John Fox

Lions Add Jim O’Neil To Staff; John Fox No Longer With Team

The Lions are making some changes on their defensive staff. One of the moves will be bringing former defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil back to the NFL.

Out of the league since the 2020 season, O’Neil will return as a Detroit defensive assistant. The 45-year-old staffer spent two seasons as Northwestern’s DC, but was last in the pros as the Raiders’ DBs coach under Jon Gruden.

O’Neil is best remembered in the NFL for rising to the coordinator level with the Browns and 49ers during the 2010s. The former Rex Ryan Jets assistant climbed to the DC tier at 36, working under Mike Pettine. His second crack at running a defense ended quickly, after the 2016 49ers went 2-14 and bailed on a Chip Kelly experiment. Northwestern fired O’Neil after the 2022 season, a 1-11 campaign for the Wildcats. Lions DC Aaron Glenn worked under O’Neil in Cleveland, opening a door to a rebound opportunity.

Additionally, the team appears to be moving on from John Fox. The three-time NFL HC is no longer with the NFC North champions, per the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. Fox was only with the Lions for one season, being hired as a senior defensive consultant last year. It appears O’Neil will be moving into that type of role. Fox, 69, had worked on the Colts’ staff in 2022, returning to the league after a five-year hiatus.

The team has also let senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler‘s contract expire, Birkett adds. A former 49ers offensive coordinator, Hostler has been in the NFL since 2000. After three years on Ron Rivera‘s Washington staff, the 57-year-old assistant moved to Detroit. Former Lions cornerback Dre’ Bly also appears to be out of the picture, per the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers. The Lions hired Bly, who had not previously coached in the NFL, as cornerbacks coach last year.

Seeing DBs coach Brian Duker leave for a Dolphins job, the Lions have a new voice overseeing their secondary. Ex-Steelers mainstay Deshea Townsend was hired after his Jaguars ouster last month. The Lions confirmed Wednesday that Townsend is their DBs coach.

Lions Expected To Hire John Fox

John Fox returned to the NFL to work on Frank Reich‘s staff last year, but after that move preceded widespread Colts organizational change, the veteran coach is expected to head elsewhere.

The Lions are moving to hire the former head coach, David Newton of tweets. Fox’s HC stops did not involve Dan Campbell, but two crossed paths in New York. Fox was the Giants’ defensive coordinator for a few years during Campbell’s stay. The Lions are expected to bring Fox aboard as a senior defensive consultant, per Newton. He held a similar role with the Colts in 2022.

Planning to give DC Aaron Glenn an extension, the Lions will provide him with an experienced sounding board. Fox, 68, has worked as a head coach for the Panthers, Broncos and Bears and began his NFL tenure back in the late 1980s. Campbell began his 10-year run as an NFL tight end in 1999 and was with the Giants through the 2002 season. That overlapped with Fox’s time in the Big Apple; Fox helmed the Giants’ defense from 1997-2001.

Following Fox’s Bears firing, he spent a few years out of the league. The former Super Bowl-bound HC did not coach in the NFL from 2018-21, but the Colts brought him back prior to what turned out to be Reich’s final season with the team. Fox was part of Gus Bradley‘s defensive staff. Although Bradley is staying in Indianapolis, Fox will join Campbell’s staff.

Beyond Glenn, the Lions feature a few young coaches on their defensive staff. Recently retired linebacker Kelvin Sheppard is in charge of Detroit’s linebacking corps, with fellow recently retired linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton in place as his assistant. Dre’ Bly, who retired several years ago, will coach in the NFL for the first time next season. The former Lions cornerback is set to coach Detroit’s corners. Defensive line coach Brian Duker is in his first go-round as a position coach. Fox’s experience could be valuable for a Lions team attempting to shake off an inconsistent defensive season. The Lions ranked 28th in defensive DVOA last year.

Colts Hire John Fox As Assistant

John Fox is back in the NFL. The Colts confirmed today that they have added the veteran coach to their staff, under the title of senior defensive assistant. 

The 67-year-old’s coaching career began in 1978, immediately following his brief NFL playing tenure. His first professional role came in 1989 with the Steelers, leading to his first defensive coordinator with the Raiders five years later. He was also the DC of the Giants for five seasons before he got his first head coaching opportunity.

Fox was hired by the Panthers in 2002 to take over as the team’s HC. His second season saw a dramatic turnaround from the previous regime’s performances, as Carolina went to the Super Bowl. Fox remained in Charlotte until 2010, when he took over the Broncos. That stint included another Super Bowl appearance, although he found himself on the losing end of the game again despite the team’s historic offensive output that season.

That track record of consistency and success was altered by his tenure in Chicago. Fox oversaw the beginning of Mitch Trubisky’s time as the Bears’ starting quarterback, but it wasn’t enough to avoid finishing his final campaign in the Windy City with a third straight losing record. He was fired at the end of the 2017 season, and had been out of the league ever since.

It was reported in the 2018 offseason that Fox intended to continue coaching, and that he was willing to wait for the right fit. While the Colts gig isn’t the HC or DC jobs he’s held before, he should add an experienced voice to the staff of a unit which finished ninth in scoring defense in 2021.

Coaching Rumors: Cowboys, Gruden, Bengals

The Cowboys‘ offensive coordinator position is now vacant after the team parted ways with Scott Linehan several days ago, and we learned that tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier may be the favorite to replace Linehan. However, Ian Rapoport of suggests that Dallas could look to promote quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore — whom Rapoport described as “fast-rising” and “impressive” — to the OC job (Twitter link). If that happens, RapSheet suggests that the team could add another one of its former QBs to the coaching staff by hiring Jon Kitna, most recently the offensive coordinator for the AAF’s San Diego Fleet, as the new quarterbacks coach.

As Jerry Jones mulls the coaching credentials of his former signal-callers, let’s take a look at other coaching rumors from around the league:

  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports believes that the Redskins‘ failed pursuit of Todd Bowles and Gregg Williams does not bode well for head coach Jay Gruden‘s future in Washington. La Canfora writes that owner Dan Snyder put the “full-court press” on Bowles, and if Bowles had said he would only join the Redskins as a head coach, Snyder may have gone for it. Gruden will return in 2019, but if he does not lead the Redskins to a playoff berth, La Canfora would not be surprised if Snyder reaches out to Bowles and Williams again, perhaps to discuss a head coaching position.
  • If the Patriots prevail in today’s AFC Championship Game, the Dolphins will meet with New England de facto defensive coordinator and future Miami head coach Brian Flores during the week before the Super Bowl to discuss staffing and other issues, per Rapoport (via Twitter). The Fins can formally commit to Flores as their next HC at that time.
  • The Bengals have been very hands-off with their presumptive new head coach, Zac Taylor, but Rapoport (video link) says that is only because the team is closely adhering to league rules regarding coaching hires (Taylor, of course, is the Rams’ quarterbacks coach, and the Rams’ season isn’t over yet). Rapoport says Cincinnati still fully intends to hire Taylor, and he names Jack Del Rio as a potential defensive coordinator on Taylor’s new staff. La Canfora agrees that Del Rio is a DC target, and he adds John Fox as another possibility. Both JLC and RapSheet say that Raiders QB coach Brian Callahan is a top choice for offensive coordinator.
  • Former Cardinals tight ends coach Jason Michael will join the Colts in the same capacity, a source tells Albert Breer of The MMQB (on Twitter). Michael served as the Titans’ offensive coordinator from 2014-15 and was the team’s QB coach from 2016-17.

John Fox, Jim Caldwell To Work With XFL

The two coaches fired from NFC North teams this offseason will resurface in one of the two leagues set to spawn soon.

Both John Fox and Jim Caldwell have agreed to work with the XFL as consultants, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. The Bears and Lions axed Fox and Caldwell in January, respectively.

Fox was linked to coaching offers shortly after being fired, and it’s likely he will return to coaching at some point. But for now, he’ll work with the XFL. It’s possible Caldwell will provide input from an offensive prospective, with the defensively oriented Fox being brought in for defensive views.

The league plans to restart in 2020, after what will be a 19-year hiatus, and it’s still in the process of determining rules. However, the XFL looks to have greater financial backing this time around.

Oliver Luck is signed on as commissioner and will receive $20MM guaranteed in that role, and the league has raised more money in advance of its rebirth than what the Alliance of American Football has. However, the AAF’s brought in bigger coaching and personnel names thus far. No coaches or teams have been announced for XFL 2.0 yet.

Caldwell, 63, has been an NFL coach for 17 straight seasons and hasn’t taken a season off since breaking into the profession in the late 1970s. Fox has been affiliated with an NFL team every year since 1989. His only coaching break came in 1996, when he was a Rams consultant. Fox, 63, has experience working in other pro football leagues, having coached in the USFL during the 1985 season.

John Fox Fielding Coaching Offers

While all the NFL head coaching vacancies are either filled or will be early next week, John Fox may be poised to serve as an assistant coach for the first time since 2001.

A head coach in each of the past 16 seasons, Fox is mulling offers to join a defensive staff, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported during an interview with WGN Radio this week. The former Panthers, Broncos and Bears HC isn’t sure if he’s ready to take a break just yet. He said in January he was willing to wait for a fit and did not sound then like he wanted to stop coaching.

Fox has drawn interest from multiple teams after the Bears fired him following a three-season run.

He’s gotten some offers to be senior defensive assistant, things like that,” Glazer said, via NBC Sports Chicago’s Tim Stebbins. “I don’t know if he’s going to jump into the media side of it. He’s kind of mulling some offers whether or not he wants to coach. The coaching bug is not out of him yet.”

Set to turn 63 next week, Fox was the Giants’ DC from 1997-2001. Many of Fox’s defenses have fared well, with 10 of his units during his time as either a DC or HC ranking in the top 10 in total defense. A 16-year head-coaching run would make him plenty qualified to serve as an assistant this coming season.

John Fox Plans To Continue Coaching

John Fox was ousted from his job in Chicago, but he’s hoping to stay in the NFL. Fox says that he is waiting for the dust to settle on various head coaching jobs to see if he can join someone’s staff (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9NEWS). John Fox (vertical)

Fox was a defensive assistant for many years before he became the head coach of the Panthers in 2002. All in all, he has spent the last 16 seasons as an NFL HC, but it’s unlikely that he will get another crack at running his own show this offseason. His connections and defensive acumen could get him a DC job, however.

As shown on PFR’s Defensive Coordinator Tracker, the Ravens and Packers are the only team with active searches at this time. More spots may open up for Fox once the Cardinals, Lions, and other teams decide on a head coach.

Bears Extend GM Ryan Pace Through 2021

On the heels of firing head coach John Fox this morning, the Bears have decided to extend general manager Ryan Pace through the 2021 campaign, team president and CEO Ted Phillips told reporters (Twitter link). Ryan Pace

Pace’s original deal was set to expire at the end of the 2019 campaign. With the two-year extension, Pace will likely be on the same contract length as the head coach he will bring in.

Pace joined the Bears in 2015 following a 14-year run with the Saints as a scout and director of player personnel. At 37 years old at the time of his hiring, the Texas native was the youngest general manager in the NFL.

Phillips commented on bring back Pace, saying, “He’s earned the opportunity to see his plan to fruition.”

Under Pace’s direction, the Bears traded up one spot in the 2016 NFL Draft to nab North Carolina product Mitch Trubisky. Before pulling the trigger on that deal, he made an interesting decision to sign Mike Glennon to a three-year $45 MM deal. Glennon started just four games in 2017 before he was replaced by the rookie.

During his press conference, Pace hinted that Trubisky would be involved in the head-coaching interview process. “That’s definitely something we’re going to look into,” he said. The Bears are expected to hire an offensive-minded coach but Pace says the team has not submitted any requests to interview current coaches.

Bears Fire Head Coach John Fox

After three losing seasons, the Bears have fired head coach John Fox,’s Ian Rapoport reports (Twitter link). John Fox (vertical)

Rapoport also noted (Twitter link) that the team will look at offensive-minded coaches to work with first-round pick Mitch Trubisky, while defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will also be a candidate.

The Bears finished in last place in the NFC North in each of Fox’s three seasons with the team. In 2016, Chicago finished with a 3-13 record, its worst finish since 1969 (1-13). His .292 winning percentage is the second worst in franchise history behind Abe Gibron‘s .274 mark in the early 1970s.

Fox joined the Bears in 2015 following a productive four-year run in Denver, in which he led the Broncos to a 46-18 mark and advanced to the Super Bowl in his third season. Before joining Denver, Fox spent nine seasons as head coach in Carolina, where he led the team to its first Super Bowl appearance in just his second season on the job.

The Bears are expected to begin interviewing candidates this week and the coaching search is said to include names from the college ranks. Since the departure of Lovie Smith in 2012, the Bears have not had a winning campaign and will now be on their third coach in six seasons.

Breer’s Latest: Black Monday Preview

With the final week of the NFL’s regular season approaching, that only means two things; 12 teams will soon be focusing on reaching the Super Bowl, while the rest will start to look ahead to next season. One major part of looking forward is addressing who on the coaching staff will be returning in 2018. Many of these coaching questions are answered on the day following Week’s 17 conclusion, conveniently called “Black Monday”.

Veteran reporter Albert of Breer of Sports Illustrated, gave a preview of the coaches he expects to stay and the ones that will likely be shown the door in his most recent column. Breer ranked the potential firings as “Likely/Done”, “We’ll See”, and “It’s Complicated”. In total, there were 15 head coaches mentioned who could see their situations change starting next week.

Here’s a quick look at Breer’s takes on some of the league’s hottest coaching questions:

  • There were five head coaches included in the “likely/done” category including: BearsJohn Fox, BengalsMarvin Lewis, LionsJim Caldwell, ColtsChuck Pagano and and the Giants‘ interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. The four full-time head coaches on this list have all had their fair share of success in the league. In fact, three of them led their current teams to multiple playoff appearances during their tenure. However, Caldwell and Lewis have been unable to win a postseason game with Pagano and Fox having failed at continuing the past success they have shown during their careers in football. Breer notes that while the “expectation is that Fox will be gone”, the decision on the fate of general manager Ryan Pace is true question facing the franchise this offseason. There’s been rapid speculation about Lewis, Caldwell and Pagano throughout the year, so their inclusion on this list is no surprise. Finally, the Giants are currently interviewing general manager candidates who will almost certainly be looking to lead their own head coaching search once hired.
  • Breer puts six current head coaches in the ‘we’ll see” part of the list. This portion mentions the CardinalsBruce Arians, BroncosVance Joseph, RaidersJack Del Rio, BuccaneersDirk Koetter, TitansMike Mularkey and the RedskinsJay Gruden. There’s a variety of situations going on here with Breer noting that Arizona could see Arians retire, which could lead them to other current NFL head coaches: Todd Bowles and Bill O’Brien. Del Rio and Gruden have had their fair share of success because of quality quarterback play, but both have managed to decrease confidence because of an inconsistent 2017 season. However, Breer points out that both are signed long-term so their owners would have to eat the remaining years of their current deals. Mularkey and Koetter were rewarded for the relationships they formed with their QB’s, but there’s been disappointment with how this season has unfolded for their teams. Breer notes that should Mularkey lose this Sunday, he could be on the chopping block come Monday morning with the team looking to hire an offensive-minded coach like Josh McDaniels. Finally, Joseph has forced himself to the hot seat even in his first year of coaching the Broncos, though Breer says himself that this situation is “unpredictable” given that team president John Elway is just “not pleased with how the season’s gone”.
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson, and the two previously mentioned O’Brien and Bowles of the Texans and Jets, find themselves on the “it’s complicated” section of Breer’s roundup largely because of just the many factors are at play in regards to their situations. Jackson got a vote of confidence from owner Jimmy Haslam himself, but new general manager John Dorsey could have his sights on implementing his own guy after a winless season. O’Brien has made the playoffs before, but has struggled committing to a QB even after the team selected Deshaun Watson in the first round. Bowles has done a lot with a little in New York this season, but ownership could go in a different direction with a new starting signal caller likely walking into the building next year. Also, there is the potential that all three coaches could move onto new head coaching gigs with the number of openings that could be available this offseason. The final and definitely most surprising inclusion on this list was Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who Breer mentions could retire at age 66 with a roster about to see major turnover in the next few years. Although, I would venture that nothing he’s said this season would indicate that being the case.