Ejiro Evero

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Flores, Evero

By far the biggest name on this year’s coaching carousel, Sean Payton looks to have seen his momentum stall a bit. While Payton is interviewing with the Cardinals today, his candidacy has not produced a second interview anywhere yet. The Panthers met with Payton this week but just hired Frank Reich. While the Texans remain on the radar for the longtime Saints HC, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com does not get the sense much momentum is present for such a partnership. The Broncos have been connected to other names recently as well, but that path may be dwindling as well. There might not be a place for Payton — as odd as that sounds, given his track record — on this year’s market, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com offers (video link)

Trade compensation being required to land the Super Bowl XLIV-winning HC, with the price varying from a first-rounder and other early picks to two first-rounders, has affected teams’ plans here. Payton, 59, has also been mentioned as waffling on this year’s lot of jobs. Returning to FOX for another year and surveying the 2024 market, when two jobs he has long been connected to (Chargers, Cowboys), could be available might be what comes out of this run of interviews. Payton remains in this year’s mix, but buzz has died down.

Here is the latest from the coaching landscape:

  • Regarding the Cardinals‘ search, Brian Flores remains firmly in the mix. GM candidates received the impression Arizona is high on the three-year Miami HC-turned-Pittsburgh linebackers coach, Fowler notes. Previously mentioned as a frontrunner — due partially to the Cards hiring ex-Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort as GM — Flores may have a right-hand man on defense lined up. Some around the league expect the ex-Dolphins HC to bring Gerald Alexander, Miami’s defensive backs coach for the past three years, with him to Arizona, per Fowler. With the Dolphins looking for a new DC, Alexander may be on the move anyway. While ESPN colleague Dan Graziano points to Vance Joseph and Aaron Glenn remaining strong candidates, Flores has generated the most buzz to this point. Flores has also interviewed for the Falcons and Vikings’ DC posts.
  • Raheem Morris booked a second HC interview with the Colts and also met with the Broncos and Texans. Should the Rams‘ DC land a second HC opportunity, Albert Breer of SI.com notes Ejiro Evero is the team’s top candidate to replace him. The Denver DC is no lock to be available. He is under contract with the Broncos, who blocked a Falcons DC interview, and has gone through second HC interviews with the Colts and Texans. Denver could pass on retaining Evero by hiring a defensive-minded coach, of course. Evero came to Denver from Los Angeles; he spent five years on Sean McVay‘s staff.
  • The Browns considered bringing in Vic Fangio for a DC interview, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, but they stood down and ended up hiring Jim Schwartz. Cleveland having run a 4-3 defense in recent years may have been a reason for passing on a Fangio meeting, Cabot offers. Fangio has remained quite popular still, having interviewed for three DC jobs — the Dolphins, Falcons and Panthers — already.
  • The Bills are making a change to their defensive staff. They fired safeties coach Jim Salgado, Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN.com tweets. Salgado had been on McDermott’s staff throughout the head coach’s six-season tenure.
  • Giants DC Don Martindale is attached to a three-year contract, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Giants thought enough of the veteran coordinator, whom the Ravens did not bring back last year, they gave him the three-year deal as opposed to the more common two-year pact. Giants ST coordinator Thomas McGaughey also received extensive interest from other teams, with Duggan adding the Chargers joined the Panthers in offering him their ST coordinator jobs. McGaughey, who has been with the Giants since 2018, turned down a Bears interview and opted to stay and work for Brian Daboll.

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers’ hire, this year’s vacancy count sits at four. 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 1-26-23 (4:36pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spins, many of the league’s offensive and defensive coordinator positions are open as well. Teams seeking new head coaches will soon begin OC and DC searches — some have already started those processes — but a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

The Browns and Patriots have begun 2023’s coordinator hires. Here are the rest of the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 1-26-23 (10:06pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Carolina Panthers 

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

Ejiro Evero Set For Second Colts Interview

Two offseasons ago, the Rams promoted Ejiro Evero from safeties coach — his role from 2017-20 — to their defensive backs coach. This offseason, two teams are seriously considering him for head coaching positions.

The Broncos’ defensive coordinator has made it to the finalist stage with the Texans and now the Colts. Indianapolis wants to bring Evero in for a second HC interview, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The Texans plan to interview him for a second time Wednesday, setting up a tour of multiple AFC South facilities for the fast-rising DC.

This has been a remarkable stretch for Evero, and considering the Broncos’ situation, the one-year DC’s climb has veered toward unusual. Denver went 5-12 this year, with its decision to hire Nathaniel Hackett backfiring to the point the team ranked last offensively despite trading for Russell Wilson. Hackett brought in his longtime friend to be his right-hand man on defense, and Evero’s unit performed well despite injuries and the midseason trade of Bradley Chubb.

Despite firing acclaimed defensive maestro Vic Fangio, the Broncos improved in total defense — from eighth to seventh — this past season and ranked 10th in DVOA. While Denver is conducting its own HC search — after becoming the third team since the 1970 merger to fire a coach before his first season ended — Evero will have the chance to earn a top job elsewhere. The Broncos interviewed Evero but have been linked to preferring Sean Payton and Dan Quinn. Though, no Denver finalists have emerged yet. The Colts have been the only team not to set up a Payton interview.

Evero, 42, is the first known Colts finalist. Others will follow. Thirteen coaches have interviewed — all doing so virtually — thus far, and Pelissero adds Jim Irsay was not in any of these meetings (video link). Irsay will meet with each of the finalists in person. Considering Irsay’s outsized role in personnel moves over the past year, his presence in these meetings will be rather important — for both parties.

Texans Schedule Second HC Interviews With Mike Kafka, Ejiro Evero

Houston’s third consecutive offseason spent searching for a new head coach is heading into its next phase. The Texans are set to conduct a second interview with Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, per ESPN’s Field Yates (Twitter link).

The 35-year-old met virtually with the Texans this past Sunday, one day after New York’s surprisingly successful campaign came to an end. Now, he is set to interview in person with Houston’s front office. Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 notes that the sit-down is scheduled to take place in Houston on Wednesday.

Kafka has enjoyed a quick rise up the ranks of NFL assistants receiving serious consideration for head coaching jobs. He was already a popular name in league circles last offseason when he left Kansas City (where he worked closely alongside Patrick Mahomes as the team’s quarterbacks coach) to join Brian Daboll‘s new staff in the Big Apple.

That represented not only his first OC opportunity at both the college and NFL level, but, to the surprise of many, his first time handling play-calling duties. Daboll’s time as Buffalo’s OC led to the expectation that he would carry on in a similar capacity with the Giants, but his decision to delegate to Kafka proved to be a successful one. New York put up middle-of-the-road numbers in terms of scoring and yardage totals, but ranked fourth in the regular season with an average of 148 rushing yards per game. The postseason saw New York continue that success against the Vikings, though their loss to the Eagles was certainly a different story.

Kafka is still a logical candidate for a second interview, as is Ejiro Evero. The Broncos defensive coordinator will also meet with the Texans’ brass tomorrow, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. The 42-year-old is, like Kafka, relatively inexperienced in terms of serving as a coordinator, with 2022 being his first DC gig, but his success has made him a hot commodity during this year’s cycle.

Evero has met with all five teams currently in need of a new head coach, illustrating the way he is viewed around the league. He led the Broncos’ defense to solid rankings in terms of yards allowed in particular, a testament not only to the unit’s talent and his coaching ability, but also his success in maintaining consistency in the wake of Denver’s offensive struggles. Evero has previously worked with the Rams, Packers, 49ers and Buccaneers at the NFL level, all-but exclusively seeing time on the defensive side of the ball.

After seeing David Culley and Lovie Smith each receive their walking papers after one-year stints, Texans owner Cal McNair recently indicated that he would take a more hands-on approach to the 2023 search. Adding either Kafka or Evero would provide the team with a much younger option on the sidelines, and presumably set the franchise up for long-term stability.

With the team’s set of second round interviews beginning to take shape, here is the latest on Houston’s HC search:

Cardinals Request HC Interview With Ejiro Evero

Ejiro Evero is turning into a very popular name for head coaching gigs. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter), the Cardinals have requested permission to interview the Broncos defensive coordinator for their head coaching vacancy.

[RELATED: Cardinals Hire Monti Ossenfort As GM]

Evero has bounced around the NFL coaching ranks in pursuit of promotions, culminating in him being hired as the Broncos defensive coordinator prior to the 2022 campaign. That unit certainly wasn’t a world beater this past year, but Evero earned praised for guiding what was ultimately the league’s seventh-best total defense. In fact, the coach impressed so much, he was offered an in-season promotion to interim head coach following the firing of Nathaniel Hackett. Evero decided to retain his DC title for the rest of the season, although he did garner an interview for the full-time position after the season.

The 42-year-old has now been connected to every head coaching vacancy in the NFL. Besides Denver’s vacancy, he previously interviewed with the Colts and Texans. The Panthers also recently requested permission to speak with him.

Evero joins a growing list of candidates that includes Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores, Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, former Saints head coach Sean Payton, former Colts head coach Frank Reich, and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. Following yesterday’s news that the Cardinals were hiring Monti Ossenfort as their new general manager, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com writes that owner Michael Bidwell is in favor of pairing the former Patriots executive with Flores, the Patriots’ former defensive coordinator. Flores indeed has momentum here, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.

Regardless, we should be getting some clarity on the vacancy soon. Bidwill said today that he expects to make a hire “in a matter of days,” per NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano (on Twitter). It’s uncertain if today’s developments have changed Bidwell’s timeline.

Panthers Request HC Interview With Ejiro Evero

Ejiro Evero continues to generate interest in coaching circles around the league. The Broncos defensive coordinator is the source of Carolina’s latest head coaching interview request (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network).

[RELATED: Broncos To Block Falcons’ Evero DC Interview]

Evero has been one of the most sought-after assistants in the early stages of the 2023 cycle. His stock rose considerably this season after he helped Denver’s defense perform at a respectable level during his first season in charge of the unit. The Broncos finished middle of the pack in scoring, and fielded the league’s seventh-best total defense – figures which are especially impressive given the team’s major inefficiencies on the other side of the ball.

The 42-year-old was offered the interim head coach title after Denver fired Nathaniel Hackett, but his preference was to close out the campaign in his DC role. He was among the first candidates interviewed by the Broncos to replace Hackett, though a number of other high-profile names (including Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh) have also frequently been connected to Denver.

Evero has caught the eye of Houston and Indianapolis as well, so he could have options available to him outside of the Mile High City depending on the Broncos’ plans. That will be true to an even greater extent if he accepts the Panthers’ request and impresses the NFC South outfit during their search process. The Broncos’ intention of blocking a lateral move to another team underscores Evero’s importance not only to them, but also the demand he is likely to be in now and in the future.

This news comes hours after Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo declined Carolina’s HC interview request. Mayo, like Evero, has established himself as one of the top defensive staffers on the market for teams looking at hires on that side of the ball. Their scheduled meeting with 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans, meanwhile, has at least temporarily been put on hold.

With Evero now on the list of Carolina’s HC targets, here is the updated breakdown of their search:

Broncos To Block Falcons’ Ejiro Evero DC Interview Request

JANUARY 14: Atlanta will not have the opportunity to meet with Evero, it appears. The Broncos are expected to block the Falcons’ request, as first reported by Denver7’s Troy Renck (on Twitter). Veteran Cardinals reporter Mike Jurecki corroborates that sense, and adds that Denver is not expected to allow Evero to take part in any potential DC interviews (Twitter link). That news comes as little surprise, given his head coaching candidacy with the Broncos in particular, but it will leave the Falcons to look elsewhere for Pees’ successor.

JANUARY 13: The Falcons are in need of a new defensive coordinator after veteran Dean Pees announced (for the third, and what is expected to be final, time) his retirement. They are eyeing a replacement who has generated plenty of other interest during this year’s coaching cycle.

Atlanta has requested an interview with Broncos DC Ejiro Evero for the opportunity to hold the same title with the Falcons, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). Seeing as a hire taking him from Denver to Atlanta would constitute a lateral move, the Broncos have the option of denying the request.

The same is not true, of course, of the head coaching inquiries Evero has received. The 42-year-old is a candidate to replace Nathaniel Hackett in Denver, an opportunity he earned after guiding the team’s defense to a respectable performance on the season, especially within the context of the team’s immense struggles on offense. The Broncos had the league’s seventh-best total defense in 2022, Evero’s first season as a defensive coordinator.

His risking stock has also been reflected by the interest shown in him externally. The Colts had an interview with Evero yesterday, and the Texans are also set to meet with him during their HC search. Given his age, relative lack of coordinator experience and background on the defensive side of the ball, Evero could be considered an outside option to land a HC gig this offseason. Today’s request, if granted, would give him another option to consider outside the Mile High City, though.

The Falcons had Pees at the helm of their defense for the past two seasons. During both campaigns, the unit struggled across the board as the team worked their way out of multiple cumbersome contracts to set up their rebuild. That process will be aided by the fact Atlanta is projected to have the second-most cap space in the league, and that they hold three of the upcoming draft’s top 76 picks.

The Falcons thus have plenty of potential to augment a defense led by d-lineman Grady Jarrett and cornerback A.J. Terrell. Evero would have vastly experienced shoes to fill if he were to replace Pees, but he would represent a noteworthy addition for the Falcons if he were to land the position.

Texans Request HC Interview With Rams’ Thomas Brown

Although they will join the other head coach-needy teams in the Sean Payton sweepstakes, the Texans otherwise have identified a type of coach they will covet during their latest pursuit. They will aim to have another young assistant on their docket.

The team sent out a request to interview Rams tight ends coach Thomas Brown, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Brown is a new name on this year’s coaching carousel, and this is the Sean McVay staffer’s first known opportunity to interview for an NFL HC gig.

Brown, however, was on the radar for Arizona State’s HC position recently and interviewed for the Rams’ offensive coordinator job last year. He has been on McVay’s staff since since 2020. Brown, 36, has only been in the NFL since that point; prior to the 2020s, he spent nearly a decade as a college assistant. This represents quite the rise for Brown, who spent his first two years with the Rams as their running backs coach. But he has generated praise as a rising candidate.

The Rams also have Brown on the radar for their OC role, one Liam Coen vacated officially this week by returning to Kentucky. McVay has not determined if he will return for a seventh season. That obviously overshadows everything else Rams for the time being, and it clouds the coaching staff’s future. The Rams will not block any assistant from taking a job elsewhere right now, inviting more speculation about a potential McVay departure.

The Texans have sent out eight interview requests since firing Lovie Smith. With the exception of Payton, all are under 42. Brown joins DeMeco Ryans, Shane Steichen, Ben Johnson and Mike Kafka in being under 40. The team intends to interview Ejiro Evero next week; Brown’s ex-Rams coworker-turned-Broncos DC has already interviewed for the Denver and Indianapolis HC positions. Josh McCown, who interviewed for the Texans’ job in each of the past two offseasons, has not been connected to the post this year. But, after two years with 60-something HCs, GM Nick Caserio has a host of candidates in McCown’s age bracket on the radar.

Jim Harbaugh Early Frontrunner For Broncos HC Job?

The Broncos’ second HC search in as many years is producing bigger headlines compared to their 2022 process, with Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh regularly connected to the team. A Payton interview is expected, and the longtime Saints coach has spoken with the team. But Harbaugh is further along.

The Michigan coach interviewed with the Broncos virtually Monday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (video link). The team has sent out other interview requests, and its long-expected interview with defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero occurred Tuesday. But Harbaugh might have an early leg up. The eight-year Michigan HC is the early leader here, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets.

This pushes back on Payton-to-Denver being a done deal, despite the Broncos and Saints having agreed on compensation for the current FOX analyst’s rights. A Payton move — believed to cost a first-round pick and more — would further deplete Denver’s draft arsenal, which the Russell Wilson trade already affected. The Broncos acquired a first-rounder in the Bradley Chubb trade but do not have a second-rounder this year. Denver did not make a first-round pick last year, with the Seahawks obtaining it for Wilson. Harbaugh, nor any of the other known Broncos candidates, would not cost any draft capital.

Despite Harbaugh’s proclamation that he expects to coach Michigan again in 2023, The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner notes (via Twitter) the former 49ers HC is believed to be eager to return to the NFL. Harbaugh, 59, said he has unfinished business in the league, and the belief is he will strongly consider a return to the league this year. Harbaugh is interested in taking the Denver job, Mike Sando of The Athletic adds (subscription required).

Harbaugh was supposed to interview with the Broncos later this week, but Renck notes the parties bumped it up, making him the first to meet with Denver’s new ownership about the position. Harbaugh certainly carries a feather-ruffling reputation, and Renck adds some among the Broncos have bristled at the notion Harbaugh could become the team’s next coach. A clash with GM Trent Baalke helped lead Harbaugh out of San Francisco eight years ago.

The Panthers are no longer believed to be pursuing Harbaugh, per Sando and The Athletic’s Joe Person, and the Colts — rumored to have interest — have not set up an interview with the ex-Indianapolis QB. These developments clear an early path for the Broncos. Harbaugh interviewed for the Vikings job last year but was not offered, and a recent ESPN report indicated Michigan is under investigation for potential violations. That could help explain Harbaugh’s urgency to give the NFL another shot.

Payton would bring more to the table from an offensive scheming standpoint, something that will be critical as the Broncos attempt to move Wilson back on track. But Harbaugh’s .695 win percentage — in four 49ers seasons — ranks sixth in NFL history. Evero also worked with Harbaugh during each of his four seasons in San Francisco, opening the door — barring the first-year DC landing another HC job; the Colts and Texans are interested — for the Nathaniel Hackett hire to stay on in his current post. The Broncos have also sent out interview requests for 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans, Cowboys DC Dan Quinn and Rams DC Raheem Morris. The two-year Rams defensive boss is set to interview Jan. 17, which doubles as the earliest date the Broncos can meet with Payton.