Dick LeBeau

AB Fallout: Gruden, Steelers, Contract, Doss

One of the crazier sagas in modern NFL history concluded Saturday. The Raiders released Antonio Brown after voiding his guarantees, setting themselves up for another potential decision on Brown requiring an arbitrator. Jon Gruden addressed the decision, which came a day after he said Brown would play in Week 1 against the Broncos.

We just have exhausted everything,” Gruden said. “We tried every way possible to make it work. And all I’m gonna say is it’s disappointing. We did everything we could to make this work. I’m sorry it didn’t. I apologize, but I’ll tell you, I’m very proud of what we did as an organization to try. I wish Antonio the best. I’m sorry we never got a chance to see him in silver and black. … I just don’t think it worked. It didn’t fit here.”

The Raiders’ top receivers going into Monday night’s game are now Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson. They drafted Hunter Renfrow and kept Ryan Grant over Gruden Hard Knocks favorite Keelan Doss.

Here is the latest from this round of AB fallout:

  • Brown did not completely morph into the polarizing figure he now is until Week 17 of last season, a sequence that began his Pittsburgh exit. A 2012 date sticks with some Steelers figures, however. A day after Brown received the first of his two Steelers extensions (July 28, 2012), he engaged in a heated exchange with Steelers defenders and then-DC Dick LeBeau at a training camp practice, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com notes. Another component in the Brown saga, per Robinson: Steelers owner Dan Rooney‘s death. The late owner was a Brown supporter, and Robinson adds Brown “took it hard” when the organization prioritized Ben Roethlisberger over him. This is a bit strange because the Steelers did not give Big Ben his latest extension until Brown forced his way out, though the team did back Roethlisberger after Brown’s Week 17 became an amazing run of drama.
  • Drew Rosenhaus mentioned this Brown saga indeed could become a legal situation, regarding the released wideout’s $29MM-plus in guarantees, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). “We’ll do what’s best for Antonio. We will speak with the NFLPA,” Rosenhaus said, via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (Twitter link). While the Raiders no longer employ Brown, their part in this process does not look to be over. If Brown were to win a grievance, the Raiders could be tagged with $29.125MM in dead money, ex-GM Mike Tannenbaum tweets. The Steelers are already eating $21.12MM in 2019 dead cap charges.
  • Interestingly, the Raiders tried to bring Doss back after releasing Brown. But the Jaguars moved to give the rookie UDFA a full veteran-minimum salary to keep him, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (video link). Doss will become by far Jacksonville’s highest-paid practice squad player, making an active-roster minimum of $495K. The practice squad minimum is $8K per week.
  • Any team that signs Brown will guarantee 25% of his 2019 salary, per OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald (on Twitter), because of termination pay rules. However, if one of the other three teams playing on Monday night — the Texans, Saints or Broncos — sign Brown before their respective games (extremely unlikely), Brown’s salary would be fully guaranteed.
  • Count the Saints out, however, with Sean Payton quickly indicating (via NOLA.com’s Herbie Teope, on Twitter) his team will not pursue the volatile All-Pro. This figures to be a theme, but there will certainly be teams that investigate this situation for a possible free agent signing.

Titans Moving On From Dick LeBeau

The Titans are moving on from defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, according to longtime beat reporter Paul Kuharsky. Although LeBeau is widely respected across the league, new head coach Mike Vrabel is looking to bring in his own staff. Dick LeBeau (vertical)

LeBeau first joined the Titans’ staff in 2015. In his his second season, he took over play calling when Mike Mularkey became the head coach. Things were trending up for the Titans D as they were 20th in yards allowed in 2016 but improved to 13th in 2017.

LeBeau, the innovator of the zone blitz, previously indicated that he would retire if the new Tennessee head coach did not keep him on staff. After all, given all of his accomplishments, there’s little left for LeBeau to prove. The octogenarian has coached in the NFL since the early 70s and he owns two Super Bowl rings thanks to his time as the Steelers’ DC. In 2010, LeBeau was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Titans’ search for a new DC will start immediately, though it’s not immediately clear whether Vrabel will cede play-calling responsibilities.

Titans Hire Terry Robiskie, Bobby April

WEDNESDAY, 6:20pm: The Titans have officially hired Robiskie, according to Wyatt. They’ve also named Dick LeBeau their assistant head coach/defensive coordinator and Bobby April their special teams coach.

LeBeau’s new role is a slight title change, as he was the Titans’ assistant head coach/defense during the 2015-16 season. Ray Horton was Tennessee’s D-coordinator, but he left Wednesday to join the Browns’ staff. LeBeau was in charge of a Titans defense that finished an impressive 12th overall this past year, a big improvement over its 27th-place ranking in 2014. The 78-year-old has extensive experience working with defensive staffs, having begun his coaching career in the 1970s. He has served under Mularkey in both Buffalo and Tennessee.

April is familiar with both Mularkey and LeBeau, as the three were together with the Bills in 2004. April has been a special teams coach with eight different teams since 1991. He held that position with the Jets during the ’15-16 campaign.

9:49am: Robiskie will indeed be the Titans’ new offensive coordinator, according to Tiffany Blackmon of the NFL Network, who reports that the former Falcons wide receivers coach has accepted the job (Twitter links).

MONDAY, 1:45pm: Speaking to reporters today at a press conference, Mularkey said Robiskie remains in the interview process for the offensive coordinator job (Twitter link via Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com).

With multiple outlets reporting that Robiskie will get the job, I expect it’s just a matter of time until we get official word from the team, but Mularkey said he has three candidates for the position, per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com (Twitter link).

Mularkey also said today that the offensive coordinator will call the plays for the Titans, tweets Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com.

11:02am: With the Titans’ new general manager and permanent head coach set to address the media later today, the team may also be set to announce its new offensive coordinator. According to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com (Twitter link), the club is hiring Terry Robiskie to fill that position.Terry Robiskie

[RELATED: Titans name Mike Mularkey permanent head coach]

Robiskie, a longtime NFL assistant, served as the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator from 1989 to 1993, then was the Browns’ OC in 2004. In between those two OC stints, and in the year since then, he has primarily been a wide receivers coach.

Most recently, Robiskie has spent the majority of the last decade in Atlanta, having served as the Falcons’ wide receivers coach since 2008. He and Mike Mularkey worked together in Atlanta for several seasons, with the new Titans head coach having been the Falcons’ offensive coordinator from 2008 to 2011 before heading to Jacksonville.

[RELATED: Titans hire Jon Robinson as general manager]

In Tennessee, Robiskie will be taking over an offense that ranked 30th in the NFL in 2015 with an average of 311.8 yards per contest. The unit, led by Marcus Mariota and Zach Mettenberger, wasn’t particularly productive passing or rushing the ball, ranking 25th in both categories.

That ineffective 2015 unit was led by Jason Michael, who is expected to stay put and become Tennessee’s new quarterbacks coach, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). A Sunday report indicated that Michael would be hired by the Rams as either the tight ends coach or the passing game coordinator, but it appears that’s not the case.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Eagles, 49ers, Titans, Raiders

Though the hire has already been widely-reported, the Eagles still have to work out a contract with new head coach Doug Pederson, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Now that Kansas City (Pederson’s current club) has been eliminated from the postseason, McLane expects a deal to come together soon, with a possible press conference on Tuesday.

As the Eagles prepare to bring in a new head coach, they are also bracing to lose an assistant, as quarterbacks coach Ryan Day is expected to follow Chip Kelly to San Francisco, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). According to Rapoport, Day will either serve as QBs coach or offensive coordinator with the 49ers.

Let’s take a look at some more news from around the league:

  • After removing the interim label from head coach Mike Mularkey‘s title earlier today, the Titans (with Mularkey’s input) have begun to make decisions on the rest of their staff. Per Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter link), Tennessee will retain defensive assistant Dick LeBeau, linebackers coach Lou Spanos, assistant offensive line coach Mike Sullivan, and assistant special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman. I’d guess that the fates of the remainder of the staff should be announced relatively shortly.
  • The Chargers appear to be on the verge of a move to Los Angeles, and a source tells Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter link) that it’s highly doubtful that NFL owners would block the Raiders if they seek to relocate to San Diego. Bonsignore also notes (link) that Chargers owner Dean Spanos signed an agreement waiving his rights to San Diego if his club moves to LA.
  • The total outlay by the St. Louis stadium task force in its efforts to keep the Rams? $16.2MM, report David Hunn and Nicholas J.C. Pistor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

AFC South Notes: LeBeau, Jaguars, Griffin

With Ken Whisenhunt now out of the picture in Tennessee, it’s not clear whether the Titans will retain defensive assistant Dick LeBeau beyond this season, writes Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. Titans interim CEO and president Steve Underwood said last week that he’d like to see the team target a “great offensive mind” in its search for a permanent head coach, suggesting that the defense would be in fine shape with LeBeau at the helm.

However, LeBeau initially joined the Titans in large part due to his relationship with Whisenhunt, and his contract expires at the end of the 2015 season. As the 78-year-old himself observes, there’s no guarantee that a new head coach wouldn’t want to bring in his own assistants.

While we wait to see whether LeBeau is one-and-done in Tennessee, let’s check in on some other items from out of the AFC South….

  • The Jaguars had former 49ers running back Kendall Hunter in for a tryout this week, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Hunter, who has seen his NFL career derailed by injuries in recent years, was removed from Sam Francisco’s injured reserve list in September with a settlement, making him a free agent.
  • Texans tight end Ryan Griffin, who was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return after Week 1, should be able to play Monday against the Bengals, head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters today (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). Griffin, who is returning from an MCL injury, would need to be activated to the 53-man roster by Monday afternoon to play this week.
  • Per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com (Twitter link), Titans cornerback Jason McCourty is weighing the possibility of undergoing another procedure on his troublesome groin. Another surgery may be a season-ender for McCourty, who could also attempt to rehab the injury.

AFC Notes: Browns, Titans, Steelers, Raiders

ESPN reports that Browns officials were told at this week’s owners meetings that the team will face “severe” discipline for violating an NFL policy. Cleveland will be punished for the actions of general manager Ray Farmer, who admitted to sending text messages (reportedly to members of the club’s sideline) during games last season. That violates the league’s electronic device policy, and it could cost the Browns in the form of fines or the loss of draft picks. The extent of the Browns’ punishment will be announced next week.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that the odds of the Steelers extending the contract of defensive end Cameron Heyward prior to the season are “100%.” Heyward will make just under $7MM in 2015, the last year of his deal, and could hit free agency in 2016. The four-year veteran finished last season with a career-high 7.5 sacks, giving him 15 since entering the league in 2011. The former first-round pick has appeared in all 64 of Pittsburgh’s regular-season games since he joined the club, and has finished in the top 20 of Pro Football Focus’ ranking system (subscription required) for 3-4 defensive ends three straight years.
  • Linebacker James Harrison seems to regard his recent decision to re-sign with the Steelers as bittersweet. The Titans were also vying for Harrison’s services, and choosing Pittsburgh over Tennessee means he won’t get to continue working under defensive guru Dick LeBeau. The 77-year-old left the Steelers after 11 seasons and joined the Titans’ staff in February. “You don’t want to let (coach LeBeau) down, you want to be loyal to him to a fault,” Harrison said on the “Ike Taylor Show,” according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “It came down to I had to take a step back and look at it and it was a business. Both offers being the same, it wasn’t a good business move to go to Tennessee because I would have to uproot everything and I already had everything in Pittsburgh combined with the fact my legacy is in Pittsburgh.”
  • Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie isn’t content with his team’s offensive line. “I don’t have enough offensive linemen on the roster. I want to bring some good ones in,” McKenzie said, according to Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. The Raiders’ biggest O-line need is at right guard, an area they could address in the upcoming draft. “Right guard is going to be a competitive situation in camp,” said new head coach Jack Del Rio.

Coaching Notes: LeBeau, Rams, Dolphins

The Titans announced that new coach Dick LeBeau will be “in charge of the defense” while defensive coordinator Ray Horton will “work with him to implement it,” according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean (on Twitter). LeBeau, 77, was originally said to be seeking a defensive coordinator position when he parted ways with the Steelers. He doesn’t exactly have that in Tennessee, but he’ll have plenty of authority with his new club. More coaching news from around the National Football League..

  • Meanwhile, the Titans are promoting Mike Mularkey to assistant head coach on offense, where he’ll be in charge of the team’s run game, according to Wyatt (on Twitter). The Bears requested permission to interview Mularkey for their OC vacancy last month but were denied. The Titans also plan to hire Jason Tucker as assistant receivers coach (link). He was formerly with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.
  • Tight ends coach Rob Boras, who lost out to quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti for the Rams‘ offensive coordinator opening, will be elevated to the assistant head coach of the offensive side, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (on Twitter). The formal announcement on both promotions is expected to come next week.
  • Terrell Williams has been named as the Dolphins‘ new defensive line coach, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald (on Twitter). Williams served as the Raiders’ defensive line coach from 2012 through 2014.
  • The Bears announced (on Twitter) that they have hired Stan Drayton as their running backs coach. Drayton spent the last four years at Ohio State and helped them win the national title in 2014.
  • The Buccaneers announced (on Twitter) that they have named former Central Michigan offensive line coach Butch Barry as their new assistant offensive line coach.
  • Rams assistant line coach Clyde Simmons is interviewing for the head defensive line coach job with the Raiders, according to Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch (on Twitter).

South Notes: Jones, Blackmon, LeBeau

News out of the AFC and NFC South..

  • Some have concluded that since Julio Jones has one year left on his contract and is on the verge of getting a lucrative extension that new Falcons coach Dan Quinn would prefer to trade him for extra draft picks. However, his comments during a Tuesday news conference indicate that Jones is a part of Quinn’s gameplan going forward. “Absolutely — I can’t wait (to meet him). Just a chance to go through the process with him. … We love great players. We’re trying to celebrate all the good guys. We’re trying to collect more great players, not the other way around,” Quinn said, according to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • The odds are against guys like Josh Gordon and Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon making it back to the NFL, opines Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). Both have lots of work ahead of them in the league substance abuse program and have spent a good deal of time away from the team structure.
  • Dick LeBeau might have several former players who could be available to join him with the Titans, as Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. Safety Troy Polamalu, defensive end Brett Keisel, linebacker James Harrison, and cornerback Ike Taylor could all be available and interested in a reunion with the 77-year-old coach. Polamalu currently has two years left on his deal with Pittsburgh but it’s conceivable that they could part ways. Taylor was considering retirement but recently decided that he would return to football.
  • Panthers coach Ron Rivera reassigned special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers, sources told Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Carolina’s special teams finished at or near the bottom in a number of major special teams categories this past season. Rivera will promote Rodgers’ assistant Bruce DeHaven to fill that role.

West Notes: Parker, Chiefs, Wilson

Chiefs defensive back Ron Parker, who had a breakout season in which he contributed at both safety and cornerback, looks poised to hit the open market, and is expected to be seeking a four- or five-year deal worth $6MM annually, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. Though he only had one interception, Parker kept receivers from burning the Chiefs deep. All in all, KC went from the 25th ranked pass defense in 2013 to the second best in 2014. More from the AFC and NFC West..

  • Meanwhile, Paylor (on Twitter) says that he can’t see Rodney Hudson getting less than $5MM per year. The Chiefs center, ranked third at his position last year by Pro Football Focus (subscription required), could be headed for upwards of $7MM per year.
  • So much for playing hard-to-get. On Tuesday, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson reiterated his desire to stay in Seattle for the remainder of his career, as Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times writes. “To be honest with you, I haven’t really thought anything about it. You know, I obviously want to play in Seattle forever. That’s my goal, and I want to be with this organization. I love this organization. I love this city. I love these fans, and I love winning here,” Wilson said. Wilson was also asked about the idea of being the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, but he doesn’t “worry” about having that mantle.
  • Dick LeBeau turned down an offer to become the associate head coach of the Cardinals because it was too far from his home in Cincinnati, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter). The Titans, meanwhile, are only a four-hour car ride away in Nashville.

Titans To Hire Dick LeBeau As Assistant

Former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is expected to be named the assistant head coach of the Titans, sources tell Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean (on Twitter). LeBeau, 77, parted ways with Pittsburgh after a ten year stint with the team.

LeBeau was honored by the city of Pittsburgh earlier today and played coy when asked about what was next for him, as Bob Bauder of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. LeBeau said he “talked to some people” about coaching again, but would not offer specifics after he was given the key to the city. The Hall of Famer helped guide the Steelers to two Super Bowl trophies during his time there.

After leaving the Steelers, LeBeau had multiple suitors calling him, including the Cardinals. Arizona was set to make him a linebackers coach, but things fell apart for undisclosed reasons. At one point it was said that LeBeau would only seek defensive coordinator openings, but he had a change of heart as he has taken a different staff job with the Titans for 2015.