The Panthers are likely keeping the No. 1 pick and they’re likely using that selection on a signal-caller. Beyond that, their plan is up in the air. Naturally, the organization is doing their due diligence on the draft’s top quarterback prospects.
The organization had dinner with Alabama QB Bryce Young earlier this week, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter). Kentucky QB Will Levis also dined with a Panthers contingent that included owners David and Nicole Tepper, general manager ScottFitterer, head coach Frank Reich, assistant GM Dan Morgan, VP SamirSuleiman, and coaches JimCaldwell, ThomasBrown, and Josh McCown, per Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (on Twitter). And, unsurprisingly, the Panthers will use one of their 30 prospect visits on Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter.
According to Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post, several team executives believe Tepper is leaning towards Young. However, if the decision was up to several coaches, Stroud would likely be the pick at No. 1. While the front office will surely factor in all of these opinions before the draft, they’ll also be leaning on Caldwell, the team’s new senior assistant. A source said the former coach and QB guru has “a huge voice in this process” and “might have even more say than the head coach.” Ultimately, one rival official believes the decision will ultimately be made by Tepper.
“The owner is going to win that one if he falls in love with one of these kids,” the source told La Canfora. “He’s seen enough misevaluations of the position already.”
After the Panthers sacrificed a pair of firsts, a pair of seconds, and wideout D.J. Moore for the first-overall pick, some pundits have wondered if Carolina could look to flip the pick again. “No one is buying” that the Panthers would consider trading the pick, according to La Canfora, with the reporter citing Tepper’s desire “to get to this point.” Indeed, Fitterer confirmed to Joseph Person of The Athletic that the organization hasn’t received any calls about the top selection (Twitter link).
As the head coaching carousel spun for several weeks, many teams made coordinator changes as well. Teams seeking new head coaches are conducting OC and DC searches, and a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.
This is a big year for offensive coordinator hires, with nearly half the league making changes. Here are the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.
The Commanders reached out to Jim Caldwell about their offensive coordinator position, but the former Colts and Lions head coach told the team he was only looking for HC opportunities. This year’s coaching cycle has prompted the former AFC champion HC to close that path.
A fixture on coaching carousels since his Lions firing, Caldwell took a job on Frank Reich‘s Panthers staff. The two former Colts HCs reunited on a staff that includes Ejiro Evero, Dom Capers, Josh McCown and Thomas Brown. Caldwell, 68, is with Carolina as a senior offensive assistant; this marks his first NFL gig since a Dolphins quarterbacks coach role in 2019. He might be sticking around in Charlotte for a bit.
“Right now, the only job that I’m concerned about is the job I do here, right here and now,” Caldwell said, via ESPN.com’s David Newton. “I’m not worried about the future or anything else. I don’t plan on being a head coach from this point forward.
“When I didn’t get a head-coaching job, I immediately sort of changed the plan in terms of what I was looking for next. I knew I was at the stage where I wanted to be back in the building somewhere. And so, I did have some opportunities to kind of look at, and I was happy when Frank called.”
Then-Lions GM Bob Quinn fired Caldwell after he went 9-7 in 2018. The team has not bettered that record since. Caldwell then interviewed for nine HC jobs over the next four-plus years. The two-time HC met with the Packers, Browns, Jets, Cardinals, Texans, Jaguars, Bears, Broncos and Panthers from December 2018 until January of this year. The Denver and Carolina meetings occurred this year, and while Caldwell was not a finalist for the Panthers position, Reich sought him out for a role alongside he and Brown.
Caldwell is 62-50 as a head coach. His Colts record in games with Peyton Manning (24-8, two of the losses coming after the QB was pulled for rest purposes) and without (2-14) is notable, and Indianapolis’ two-win 2011 led to his ouster. Caldwell, however, accounted himself well in Detroit, guiding the Lions to two playoff berths and three winning seasons in four years. Caldwell is the only head coach over the past 50 years to leave the franchise with a winning record. He also took over as Ravens offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, one that produced the signature stretch of Joe Flacco‘s career and ended with the team celebrating its second Super Bowl title.
The Panthers’ staff has a combined 191 years’ experience coaching in the NFL, Newton notes, and it holds 10 Super Bowl rings in total. An assistant under Tony Dungy before taking the Colts’ HC job in 2009, Caldwell has two of those.
Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers, Broncos and Texans’ hires, this year’s vacancy count sits at two. 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:
The Panthers continue to add noteworthy names to their new-look coaching staff. The team announced on Tuesday that Jim Caldwell as been hired under the title of senior assistant.
The 68-year-old was in consideration for the Panthers’ head coaching position, interviewing for it last month. Caldwell also met with the Broncos before they ultimately acquired Sean Payton to lead their staff. Carolina hiredFrank Reich as their new bench boss, and this move will allow he and Caldwell to work together once again.
The latter has an extensive background on offense, but the team announcement notes that he will have a hand in all three phases of the game. That will give Caldwell a somewhat similar role to his previous head coaching positions in Indianapolis and Detroit. He and Reich each held multiple titles with the Colts during their shared time there, eventually leading the latter back to Indianapolis until his midseason 2022 firing.
His staff has taken on a much different look compared to that of his predecessor, Matt Rhule. Caldwell (also a Super Bowl winning offensive coordinator during his two-year stint in Baltimore) brings a wealth of experience from nearly two decades coaching in the NFL. This Panthers position will be his first since 2019, when he worked as the quarterbacks coach in Miami.
Just as Caldwell will assist (in part) on an offensive staff which has Josh McCown in place as QBs coach, Dom Capers was recently brought in to work with the defense. He will provide defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero with an experienced voice on the sidelines, as they look to steer the Panthers towards an improved showing in 2023. The addition of Caldwell will certainly add to the team’s payroll in terms of its coaching staff, but also its expectations.
As the offseason enters its fourth week, this Broncos ownership group’s first coaching search looks to have skidded off track. A host of updates have emerged in recent days regarding the new owners’ HC pursuit, but the team’s preferred candidates are mostly out of the picture.
Despite this rocky search, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes the other batch of candidates the Broncos have met with — Rams DC Raheem Morris, former Lions HC Jim Caldwell and ex-Stanford HC David Shaw — have not gained momentum for the job. With DC Ejiro Evero also not being connected to the post since interviewing nearly three weeks ago, this would leave Payton still atop the team’s wish list. Indeed, the Caldwell-Evero-Morris-Shaw contingent has been informed no second interviews are on tap, 9News’ Mike Klis notes.
Payton made the Broncos his first interview; that occurred more than two weeks ago. Initial reports indicated Payton was behind the new Broncos ownership contingent, but a subsequent offering suggested pause. Payton directly refuted that he feared a power struggle with one of the team’s new owners, and the former Super Bowl-winning HC addressed his status over the weekend. The door remains open for Payton, per Renck, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport suggested the franchise still wants to swing for a “big, big, big” hire.
Payton, 59, is the only candidate who would seem to fit that description, and other teams may be realizing they will not be able to entice him to leave FOX this year. Linked to preparing a big Payton push, the Panthers hired Frank Reich. The Cardinals adding a host of new candidates Monday points to them realizing Payton is likely an unrealistic goal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com offered during a Pat McAfee Show appearance (video link). Payton interviewed with the Cardinals on Thursday. It will take a first-round pick and at least some Day 2 selections to pry Payton’s rights from New Orleans, but the way this search is going, hints of desperation may soon come out of Denver.
If the Broncos cannot lure Payton from FOX, they will either need to circle back to what appear to be their lower-tier candidates or add names to the list. As of Monday night, no new names are on the radar, Klis reaffirms, adding the Broncos will not send the Saints two first-round picks for Payton. That was a rumored Mickey Loomisask weeks ago. For a team that entered the offseason preparing an “ultra-aggressive” search for an experienced HC to execute a turnaround, this figures to be a pivotal week for its new ownership contingent.
JANUARY 29, 9:40pm: Troy Renck of Denver7 is in line with the NFL Network pair in terms of the new names being added to Denver’s search with things having not gone according to plan so far. However, 9News’ Mike Klis reports (via Twitter) that the Broncos are actually still focused on their original list of candidates who are still available, and that “there is a plan” the organization is on course to follow. In any case, Denver will be a key team to watch as the HC story unfolds in the coming days.
JANUARY 29, 7:30am:Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com hear that, even after Harbaugh’s announcement that he would be remaining at Michigan, he continued to have conversations with Penner and Broncos GM George Paton. Penner did not make an offer to Harbaugh during last week’s summit, though it does not appear that the door to a Harbaugh-Denver partnership is closed quite yet. Indeed, Harbaugh has reportedly said that the Broncos’ job is the one that he would want if he elects to return to the pros.
Both NFL.com and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (via Twitter) say that the Broncos could begin to expand their head coaching search given that some of their top choices in Payton, Harbaugh, Ryans, and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are either out of the running entirely or no longer appear to be likely options. If that happens, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan could get a call, and the club has reportedly done research on Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.
In addition, NFL.com reports that candidates like Raheem Morris, David Shaw, Jim Caldwell, and Ejiro Evero could all be back in play, although Troy Renck of Denver7 suggests otherwise (Twitter link).
JANUARY 28: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was once again one of the names most commonly floated as a candidate in advance of this year’s NFL head coaching cycle. However, he ultimately remained committed to staying in Ann Arbor for at least the 2023 season, a decision which seemed to mark the end of his involvement in discussions surrounding the league’s remaining vacancies.
Despite that, Broncos CEO Greg Penner flew to Ann Arbor to meet in person with Harbaugh last week, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The latter interviewed with Denver virtually as part of their initial list of candidates to replace Nathaniel Hackett; his experience made him – along with Sean Payton – a serious contender for the position before he made it official he will once again stay at the college level.
As Schefter notes (and several others have since corroborated), the sit-down was primarily a matter of Penner doing his due diligence with Harbaugh. Denver’s HC search has been far more methodical this offseason than the one in 2022 which resulted in Hackett being hired for his first opportunity as a bench boss. His marked lack of success in that post has, in part, steered the organization towards an experienced coach. Harbaugh no longer being in the running could change that to an extent, especially if Payton ends up on another staff or remains as a Fox analyst for the 2023 season.
Harbaugh, 59, interviewed with the Vikings last year and was connected to the openings in Denver, Carolina and Indianapolis in 2023 prior to his announcement confirming he will still coach the Wolverines. In the wake of that decision, the Broncos have shifted their attention to the likes of defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans. The latter seems to be a top target for Penner and Co., though signs are now pointing to him being the frontrunner for the Houston vacancy.
That could put more pressure on the Broncos to land Payton, something which would require draft compensation being sent to the Saints and a sizeable contract being doled out for his services. Earlier this week, however, Payton’s second interview with Denver was put on hold, so uncertainty remains on all sides in that situation. In any case, Schefter adds that some feel this cycle was likely be the last in which Harbaugh was a serious candidate to re-join the NFL coaching ranks, though this in-person meeting suggests he could still draw interest in 2024.
7:35pm: Payton has provided information straight from the source, disputing that there is any truth to Maske’s report of his fears of a power struggle in Denver with a tweet this evening. Payton denies that any issue exists with Broncos’ ownership stating that they were fantastic and that they “had a great visit.”
Ryans is still gaining traction and Caldwell and Shaw are also strong contenders, while Quinn has stated his desire to remain in Dallas, but if Payton is to be taken at his word, he should still be considered one of the favorites for this position.
3:01pm: Vowing to be “ultra aggressive” in its first coaching search, the Broncos’ new ownership came into this process with a goal of adding an experienced head coach. Recent developments may be leading the team in a different direction.
DeMeco Ryans has emerged as a frontrunner in this race, Mike Klis of 9News reports. The second-year 49ers defensive coordinator met with the Broncos and Texans late last week, nixing interviews with the Cardinals and Colts, and has been steadily rising in this race. While the Broncos are still considering Sean Payton, Jim Caldwell and Dan Quinn, Ryans’ rise is obviously notable considering his accomplishments with the 49ers this season.
But the team has cooled on Payton, Denver7’s Troy Renck adds (via Twitter). Payton also looks to have lost some interest in this job. A sense of what might have changed emerged Thursday. Recently, the former Saints HC was believed to be high on the Broncos’ new ownership group. Now, it might be a negative for the FOX analyst. Payton fears a potential power struggle with one member of the contingent, Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets. Payton would want to work with Russell Wilson, who reached out to him recently, and is believed to be high on Denver’s defensive pieces. But an issue with ownership may well nix this potential partnership.
Rob Walton, CEO Greg Penner and co-owner Condoleezza Rice have been the ownership group’s key members during this search, joining GM George Paton. The latter is the only experienced football staffer involved here, given the ownership contingent arriving last summer, but Penner is set to make the final call on the team’s second HC hire in two years. It does not seem Rice, who joined the group after the Walton family, is Payton’s concern. The veteran HC has “loved” his interactions with the former Secretary of State, Maske adds (on Twitter).
The Broncos have not gone through second interviews yet, separating their search from this year’s other four. The Panthers just made their hire — Frank Reich — after interviewing he and Steve Wilks twice. If the Broncos want to hold a second interview with Ryans, they must wait until Jan. 30 because of the 49ers’ advancement to the NFC championship game.
David Shaw was believed to be a sleeper candidate for this position, but Klis omitted the longtime Stanford HC from the team’s mix Thursday. Shaw stepped down from his Cardinal post after three losing seasons in the past four years. Penner and Rice’s Stanford ties were thought to represent key connective tissue to Shaw, but Denver going with an NFL-seasoned coach makes sense given the recent failures of college hires.
Ryans, 38, has helmed the NFL’s top-ranked defense this season and has been viewed as likely to land one of this year’s jobs for a bit now. All five HC-needy teams reached out to the former linebacker. The Texans remain in the mix for their former defender, per Klis, but they certainly look to have competition from the Broncos.
To begin their search to replace Scott Turner as offensive coordinator, the Commanders reached out to former Colts and Lions HC Jim Caldwell. While Caldwell has a history as an OC, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com and Ian Rapoport note (via Twitter) the veteran coach is uninterested in the position.
Caldwell, who has interviewed for the Broncos and Panthers’ HC jobs recently, informed the NFC East team he is only interested in pursuing HC roles at this point. Caldwell, 67, has been out of the league since a 2019 one-off as the Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach.
The Commanders are also believed to be interested in one of their own. After an ESPN report listedKen Zampese as a possible candidate to replace Turner, the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala confirmed the team’s QBs coach is on the radar for the job (Twitter link). Zampese has been with the team throughout Ron Rivera‘s tenure, serving as Turner’s QBs coach for three seasons.
Zampese, 55, has OC experience as well, having served in that role under Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati from 2016-17. The second-generation NFL assistant also coached the Bengals’ QBs in Lewis’ first 13 years at the help, bringing considerable experience to Washington after a long run coaching Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. The Commanders are believed to remain in favor of their offensive scheme, but issues with Turner’s play-calling and philosophy led to the separation.
Most of Caldwell’s NFL experience has come as either a head coach or quarterbacks coach. He was Peyton Manning‘s position coach from 2002-08 and became Tony Dungy‘s successor in 2009, helming the Colts — during Manning’s fourth MVP season — to Super Bowl XLIV. Manning’s 2011 injury absence led to a 2-14 Colts season and Caldwell’s dismissal, but he picked up a Super Bowl ring with the 2012 Ravens, who promoted him to OC late that season. The Lions employed Caldwell for four years as their coach, and he is the only Detroit HC to post a winning record during his time with the team in 50 years. Caldwell went 36-28 with the Lions.
Caldwell has remained on the HC radar but has never been considered a frontrunner for a role since the Detroit ouster. The Packers, Browns, Jets, Cardinals, Texans, Bears and Jaguars have interviewed Caldwell from 2018-22. Despite hurdles continually appearing in Caldwell’s path to a third HC opportunity, OC gigs do not appear to interest him at this point in his career.
9:35pm: Add another list to the Broncos’ head coaching search. Denver interviewed former Stanford head coachDavid Shaw on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Shaw recently resigned from his post at Stanford after two consecutive 3-9 seasons. Despite the dismal finish to his career, Shaw left the Cardinal with a 96-54 record as a head coach.
Before becoming a mainstay in Stanford, Shaw held assistant coaching roles with the Raiders and Ravens coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers. His success at the NFL level combined with his winning tradition at Stanford made Shaw a hot commodity in the NFL, especially after the immediate NFL success of his Stanford predecessor, Jim Harbaugh, following his rise to the pros.
NFL teams will finally have their opportunity to kick the tires on Shaw, and it appears the Broncos are the first to do so. It would certainly be an interesting fit as Shaw has connections to fellow Stanford alumni Penner and Rice.
12:52pm: The Broncos added another name to their HC search. They are meeting with former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell on Wednesday, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets.
Caldwell’s interview will be in-person, 9News’ Mike Klis adds (via Twitter). A fixture on coaching carousels in recent years, Caldwell has already met with the Panthers. Caldwell’s AFC championship in Indianapolis and two playoff berths in Detroit aside, his entry into this race qualifies as a lower-profile development considering the other names connected to the Broncos.
Sean Payton has spoken with the Broncos, and an interview is expected. The team can interview Payton beginning Jan. 17. But some doubt regarding Payton’s interest in this job has emerged. The Broncos may want Payton more than vice versa, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes, and colleague Jeremy Fowler adds the prospect of a long-term Russell Wilson partnership has generated some skepticism around the league.
Wilson had the Saints on his 2021 list of acceptable trade destinations — before the Broncos landed on that list and became his preference — and Payton, from his FOX analyst role, offered some possible solutions to address Wilson’s stunning performance drop-off this season. The 16-year Saints HC is expected to be choosey, though he has said on multiple occasions he will likely coach again. Payton has also analyzed every team’s depth chart in preparation for a potential NFL return. A franchise quarterback is not a requirement for Payton, Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes (subscription required), but a path to one would move the needle. Although Wilson showed signs of his pre-Denver self to close the season, he probably does not qualify as a franchise QB after the year he had.
Payton would also be expected to bring his own personnel staff to Denver, Graziano adds, which could spell more trouble for Broncos GM George Paton. New Denver ownership’s curious plan of having both Paton and the next head coach report to ownership also could sound alarm bells for Payton, Howe adds, though that might not be too much of a concern given the price the Broncos will need to pay to lure Payton. It would not exactly be expected Denver would hire a new GM that is not approved by Payton, for whom the team may well need to trade a first-round pick.
A report Tuesday placed Harbaugh as an early frontrunner, but Fowler clarifies the Michigan HC is behind Payton. If the latter turns down the Broncos, Harbaugh will be the favorite. Harbaugh is rumored to be prepared to bring Tom Gamble, the former 49ers player personnel director who is now with the Wolverines, with him, per Fowler.
Unlike the Panthers, who were believed to be confused when Harbaugh reached out to them, Tom Pelissero said during a Dan Patrick Show appearance the Broncos contacted Harbaugh (video link). New CEO Greg Penner and co-owner Condoleezza Rice‘s ties to Stanford — where Harbaugh coached from 2007-10 — are driving this interest. The Broncos have done extensive research on the former 49ers coach, Fowler adds.
The Colts were rumored to be interested in Harbaugh, but they have not interviewed him yet. It would not surprise if such a meeting took place, with Fowler adding the Colts job appeals to Harbaugh. Jim Irsay‘s overreaching last year has made the Colts job less of a draw for some, Howe adds, but Harbaugh did play for the Colts for four seasons in the 1990s and holds a spot in their ring of honor.
Caldwell, 67, has been out of the league since a Dolphins one-off as an assistant HC in 2019. He joins Payton as an offense-oriented candidate. The rest of the Broncos’ candidate list includes defensive staffers — Ejiro Evero, Dan Quinn, DeMeco Ryans, Raheem Morris. Among this lot, Quinn, who interviewed for the Denver job last year, looks to have the best shot of landing the position, Pelissero adds. Quinn has ties to Paton dating back to their Dolphins days, though he appears to be a fallback option at this point.