Josh McCown

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 TennesseeTitans.com’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 ProFootballNetwork.com 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 ESPN.com 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, ProFootballNetwork.com’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.

 

Texans Conducting Second Interview With Brian Flores

Another finalist has emerged in the Texans’ head coaching search. Brian Flores is conducting a second interview today, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). 

[Related: Texans Giving Josh McCown Second Interview]

Like many second interviews this year, this one will be in person, as opposed to being conducted virtually. Overall, though, Pelissero notes that “the sides have spoken multiple times”. The 40-year-old has ties to general manager Nick Caserio dating back to their time together in New England. That Patriots-Caserio connection has, of course, led to both Flores and Pats linebackers coach Jerod Mayo being listed as favorites once they were announced as candidates.

Instead, the two others that have already received second interviews are former quarterback Josh McCown and Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Houston is currently the only team to have had interest in McCown so far, while Gannon has also met with the Broncos and Vikings.

The biggest domino in Houston, regardless of the new head coach, is quarterback Deshaun Watson. Many feel that Flores’ hiring would be the only way the maligned signal caller could remain with the Texans, given their desire to work together. While Houston still intends to trade Watson, Flores’ presence as a finalist for the HC job certainly raises the possibility of things taking another turn.

Texans Giving Josh McCown Second HC Interview

On the Texans’ HC radar for a second straight offseason, Josh McCown is now the team’s first known finalist for the position. The longtime quarterback is in Houston going through a second interview Friday, according to Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter).

While Brian Flores emerged as the early favorite for this job, McCown has gained considerable momentum. The former Texans reserve quarterback is now all in on moving into the coaching ranks. He has yet to hold a full-time NFL coaching role. Flores has since been connected to other jobs. After meeting with Nick Caserio and Co., Flores went through a Giants interview Thursday and has received a request from the Saints.

The Texans met with McCown last week about their HC job, and the Jaguars soon spoke with the near-20-year veteran QB as well. This would be an outside-the-box hire, given McCown’s experience, but it remains firmly in play for the rebuilding franchise. McCown, 42, has been regarded as a future coach for a bit now. The Texans were interested in him for their HC job last year, but McCown was not quite ready to enter the ranks. He is now, injecting additional intrigue into this situation.

The journeyman passer finished his playing career in Houston, when he arrived after residing as a remote Eagles practice squad QB during the 2020 season. McCown did not see any action during Deshaun Watson‘s final year as the Texans’ starter but made an impression on the team. Here is how Houston’s HC search looks at this juncture:

Jaguars Meet With Josh McCown

The Jaguars — who are searching for their next head coach — recently “had a conversation” with Josh McCown, according to Aaron Wilson of SportsTalk790. However, their chat with McCown was not a formal interview for the position. 

[RELATED: Latest On Texans, McCown]

The Texans, meanwhile, seem to be very bullish on McCown as their next HC, despite his lack of experience. Because the longtime quarterback has never coached at the NFL or NCAA level, the Texans are reportedly hoping that other teams will interview McCown. This “conversation” with the Jaguars doesn’t exactly fit the criteria, but it might be enough for GM Nick Caserio to move on McCown, if that is indeed his preferred hire.

McCown, 42, spent the later part of his career as a mentor of young quarterbacks. He is, by all accounts, universally beloved and respected for his leadership qualities and football IQ. However, to date, his only coaching experience has come at the high school level, guiding his sons at Charlotte’s Myers Park High School.

In addition to McCown, the Texans are also weighing ex-Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, Chargers OC Joe Lombardi, Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon, and Rams OC Kevin O’Connell. The Jaguars, as you might expect after the Urban Meyer debacle, are prioritizing experience with this group of candidates: