Josh McCown

Many Panthers Staffers Back Bryce Young

The last time the Panthers held the No. 1 overall pick, little doubt existed about the franchise’s direction. The consensus top quarterback in the 2011 draft, Cam Newton served as Carolina’s quarterback for nearly a decade. Three weeks ahead of this year’s draft, the team — despite trading up eight spots for the top pick — may not have a decision yet.

Although the Panthers’ pendulum is swinging toward C.J. Stroud, Peter King of NBC Sports reports Bryce Young has several key supporters in the building. New QBs coach Josh McCown looks to be one of them. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay each mock the Ohio State passer to Carolina at 1, but ESPN and rank the former Alabama superstar as the draft’s best prospect. Stroud sits second on’s big board and seventh on Daniel Jeremiah’s.

Frank Reich and GM Scott Fitterer have included many staffers in this process, bringing more than 10 to prospects’ pro days. Reich has wanted the staff to draw their own conclusions before the franchise decides how to proceed. While Reich said Young’s height will not be a key factor, King adds it likely is an issue for Carolina’s first-year HC. A longtime friend of Reich’s informed King he would be surprised if the Panthers took the 5-foot-10 Young. Stroud brings a prototypical QB frame to the equation, standing 6-3 and weighing 214 pounds. Young’s weight has generated scrutiny as well. After bulking up to 204 pounds at the Combine, Young did not weigh in at his pro day.

Reich will be unlikely to throw his weight around and overrule a consensus, per King, should he not agree with the prevailing staff opinion. This could lead to a scenario in which the new coach is outvoted. But the veteran leader does hold Young in high regard, opening the door to the coach being OK with either QB. When revisiting Reich’s Colts tenure, it would be strange to see him stand down if enough Panthers staffers back the QB he ranks second. Reich’s Indianapolis setup looked like a premier foundation in 2019, but Andrew Luck‘s retirement led to it unraveling. The Colts’ inability to find a Luck replacement led to Reich’s midseason firing last year. And the Panthers obviously sent the Bears plenty to pry away the No. 1 pick.

It might end up that the HC views Stroud as a safer bet compared to a 5-10 QB that did not rush for 200 yards in a college season. But Young’s production-athleticism combination still intrigues. He will attempt to follow the likes of Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray to the Pro Bowl level despite pre-draft height concerns.

The Panthers going with Stroud would put the Texans to a decision. Long mocked to take Young at 2, Houston will need to decide if he is worth the investment. The Texans going with a safer pick, in ex-Young Crimson Tide teammate Will Anderson Jr., and tabling their QB choice should not be ruled out. Young making it to No. 3 on the board would create a fascinating draft sequence, with teams previously linked to higher-variance options like Anthony Richardson or Will Levis potentially prepared to send the Cardinals big offers to move up for Young. The Colts (No. 4) are working out Young this week; the Raiders (No. 7) are hosting the 2021 Heisman winner today. The Titans have also been linked to moving up to No. 3 for a passer.

Panthers Add Josh McCown, Dom Capers To Staff

Frank Reich‘s Panthers staff continues to take shape, and more familiar names are headed to Charlotte. Per a team announcement, Carolina has hired Josh McCown as quarterbacks coach and Dom Capers as a senior defensive assistant.

McCown, 43, spent two seasons (2008 and 2009) with the Panthers during his journeyman playing days. That stretch saw him attempt just six passes, but he is nevertheless a hire who, like Reich, has experience inside the organization. This position will be his first coaching opportunity at the NFL level, but certainly not the first which he was connected to.

Following the end of his playing career in Houston in 2020, McCown was named as candidate for the Texans’ head coaching vacancy. The same was true in the 2022 coaching cycle, and he was reportedly a finalist for the position before the team’s eleventh-hour decision to pivot to Lovie Smith. McCown said this past September that he would be open to taking on a non-HC role despite the repeated interest showed in him by the Texans.

In Carolina, McCown will join a highly-regarded bench boss in Reich, who figures to be heavily involved in the development of Carolina’s signal-callers (the identities of whom will, in all likelihood, be noticeably different by the start of the 2023 season than they are now). Interestingly, McCown’s hire has come before that of an offensive coordinator.

As for Capers, this news comes as little surprise. The 72-year-old will hold the same title in Carolina that he did in 2022 with the Broncos. That, of course, allowed him to work alongside defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. The pair helped guide Denver’s defense to a strong showing in the latter’s debut season at the coordinator level. Evero was hired by the Panthers to helm their defense this past weekend, and he will continue to have an experienced voice in Capers as a resource during the next chapter of his coaching career.

Capers was the head coach of the first team in Panthers history, one which was quarterbacked by Reich. He also worked with Evero during their time together with the Packers in 2016, and has given him high praise for his work as both an assistant and coordinator. Expectations will be raised for the Panthers in 2023, given their relatively strong finish to this past season, along with the acclaim and familiarity found on Reich’s staff.

Latest On Josh McCown’s Coaching Future

Former NFL quarterback Josh McCown has twice interviewed for the Texans head coaching gig, but that’s not the only interest he’s generated around the NFL. In a profile of the 43-year-old, Dan Pompei of The Athletic writes that the Colts, Eagles, and Vikings have reached out to McCown about joining their coaching staffs, with the writer suggesting there have probably been other suitors for the retired player’s services.

McCown got into 102 games after entering the NFL in 2002. He saw time in three games for the Eagles in 2019 (plus a playoff loss where he attempted 24 passes), and after briefly joining Houston’s practice squad, he was asked to interview for their head coaching job after the 2020 campaign. That gig ultimately went to David Culley, but McCown was asked to join the staff as associate head coach.

Instead, McCown joined the staff at Rusk High School in Texas, where he’s coached his sons over the past two years. He was brought in this past offseason to once again interview for Houston’s head coaching gig, with some reports suggesting he was the favorite for the position. The Texans ended up promoting defensive coordinator Lovie Smith to head coach, but McCown clearly made a good impression during his time with the Texans.

After spending time with 12 different organizations during his playing career, McCown has many connections throughout the league. As a result, Pompei writes that “there is a chance” the former QB could be hired somewhere as a head coach, a feat that would make him the first individual to go directly from the NFL to a HC gig since Norm Van Brocklin in 1961.

“Life takes you a bunch of places, and those experiences develop skill sets that you can sit on, or you can pass on and maybe try to bring more good into the world that way,” he says. “Coaching in the game of football is a way for me to do that, to pass that forward and have an influence the way some of these good men have had in my life.”

While it’d certainly be strange for McCown to jump right into a head coaching job, he has earned endorsements from a number of former coaches and executives, including Bill Parcells. While he rejected previous overtures to join coaching staffs, he made it clear that he wouldn’t solely look for a head coaching job next offseason and would consider a variety of roles.

AFC Staff Notes: McCown, Kelly, Broncos

The Texans‘ coaching search meandered from Brian Flores and Josh McCown to the latter’s former head coach. Lovie Smith coached McCown in Chicago and then brought him to Tampa in 2014. McCown interviewed for Houston’s HC job three times over the past year and change but still does not have any NFL coaching experience. While it is clear the Texans’ front office would be on board with having McCown on staff, Smith might not be. At least, not in 2022. The new Texans HC praised McCown as a future coach and added (via Fox 26’s Mark Berman, video link) he would want him on his staff “eventually someday.” Smith already promoted quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton to offensive coordinator. McCown could conceivably fill Hamilton’s old post as QBs coach, however, if the Texans are indeed intent on him eventually becoming their head coach.

Here is the latest from the AFC coaching ranks:

  • John Pagano spent the past two seasons as the Broncos‘ outside linebackers coach, taking over after Brandon Staley departed for Los Angeles in 2020. During that span, the Broncos saw some new edge contributors — Malik Reed, Stephen Weatherly and seventh-round rookie Jonathon Cooper — help out to the point the team felt OK trading Von Miller. Pagano, however, will not be on Nathaniel Hackett‘s first Denver staff, per Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). The former Raiders and Chargers DC has now been an NFL staffer for 26 seasons.
  • Tim Kelly will serve as the Titans’ new passing-game coordinator, per’s Jim Wyatt. Kelly, the Texans’ OC from 2019-21, will work alongside Titans OC Todd Downing. Tim Kelly, the older brother of ex-Titans right tackle Dennis Kelly, and Mike Vrabel worked together on Houston’s staff ahead of the latter’s move to Tennessee. The Titans also hired Bobby King to be their inside linebackers coach. King also worked in Houston alongside Vrabel in 2017; he finished his Texans tenure as the team’s D-line coach this past season.
  • Denver interviewed Jason Simmons for its defensive coordinator job — a post expected to go to Rams secondary coach Ejiro Evero — but the Carolina assistant will instead head to Las Vegas. The Raiders are hiring Simmons as their secondary coach, Aaron Wilson of tweets. Simmons worked with new Raider DC Patrick Graham with the Packers in 2018.
  • The Steelers did not renew Ike Hilliard‘s contract, per The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly (on Twitter), and hired Frisman Jackson to coach their wide receivers. Jackson will leave Matt Rhule‘s hub for ex-Temple and Baylor coaches for Pittsburgh. The former NFL wideout, after stints with Rhule at both college programs, coached the Panthers’ receivers in each of Rhule’s first two years. Hilliard served as the Steelers’ receivers coach during that span.
  • Ex-NFL D-linemen-turned-assistants Brentson Buckner and Phillip Daniels may be vying for the Jaguars‘ D-line coach role, with Wilson adding the team is considering each for the position (Twitter link). Buckner currently serves as the Cardinals’ D-line coach. Daniels has less experience but worked under Doug Pederson in Philadelphia, working with the Eagles’ D-line from 2016-19. The Eagles fired Daniels after the ’19 season.
  • The Jags are also hiring Louisiana assistant head coach Rory Segrest, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman tweets. Segrest has been in the college ranks for over a decade but was with the Eagles during Pederson’s time working under Andy Reid in the late 2000s.
  • Circling back to the Broncos, they added a few more assistants early this week. UNLV DC Peter Hansen signed on to be Denver’s linebackers coach, Klis tweets. Hanson and Eviro were on Vic Fangio‘s 49ers staff from 2011-13. The Broncos also named Ben Steele their tight ends coach, Klis notes. Steele was the Vikings’ assistant O-line coach under Klint Kubiak this past season. Mike Mallory also joined Hackett’s Denver staff as assistant special teams coordinator (Twitter links). Mallory spent eight seasons with the Jaguars, as their ST coordinator and assistant ST coordinator (2013-20), working with Hackett for part of that stretch.

Latest On Texans’ Coaching Staff

In 14 months, Lovie Smith has gone from being dismissed as the University of Illinois’ head coach to securing a third shot as an NFL HC. The Texans officially hired Smith on Monday, and the veteran defensive-minded coach will pull double duty in his next assignment.

Smith, 63, will retain defensive play-calling responsibilities, Field Yates of tweets. The former Bears and Buccaneers HC had been in the college ranks for five seasons prior to resurfacing as the Texans’ defensive coordinator last year. Now, he will wear two rather important hats for the rebuilding team.

GM Nick Caserio said Tuesday that Smith’s hire did not take place because of Brian Flores‘ lawsuit against the NFL, via the Houston Chronicle’s Brooks Kubena. Flores and Josh McCown were believed to be the final two in the running for the job. The longtime quarterback having never coached in the NFL likely played into Smith’s hire, but Caserio predictably indicated the team had not made a decision until it landed on Smith. Caserio did not deny McCown remained in play for another role with the team, though Smith already has his offensive coordinator in place.

Pep Hamilton is in line to call Houston’s offensive plays, being promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. While Hamilton’s rise was on the radar before Smith entered the equation, Smith said keeping the Texans’ QBs coach was “a must.” One of Smith’s first acts as Houston’s head coach was communicating to Hamilton his importance for developing Davis Mills. A year after overseeing Justin Herbert‘s rise to Offensive Rookie of the Year as Chargers QBs coach, Hamilton helped Mills show promise down the stretch.

Pep has an expertise when you look at his background,” Smith said Tuesday. “What he did in Los Angeles with Herbert to where he did with Davis here. He is a fundamental coach who has a defensive mentality on toughness. I am so excited about him being on our staff and to see what he is going to do.”

Smith is moving quickly on his assistants as well. The Texans are hiring George Warhop as their offensive line coach and Hal Hunter as his assistant,’s Aaron Wilson tweets. Warhop, 60, has now been employed as an O-line coach by a fourth of the NFL’s teams. From 1996 through last season, Warhop has been with the Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys, 49ers, Browns, Buccaneers and Jaguars. Warhop’s Tampa Bay stay began when Smith arrived in 2014. Warhop coached the Jags’ O-lines for the past three seasons.

Hunter, 62, has extensive experience as well, including at the coordinator level. He spent the 2012 season as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator, moving up to that post after coaching the previous six Bolts O-lines — groups that helped LaDainian Tomlinson secure first-ballot Hall of Fame entry. Hunter was last in the NFL as the Giants’ O-line coach from 2018-19.

Houston is also hiring Tim Berbenich as its tight ends coach, Fox 26’s Mark Berman tweets. This will be new territory for Berbenich, who spent last season as the Raiders’ running backs coach. In 19 seasons as an NFL assistant, Berbenich has primarily coached running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks. He was a Colts staffer during each of Hamilton’s three years as Indianapolis’ OC.

Texans Moving Towards Hiring Lovie Smith As Head Coach

One day after his name was added to the list of finalists for the job, defensive coordinator Lovie Smith is close to being officially hired as the head coach of the Texans. As Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports (via Twitter), Houston is “moving towards” hiring Smith. 

[Related: Texans Considering Lovie Smith For HC]

The 63-year-old has gone from being out of the picture with regards to the vacancy to the likely hire in a matter of hours. While it was believed that the three finalists for the position were former Dolphins HC Brian Flores, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and recently retired quarterback Josh McCown, it came out recently that the latter two were out of the running for the position.

The presence of Flores as a finalist came, of course, with the fact that his lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams was ongoing. Flores has made it clear he would carry on with the suit even if he had been hired by Houston or any other team. That won’t be the case, in Houston at least, as the Texans are sticking with an internal candidate to replace David Culley.

Smith brings a wealth of experience to the table, having been a head coach for 16 of the past 18 years between the NFL and NCAA ranks. His longest stint on any one sideline was as HC of the Bears between 2004 and 2012. That stretch included a Coach of The Year award, along with a Super Bowl appearance not long after. From then on, though, his time in Chicago generally went downhill; an unsuccessful two years as the HC in Tampa Bay (which came after interviewing in Houston) certainly didn’t help his chances of another opportunity to lead an NFL team. 2021 was his first and only season as the DC in Houston, a year in which the defense did show signs of improvement.

Meanwhile, Rapoport’s colleague Mike Garafolo tweets that McCown could still find himself on the Texans’ sideline this year. While that is a “possibility”, he adds that “those talks have yet to really happen”. He also states that Pep Hamilton is expected to remain on staff, becoming the new offensive coordinator.

With Smith seemingly in place, here’s what appears to be the final look at the Texans’ HC search:


2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, seven NFL teams opted to make a head coaching change. Sean Payton stepping away from the Saints created nine full-time vacancies available this year.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 2-7-22 (1:45pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Texans Considering Lovie Smith For HC

Despite reports that the Texans had narrowed their list of candidates down to journeyman quarterback Josh McCown and former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores, Adam Schefter of ESPN has reported that current defensive coordinator and associate head coach Lovie Smith is now in talks with Houston about potentially becoming their next head coach. Smith interviewed with the team earlier tonight, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. This is the second time Smith has been considered for the Texans’ head coach position, the first time being when he interviewed with the team in December 2013 prior to accepting the head coaching job in Tampa Bay. 

Smith has spent 16 of the last 18 years as a head coach at some level. After three years of coaching at the high school level, Smith spent the next 13 years bouncing around the NCAA as a position coach with stops at Tulsa, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio State. He accepted a job as the Buccaneers’ linebackers coach in 1996 and, after five seasons in Tampa Bay, was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Rams. Smith took the St. Louis defense from a league-worst 29.4 points per game to seventh in the league allowing 17.1 points per game in his first year leading the defense.

Smith soon earned the head coaching job for the Bears in 2004. Despite losing starting quarterback Rex Grossman to injury for most of the 2005 season, the Bears would get a first round bye in the playoffs as the NFC’s number two-seed in Lovie’s second year as head coach, winning Smith the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award. In 2006, the Bears were the NFC’s number one-seed, owning the NFL’s second-ranked scoring offense and fifth-ranked overall defense. In his third season as an NFL head coach, Smith became the first Black head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl, and the second minority head coach after Tom Flores.

The next six years saw the Bears miss the playoffs five times despite only two losing seasons and never finishing with a record worse than 7-9. Smith was fired after failing to reach the playoffs in the 2012 season despite finishing with a record of 10-6, the last winning season the Bears would see until 2018.

After a year hiatus from the NFL, Smith was brought in to replace Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers went 2-14 and 6-10 in Smith’s first two seasons and Smith was fired with three years remaining on his contract.

After Tampa Bay, Smith accepted the job of head coach at the University of Illinois. A perennial basement-dweller in the Big Ten, Smith amassed a 17-39 record in five seasons at Illinois. In 2019, he did lead the Fighting Illini to their first bowl game appearance since 2014, but was fired the next year after starting the season 2-5.

Following his stint in college football, Smith was hired by Houston in March of 2021 in his current role under rookie head coach David Culley, returning to the NFL after a 5 year hiatus. Smith did improve the Texans’ defense from ranking 30th in defensive DVOA in 2020 to 23rd in 2021, but Houston was not one of the league’s better defensive units.

Schefter reported that Smith was always included in the Texans’ discussions, but his candidacy for head coach didn’t start gaining momentum until very recently. The consensus in the media is that, along with this revived interest in Smith, McCown is no longer being considered for the position, as Schefter, Rapoport, and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero have all tweeted as much.

It looks, for now, as if Brian Flores and Lovie Smith are the two candidates the Texans are focusing on for the position moving forward, unless any more surprise candidates find their way into contention. Be sure to follow our 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker to keep up with updates to the remaining open positions.

Coaching Rumors: Saints, Texans, McDaniel, Giants, Broncos

The Saints began their cycle of head coaching interviews this week, conducting meetings with the following candidates: former Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson (1/30; hired by Jaguars), former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores (2/1), Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn (2/2), their current special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi (2/3), their current defensive coordinator Dennis Allen (2/4), and Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy (2/6).

New Orleans also requested permission to interview Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. There were some early reports that permission had been granted, but that hasn’t been confirmed and nothing has been scheduled, as of yet. ESPN’s Saints’ reporter Mike Triplett also mentioned that current offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael was offered an opportunity to interview for the position, but Carmichael declined. Despite being a part of Sean Payton‘s staff since Payton’s tenure in New Orleans began back in 2006, it appears Carmichael has no interest in running the show in the Big Easy. Whether he has retirement or another destination in mind or he is just comfortable in his role, Carmichael will not be the Saints’ next head coach.

Here are a few more notes from the ongoing coaching searches and staff changes throughout the NFL, starting with the other head coaching vacancy:

  • Houston recently narrowed their list of head coaching candidates down to three: Brian Flores, former quarterback Josh McCown, and Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Well, according to USA Today’s Josina Anderson, the Texans are now down to two candidates, with Gannon being informed Saturday that he will not be receiving the head coaching position, leaving Flores and McCown as the two remaining names.
  • New Dolphins’ head coach Mike McDaniel reportedly has interest in holding on to some of the defensive assistants currently under contract in Miami, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. This includes current defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, who followed Flores to Miami from New England. The lack of staff turnover would be a positive for a defensive unit that played well during the team’s seven-game win-streak in the back half of the season.
  • The Giants were able to add a piece to Brian Daboll‘s new staff while missing out on another today. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan tweeted out that Andy Bischoff will become the Giants’ new tight ends coach. Bischoff followed David Culley from Baltimore to Houston and will make the lateral move over from the Texans with their head coaching position still in the air. Unfortunately, the Giants did not get their running backs coach, as Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweeted out that Deland McCullough has turned down Daboll’s offer, choosing instead to remain the running backs coach at Notre Dame, believing it gives him the best opportunity to eventually become a head coach.
  • New Broncos’ head coach Nathaniel Hackett is also looking to fill out his staff. The Broncos are planning to interview Jon Embree who most recently held the position of tight ends coach/assistant head coach in San Francisco. Embree parted ways with the Niners after being asked to take a 60 percent pay cut after San Francisco’s NFC Championship loss. The man who has coached George Kittle since he was drafted in 2017 would be a nice addition to Hackett’s system.

Texans Down To Three HC Finalists

The latest on the Texans’ ongoing search for a new head coach indicates that there are three finalists for the job, including Brian Flores. USA Today’s Josina Anderson tweets that Flores, along with former quarterback Josh McCown and Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, are the remaining candidates. 

[Related: Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Flores’ inclusion on the list is, of course, the most notable. He filed a lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams earlier this week; among the expected consequences of that action, many feel, is the end to his NFL coaching career. However, he is (at least officially) still in the running for the position, for which, in terms of HC experience, he is the most qualified.

McCown conducted a second interview with the Texans last week, making him the first known finalist for the job. The longtime QB spent his final season in Houston, though he didn’t see any playing time. One year removed from the end of his playing days, the 42-year-old has clearly interviewed well, giving him a good chance of starting a coaching career in the league.

Gannon, meanwhile, has been among the most popular candidates in this year’s hiring cycle. Having also met with the Broncos and Vikings, he interviewed for the second time in Houston one day after McCown. A 15-year veteran on the sidelines, his work in Philadelphia in 2021 – the first in which he held the title of DC – has increased the demand around the league for the 39-year-old.

Anderson also tweets that the Texans have spent the past two days vetting each candidates’ staffing plans for their “viability, availability and fit” within Houston. Finally, she adds that the Texans are “rallying up on their decision”, in part due to the overriding belief that Rams OC Kevin O’Connell (the only other candidate to conduct a second interview with the team) will be named HC of the Vikings after the Super Bowl. A final decision in Houston, then, seems to be getting rather close to being made.