Jeff Imamura

Panthers Fire Multiple Assistant Coaches

Blame for the Panthers’ four-game losing streak has begun to be distributed, as Carolina has fired defensive line coach Brady Hoke and cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura, according to Tom Pelissero of (Twitter link).

In formally announcing the changes, the Panthers indicated head coach Ron Rivera will continue to call defensive plays, while defensive coordinator Eric Washington will control the club’s defensive front seven. Rivera will offer more assistance in coaching the secondary, while Sam Mills III will take over as Carolina’s defensive line coach after previously serving as an assistant.

“In my judgment, I felt this was best for the team moving forward,” Rivera said. “These are always difficult decisions, and I thank Brady and Jeff for their hard work. Ultimately, I’m charged with putting the team in the best position to succeed, and I felt these moves were necessary in order to do that.”

A report on Sunday indicated new Panthers owner David Tepper is considering major changes to the club’s decision-making structure, and while letting go of positional coaches certainly isn’t the same as firing Rivera or general manager Marty Hurney, it’s a start. A month ago, Carolina stood at 6-2 and looked poised to secure an NFC Wild Card spot, or possibly chase down the Saints in the NFC South. Now, after losing to Buccaneers on Sunday, the Panthers have just a 16% chance of making the playoffs, per

Hoke, a former collegiate coach at Michigan, San Diego State, and Ball State, joined the Panthers earlier this year after Wasington was promoted to defensive coordinator. While the Panthers have fielded an excellent run defense under Hoke’s tutelage, the team ranks 24th in sacks and 25th in adjusted sack rate. Those figures are a far cry from 2017, when Carolina finished third in the NFL with 50 sacks and a 9.1% adjusted sack rate.

Imamura, whose official title had been assistant secondary coach/cornerbacks, was hired by Carolina in 2017 after previously serving as a defensive quality control coach for the Rams. His role grew this summer after Curtis Fuller resigned as the Panthers’ secondary coachRichard Rodgers was promoted to replace Fuller, while Imamura took on more responsibility as Rodgers’ assistant. Carolina ranks 27th in pass defense DVOA, down from 11th a season ago.

Extra Points: Tags, Riley, Cap, Panthers

The NFLPA seems unlikely to fight for the removal of the franchise/transition tag during the next collective bargaining agreement negotiations, tweets Dan Graziano of As Graziano notes, players aren’t expected to “go to the mat” over an issue that will never affect the majority of the league. Franchise tags, of course, don’t prevent a player from leaving his incumbent team, but they do place serious restrictions on a player’s ability to navigate the open market. Any club wishing to sign a franchise player must sacrifice two first-round picks in order to do so. In 2018, just five players received a franchise tag, while one — Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller — was issued a transition tag.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley‘s success at the collegiate level has led to speculation that he could eventually make the leap to the NFL level, and Albert Breer of reported earlier this year that pro teams were attempting to pick Riley’s brain. While that’s not surprising given the exciting offensive scheme run by the Sooners, Breer also noted NFL clubs could soon make overtures to the 34-year-old. However, Riley attempted to downplay any NFL interest earlier today, according to Jori Epstein of the Dallas Morning News“That got blown out of proportion a little bit,” said Riley, who took over for Bob Stoops in 2017. Riley currently earns $3.1MM annually as part of a contract that runs through 2022.
  • NFL teams aren’t using the uncertainty of the impending collective bargaining agreement negotiations to their benefit, as Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap tweets. The current CBA only runs through 2020, so clubs should be altering contracts that run past that season to use more current cap space, explains Fitzgerald. While the CBA now allows teams to carry over cap space each year, there’s no guarantee that provision will remain in the next agreement. Therefore, teams should be deploying all the cap space they can now before the rules possibly change.
  • The Panthers have announced several changes to their coaching staff, including the promotion of Richard Rodgers to secondary coach and Jeff Imamura to assistant secondary coach. Rodgers will replace Curtis Fuller, who resigned earlier this year following allegations of workplace misconduct. Formerly Carolina’s safeties coach, Rodgers had 23 years of collegiate experience under his belt before joining the Panthers in 2012. The Panthers ranked 11th in pass defense DVOA a season ago, meaning they were relatively efficient when compared to other NFL clubs.

Coaching Notes: Redskins, Rams, Panthers

The Redskins have interviewed Chargers assistant defensive backs coach Chris Harris and longtime NFL coach Tim Lewis for their vacant secondary coach position, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post. Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link) reported last month that new Los Angeles head coach Anthony Lynn would retain Harris and several other defensive coaches, but the Chargers may simply be allowing Harris — whom Jones says is considered a “rising star” — to pursue a promotion. Lewis, meanwhile, has experience as a coordinator, and has spent time with the Steelers, Giants, Panthers, Seahawks, Falcons, and, most recently, the 49ers.

Here’s more on the 2017 hiring cycle:

  • Washington had hoped to promote assistant defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant to lead its secondary unit, but after the two sides couldn’t agree to a deal, Pleasant is instead following former Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay to Los Angeles, per Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post, who reports that Pleasant will join the Rams in an unspecified role. Another ex-Redskins coach, Shane Waldron (who had worked as offensive quality control assistant) will also depart for Los Angeles and become the Rams’ new tight ends coach, tweets Marvez. Finally, the Rams have also agreed to hire ex-UCLA wide receivers coach Eric Yarber for the same position, writes Alden Gonzalez of
  • The Panthers announced they’ve hired former Stanford RBs coach Lance Taylor as their new wide receivers coach. Taylor served as Carolina’s assistant WRs coach in 2014, working under Ricky Proehl, who resigned from the Panthers’ staff last month, and played for Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula at Alabama. The Panthers also announced the hiring of former Rams defensive quality control coach Jeff Imamura as their new assistant defensive backs coach.
  • The Bills announced they’ve hired John Egorugwu (defensive quality control), Marc Lubik (offensive quality control/assistant QB), Matt Smiley (assistant special teams), and Bill Teerlinck (assistant defensive line). Buffalo also confirmed the previously-reported hiring of former East Carolina wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan to the same role.
  • Mark Uyeyama will not return as the 49ers‘ director of human performance, reports Matt Maiocco of Uyeyama was instrumental in developing sports sciences that predated the hiring of Chip Kelly, and had worked under the last five San Francisco head coaches.

NFC West Notes: Seahawks, Rams, Cards

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, Rams coach Jeff Fisher, and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians all offered up a few notable comments today during their morning session with reporters in Phoenix at the owners’ meetings. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights from the breakfast discussions, starting with the reigning NFC champs….

Pete Carroll
(Twitter links via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times and’s Terry Blount)

  • Carroll reiterated what GM John Schneider said earlier this week, indicating that defensive end Michael Bennett has never said anything to him about wanting to be traded or wanting a new contract.
  • Carroll is optimistic about a number of the team’s free agents returning to the fold, indicating the club plans to re-sign center Stephen Schilling and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs. The head coach is also confident that the Seahawks will work something out with backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who remains on the market. Jackson visited the Dolphins, but Miami ultimately brought back QB Matt Moore.
  • Caroll suggested that the Seahawks and Russell Wilson‘s camp have had “great talks” about a new contract for the young signal-caller. “It’s a long process with extraordinary ramifications,” according to Caroll, but he’s hopeful that the two sides can work something out.

Jeff Fisher
(Twitter links via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal, Mary Kay Cabot of, and Nick Wagoner of

  • According to Fisher, trade discussions with the Browns involving quarterback Sam Bradford happened on the weekend of March 7, before free agency opened. The Rams eventually announced their deal with the Eagles on Tuesday, March 10.
  • The Browns’ offer for Bradford featured the No. 19 overall pick and never the No. 12 pick. However, Fisher said today that it wouldn’t have made a difference if Cleveland offered the higher first-rounder, since St. Louis still wouldn’t have gotten a QB back in the deal — the Eagles’ willingness to part with Nick Foles gave the Rams a Bradford replacement.
  • The Rams remain active in their search for offensive linemen, with talks expected to pick up again following this week’s league meetings. Joe Barksdale, who played right tackle for the team last year, is still an option, and the Rams are in talks with him. According to Fisher, Barksdale’s initial asking price was a little surprising, but it’s in a more reasonable range now, and “it makes sense to get Joe back.”
  • The Rams have added Jeff Imamura to their staff as a defensive assistant, according to Fisher. Imamura previously worked for the Vikings.

Bruce Arians
(Twitter links via Josh Weinfuss of and Darren Urban of

  • The Cardinals cut center Lyle Sendlein earlier in the offseason, but would like to get him back on the roster at a reduced cap number.
  • Running back figures to be a spot the Cards will address in the draft, perhaps in the fourth or fifth round. The team is looking for a player with both size and speed.
  • The Cards also figure to look at cornerbacks in the draft. Arians said today that he wants to add a young, speedy corner, but doesn’t see a need to add a veteran to the roster.
  • Veteran linebacker Larry Foote is currently a member of the Cardinals’ coaching staff, but may still decide to play for the team in 2015. Arians is hopeful that Foote, who is recovering from knee surgery, will make that decision in time for training camp.