Kris Richard

Coaching Notes: Fangio, Kocurek, Broncos, Dolphins, Falcons, Gray, Lions, Bills, Bears

The 49ers showed interest in Vic Fangio, joining almost every other DC-seeking team. But Fangio’s former team did not have the chance to bring him back in for an interview; Fangio finally committed to the Dolphins on Thursday morning. The 49ers were interested in a Fangio reunion, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes, and 9News’ Mike Klis adds Fangio was also intrigued by coming back to San Francisco. The 49ers’ usage of a 4-3 scheme throughout Kyle Shanahan‘s tenure would not have been a major issue regarding a reunion with the 3-4 guru, Branch adds. That would make sense, as the 4-3/3-4 divide is not nearly as big an issue — thanks to sub-packages’ rise — as it was several years ago.

San Francisco remains on the hunt for a DeMeco Ryans replacement, placing Steve Wilks and Chris Harris (not the cornerback) on its interview list. The 49ers also are considering promoting defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets. The well-regarded staffer has been Nick Bosa‘s position coach throughout the All-Pro’s career and has fostered development from others as well. Ryans, meanwhile, is interested in bringing Kocurek to Houston as his DC.

Here is the latest from the coaching ranks:

  • Some recently dismissed assistants may be on the Broncos‘ radar. Ex-Sean Payton staffers Joe Lombardi, Kris Richard and Dan Roushar are in the mix for Broncos gigs under their new coach, Klis notes. Lombardi worked on Payton’s Saints staff for 11 years, the final five as QBs coach, but lost his Chargers OC gig recently. The Saints parted ways with both Richard and Roushar recently. The ex-Seahawks DC was in New Orleans for just one season (2021) under Payton, while Roushar had been on the Saints’ staff for the past 10 years. Richard may be in the running for Denver’s DC post, though Klis adds the Ejiro Evero-Payton talks began Wednesday night. The parties continued discussions today. Evero, who is under contract, staying on staff and leaving for a head coaching job in 2024 would net the Broncos two third-round picks.
  • The Falcons brought in former DC Jerry Gray as an assistant head coach. Gray, 60, spent the past two years as the Packers’ secondary coach but worked with Arthur Smith in Tennessee. Smith and Gray were both Titans staffers in the early 2010s, when the latter was Tennessee’s DC. The Falcons hired Ryan Nielsen as their defensive boss last week, but Gray will be a key assistant. Green Bay let Gray’s contract expire, with ESPN’s Rob Demovsky noting (via Twitter) Gray and DC Joe Barry were not on the same page.
  • Once again, the Dolphins will look for a new offensive line coach. Miami fired Matt Applebaum after one season, Outkick.com’s Armando Salguero notes (Twitter link). Mike McDaniel‘s next hire will be the Dolphins’ eighth O-line coach in nine seasons. Applebaum, 39, joined McDaniel’s staff in 2022 after spending his previous coaching years in the college ranks.
  • The Lions added two fairly recent NFLers to their staff. They brought in Dre’ Bly and Steve Heiden to coach cornerbacks and tight ends, respectively. Bly, who played for the Lions from 2003-06 and made two Pro Bowls with the team, has not coached in the NFL previously. He spent the past four seasons coaching cornerbacks at North Carolina, his alma mater. Heiden will come over from the Cardinals, who employed the ex-NFL tight end as their tight ends coach throughout Kliff Kingsbury‘s tenure. The ex-Cardinal had been on Arizona’s staff for 10 years.
  • Acting quickly after making a change late last week, the Bills filled their safety coach role by hiring Joe Danna. Working under Lovie Smith with the Texans this season, Danna was in Jacksonville under Doug Marrone and Urban Meyer for the previous five yeras.
  • After the Falcons hired Nielsen, they fired Jon Hoke. But the veteran position coach will land in Chicago. The Bears hired Hoke as their cornerbacks coach and passing-game coordinator. This is a reunion for Hoke, who coached Bears DBs for six seasons (2009-14) previously. The team also promoted Omar Young from the quality control level to assistant QBs and wide receivers coach. Young is a 14-year coaching veteran who spent time with OC Luke Getsy in Green Bay.

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spins, many of the league’s offensive and defensive coordinator positions are open as well. Teams seeking new head coaches will soon begin OC and DC searches — some have already started those processes — but a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

This is a big year for offensive coordinator hires, with nearly half the league conducting searches or likely being set to do so. Here are the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 2-2-23 (4:52pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Ben McAdoo)

Dallas Cowboys (Out: Kellen Moore)

Houston Texans (Out: Pep Hamilton)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Al Holcomb)

  • Vic Fangio, former head coach (Broncos): Interviewed
  • Marquand Manuel, safeties coach (Jets): Interviewed
  • Kris Richard, co-defensive coordinator (Saints): Interviewed

Houston Texans 

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

New Orleans Saints (Out: Ryan Nielsen, Kris Richard)

San Francisco 49ers (Out: DeMeco Ryans)

Saints Part Ways With Kris Richard

Dennis Allen is set to have a completely new defensive coaching staff in New Orleans. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that the Saints are parting ways with co-defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

Richard, who was also responsible for coaching the secondary in 2022, split DC duties with Ryan Nielsen, who ended up leaving New Orleans to become the Falcons’ new defensive coordinator.According to Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football (on Twitter), Richard was a valued member of the coaching staff but “some philosophical differences” led to the team looking elsewhere.

This means Allen, who previously served as the Saints DC, will now be on the look out for a new coach to guide the defense. Per Underhill (on Twitter), the head coach intends to oversee and run everything on the defensive side of the ball. However, the team still intends to hire a defensive coordinator, a defensive line coach, and a secondary coach.

Richard originally joined the Saints as their defensive backs coach in 2021. His gig in New Orleans was preceded by a two-year stint in Dallas, where he served as the Cowboys defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator. The coach cut his teeth in Seattle, eventually culminating in him becoming defensive coordinator in 2015. During Richard’s first two years at the helm, the Seahawks ranked as a top-three defense, but following an underwhelming 2017 campaign, the coach was relieved of his duties.

The 43-year-old has been a popular name on the coaching circuit this offseason, and the fact that he was willing to take interviews for a minor promotion probably hinted that his time in New Orleans could be coming to an end. Richard was connected to defensive coordinator jobs with the Dolphins and Panthers. The coach could also be a candidate to join Sean Payton with the Broncos, according to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (via Twitter).

Latest On Panthers’ DC Search

Today marks the first official day at work for new Panthers head coach Frank Reich, the first domino to fall in the 2023 HC cycle. Much remains to be seen with respect to his staff, including coordinators on both sides of the ball.

On defense, it became clear that Reich’s preference for his new DC was Vic Fangio. The 64-year-old agreed to terms yesterday on a deal with the Dolphins which will see him become the league’s highest-paid coordinator, however, leaving Carolina to look elsewhere to fill the position. A pair of finalists remain in the running.

Those two are Saints co-defensive coordinator Kris Richard and Jets safeties coach Marquand Manuel. Those two are the only candidates other than Fangio to have interviewed for the position, so it comes as little surprise that they remain in the running. Joe Person of The Athletic notes that Carolina has “moved on” to Richard and Manuel as it pertains to the DC opening, with the latter seeming to be in the lead (subscription required).

Josina Anderson of CBS Sports also reports (via Twitter) that Manuel remains the subject of considerable interest from Carolina. The 43-year-old has two years of DC experience, dating back to his time with the Falcons in 2017 and 2018. That post came between tenures in Seattle and Philadelphia prior to his current one in New York. Neither he nor Richard, who has multiple stints as a defensive coordinator on his resume, have experience working with Reich, though they have ties to general manager Scott Fitterer dating back to their shared time with the Seahawks.

Anderson adds that the Panthers could have competition in the form of the Texans for Manuel’s services. Houston is thought to be a potential destination for him in the (expected) event that 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans is hired as the team’s new head coach. Especially if that were to happen, attention could shift once more towards a staffer who does have experience working alongside Reich.

Person names Colts DC Gus Bradley as someone who has been “mentioned” as a candidate to follow Reich to Carolina. As he notes, however, an interview request as not yet been submitted. Anderson tweets that Reich brought up the possibility of hiring the 56-year-old, something ownership was not in favor of. It was then that Fangio was pursued, to the point where the Panthers were willing to give him the league’s largest coordinator contract (Twitter link).

With Reich expected to call plays on offense, the team’s ultimate choice at the DC spot will go a long way in determining their success on that side of the ball. Steve Wilks, who guided Carolina to an impressive run at the end of the season filling in for Matt Rhule, remains on staff for now, but he is likely to head elsewhere with new faces coming in on the Panthers’ sidelines.

Dolphins To Interview Vic Fangio, Kris Richard, Sean Desai For DC

Vic Fangio will interview for a third defensive coordinator position during this year’s cycle. The Dolphins’ previously rumored interest will produce a meeting.

Miami is set for interviews with Fangio, Seahawks assistant Sean Desai and Saints co-DC Kris Richard, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). Fangio and Desai worked together with the Bears, while Richard has been a fixture in defensive coordinator searches in recent offseasons. The Fangio and Desai meetings will occur Wednesday.

Richard, 43, re-emerged as a DC after four seasons on the position coach level. The Saints promoted the veteran staffer to that role, placing him alongside Ryan Nielsen in a rarely utilized co-DC arrangement. The former Seahawks DC had spent time under Rod Marinelli as the Cowboys’ secondary coach from 2018-19 and caught on with the Saints as their DBs coach in 2021. Richard is best known for his time in Seattle, however. He served as the Legion of Boom’s position coach and later Seattle’s DC during that unit’s heyday, and the Seahawks of that period became the first team to lead the NFL in scoring defense in four straight years since the 1950s Browns.

This garnered Richard some HC interest back in the late 2010s — which included a 2019 Dolphins interview — but nothing materialized. The Saints have ranked in the top 10 defensively in each of Richard’s two years with the team, though Dennis Allen has overseen both those units. The Panthers have also spoken to Richard about a meeting. Nielsen has come up as a candidate — in Atlanta and Minnesota — as well, so New Orleans faces the possibility of losing both its DCs this offseason. Desai, the Bears’ DC in 2021, also received an interview request from the Vikings.

Fangio has interviewed for the Falcons and Panthers’ positions thus far but came up in connection to the Dolphins gig soon after it became available. He is believed to be the lead candidate, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets, with ESPN’s Jeff Darlington noting (via Twitter) Fangio and Mike McDaniel share an agent and have a good relationship.

Fangio, 64, did not last too long in his HC opportunity with the Broncos, though his three-year Denver tenure was the longest since John Fox‘s, but the longtime defensive staffer was long believed to be a hot candidate to return to a full-time role as a DC. That is coming to fruition. Fangio’s options could soon include a return to the 49ers, with the team being connected to rehiring him in the event DeMeco Ryans departs.

Lions OC Ben Johnson In Lead For Panthers HC Job?

It sounds like Ben Johnson is now the favorite to land the Panthers’ head coaching gig. According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports (Twitter link), the Lions offensive coordinator “has the lead” for the position. Joseph Person of The Athletic shares a similar sentiment, noting that “it still feels like there’s momentum” for a Johnson hiring.

[RELATED: Patriots’ Jerod Mayo Declines Panthers HC Interview]

After serving on Matt Patricia’s staff in Detroit, Johnson was kept around following Dan Campbell’s hiring. Johnson ended up impressing the new coach enough to earn a promotion from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator. During Johnson’s first season at the helm, the Lions ended up finishing 9-8 despite sporting the NFL’s worst scoring defense. Jared Goff finished the year with 29 passing touchdowns (his highest total since 2018), while running back Jamaal Williams broke Barry Sanders‘ franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 17.

Thanks to the Lions’ resurgence, Johnson has turned into a popular name on the head coaching circuit. Besides the position in Carolina, Johnson has also been connected to head coaching jobs with the Texans and Colts. Even if Johnson doesn’t get the job with the Panthers, he could still be a target for the organization, with Person suggesting pairing the offensive mind with an experienced head coach candidate like Sean Payton.

Elsewhere on the coaching front, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the Panthers have requested permission to interview Saints defensive backs coach Kris Richard for “a possible” defensive coordinator job. The Panthers will probably provide their new head coach with some say in a defensive coordinator hire, although Rapoport notes that the organization is conducting interviews for both gigs concurrently.

Richard made a name for himself in Seattle, where he played an important role in the formation of the Legion of Boom. The coach was relieved of his duty as defensive coordinator in 2017 and later caught on with the Cowboys. He joined the Saints as their defensive backs coach in 2021 before earning a promotion to co-defensive coordinator (with Ryan Nielsen) in 2022. Thanks in part to New Orleans’ performance this past season, Richards “likely will get offers” for full DC opportunities, per Rapoport.

Latest On Saints’ Coaching Staff

WEDNESDAY: Both will indeed become co-DCs for the Saints. Nielsen agreed to a two-year contract as New Orleans’ co-DC, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman tweets, while NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero notes Richard is ticketed to stay on as Saints secondary coach with the co-DC title added (Twitter link). Nielsen will remain the Saints’ D-line coach, and Pelissero adds special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi is now an assistant head coach with the team.

The Saints also announced quarterbacks coach Ronald Curry is now the team’s passing-game coordinator. Curry has been with the Saints for seven years. Doug Marrone is on track to be the Saints’ offensive line coach, a role he held from 2006-08, when he was also New Orleans’ OC.

MONDAY: Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard are getting promotions in New Orleans. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (via Twitter), the pair of Saints defensive assistants are taking on new roles. The duo could be promoted to co-defensive coordinators, although the reporter cautions that nothing has been set.

[RELATED: Saints To Keep Pete Carmichael As OC]

Richard made a name for himself with the Seahawks, working his way up from an assistant to defensive coordinator. The coach ended up spending three years in that role before getting canned following the 2017 campaign. Since that time, the 42-year-old has worked as the Cowboys defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, and he joined the Saints as their defensive backs coach in 2021. Richard met with both the Ravens and Steelers about their DC vacancies last month

Nielsen has been with the Saints organization since 2017, and he earned a promotion to assistant head coach in 2021. Prior to his stint in New Orleans, the coach was in the collegiate ranks, including a stint as defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois. We heard recently that Nielsen was a candidate for the DC gig.

The Saints have met with multiple outside candidates, including Michael Wilhoite and Aubrey Pleasant. Meanwhile, Pete Carmichael will be sticking around as offensive coordinator on Dennis Allen’s staff.

NFC Coaching Notes: Nielsen, Vikings, Giants

The Saints promoted from within to fill their head coach position and halted their offensive coordinator search to keep Pete Carmichael in that role. Their other top staff job may involve a similar process. Defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen is a candidate to take over as defensive coordinator, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. Nielsen, 42, has been with the Saints for the past five seasons, each as the team’s D-line coach. Nielsen has DC experience, but it came at the mid-major (Northern Illinois) and Division I-FCS (Central Connecticut State) levels. The Saints also have a former NFL defensive coordinator on staff, in secondary coach Kris Richard. The former Seahawks DC should receive a look as well. He met with both the Ravens and Steelers about their DC vacancies last month. The Saints have met with multiple outside candidates, Michael Wilhoite and Aubrey Pleasant, for the position as well. Wilhoite began his coaching career in New Orleans, working as a lower-level assistant from 2019-20.

Here is the latest from the NFC’s coaching ranks:

  • New Vikings HC Kevin O’Connell is interested in more Rams assistants. Minnesota requested permission to interview Los Angeles assistant DBs coach Jonathan Cooley, per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic (on Twitter). The Vikes are eyeing Cooley for their secondary coach/passing-game coordinator position. After gigs at multiple MAC schools from 2018-19, Cooley joined the Rams in 2020. The Rams are already lost their top secondary coach, Ejiro Evero, to the Broncos. They are also expected to lose tight ends coach Wes Phillips and offensive assistant Chris O’Hara to the Vikings, who are interviewing Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown for their OC job.
  • The Vikings are poaching another assistant from the Broncos, being poised to hire Justin Rascati as their assistant offensive line coach, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Rascati served as an offensive quality control coach in Denver last season. O’Connell is already bringing ex-Broncos staffers Ed Donatell and Curtis Modkins to Minnesota.
  • Bryan Cox is back on an NFL staff. The Giants are hiring the former NFL linebacker, per Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com. Cox will be the Giants’ assistant D-line coach under Don Martindale. This will be Cox’s first NFL gig since the Falcons fired him following Super Bowl LI five years ago.
  • The 49ers are promoting offensive quality control coach Brian Fleury to their tight ends coach spot, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes. Fleury, who will replace new Dolphins tight ends coach Jon Embree in this role, has been with the 49ers for three seasons.

Colts To Interview Three More DC Candidates

The list of potential Matt Eberflus replacements continues to grow for Indianapolis. The Indy Star’s Joel Erickson reports (via Twitter) that the Colts will be interviewing three more candidates for the defensive coordinator position: Raiders DC Gus Bradley, Cowboys secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. and Saints defensive backs coach Kris Richard

The team met with Jaguars DC Joe Cullen, as well as WFT DBs coach Chris Harris, last week. Then, it came out yesterday that they will also be interviewing longtime DC Jim Schwartzwho has most recently held the title of senior defensive assistant with the Titans.

Bradley was hired by the Raiders last January, in an attempt to bring in an experienced defensive mind to a team desperate for success in the second Jon Gruden era. The 55-year-old had served as DC with the Chargers, following four-year stints as head coach of the Jaguars and DC of the Seahawks during the ‘Legion of Boom’ era.

As for Whitt, an interview request is certainly nothing new. Each of the SeahawksRavens and Steelers met with him as potential replacements for their previous DCs. His work in Dallas this season contributed to the defense’s surprising performance, led on the back end by Trevon Diggs‘ league-leading 11 interceptions. At the age of 43, he has been an NFL position coach dating back to 2007, but has yet to be a DC at any level.

Richard has also generated DC interest this year. Just like Whitt, he has already received requests from Baltimore and Pittsburgh for their vacancies. The 42-year-old has spent most of coaching career in Seattle, including a three year stint as DC from 2015-2017. Since then, he’s been the DBs coach for the Cowboys, and, this past season, the Saints. If Dennis Allen takes over as HC in New Orleans, as is expected, Richard’s path back to a DC role may come via an internal promotion, rather than an external hire.

Erickson notes that these three interviews will take place today and tomorrow, which should bring the Colts one step closer to making a DC hire sometime in the coming days.

 

 

Steelers Request Interview With Joe Whitt For DC Position

Another name has been added to the list of Steelers targets for their vacant defensive coordinator role. Joe Whitt, the passing game coordinator/secondary coach for the Cowboys, has become the third external candidate for the position, according to Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper

The team has recently asked to meet with Kris Richard, the Saints’ defensive back coach, to replace the now-retired Keith Butler. Prior to that, Giants DC Patrick Graham received an interview request from the Steelers as well.

Whitt is generating interest with multiple teams. Both the Seahawks and Ravens have put in requests to meet with the 43-year-old for their respective DC vacancies. The experienced DB coach has served on the staff of five different teams during his NFL coaching career, never holding a title higher than pass game coordinator. His role in helping the Cowboys’ defense become one of the league’s better units – rather than a liability, as it had been in recent years – has obviously earned him opportunities for a promotion either elsewhere, or perhaps in Dallas if DC Dan Quinn takes one of the many HC jobs he has interviewed for.

The Steelers still have secondary coach Teryl Austin as an option if they prefer to promote from within. While that is certainly a possibility at this point, the team is clearly doing its due diligence with regards to outside candidates.