who was part of the Patriots squad that lost that title game to New York (video link).

At the following practice, McDaniels attempted to give the players what they wanted by being less involved and not “overcorrecting” by stepping in after every mistake. However, one source told Rapoport that the new approach did not suit McDaniels well, that the head coach looked like “a shell of himself,” and that it was clear McDaniels’ tenure was coming to an end. Ultimately, McDaniels was unable to recapture the team chemistry that Tony Pauline of believes was destroyed when quarterback and team leader Derek Carr was released earlier this year.

The driving force behind Carr’s departure remains a bit unclear. Rapoport’s sources say that Davis “led the push” to replace Carr, with McDaniels and Ziegler eventually getting on board, while Pauline says McDaniels was the one who wanted to move on from the franchise’s longtime passer. Back in late December/early January, it was reported that the McDaniels-Ziegler regime saw Carr as a poor fit in McDaniels’ offense, and that while McDaniels was prepared to let Carr play out the remainder of the 2022 campaign, Davis — who had been “lukewarm” on Carr for some time — wanted the QB to be benched for the last two games of the season.

Even if, as Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports suggests, Davis and the McDaniels-Ziegler duo were aligned on the Carr situation, subsequent quarterback-related missteps accelerated this week’s firings (although it should be noted, as Rapoport writes, that former club president Dan Ventrelle agreed to include in Carr’s 2022 extension the no-trade clause that undermined the Raiders’ leverage when they tried to deal Carr this past offseason. Ventrelle entered into that agreement with Carr’s camp prior to speaking with other club officials). We already heard that McDaniels’ decision to start former Patriots QB Brian Hoyer over rookie Aidan O’Connell in Week 7 rankled Davis, and obviously the decision to sign another of McDaniels’ former pupils, Jimmy Garoppolo, proved to be a poor one, as McDaniels apparently overestimated the ease with which Garoppolo would reacclimate to McDaniels’ offense.

On the subject of Garoppolo, Rapoport reminds us that the Raiders were among the teams that tried to trade up for the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, with quarterback Bryce Young the target. However, McDaniels reportedly did not want to “grow with” a rookie signal-caller, so the Raiders stood down while the Panthers catapulted up the draft board to claim the No. 1 spot before free agency opened. McDaniels & Co. acquired Garoppolo shortly thereafter.

It has been an open secret that Ziegler, despite his general manager title, took a backseat to McDaniels in terms of personnel matters. Indeed, Pauline called Ziegler a “glorified scout” and likened the McDaniels-Ziegler pairing to the Jon-GrudenMike Mayock partnership that preceded it. So while Pauline reports that Davis will be interested in hiring University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, it is fair to wonder if that would be the best move for the owner to make. After all, Harbaugh would also want full autonomy over personnel decisions, and like Mayock and Ziegler, any GM brought in along with Harbaugh would be little more than a figurehead.

That is to say nothing of the fact that Harbaugh, who is currently dealing with allegations of an elaborate sign-stealing scheme after already having served a three-game suspension this year for alleged recruiting violations, may not be the hot NFL candidate he once was. Per Rapoport and colleague Tom Pelissero, the NCAA has not ruled on the alleged recruiting violations or sign-stealing operation — the three-game ban was imposed by Michigan — and the NFL may force Harbaugh to serve any NCAA-ordered suspension should he return to the pros. Mark Maske of the Washington Post, meanwhile, says it is not certain that the league would go that route.

Still, in light of the failures of the two prior regimes, a Harbaugh hire could be a tough sell for Davis. In fact, Jones writes that Davis will be seeking a “player-centric” coach rather than a coach with the hard-nosed styles of Harbaugh, Gruden, and McDaniels. Jones also believes Davis will seek to hire a GM before hiring an HC.

In any event, Davis has promised a “comprehensive search” for a new head coach, and Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal says Davis is being encouraged to hire a president of football operations to aid in the process. Ventrelle was replaced by Sandra Douglass Morgan in July 2022, and Jones writes that Morgan, along with longtime executive Tom Delaney and personnel man Ken Herock, will also offer counsel (though Pauline opines that most of Herock’s advice has led to “ruinous” decisions).

Jones echoes his recent report that Tom Brady will also influence Davis’ thinking. As expected, Brady’s would-be stake in the Raiders was not discussed at the league meetings last month, with Jones and Albert Breer of reporting that other owners take issue with the bargain price at which Davis is trying to sell a share of his club to Brady. Colts owner and finance committee member Jim Irsay told reporters, including Jori Epstein of Yahoo! Sports, “the number just had to be a reasonable number for purchase price.”

Breer adds that Brady’s broadcasting contract with FOX is also a hurdle to ratification of the purchase. Understandably, teams do not want anyone with an ownership stake in a rival outfit having the access and obtaining the inside information that broadcasters often enjoy, so much will need to change for Brady to be approved as a minority owner at the next league meetings in December.

Given Davis’ deep respect for Brady, it stands to reason that the all-time great will be an important voice in Davis’ ear regardless of his ownership status. And while much of the discussion about Las Vegas’ changing power structure has thus far focused upon who the next head coach will be, Pauline notes that there is a “groundswell” of support for interim general manager Champ Kelly to retain the GM post on a full-time basis. Kelly, a longtime Bears exec who has experience in both personnel and salary cap matters, has taken a number of GM interviews in recent years, and Davis recently admitted that Kelly might have gotten the Raiders’ GM job in 2022 if the package deal of McDaniels and Ziegler had not become available. Jones also names Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds as a candidate to monitor.

Despite Ziegler’s figurehead status in Nevada, Rapoport observes that McDaniels’ right-hand man nonetheless made strides in modernizing the personnel side of the Raiders’ operation, an effort that included hiring respected scouting minds, creating a scouting development program, and injecting “forward-thinking concepts on player development.” The next Raiders GM should therefore have something of a foundation to build upon.

Whether that person is Kelly or someone else remains to be seen, but in acknowledgment of their promotions, Davis reworked the contracts of both Kelly and Pierce, as Adam Schefter of reports. Those transactions added even more money to the whopping $85MM tab that Davis will have to pick up due to the McDaniels and Ziegler firings (though some of that amount will be offset should his former employees land new jobs elsewhere).

Davis is one of the league’s most cash-poor owners, so these hugely expensive maneuvers underscore the strength of his conviction that McDaniels and Ziegler were not the right men to lead the Raiders. As Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes, Davis also fired team COO Mike Newquist, whom he hired just three months ago. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk concedes that Newquist’s post is unrelated to the football side of the team, but he believes the immediate firing of a key employee will further add to the perception of dysfunction that presently surrounds Davis’ franchise.

One way or another, Raiders fans are in for a fascinating few months.

Mark Davis Discusses McDaniels, Ziegler Firings

Mark Davis pulled the plug on the Josh McDaniels/Dave Ziegler tandem earlier this week, ending an underwhelming one-plus-year run for the duo. Previous reports hinted that the owner fired McDaniels and Ziegler because of their mishandling of the quarterback position.

[RELATED: Raiders Fire Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler]

It started when the front office decided to hand Derek Carr a lucrative extension with a no-trade clause. While a divorce was inevitable following the 2022 campaign, Carr’s leverage meant the Raiders couldn’t receive anything in return for their quarterback. The organization exacerbated their issues when they gave Jimmy Garoppolo more than $30MM in guaranteed money. After failing his physical and going under the knife, the quarterback has started his Raiders career by tossing a league-leading nine interceptions.

McDaniels and Ziegler also drew the ire of Davis when they started Brian Hoyer over rookie Aidan O’Connell in Week 7, with the veteran backup tossing a pair of interceptions in an eventual loss to the lowly Bears.

While the duo’s issues at the QB position played a significant role in their firings, it sounds like Davis could have let that slide if the Raiders took a step forward elsewhere. Instead, the owner told The Athletic’s Tashan Reed that he saw “regression” from his team, and that was what played the biggest role in Tuesday night’s decision.

Davis provided some more insight into his decision to move on from his head coach and GM, and he also touched on the promotions of Champ Kelly and Antonio Pierce. We’ve compiled the notable quotes below:

On his decision to fire both McDaniels and Ziegler:

“I just didn’t see the progress. I saw regression.”

On what attracted him to McDaniels in the first place:

“I was really excited because I believe Josh McDaniels has a very fertile offensive mind and I’ve seen him in the past be able to adjust to so many different variables. I thought that he could bring a fresh, explosive offensive mind to the Raiders.”

On the decision to name assistant GM Champ Kelly as the interim general manager:

“Had I not done the pair of Dave and Josh, Champ may have gotten the job at that time. We were fortunate and grateful that he decided to come on board as the assistant general manager. So, there was not even a question as to who would actually step into that position.”

On the decision to name linebackers coach Antonio Pierce as the interim head coach:

“I wasn’t very familiar with Antonio over the course of the last 1 1/2 years or so, but I’d gotten to know him a little bit. When I saw Antonio’s background and resume, I was intrigued. So, when I sat down with him and interviewed him, I just felt he was the right guy at the right time to fit the role that I was looking for.”

On what he hopes to see from the Raiders for the rest of the 2023 season:

“I’d like to see progress and I’d like to see the culture of the team together. I won’t say that we lost the culture because those guys never quit. Even when they were behind, they continually played. They played really, really hard. I think it’s a great group of young men and it’ll be interesting to see with new leadership whether we can get more out of it.”

On how he’ll approach his head coach/GM search next offseason:

“This time, I don’t really have anybody in mind that would potentially prejudice my thinking, so to speak. My thought process is wide open. And there’s a very good chance that the head coach and general manager that we have right now may end up getting the jobs.”

Raiders Fire Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler

Midway through the Josh McDaniels-Dave Ziegler tandem’s second season, Mark Davis is pulling the plug. The Raiders are firing their head coach and general manager, Adam Schefter of reports. The Raiders have since announced the firings.

This comes after an ugly Monday-night performance in Detroit, but it represents a stunningly early end for a pair given the keys in 2022. This late-night firing marks McDaniels’ second in-season ouster; the Broncos fired him late in his second season back in 2010. The Raiders are planning to name Antonio Pierce as their interim HC, Schefter reports. The Raiders hired Pierce, a former Super Bowl-winning linebacker, as linebackers coach in 2022. To fill in for Ziegler, the Raiders are promoting assistant GM Champ Kelly, per’s Paul Gutierrez.

After much thought about what the Raiders need to move forward, I have decided to part ways with Josh and Dave,” Davis said in a statement. “I want to thank them both for their hard work and wish them and their families nothing but the best.”

While the ex-Patriot staffers have not shown indications this operation will turn around anytime soon, this still represents a shocking decision. Davis signed off on a six-year contract for McDaniels during the 2022 hiring period; the Raiders are obligated to pay the former Patriots OC through the 2027 season. McDaniels had operated patiently in the years following his decision to spurn the Colts, being selective on the interview circuit. But he chose the Raiders as his return vehicle; that choice backfired.

Although news of these abrupt ousters emerged just after midnight, Schefter adds Davis began giving indications late Tuesday he planned to fire the second-year HC-GM combo. Though, this certainly qualifies as a news dump. Considering the confidence Davis displayed in this power duo, the timing of this announcement probably should not surprise. The Raiders are set to reboot once again. Davis gave McDaniels a vote of confidence around this time last year, but the product has not improved.

This likely closes the curtain on McDaniels’ head coaching career, and when his decision to backtrack on his Colts commitment is factored in, the successful New England play-caller is poised to go down as one of this century’s least successful HCs. Both McDaniels and Ziegler arrived from New England, with the latter also in Denver during McDaniels’ infamous stint there. McDaniels, 47, is now 20-33 as a head coach. The three-time Super Bowl-winning coordinator does not boast a basement-level record, but this firing comes 13 years after the Broncos canned him after a messy videotaping scandal. Ziegler, 46, joined McDaniels during that second Broncos season but spent eight years with the Patriots prior to coming to Vegas.

The Raiders, who fell to 3-5 after their Monday loss to the Lions, made some curious decisions this offseason to reach this point. Most notably, they signed ex-McDaniels Patriots charge Jimmy Garoppolo and did not bring in a higher-end backup — despite the former 49ers starter having become the NFL’s most injury-prone quarterback. The Raiders met with the draft’s top five QB prospects but waited until Round 4 to make a selection, tabbing Aidan O’Connell. Brian Hoyer, the NFL’s second-oldest active QB, has been Garoppolo’s top backup. The Raiders gave Hoyer a two-year deal that came almost entirely guaranteed; the 38-year-old passer considered retirement this offseason.

Las Vegas made a surprising push to the playoffs after its last in-season HC divorce, which came just two years ago. Leaked emails forcing Jon Gruden out drew considerable controversy, with Davis voicing frustration at the leak — which came about during a Dan Snyder investigation — before ultimately moving on. Despite interim HC Rich Bisaccia leading the team to a 10-7 finish and a narrow wild-card loss in Cincinnati, Davis opted to start over with McDaniels and Ziegler. The Raiders have gone 9-16 since.

This Raiders edition ranks 30th in DVOA (30th on offense, 31st on defense), with McDaniels’ offensive acumen not leading to Year 2 growth. The Raiders largely left their offensive line alone from last season as well. Even after the group delivered surprisingly capable work and powered Josh Jacobs to a rushing title, concerns about the quintet emerged before last season. Through eight games, Jacobs — whom the Raiders franchise-tagged and handed a rare raise after the reigning rushing champion skipped training camp — is averaging 3.1 yards per carry. Hunter Renfrow exceeded 1,000 yards in 2021 and signed a two-year, $32MM extension in 2022. The slot receiver became an afterthought in McDaniels’ offense, sitting on 92 receiving yards this season.

Perhaps most notably, Davante Adams‘ production has dipped from 2022. After the Raiders traded their 2022 first- and second-round picks for Adams, he produced an All-Pro season with ex-college teammate Derek Carr at the controls. The ex-Packer star has not eclipsed 60 receiving yards in a game since Week 4. Adams, 30, displayed visible frustration — after weeks of griping about his lack of opportunities — on the sideline during the Raiders’ double-digit loss in Week 8. Adams is not believed to have requested a trade before Tuesday’s deadline, but the longtime Aaron Rodgers target is trapped in limbo after anchoring three straight playoff-bound Packer teams’ receiving corps.

Davis is believed to have played a key role in McDaniels’ decision to bench Carr before Week 17 last year. Carr then left the team and prepared for an opportunity elsewhere. While Carr rarely flirted with top-tier QB status during his nine-year run as the Raiders’ starter, his level of play worsened under McDaniels. The Raiders used the escape hatch in Carr’s 2022 extension to cut him, doing so after the passer wielded his no-trade clause. Garoppolo signed a three-year, $72.75MM deal soon after. Garoppolo’s QBR number dropped to 30th after finishing 10-for-21 with 126 yards Monday.

In addition to Garoppolo, the McDaniels and Ziegler loaded up the Raiders’ roster with ex-Patriots. Hoyer, Jakobi Meyers, Jakob Johnson, Brandon Bolden, Jermaine Eluemunor and Justin Herron comprise the ex-Pats wing on offense. While fewer former New England presences reside on Patrick Graham‘s defense, the Chandler Jones fiasco obviously did not help the since-fired bigwigs. The Raiders gave Jones a three-year, $51MM deal in 2022. Not only did the former Patriots draftee and Cardinals All-Pro perform poorly for most of last season, the strange saga that led him off the team this fall stripped a starter off the roster.

They of two playoff appearances since Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders are at a crossroads yet again. Davis will be paying two coaches for the foreseeable future, though offset language — should McDaniels land elsewhere, perhaps for a third Patriots stint — could help on this front. But the decision to give the keys to two ex-Patriot staffers will go down as a tremendous misstep for Davis. This also continues to bury the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Aside from Bill O’Brien‘s Texans tenure, none of the legendary Patriot coach’s assistants have been able to win consistently. And O’Brien did well to torpedo his Houston run during his memorable stint in the HC/GM role.

The Raiders gave Pierce his first NFL coaching job. Before coming to Nevada, the 45-year-old assistant was on Herm Edwards’ Arizona State staff. The former Pro Bowl linebacker was the head coach of Long Beach Poly High from 2014-17. The Raiders hired Kelly last year, bringing him over from Chicago. Kelly also was with the Broncos during McDaniels’ tenure, but he stayed longer than McDaniels or Ziegler. The well-respected front office staffer spent seven seasons with the Bears, finishing his run as the team’s assistant director of player personnel.

2022 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

Along with the head coaches being fired, a few NFL teams are looking for new general managers. Listed below are the GM 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 GM changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 5-24-22 (9:03pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Las Vegas Raiders

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Raiders Name Champ Kelly Assistant GM

After falling short in a bid to land the Raiders’ general manager job, Champ Kelly is still headed to Las Vegas. The Raiders hired the longtime Bears executive to be their assistant GM on Wednesday.

While Kelly has spent the past seven years in Chicago, rising to the role of assistant director of player personnel, he worked with new Raiders HC Josh McDaniels during his brief Denver stay. Kelly was with the Broncos before and after McDaniels’ stint but rose to the post of assistant pro personnel director while McDaniels was running the show from 2009-10.

Kelly has been a GM candidate for a bit now, interviewing with the Broncos and Panthers last year. The Bears interviewed him for their GM role last month but ended up hiring Chiefs exec Ryan Poles. Kelly will now be new Raiders GM Dave Ziegler‘s right-hand man in the revamped Vegas front office. Ziegler also worked alongside Kelly with the Broncos during McDaniels’ stay, beginning his personnel career after Kelly had already arrived in Denver.

The 2022 season will mark Kelly’s 16th in the NFL. He began as a Broncos scout in 2007. The Bears hired him to be their pro scouting director in 2015. Unlike McDaniels and Ziegler, Kelly has no ties to the Patriots. Mark Davis has cleaned house in recent weeks, fully moving on from the Jon GrudenMike Mayock power structure.

Raiders To Interview Champ Kelly

The Raiders are set to interview Champ Kelly for their GM vacancy on Thursday (Twitter link via’s Ian Rapoport). The Bears’ assistant director of player personnel joins Bengals scout Trey Brown, Colts vice president of player personnel Ed Dodds, and Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler on Las Vegas’ interview list.

[RELATED: Raiders Request GM Interview With Bengals’ Trey Brown]

Kelly began his career with the Broncos and has been with the Bears since 2015, the start of Ryan Pace‘s tenure as GM. The Bears have since parted ways with Pace, but they still held Kelly in high regard, interviewing him for their own vacancy last week. The Broncos and Panthers also looked at Kelly last year, before before hiring George Paton and Scott Fitterer, respectively. And, in 2019, the Jets met with Kelly before going with Joe Douglas.

Ziegler, meanwhile, is set to interview on Friday. His CV includes nine years with the Pats plus time with the Broncos.

Bears Request To Interview Chargers’ Wooden

Do not be surprised if you start getting calls from Chicago because the Bears are searching far and wide to fill their vacant general manager position and they are interviewing EVERYBODY! The newest candidate to add to the list is Chargers’ director of player personnel, JoJo Wooden, according to a tweet from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Wooden has been with the Chargers since 2013 overseeing the pro and college scouting department for the Chargers. He got his start with the Jets in 1997 and spent 10 seasons working his way up from pro personnel assistant to the assistant director, player personnel, a position he held for six more years.

What makes Wooden an interesting candidate for the Bears’ job is the connections he has to the search committee. Bears Senior Writer Larry Mayer reported a couple days ago that Bill Polian, who has spent time as a general manager for the Bills, Panthers, and, most notably, the Colts, will be a resource to the Bears as they go through the process of hiring a new head coach and general manager. Wooden is known as a key lieutenant for the Chargers’ current general manager Tom Telesco, and Telesco worked under Polian during Polian’s entire tenure in Indianapolis.

To date, the Bears have already interviewed the Browns’ Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Glenn Cook and their own assistant director of player personnel, Champ Kelly. They’ve also requested interviews with the Colts’ Morocco Brown and Ed Dodds, the 49ers’ Ran Carthon, the Saints’ Jeff Ireland, the Steelers’ Omar Khan, the Giants’ Joe Schoen, and the Patriots’ Eliot Wolf. Texans’ former general manager Rick Smith has also been identified as a candidate.

Bears Interview Champ Kelly For GM Role; Team Interested In Rick Smith?

Comprised entirely of outside candidates previously, the Bears’ GM interview list now includes one of their own staffers. The Bears interviewed assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly for their GM job Thursday.

Brought in at the start of Ryan Pace‘s GM tenure, Kelly has been with the Bears since 2015. The veteran staffer began as the team’s pro scouting director and has served in his current role since 2017. The Bears promoting a Pace lieutenant would surprise, but Kelly has drawn extensive interest from outside the organization.

The Broncos and Panthers interviewed Kelly for their GM job last year, before respectively hiring George Paton and Scott Fitterer. In 2019, the Jets brought in Kelly for an interview ahead of their Joe Douglas hire. Kelly spent eight years in Denver prior to coming to Chicago. The Bears also completed their interview with Browns vice president of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah on Thursday.

The Bears may also have a higher-profile candidate on the radar. Not yet on the team’s interview list, former Texans GM Rick Smith is expected to draw interest from the Bears, Jeremy Fowler of notes. Smith has not held an NFL role since stepping away from his longtime post as Texans GM after the 2017 season.

Although Smith has not landed on any interview lists during this cycle, he was popular on the 2021 circuit. The Jaguars and Lions met with the 12-year Texans GM, and Washington’s 2020 interview with Smith nearly led to a hire. Smith was in place as GM for the first four playoff berths in Texans history, having drafted the likes of J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins. Smith’s final draft involved the team’s trade-up for Deshaun Watson.

Here is how the Bears’ GM field looks as of Thursday afternoon:

  • Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, vice president of football operations (Browns): Interviewed 1/13
  • Morocco Brown, director of college scouting (Colts): Interview requested
  • Ran Carthon, director of player personnel (49ers): Interview requested
  • Glenn Cook, vice president of player personnel (Browns): Interviewed 1/12
  • Ed Dodds, vice president of player personnel (Colts): Interview requested
  • Jeff Ireland, assistant general manager (Saints): Interview requested
  • Champ Kelly, assistant director of player personnel (Bears): Interviewed 1/13
  • Omar Khan, vice president of football and business administration: Interview requested
  • Joe Schoen, assistant general manager (Giants): Interview requested
  • Rick Smith, former general manager (Texans): Mentioned as candidate
  • Eliot Wolf, senior consultant (Patriots): Interview requested

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team