Josh McDaniels

More Bill Belichick Fallout: Kraft, Falcons, Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Commanders

Plenty has emerged in the wake of Bill Belichick going from eight-time Super Bowl champion to unemployed, but as the legendary coach regroups, some additional information about what went down in Atlanta — along with other teams’ coaching searches — has come to light.

Connecting some dots based on what has previously come out this offseason,’s Don Van Natta, Seth Wickersham and Jeremy Fowler report in an expansive piece that Falcons execs dissuaded Arthur Blank from hiring Belichick and Robert Kraft played a major role in the process that ended up veering away from an overqualified candidate who had initially appeared the favorite for the job Raheem Morris now has.

On the morning of the day Morris became the pick, Belichick still viewed himself as likely to land the job. Blank confirmed the 24-year Patriots HC did not ask him for personnel control, but power brokering — given Belichick’s outsized influence and experience — is believed to have still gone down in Atlanta’s front office. As a result, Belichick felt “blindsided” by the Morris hire.

CEO Rich McKay and GM Terry Fontenot did not want to work with Belichick, according to ESPN, which adds the six-time Super Bowl-winning HC was willing to work with the fourth-year GM (while confirming he and McKay’s less-than-stellar relationship). A previous report pointed to Belichick’s concern with Fontenot and the Falcons’ overall power structure. Fontenot, McKay and Falcons president Greg Beadles were part of the Falcons’ second Belichick interview.

Going so far as to reveal Falcons brass’ final rankings for the HC job, Fowler, Van Natta and Wickersham indicate Belichick did not finish in the top three for the Atlanta position. Beyond unanimous top choice Morris, Mike Macdonald and Texans OC Bobby Slowik respectively slotted second and third in this process.

Kraft is believed to have played a role in Blank backing off his initial hope to hire Belichick. A conversation between Blank and his longtime friend came after the Jan. 15 Blank-Belichick yacht meeting, and ESPN reports the Patriots owner warned the Falcons boss not to trust the accomplished HC.

Seeing as this comes during an offseason that has seen more information come out — via the much-discussed The Dynasty series — about Kraft’s issues with Belichick, it is hardly surprising the longtime Pats owner would provide such a warning. Robert Kraft, who considered ousting Belichick after 2022 (before son Jonathan Kraft advised against), referred to Belichick as “very, very, very arrogant, per ESPN. A Robert Kraft spokesman denied the owner, who was naturally complimentary of the game’s second-winningest HC upon the January separation, disparaged Belichick to Blank.

Belichick had already assembled a coaching staff, with some familiar names indeed believed to be part of it. Beyond plans to bring Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge aboard, former Texans VP (and Patriots staffer) Jack Easterby was on the radar to be part of a Belichick Atlanta staff. Falcons execs expressed reservations about this staff, with ESPN adding Blank also questioned why this group failed elsewhere. Belichick reportedly responded by saying this group was comprised of “better soldiers than generals.” Judge has since joined Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss staff. The Texans moved on from Easterby in 2022.

New Commanders GM Adam Peters, a Patriots scout in the 2000s, discussed the HC position with Belichick. Minority owner Magic Johnson pushed for Washington to hire the Maryland native, but Josh Harris — who spoke to Kraft about Belichick in December — had decided he would not make that move. We had heard previously the NBA and NHL owner wanted a more collaborative approach, which many current NFL owners prefer, rather than handing the keys to one person. With Harris wanting a front office-oriented leadership structure, Peters has final say on Commanders football matters. Belichick was not interested in the Chargers.

The three other NFC East HC jobs may well be open in 2025, and ESPN notes Belichick would be interested in the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants positions — should they open up. The Eagles did work on Belichick before determining Nick Sirianni would stay, with Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman viewed as fans of the future Hall of Famer, and the former has been close with Jerry Jones for many years. Lurie looks to have joined the Falcons in expressing hesitancy in greenlighting a Belichick move that would bring major changes while qualifying as a short-term fix.

Belichick, who turned 72 on Tuesday, is now six years older than the oldest HC ever hired (Bruce Arians). Any team that considers a 2025 hire would be adding someone who will turn 73 before coaching his next NFL game.

A Belichick confidant also expressed doubt the former Giants DC would earn another HC job unless Jones signs off on a Cowboys hire. Mike McCarthy‘s lame-duck status will keep Belichick rumors going, it would seem, but for now, a TV gig appears in the works. Belichick is expected to join Peyton Manning‘s Omaha Productions for analysis-based work. ESPN’s Pat McAfee also announced Belichick will be part of his show’s draft coverage (video link).

Fifteen wins shy of Don Shula‘s career record, Belichick is believed to have informed allies he expects to land at least one interview next year. While the NFC East jobs are worth monitoring, the bumps the Patriot Way has taken — coupled with Belichick’s age and implied threat to organizations’ status quos — leave it far from certain he will have a third opportunity to lead an NFL team.

Raiders Announce Finalized 2024 Coaching Staff

When the season ended, the Raiders stayed true to the wishes of many players, hiring interim head coach Antonio Pierce into the permanent role for the 2024 NFL season. Today, Las Vegas officially announced the entirety of the new staff under Pierce, cluing us into some developments that we hadn’t yet reported on. We were aware of the hires of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, offensive line coach James Cregg, senior offensive assistant Joe Philbin, quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello, assistant quarterbacks coach Fred Walker, and running backs coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams on offense as well as the hiring of assistant head coach Marvin Lewis. Here’s a rundown of the remaining staff updates.

On the offensive side of the ball, with quarterbacks, running backs, and offensive line covered, Getsy made the call to retain Edgar Bennett as wide receivers coach. Bennett has an extensive history with star wideout Davante Adams as the two have spent time together in both Green Bay and Vegas. Last year’s tight ends coach Jerry Schuplinski is now a senior offensive assistant with the Rams, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, so former Bears assistant offensive line coach Luke Steckel has been hired in his place. Steckel previously coached tight ends in Tennessee in 2021 and 2022, mentoring Chigoziem Okonkwo to an impressive rookie season. Steckel will be assisted by newly promoted assistant tight ends coach Mitch Singler, who served the past two years as offensive quality control for the Raiders.

Additionally, pass game coordinator Scott Turner has officially been retained after being considered a candidate for the Patriots offensive coordinator position, and former Bears assistant tight ends coach Tim Zetts has been added to the staff with the title of assistant offense. Lastly on offense, we were aware that the new head coach’s son, De’Andre Pierce, would be joining the staff, but whereas his initial position was reportedly going to be offensive quality control coach, we now know that he will be an offensive assistant.

On the defensive side of the ball, we had some idea of the fate of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who had been permitted to take interviews for head coaching jobs but was being blocked from lateral moves, and those ideas are now confirmed as he’ll be retained as coordinator. The team’s announcement shows that defensive line coach Rob Leonard and senior defensive assistant Rob Ryan have been retained, as well. Additionally, Matt Feeney, who has spent the past two seasons as a defensive quality control coach, has been promoted to assistant defensive backs coach.

Also on defense, we knew of the hiring of Mike Caldwell as linebackers coach, but today’s announcement informed us that he’ll hold the additional title of run game coordinator, as well. We also saw initial reports that Ricky Manning Jr. was being brought on as defensive backs coach, but he is officially listed now as cornerbacks coach with former Steelers assistant defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander being hired to coach safeties. Alexander assisted with a secondary in Pittsburgh that included Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, and Keanu Neal. Together, the two will replace Chris Ash, who was not retained as defensive backs coach, and Jason Simmons, who was recently hired as defensive pass-game coordinator in Washington. Also, we had reported the addition of former Jets defensive line coach Andre Carter to the staff, and we now know his new title in Las Vegas to be pass rush specialist.

Lastly on defense, we were informed of the hiring of Marcus Lewis as assistant linebackers coach and Josh Phillips as assistant defense. Lewis has recent experience as a defensive analyst at Arizona State and NFL experience after spending five years with the Bengals as an assistant working with the defensive line and linebackers. Phillips most recently served as head coach at Sarasota HS (FL), leading the team to a 1-9 record in his only season at the helm.

On special teams, we officially received word that both special teams coordinator Tom McMahon and assistant special teams coach Derius Swinton II would both be retained under Pierce. It appears that former NFL wideout Danny Amendola, who had been brought on as a coaching assistant to work specifically with returners, has not been retained, and Kade Rannings has been added to the staff as a second assistant special teams coach.

Lastly, the team announced that former director of football research and strategy Matt Sheldon will be on the sideline in the role of game management coach. Also, Jon Gruden‘s son, Deuce Gruden, is a surprising holdover as an assistant strength and conditioning coach after being retained by McDaniel’s staff following his father’s resignation in 2021.

There you have it. Though, much will remain the same with Pierce taking over the full-time role as head coach, plenty of changes were necessary. After another short head coaching stint by Josh McDaniels, Pierce seemed to rejuvenate a deflated squad to close the season. With a new staff of his own and a full offseason to work together, it will be interesting to see what Pierce will be able to accomplish in Las Vegas in 2024.

Latest On Bill Belichick, Falcons; Cowboys, Eagles Looked Into HC?

The Falcons look to be moving closer to one of the highest-profile coaching hires in NFL history. Arthur Blank has never hired a head coach that had held the position before, but this weekend’s second interview could well lead to an agreement.

Bill Belichick‘s upcoming meeting with a Falcons executive committee — after the first interview consisted of just Belichick and Blank — is expected to double as one in which the 29-year veteran HC inquires about how a prospective partnership would work rather than Falcons brass interviewing the accomplished leader, Mark Maske of the Washington Post notes. Given Belichick’s experience, the Falcons needing to sell him as much as the other way around makes sense. It is not certain Belichick will not take other interviews, but Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio indicates league buzz is pointing to the six-time Super Bowl winner ending up in Georgia.

[RELATED: Falcons, Seahawks Showing Interest In Mike Vrabel]

Atlanta remaining in the thick of this pursuit despite Dallas and Philadelphia enduring embarrassing playoff losses is notable, and perhaps telling. Some in league circles believe the Cowboys and Eagles showed interest in Belichick, according to Florio. The Cowboys have since announced they are retaining Mike McCarthy for a fifth season, while the Eagles may be settling on Nick Sirianni retooling his staff. Philly is already believed to have put out feelers to coordinators, pointing to a Sirianni fourth season in charge. Thus far, Belichick has only met with the Falcons.

In order to fire coaches who have accomplished what Sirianni and McCarthy have, the NFC East teams would need to be confident they could lure a better coach. On the Belichick front, Florio adds the all-time great may be done with big-market media. After coaching 24 seasons in the Boston area, Belichick coming to Atlanta would bring a change of pace. That said, Belichick’s presence would naturally make whatever team he ends up a frequent topic of discussion. Low-key NFL teams certainly do exist; the Falcons have operated as one in recent years. But the concept of Belichick residing off the mainstream radar — as he changes teams and sits 14 wins shy of Don Shula‘s all-time wins record — would be difficult to imagine.

If Belichick is truly zeroing in on Atlanta, he would obviously bring credentials that lap the rest of Blank’s hires. The longtime owner saw this firsthand, via Super Bowl LI, and Belichick the coach would provide a major upgrade — particularly on the defensive side. The subject of personnel power would become more complicated. Belichick excelled for years in this area, his issues drafting first-round wideouts notwithstanding, but has struggled recently. The Falcons made a point to say GM Terry Fontenot was not leading this HC search but belatedly said the fourth-year exec’s role has not diminished. It would be interesting to see Belichick, 71, cede power to Fontenot, 43, with the Falcons. The NFC South club could also consider bringing in personnel staffers more familiar with the coach.

On that note, some around the league also believe Belichick would probably reunite with assistants Josh McDaniels, Joe Judge and Matt Patricia were he to become the next Falcons HC, Maske adds. Belichick’s sons, Steve and Brian, are believed to have an opportunity to stay in New England under Jerod Mayo. But it would stand to reason the assistants will be wanted in Atlanta should their father sign on.

McDaniels’ failures as a head coach aside, he provided considerable value under Bill Belichick in New England. The polarizing play-caller was on staff for all six New England Super Bowl wins, the final three coming when he was in place as offensive coordinator. The Patriots’ freefall post-McDaniels probably should not be overlooked. Patricia stands as a key of that downslide, with Belichick strangely installing him as the 2022 team’s primary offensive play-caller. Patricia and Judge, fired by the Giants after two seasons, held the keys on offense for the ’22 Pats edition. Belichick was believed to have wanted Patricia to stay in 2023, rather than the team hiring Bill O’Brien.

Would the Falcons be willing to go with a Patriots South setup? They would be far from the only team to sign up for a Patriot Way effort, but this endeavor would be a bit different, seeing as the architect would be coming rather than a lieutenant being tasked with replicating Belichick’s approach.

The Falcons have already interviewed six other candidates, satisfying their Rooney Rule requirements in the process. The team is set to meet with Rams DC Raheem Morris on Saturday. While Morris is a former Falcons interim HC who spent six years with the team under Dan Quinn, he may not have left on bad terms. But Belichick buzz has overshadowed the Falcons’ search thus far. We could be days away from the former Browns and Patriots HC receiving a third opportunity, one that would put him in position to break Shula’s record, which has stood since 1995.

Latest On Patriots’ Leadership

When Bill Belichick and the Patriots parted ways, New England didn’t only lose a head coach, they lost a general manager, as well. That departure has left the team with a lot of questions concerning the current and future makeup of the team’s front office. One of the biggest questions with the 2024 NFL Draft on the horizon: who will be making draft day decisions?

The easy answer points to an external or internal candidate to replace Belichick in the role of general manager. Recent reports provided by Chris Mason of MassLive seem to point in a different direction, though, indicating that the team is in no rush to hire a replacement. Whether that means the team will wait months, until after the draft, to either promote or hire someone into the general manager role, or if that means that the Patriots are confident in the current structure without a de facto general manager, it sounds like New England could be relying on current personnel to draft this April.

That current brass is composed of director of player personnel Matt Groh, director of scouting Eliot Wolf, pro scouting director Steve Cargile, college scouting director Camren Williams, and senior personnel advisor Patrick Stewart. Jeff Howe of The Athletic explained that, in a fairly fluid situation, Groh and Wolf are running the operation for now, and there’s no guarantee that anyone will end up with the title of general manager. They, along with Cargile, Williams, and Stewart, though, are expected to remain in place at least through the draft.

If the team does decide to go internal, Wolf appears to be one of the most well-positioned candidates. Before his tenure in New England, Wolf spent two years as the Browns’ assistant general manager. ESPN’s Mike Reiss claims that the past four years for Wolf have effectively served as “an extended job interview.” That being said, the possibility of an external candidate has not been ruled out. New head coach Jerod Mayo has reportedly spoken with external candidates from opposing front offices in consideration for the job.

Speaking of Mayo, there are some who have questioned the Patriots’ quick trigger finger on hiring Belichick’s coaching replacement. Some executives and coaches are reportedly surprised that New England rushed into the hire and didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to interview other candidates, even if just to gather information that could be beneficial in the future.

Mayo’s hiring doesn’t answer the questions at offensive coordinator either. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, while Bill O’Brien currently remains in place as the team’s offensive playcaller, an O’Brien departure could lead to a reunion with Josh McDaniels, fresh off his most recent attempt at being a head coach.

There are many questions in New England from the front office to the coaching staff. Will the team go internal or external to replace Belichick as a general manager? Will the Patriots hire a general manager at all? Who will join Mayo on his first coaching staff? New England has lots of questions to answer, but ownership appears to be in no rush to answer them.

Josh McDaniels Could Return To Patriots If Bill Belichick Remains For 2024 Season

Several dominoes have already fallen on the coaching circuit around the league, but a major question which remains unanswered pertains to Bill Belichick‘s future. The Patriots could part ways with the six-time Super Bowl winner, but a possibility exists that he remains in place for at least one more season.

In the latter case, a familiar face could join Belichick on the sidelines. Josh McDaniels is “a candidate to return” to New England in the event Belichick stays with the team, Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports (subscription required). The latter met with owner Robert Kraft on Monday, but no firm decision has been made at this point. The process through which a direction is determined could take weeks, so it comes as no surprise that nothing concrete has emerged on the second day of the offseason.

McDaniels’ coaching career includes a pair of ill-fated head coaching gigs (with the Broncos and Raiders), but he is of course best known for his time as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. Serving in that role from 2006-08, then again from 2012-21, he enjoyed considerable success with Tom Brady and the team’s offense. It is that unit which has struggled considerably over the past two years in particular, during which time the Patriots have made taken very different approaches on the sidelines.

Belichick handed offensive play-calling duties to Matt Patricia in 2022, a move which raised eyebrows given his background on the defensive side of the ball. Joe Judge – whose Patriots tenure mainly comprised of special teams work – also had a large hand in the offense, a unit which delivered underwhelming results. The decision to bring in Bill O’Brien as OC for this season was seen as a sound one, but quarterback Mac Jones did not rebound as hoped, leaving his future unclear after three seasons.

The Patriots electing to start over on the sidelines would come as little surprise if Belichick were indeed to depart in the near future. He could still convince Kraft that a switch in organizational structure – perhaps one in which the 71-year-old ceded his duties as de facto general manager – could yield a rebound from this year’s 4-13 season, however. Such a proposal could lead to Belichick finishing out his current Patriots contract, which runs through 2024.

McDaniels’ Raiders tenure (during which he and ex-GM Dave Zeigler adopted a Patriot Way-inspired approach) resulted in a 9-16 record and a midseason firing in his second year at the helm. The turbulent nature of his Vegas stint likely dealt a major blow to his future head coaching opportunities, but another OC appointment could be in the cards with New England. As Howe notes, McDaniels remains close with both Belichick and Kraft, and a reunion could present the chance for at least one more campaign together. Pending developments on the Belichick front, McDaniels’ status will be something to monitor.

Champ Kelly Gaining Support To Remain Raiders’ GM; Team Eyeing High-Level Football Ops Staffer

When the Raiders signed up for a Patriot Way blueprint, they added Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler together. Mark Davis‘ upcoming HC-GM search will likely feature a different approach.

Indicating he would want his GM hire to have some say in the team’s HC choice, Davis said the Raiders will plan to hire their top front office exec first, according to The Athletic’s Tashan Reed. While the owner stopped short of ensuring that is how the Raiders’ next round of searches will unfold, he said that will be the likely play (subscription required).

Davis cut the cord on the Ziegler-McDaniels partnership in the middle of the night, canning both hours after the Halloween trade deadline. Champ Kelly and Antonio Pierce are serving in those roles for the time being. It should be expected, barring a freefall over this season’s final three games, both will have a shot to see their interim tags removed. Kelly is viewed around the league as a legitimate candidate to keep his job,’s Jeremy Fowler notes.

A well-regarded exec, Kelly interviewed for the job Ziegler received in 2022. We heard just after the firings that Kelly had support to ascend to the full-time role. Unlike Pierce, Kelly has a long track record as an NFL staffer. After a five-year tenure as the Broncos’ assistant pro personnel director — a run he began during McDaniels’ infamous Denver tenure — Kelly spent six years with the Bears, finishing out his run as their assistant director of player personnel.

The Raiders hired Kelly, 43, to be their assistant GM shortly after going with Ziegler to lead the way, though’s Albert Breer notes fellow 2022 interviewee Ed Dodds impressed as well. Dodds has been the Colts’ assistant GM for the past seven years. Dodds has been a popular name on the GM interview circuit in recent years, though he did not interview for any positions in 2023.

Although Pierce and Kelly are both Black, the Raiders will still need to follow Rooney Rule procedures during their search. Two external minority candidates or women are required to interview for teams’ HC and GM positions. At the league meetings last week, buzz pointed to Davis being more likely to retain Kelly than Pierce, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones notes. This makes sense given Pierce’s limited experience. The ex-Giants Super Bowl-winning linebacker has no NFL coaching experience prior to his Raiders gig, separating this situation from Davis’ call to pass on longtime ST coordinator-turned-interim HC Rich Bisaccia in 2022.

Recently, Pierce had his former Giants coach (Tom Coughlin), along with Adam Gase and ex-Arizona State coworker Marvin Lewis, in the building. The trio sat in on Raiders meetings and offered input on all team aspects, according to’s Ian Rapoport, with Pierce attempting to gain intel from experienced HCs as he attempts to make a case for the full-time job. Coughlin and Lewis have counseled Pierce since the Raiders named him interim HC, Rapoport adds. No interim head coach has ascended to a full-time position since the Jaguars removed Doug Marrone‘s interim tag in 2017.

Regardless of the Raiders’ decisions regarding their interim staffers, a third power broker may enter the equation soon. Citing Hall of Famer Ron Wolf‘s impact as a scout during his 11-year tenure with the Raiders — ahead of a successful run as the Packers’ GM — Davis alluded to a non-GM hire having a significant say in the next Raider regime.

I think that the triumvirate in that regard worked very well together,” Mark Davis said (via Reed) of his father, Wolf and the Raiders’ HCs. “People think that their egos were all out there, but there was no ego at all. It was about who could they give to the coach to help him do his job and be great. Today, I don’t know.

“Because I don’t have that ability that my father had in judging talent. So, that’s a missing piece to the puzzle, so to speak, is a solid football mind that isn’t the GM or the head coach. And I think that’s a piece that’s probably going to be necessary somewhere down the line is bringing in somebody that understands that football that’s above the day-to-day work.”

The Raiders hiring a high-level football operations exec would stand to limit the GM’s power. This was the case when the Jaguars hired Coughlin to work above Dave Caldwell in 2017, and the Dolphins used this setup with Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier from 2016-18. Mark Davis, however, has struggled throughout his ownership tenure. Eight HCs have stopped through Oakland and Las Vegas since Al Davis‘ death in 2011; the team has two winning seasons since its Super Bowl XXXVII appearance 21 years ago. Bringing in an additional voice would be an interesting effort on the owner’s part. Although the GM and HC hires will generate the most attention, a third pillar coming in would represent a significant development.

Given McDaniels’ experience, it was assumed the three-time Super Bowl-winning OC was running the show during his brief Las Vegas tenure. Ziegler, however, was believed to have the final say on the 53-man roster. Davis confirmed this was the case but stopped short of indicating Ziegler wielded that power regularly.

I think there’s been a misconception on the last head coach and general manager and who had the authority,” Davis said. “Lately, some articles have come out making it seem like the head coach had more authority on that, and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. The general manager had the final authority on all of it. Whether he accepted that authority or not is a different story, but it was very clear when they were hired where the buck stopped.”

The McDaniels-Ziegler duo’s shortcomings will undoubtedly be on Davis’ mind as he determines the franchise’s course for the mid-2020s and beyond.

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Staley, Broncos

Josh McDaniels‘ leadership style became a lightning rod in Denver, helping lead to the successful New England OC’s second-season firing. Although’s Dan Graziano notes McDaniels’ Raiders situation did not feature a personality conflict on that level, a number of issues arose near the end of his 25-game Las Vegas tenure. While McDaniels’ style this time around was viewed as a bit more empathetic, Graziano colleague Jeremy Fowler notes the same traits that keyed the early wrap in Denver — people skills and a flawed culture — resurfaced in Nevada. This Patriot Way model led to quickly eroded trust, with the quarterback situation being the main part of McDaniels’ plan not resonating with players.

The team’s move from Derek Carr to Jimmy Garoppolo produced warning signs, but the McDaniels- and Dave Ziegler-handpicked veteran’s immobility and erratic play (NFL-high nine interceptions, despite two missed starts) led to some in the Raiders’ building believing Aidan O’Connell should have replaced the veteran starter earlier than he did, Fowler adds. Had the Raiders turned one of their several visits with early-round draft prospects into a selection, perhaps McDaniels would have been given more time to groom that player. With the team waiting until the final pick of the fourth round to take its quarterback, it is quite possible the team’s passer of the future is not on the roster. This being the case certainly interfered with McDaniels displaying his vision to the team.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • In what should not be especially surprising, Fowler adds some around the league believe Brandon Staley will need a winning effort to stave off a post-season three firing. Some viewed Staley as a candidate to be dropped after the Chargers‘ 27-point collapse in last year’s wild-card round, which came after Mike Williams suffered an injury in a meaningless Week 18 game. But GM Tom Telesco backed his HC for a third season. Again without Williams, the Bolts are 4-4. After Sean Payton was repeatedly connected to this job in 2022, the Bolts would obviously need to look elsewhere to replace Staley — if they choose to take that route — next year.
  • Last week’s USC-Washington game naturally attracted NFL personnel, but’s Pete Thamel notes both Broncos GM George Paton and Giants GM Joe Schoen were on-hand in a game that featured likely 2024 quarterback draftees Caleb Williams and Michael Penix. Both the Broncos and Giants would have complex paths to adding another QB. Denver could draft one with or without Russell Wilson on the roster, with a rookie salary perhaps complementing the starter’s hefty contract or hitting the Broncos’ cap sheet after they absorb a record-shattering $85MM in dead money (over two years, in the event of a post-June 1 cut). Regardless of how the Broncos fare in the season’s second half, Wilson’s status will be their top storyline.
  • The Broncos recently promoted Ben Niemann to their 53-man roster, and 9News’ Mike Klis notes the team did so to prevent another club from poaching him off the practice squad. Niemann, who could have conceivably loomed as a Chiefs roster replacement for the injured Nick Bolton, has 80 games under his belt. He added to that total earlier this year, against the Bears. The former Chiefs and Cardinals starter caught on with the Broncos after the Titans cut him in August.
  • Raiders free agency addition Robert Spillane recently underwent hand surgery, per interim HC Antonio Pierce (via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur), but it did not keep him off the field. After breaking his hand against the Lions in Week 8, the fifth-year linebacker underwent a procedure a day later but played every snap against the Giants. Largely a part-timer in Pittsburgh, Spillane — attached to a two-year, $7MM deal — has logged 98% of Las Vegas’ defensive snaps this season.

More Raiders Fallout: McDaniels, Ziegler, Davis, Harbaugh, Brady, Kelly

When the Raiders begin the search for a new head coach and general manager to replace Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, they could have a difficult time attracting the most desirable talent. Per Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required), owner Mark Davis vowed that he would give the duo a minimum of three years to return the Raiders to contention, but he fired them midway through their second season. Once seen as a patient owner, Davis has undermined his reputation in that regard, and most of the coaches and execs that Howe spoke with believe that the quick trigger will have a negative impact on his search.

One executive said, “I don’t know who you’re going to convince to take those jobs. I think Mark Davis made it harder on himself,” while another added, “[i]t definitely makes the jobs less appealing.”

To be clear, Davis will likely have plenty of candidates to choose from thanks to the desirability and rarity of a top job in the NFL coaching and personnel ranks. Still, it would not be surprising for the biggest fish in the upcoming hiring cycle to rebuff Davis’ overtures.

“If you’re only going to give me two years, just be upfront and honest with me,” a rival coach said. “I can handle that. It’d change the entire way you’d try to build the team. If you’re thinking about setting up to take off and win by Year 3, that’s how you’re going to manage your roster.”

McDaniels, of course, is a proponent of “hard coaching,” and it appears he alienated many Raiders players with his demanding style. As Ian Rapoport of writes, players “ripped into” McDaniels during the team meeting in which he allowed his charges to air their grievances, and players were especially critical of (among other things) McDaniels’ micromanaging and the way he deflected blame for issues with play-calling. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer adds that interim HC Antonio Pierce attempted to speak on behalf of McDaniels at that meeting, but Pierce’s use of the Super Bowl-winning Giants team he played on as an example of what a good locker room culture can do irked McDaniels, who was part of the Patriots squad that lost that title game to New York (video link).

At the following practice, McDaniels attempted to give the players what they wanted by being less involved and not “overcorrecting” by stepping in after every mistake. However, one source told Rapoport that the new approach did not suit McDaniels well, that the head coach looked like “a shell of himself,” and that it was clear McDaniels’ tenure was coming to an end. Ultimately, McDaniels was unable to recapture the team chemistry that Tony Pauline of believes was destroyed when quarterback and team leader Derek Carr was released earlier this year.

The driving force behind Carr’s departure remains a bit unclear. Rapoport’s sources say that Davis “led the push” to replace Carr, with McDaniels and Ziegler eventually getting on board, while Pauline says McDaniels was the one who wanted to move on from the franchise’s longtime passer. Back in late December/early January, it was reported that the McDaniels-Ziegler regime saw Carr as a poor fit in McDaniels’ offense, and that while McDaniels was prepared to let Carr play out the remainder of the 2022 campaign, Davis — who had been “lukewarm” on Carr for some time — wanted the QB to be benched for the last two games of the season.

Even if, as Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports suggests, Davis and the McDaniels-Ziegler duo were aligned on the Carr situation, subsequent quarterback-related missteps accelerated this week’s firings (although it should be noted, as Rapoport writes, that former club president Dan Ventrelle agreed to include in Carr’s 2022 extension the no-trade clause that undermined the Raiders’ leverage when they tried to deal Carr this past offseason. Ventrelle entered into that agreement with Carr’s camp prior to speaking with other club officials). We already heard that McDaniels’ decision to start former Patriots QB Brian Hoyer over rookie Aidan O’Connell in Week 7 rankled Davis, and obviously the decision to sign another of McDaniels’ former pupils, Jimmy Garoppolo, proved to be a poor one, as McDaniels apparently overestimated the ease with which Garoppolo would reacclimate to McDaniels’ offense.

On the subject of Garoppolo, Rapoport reminds us that the Raiders were among the teams that tried to trade up for the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, with quarterback Bryce Young the target. However, McDaniels reportedly did not want to “grow with” a rookie signal-caller, so the Raiders stood down while the Panthers catapulted up the draft board to claim the No. 1 spot before free agency opened. McDaniels & Co. acquired Garoppolo shortly thereafter.

It has been an open secret that Ziegler, despite his general manager title, took a backseat to McDaniels in terms of personnel matters. Indeed, Pauline called Ziegler a “glorified scout” and likened the McDaniels-Ziegler pairing to the Jon-GrudenMike Mayock partnership that preceded it. So while Pauline reports that Davis will be interested in hiring University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, it is fair to wonder if that would be the best move for the owner to make. After all, Harbaugh would also want full autonomy over personnel decisions, and like Mayock and Ziegler, any GM brought in along with Harbaugh would be little more than a figurehead.

That is to say nothing of the fact that Harbaugh, who is currently dealing with allegations of an elaborate sign-stealing scheme after already having served a three-game suspension this year for alleged recruiting violations, may not be the hot NFL candidate he once was. Per Rapoport and colleague Tom Pelissero, the NCAA has not ruled on the alleged recruiting violations or sign-stealing operation — the three-game ban was imposed by Michigan — and the NFL may force Harbaugh to serve any NCAA-ordered suspension should he return to the pros. Mark Maske of the Washington Post, meanwhile, says it is not certain that the league would go that route.

Still, in light of the failures of the two prior regimes, a Harbaugh hire could be a tough sell for Davis. In fact, Jones writes that Davis will be seeking a “player-centric” coach rather than a coach with the hard-nosed styles of Harbaugh, Gruden, and McDaniels. Jones also believes Davis will seek to hire a GM before hiring an HC.

In any event, Davis has promised a “comprehensive search” for a new head coach, and Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal says Davis is being encouraged to hire a president of football operations to aid in the process. Ventrelle was replaced by Sandra Douglass Morgan in July 2022, and Jones writes that Morgan, along with longtime executive Tom Delaney and personnel man Ken Herock, will also offer counsel (though Pauline opines that most of Herock’s advice has led to “ruinous” decisions).

Jones echoes his recent report that Tom Brady will also influence Davis’ thinking. As expected, Brady’s would-be stake in the Raiders was not discussed at the league meetings last month, with Jones and Albert Breer of reporting that other owners take issue with the bargain price at which Davis is trying to sell a share of his club to Brady. Colts owner and finance committee member Jim Irsay told reporters, including Jori Epstein of Yahoo! Sports, “the number just had to be a reasonable number for purchase price.”

Breer adds that Brady’s broadcasting contract with FOX is also a hurdle to ratification of the purchase. Understandably, teams do not want anyone with an ownership stake in a rival outfit having the access and obtaining the inside information that broadcasters often enjoy, so much will need to change for Brady to be approved as a minority owner at the next league meetings in December.

Given Davis’ deep respect for Brady, it stands to reason that the all-time great will be an important voice in Davis’ ear regardless of his ownership status. And while much of the discussion about Las Vegas’ changing power structure has thus far focused upon who the next head coach will be, Pauline notes that there is a “groundswell” of support for interim general manager Champ Kelly to retain the GM post on a full-time basis. Kelly, a longtime Bears exec who has experience in both personnel and salary cap matters, has taken a number of GM interviews in recent years, and Davis recently admitted that Kelly might have gotten the Raiders’ GM job in 2022 if the package deal of McDaniels and Ziegler had not become available. Jones also names Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds as a candidate to monitor.

Despite Ziegler’s figurehead status in Nevada, Rapoport observes that McDaniels’ right-hand man nonetheless made strides in modernizing the personnel side of the Raiders’ operation, an effort that included hiring respected scouting minds, creating a scouting development program, and injecting “forward-thinking concepts on player development.” The next Raiders GM should therefore have something of a foundation to build upon.

Whether that person is Kelly or someone else remains to be seen, but in acknowledgment of their promotions, Davis reworked the contracts of both Kelly and Pierce, as Adam Schefter of reports. Those transactions added even more money to the whopping $85MM tab that Davis will have to pick up due to the McDaniels and Ziegler firings (though some of that amount will be offset should his former employees land new jobs elsewhere).

Davis is one of the league’s most cash-poor owners, so these hugely expensive maneuvers underscore the strength of his conviction that McDaniels and Ziegler were not the right men to lead the Raiders. As Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes, Davis also fired team COO Mike Newquist, whom he hired just three months ago. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk concedes that Newquist’s post is unrelated to the football side of the team, but he believes the immediate firing of a key employee will further add to the perception of dysfunction that presently surrounds Davis’ franchise.

One way or another, Raiders fans are in for a fascinating few months.

Possible Futures For HC Bill Belichick, Patriots

While speculation has run amok on multiple occasions this season that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could be on the hot seat in New England, he went off and silently signed a “lucrative, multiyear” extension in the offseason. According to a recent report from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, a source has disclosed that they believe the new contract only runs through the 2024 season. If the Patriots truly have plans to move on from their longtime head coach, what would that look like? And what would that mean for Belichick or the Patriots?

Even if the extension keeps Belichick for only one additional year, Volin isn’t convinced that he makes it that long, believing it would take “a miracle turnaround” for this not to be his last season in New England, even claiming there’s a chance Belichick doesn’t make it through the rest of the season. With a bye week coming up in two weeks, the team’s trip to Germany could be crucial. While Volin is only voicing an opinion, the writer for the Globe has been on the Patriots beat for ten years and should have a decent read on the team’s pulse.

He doesn’t believe, however, that recent reports of Washington desiring a trade for Belichick are believable. While the idea of reeling in Belichick and allowing him to recreate his former staff with Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, and Joe Judge seems like an interesting idea on its surface, one the Patriots would rejoice over having a draft pick in return for, the Commanders don’t have the spare cash to bring on the NFL’s highest-paid coach. Also, with a franchise who seems intent on pumping out old blood in a mass transfusion, bringing in one of the NFL’s second-oldest head coaches doesn’t quite fit the bill. If current head coach Ron Rivera is on the way out, as many have prophesized, a younger replacement seems far more likely.

Now, if the Patriots do cut ties with the 71-year-old skipper, who takes over as the first new head coach of the Patriots in 24 years? Team owner Robert Kraft (and his son, team president Jonathan Kraft) have repeatedly stuck with names already popular in New England. According to Volin’s sources, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel would be a “home run” hire to replace Belichick.

Vrabel, a former player who spent eight years playing linebacker for the Patriots and helping them win three Super Bowls, moved quickly through the coaching ranks, moving on from a position coaching job at Ohio State to work his way up to defensive coordinator of the Texans. After one year at the helm of Houston’s defense, Vrabel was hired in Tennessee where he has amassed a 51-39 regular season record and gone 2-3 in the playoffs. He received a new contract after the 2021 season, but there’ve been rumors that Vrabel and new general manager Ran Carthon don’t quite see eye to eye. So, perhaps, New England could entice Vrabel towards a reunion.

Since Belichick also serves as de facto GM, a new GM would become a necessity, as well. The same sources that pointed to Vrabel labelled Texans GM Nick Caserio as another “home run” hire. A longtime member of the Patriots’ player personnel department, Caserio won his newest position after 13 years as director of player personnel in New England. After two rough years at the helm in Houston, Caserio may have looked expendable to start the year, but rookie head coach DeMeco Ryans and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud have injected new blood and excitement into the Texans franchise. Caserio would likely be a tough get at this point, unless there’s some hidden discontent on behalf of Ryans, who may be looked to as the pilot of this season’s potential turnaround.

Volin didn’t stop there, even speculating on future potential coordinators for this “home run” staff. Many don’t view current offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien as the team’s play caller of the future. In fact, not many believe that was the intent when he was brought in in the first place, assuming he would use the role as “a springboard to a head coaching opportunity.” With quarterback Mac Jones struggling and the offense scoring the second-least points in the NFL, he certainly doesn’t appear to be on the short-list to replace Belichick or even retain his play calling duties for much longer.

Instead, a reunion with McDaniels, the recently fired former head coach of the Raiders, seems within the realm of possibility. McDaniels probably isn’t in a hurry to take a new job, as he’s getting paid by Las Vegas for the next four years, but he may feel the need to return to the NFL by at least next season, in order to ensure his name stays fresh in NFL circles. A return to the familiar grounds of New England seems reasonable.

On defense, inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is thought to be a big up and coming coach in New England, after refusing a head coaching interview in order to take a big payday with the Patriots. Mayo may not be ready to take over as head coach in New England just yet, but he may be able to earn defensive coordinator duties in a hypothetical Vrabel staff. Regardless, the Kraft’s love him and were willing to pay a lot of money in order to keep him from leaving for greener pastures.

While all of this is purely hypothetical, the heat on Belichick seems very real. With the Patriots facing a possible 2-8 start if they can’t pull out a win in Frankfurt, the end of the Belichick-era may soon be at hand. There are lots of things to figure out between now and the prophesies above, but if things continue going from bad to worse, we may see it all play out in the months to come.

Mark Davis Discusses McDaniels, Ziegler Firings

Mark Davis pulled the plug on the Josh McDaniels/Dave Ziegler tandem earlier this week, ending an underwhelming one-plus-year run for the duo. Previous reports hinted that the owner fired McDaniels and Ziegler because of their mishandling of the quarterback position.

[RELATED: Raiders Fire Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler]

It started when the front office decided to hand Derek Carr a lucrative extension with a no-trade clause. While a divorce was inevitable following the 2022 campaign, Carr’s leverage meant the Raiders couldn’t receive anything in return for their quarterback. The organization exacerbated their issues when they gave Jimmy Garoppolo more than $30MM in guaranteed money. After failing his physical and going under the knife, the quarterback has started his Raiders career by tossing a league-leading nine interceptions.

McDaniels and Ziegler also drew the ire of Davis when they started Brian Hoyer over rookie Aidan O’Connell in Week 7, with the veteran backup tossing a pair of interceptions in an eventual loss to the lowly Bears.

While the duo’s issues at the QB position played a significant role in their firings, it sounds like Davis could have let that slide if the Raiders took a step forward elsewhere. Instead, the owner told The Athletic’s Tashan Reed that he saw “regression” from his team, and that was what played the biggest role in Tuesday night’s decision.

Davis provided some more insight into his decision to move on from his head coach and GM, and he also touched on the promotions of Champ Kelly and Antonio Pierce. We’ve compiled the notable quotes below:

On his decision to fire both McDaniels and Ziegler:

“I just didn’t see the progress. I saw regression.”

On what attracted him to McDaniels in the first place:

“I was really excited because I believe Josh McDaniels has a very fertile offensive mind and I’ve seen him in the past be able to adjust to so many different variables. I thought that he could bring a fresh, explosive offensive mind to the Raiders.”

On the decision to name assistant GM Champ Kelly as the interim general manager:

“Had I not done the pair of Dave and Josh, Champ may have gotten the job at that time. We were fortunate and grateful that he decided to come on board as the assistant general manager. So, there was not even a question as to who would actually step into that position.”

On the decision to name linebackers coach Antonio Pierce as the interim head coach:

“I wasn’t very familiar with Antonio over the course of the last 1 1/2 years or so, but I’d gotten to know him a little bit. When I saw Antonio’s background and resume, I was intrigued. So, when I sat down with him and interviewed him, I just felt he was the right guy at the right time to fit the role that I was looking for.”

On what he hopes to see from the Raiders for the rest of the 2023 season:

“I’d like to see progress and I’d like to see the culture of the team together. I won’t say that we lost the culture because those guys never quit. Even when they were behind, they continually played. They played really, really hard. I think it’s a great group of young men and it’ll be interesting to see with new leadership whether we can get more out of it.”

On how he’ll approach his head coach/GM search next offseason:

“This time, I don’t really have anybody in mind that would potentially prejudice my thinking, so to speak. My thought process is wide open. And there’s a very good chance that the head coach and general manager that we have right now may end up getting the jobs.”