Liam Coen

Assessing NFL’s OC Landscape

This offseason showed the turnover that can take place at the offensive coordinator position. As a result of several decisions in January and February, the NFL no longer has an OC who has been in his current role for more than two seasons. Various firings and defections now have the 2022 batch of hires stationed as the longest-tenured OCs.

One of the longest-tenured coordinators in NFL history, Pete Carmichael is no longer with the Saints. The team moved on after 15 seasons, a stay that featured part-time play-calling duties. The Browns canned their four-year non-play-calling OC, Alex Van Pelt, while three-year play-callers Arthur Smith and Shane Waldron are relocating this winter. Brian Callahan‘s five-year gig as the Bengals’ non-play-calling OC booked him a top job.

The recent lean toward offense-oriented HCs took a bit of a hit of a hit this offseason, with five of the eight jobs going to defense-oriented leaders. Callahan, Dave Canales and Jim Harbaugh were the only offense-geared candidates hired during this cycle. But half the NFL will go into this season with a new OC. Following the Seahawks’ decision to hire ex-Washington (and, briefly, Alabama) staffer Ryan Grubb, here is how the NFL’s OC landscape looks:

2022 OC hires

  • Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions*
  • Mike Kafka, New York Giants*
  • Wes Phillips, Minnesota Vikings
  • Frank Smith, Miami Dolphins
  • Adam Stenavich, Green Bay Packers
  • Press Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars*

Although this sextet now comprises the senior wing of offensive coordinators, this still marks each’s first gig as an NFL OC. Three of the six received HC interest this offseason.

Johnson’s status back in Detroit has been one of the offseason’s top storylines and a development the Commanders have not taken especially well. The two-year Lions OC was viewed as the frontrunner for the Washington job for weeks this offseason, and when team brass did not receive word about Johnson’s intent to stay in Detroit (thus, waiting until at least 2025 to make his long-expected HC move) until a Commanders contingent was en route to Detroit for a second interview, a back-and-forth about what exactly broke down took place. Johnson should be expected to remain a high-end HC candidate next year, but Dan Campbell will still have his services for 2024.

Kafka interviewed for the Seahawks’ HC job, and the Giants then blocked him from meeting with the NFC West team about its OC position. Rumblings about Kafka and Brian Daboll no longer being on great terms surfaced this year, with the latter yanking away play-calling duties — given to Kafka ahead of the 2022 season — at points in 2023. Taylor may also be on the hot seat with his team. Doug Pederson gave Taylor the call sheet last season, and Trevor Lawrence did not make the leap many expected. After a collapse left the Jaguars out of the playoffs, the team had begun to look into its offensive situation.

2023 OC hires

  • Jim Bob Cooter, Indianapolis Colts
  • Nathaniel Hackett, New York Jets*
  • Mike LaFleur, Los Angeles Rams
  • Joe Lombardi, Denver Broncos
  • Todd Monken, Baltimore Ravens*
  • Matt Nagy, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Drew Petzing, Arizona Cardinals*
  • Brian Schottenheimer, Dallas Cowboys
  • Bobby Slowik, Houston Texans*

Only nine of the 15 OCs hired in 2023 are still with their teams. One (Canales) moved up the ladder, while others were shown the door following that organization canning its head coach. The Eagles were the only team who hired an offensive coordinator last year to fire that staffer (Brian Johnson) after one season. Nick Sirianni fired both his coordinators following a wildly disappointing conclusion.

Hackett may also be drifting into deep water, given what transpired last year in New York. Rumblings of Robert Saleh — who is on the hottest seat among HCs — stripping some of his offensive play-caller’s responsibilities surfaced recently. This marks Hackett’s fourth chance to call plays in the NFL; the second-generation staffer did so for the Bills, Jaguars and Broncos prior to coming to New York. After the 2022 Broncos ranked last in scoring, the ’23 Jets ranked 31st in total offense. Hackett’s relationship with Aaron Rodgers has largely kept him in place, but 2024 may represent a last chance for the embattled coach.

Of this crop, Monken and Slowik were the only ones to receive HC interest. Neither emerged as a frontrunner for a position, though Slowik met with the Commanders twice. The Texans then gave their first-time play-caller a raise to stick around for C.J. Stroud‘s second season. Stroud’s remarkable progress figures to keep Slowik on the HC radar. Monken, who is in his third try as an NFL OC (after gigs in Tampa and Cleveland), just helped Lamar Jackson to his second MVP award. The former national championship-winning OC did not stick the landing — as Jackson struggled against the Chiefs — but he fared well on the whole last season.

Schottenheimer is on his fourth go-round as an OC, while Lombardi is on team No. 3. The latter’s job figures to be more secure, being tied to Sean Payton, compared to what is transpiring in Dallas. With the Cowboys having Mike McCarthy as the rare lame-duck HC, his coordinators probably should not get too comfortable.

2024 OC hires

  • Joe Brady, Buffalo Bills*
  • Liam Coen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
  • Ken Dorsey, Cleveland Browns
  • Luke Getsy, Las Vegas Raiders*
  • Ryan Grubb, Seattle Seahawks*
  • Nick Holz, Tennessee Titans
  • Kliff Kingsbury, Washington Commanders*
  • Klint Kubiak, New Orleans Saints*
  • Brad Idzik, Carolina Panthers
  • Kellen Moore, Philadelphia Eagles*
  • Dan Pitcher, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Zac Robinson, Atlanta Falcons*
  • Greg Roman, Los Angeles Chargers*
  • Arthur Smith, Pittsburgh Steelers*
  • Alex Van Pelt, New England Patriots*
  • Shane Waldron, Chicago Bears*

The 49ers do not employ a traditional OC; 16 of the 31 teams that do recently made a change. Most of the teams to add OCs this year, however, did so without employing play-calling coaches. This naturally raises the stakes for this year’s batch of hires.

Retreads became rather popular. Dorsey, Getsy, Moore, Van Pelt and Waldron were all OCs elsewhere (Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Seattle) last season. Smith will shift from calling the Falcons’ plays to running the show for the Steelers. Dorsey, Getsy and Van Pelt were fired; Moore and Waldron moved on after the Chargers and Seahawks respectively changed HCs. Moore and Smith will be calling plays for a third team; for Moore, this is three OC jobs in three years.

Coen, Kingsbury and Roman are back after a year away. Kingsbury became a popular name on the OC carousel, having coached Caleb Williams last season. This will be his second crack at an NFL play-calling gig, having been the Cardinals’ conductor throughout his HC tenure. This will be Coen’s first shot at calling plays in the pros; he was Sean McVay‘s non-play-calling assistant in 2022. Likely to become the Chargers’ play-caller, Roman will have a rare fourth chance to call plays in the NFL. He held that responsibility under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco; following Harbaugh’s explosive 2015 49ers split, Roman moved to Buffalo and Baltimore to work under non-offense-oriented leaders.

Grubb, Holz, Idzik, Pitcher and Robinson represent this year’s first-timer contingent. Grubb has, however, called plays at the college level. Robinson is the latest McVay staffer to move into a play-calling post; he was a Rams assistant for five years. A host of teams had Robinson on their OC radar, but Raheem Morris brought his former L.A. coworker to Atlanta. Pitcher appeared in a few searches as well, but the Bengals made the expected move — after extending him last year — to give him Callahan’s old job.

* = denotes play-calling coordinator

2024 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

After a crowded carousel previously stopped, the 49ers opened their defensive coordinator position. Here is how the NFC champions’ search looks:

Updated 3-2-24 (10:00am CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dave Ragone)

Buffalo Bills (Out: Ken Dorsey)

  • Joe Brady, interim offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (Bills): Hired
  • Thad Lewis, quarterbacks coach (Buccaneers): Interviewed

Carolina Panthers (Out: Thomas Brown)

  • Marcus Brady, senior offensive assistant (Eagles): Interview requested
  • Brad Idzik, wide receivers coach (Buccaneers): Hired

Chicago Bears (Out: Luke Getsy)

Cincinnati Bengals (Out: Brian Callahan)

  • Andy Dickerson, offensive line coach (Seahawks): To interview
  • Dan Pitcher, quarterbacks coach (Bengals): Promoted

Cleveland Browns (Out: Alex Van Pelt)

Las Vegas Raiders (Out: Mick Lombardi)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Kellen Moore)

New England Patriots (Out: Bill O’Brien)

New Orleans Saints (Out: Pete Carmichael)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Brian Johnson)

  • Jerrod Johnson, quarterbacks coach (Texans): Interviewed
  • Kliff Kingsbury, senior offensive analyst (USC): Interviewed 1/23
  • Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator (Chargers): Hired

Pittsburgh Steelers (Out: Matt Canada)

Seattle Seahawks (Out: Shane Waldron)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Dave Canales)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Tim Kelly)

  • Nick Holz, passing game coordinator (Jaguars): Hired
  • Thad Lewis, quarterbacks coach (Buccaneers): Interviewed
  • Eric Studesville, associate head coach/running backs coach (Dolphins): Interview requested

Washington Commanders (Out: Eric Bieniemy)

  • Chip Kelly, former head coach (Eagles/49ers): On team’s radar
  • Kliff Kingsbury, senior offensive analyst (USC): Hired

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Ryan Nielsen)

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Mike Macdonald)

  • Zach Orr, inside linebackers coach (Ravens): Promoted

Buffalo Bills

  • Bobby Babich, linebackers coach (Bills): Promoted
  • Mike Caldwell, former defensive coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed
  • Sean Desai, former defensive coordinator (Eagles): To interview

Chicago Bears (Out: Alan Williams)

  • Joe Barry, former defensive coordinator (Packers): To interview 1/27
  • Chris Harris, secondary coach (Titans): To interview
  • Eric Washington, assistant head coach/defensive line coach (Bills): Hired
  • Terrell Williams, assistant head coach/defensive line coach (Titans): To interview

Dallas Cowboys (Out: Dan Quinn)

Green Bay Packers (Out: Joe Barry)

Jacksonville Jaguars (Out: Mike Caldwell)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Derrick Ansley)

  • Jesse Minter, defensive coordinator (Michigan): Hired

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Raheem Morris)

Miami Dolphins (Out: Vic Fangio)

New England Patriots

  • DeMarcus Covington, defensive line coach (Patriots): Promoted
  • Michael Hodges, linebackers coach (Saints): To interview
  • Tem Lukabu, outside linebackers coach (Panthers): To interview
  • Christian Parker, defensive backs coach (Broncos): Interviewed

New York Giants (Out: Don Martindale)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Sean Desai)

  • Mike Caldwell, former defensive coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed
  • Vic Fangio, former defensive coordinator (Dolphins): Hired
  • Ron Rivera, former head coach (Commanders): Interviewed 1/22

San Francisco 49ers (Out: Steve Wilks)

  • Gerald Alexander, safeties coach (Raiders): Interviewed 3/1
  • Daniel Bullocks, defensive backs coach (49ers): Interviewed 2/28
  • David Merritt, defensive backs coach (Chiefs): To interview
  • Nick Sorensen, defensive passing game specialist (49ers): Promoted
  • Brandon Staley, former head coach (Chargers): Interviewed

Seattle Seahawks (Out: Clint Hurtt)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Shane Bowen)

  • Brandon Lynch, cornerbacks coach (Browns): Interviewed 1/30
  • Dennard Wilson, defensive backs coach (Ravens): Hired

Washington Commanders (Out: Jack Del Rio)

  • Joe Cullen, defensive line coach (Chiefs): Considered a candidate
  • Joe Whitt, defensive backs coach (Cowboys): Hired

Baker Mayfield Addresses Bucs Future

Baker Mayfield made his first career Pro Bowl appearance last weekend, but his attention will now turn to his impending free agency. A deal allowing him to remain with the Buccaneers is still very much in play, and the veteran signal-caller recently spoke about where things stand on that front.

Mayfield enjoyed a strong campaign in 2023 with Dave Canales operating as an offensive coordinator for the first time in his career. The latter parlayed that into the Panthers’ head coaching position, leaving Mayfield in line for yet another new face to work with in terms of coordinators. Tampa Bay tapped Liam Coen, however, allowing he and Mayfield to reunite after their brief time together with the Rams in 2022.

“It’s important to me,” Mayfield said of the coordinator move, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times“I’ve had so many offensive coordinators to this point, to me it’s, ‘Okay if I do come back, let’s keep the continuity for the other guys, build on what we’ve already grown from and go from there.’”

Keeping Canales in place no doubt would have been a welcomed development for Mayfield, but the 28-year-old endorsed bringing on Coen to replace him. As SI’s Albert Breer notes, the Buccaneers were receptive to the vote of confidence Coen received before hiring him for his second NFL OC stint (and first which will involve calling plays). Similarities to Canales’ scheme could help ensure a smooth transition and help the chances of Mayfield repeating his Tampa Bay success in 2024.

A mutual interest exists for a new Bucs deal, but Mayfield and his camp have yet to take part in serious negotiations on a contract. The franchise tag could also be in play, locking the former No. 1 pick into a 2024 salary of roughly $36MM or at least buying extra time to hammer out a long-term pact. The presence of not only a familiar OC in Coen, but also fellow pending free agent Mike Evans is a key factor for Mayfield as he weighs his options, however.

“I would love to be back with [Evans], so there’s a lot of contingencies that go in that” Mayfield added. “Obviously, getting an OC, that helps. That’s Step 1. And [Evans] sees that so we can talk to him about it and see his thoughts. But we both have to do what’s best for us.”

Evans earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2023, proving himself to still be a durable and consistent producer with a 79-1,255-13 statline. The 30-year-old is projected to be one of the top available wideouts in this year’s free agent class, and the Buccaneers also need new contracts for the likes of linebacker Lavonte David and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Retaining Mayfield will still be a top priority, though, and having an OC whose arrival he co-signed is another indication that a new deal should be expected at some point in the near future.

Buccaneers Hire Liam Coen As OC

SATURDAY, 10:30am: The two sides have reached an agreement, per Greg Auman of Fox Sports.

FRIDAY, 8:05am: As coordinator dominoes continue to fall, Liam Coen is set to head to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are nearing an agreement with the Kentucky OC to take over their offensive coordinator gig, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

Once in place, the deal will allow Coen to return to the NFL game after his second stint in charge of Kentucky’s offense. Between his college stints, he spent time on the Rams’ staff working with the team’s receivers and quarterbacks, along with OC responsibilities in 2022. Coen did not call plays when he was part of Sean McVay‘s staff, but he will likely do so under Todd Bowles.

Tampa Bay enjoyed a relatively successful run on offense during Dave Canales‘ one-year run as OC. His quick career ascent recently included taking the Panthers’ head coaching position, creating a vacancy at the offensive coordinator post for the second straight year. Now, the team has a replacement on tap.

With Canales on the HC radar, a report listed Tampa QBs coach Thad Lewis as a name to watch with respect to a promotion. Amidst interest from several other teams, Lewis did indeed interview for the Bucs’ vacancy. That meeting did not produce an agreement, however, and it will now be Coen making the jump back into NFL circles to take on his second pro coordinator gig.

The latter worked alongside Baker Mayfield during his Rams audition period in 2022, and the pair are believed to have a strong relationship. For that reason, it came as little surprise when Coen joined the list of Tampa Bay candidates with his interview yesterday. Mayfield is a pending free agent, but this hire could help the chances of a new contract being worked out.

Tampa Bay is seeking a multi-year Mayfield agreement, though talks on that front have not started. The former No. 1 pick had one of his most productive seasons under Canales in 2023, a coach with which he did not have a previous working relationship. Having a familiar face in place could be beneficial, although the Mayfield-Coen Rams pairing did not last long in the closing weeks of the 2022 campaign. That season, the injury-riddled Rams finished last in the league in total offense and 27th in scoring.

Improvement in both categories will be the goal in Coen’s second opportunity to lead an NFL offense. The 38-year-old will inherit a unit which ranked 20th in scoring in 2023. Struggles in the ground game continued from past years, and taking step forward in that regard would be a welcomed development moving forward. Questions remain, however, about the future of Mayfield and wideout Mike Evans.

Tampa Bay conducted one of the most wide-ranging searches in this year’s hiring cycle, and the team waited until many others made their hires to reach agreement on their own. Coen nonetheless represents an intriguing addition to the NFC South winners as they look to repeat this year’s success.

Liam Coen To Interview For Bucs’ OC Job

The Buccaneers have lost a handful of offensive assistants to the Panthers over the past week, seeing Dave Canales take multiple Bruce Arians hires to Charlotte. With Tampa Bay interested in re-signing Baker Mayfield, two assistants who coached him recently are on the radar.

Two-year Rams assistant Jake Peetz‘s interview is set for Thursday, and the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud indicates the Bucs are also planning to meet with Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen about their OC position. The Coen meeting will occur today as well.

Coen, whom Stroud notes has a good working relationship with Mayfield, met with the Bears about their OC post last month. Coen joins Peetz and ex-Browns OC Alex Van Pelt as coaches with Mayfield ties in the running for this position. Although the Bucs have not initiated talks about a second contract, those are expected.

Coen and Mayfield did not overlap for long in Los Angeles. Mayfield spent barely a month with the team, and Coen departed immediately after the season to return to Kentucky. He has spent two of the past three seasons as the SEC program’s OC, hopping back and forth between L.A. and Lexington. Prior to Coen’s 2021 trek to call the Wildcats’ plays, he worked as a three-year position coach under Sean McVay.

Working as a McVay staffer has fast-tracked a handful of assistants’ careers over the past several years. This offseason, the Rams have lost defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson and defensive line coach Eric Henderson. The latter returned to the college ranks. Coen made that move last year, agreeing to return to Kentucky before the Rams’ season concluded. His sticking around through last season’s conclusion is relevant in the Bucs’ case, with Mayfield serving as the team’s starting QB to close out the campaign.

Coen, 38, served as McVay’s non-play-calling OC during by far the worst season for this unit during the successful HC’s regime. Losing Matthew Stafford midway through the season, the Rams went 5-12, ranked last in total offense and 27th in points. Coen did help Mayfield produce impressive showings against the Raiders and Broncos last season, being a key part of an effort to prepare Mayfield as he took the lion’s share of the snaps against Las Vegas two days after being claimed off waivers. That game featured a memorable 98-yard game-winning drive, an effort that helped land Mayfield the Bucs’ starting job in 2023.

Coen’s play-calling chops were on display at Kentucky in 2023. Despite losing second-round pick Will Levis, the Wildcats improved from 112th to 58th in scoring offense from 2022 to ’23. Here is how the Bucs’ OC search looks as of Thursday morning:

Bears Plan To Interview Kentucky’s Liam Coen For OC Job; Team Meets With Seahawks’ Greg Olson

8:45pm: Another name can be added to the list of Bears OC targets. Chicago interviewed Seahawks QBs coach Greg Olson yesterday, Michael Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. Olson took his Seattle position last year after a single season with the Rams. The 60-year-old has served as a coordinator with the Lions, Rams, Buccaneers, Jaguars and – in two separate stints – Raiders. He thus profiles as a candidate with considerable experience as Chicago looks for a Getsy replacement.

Olson had not been connected to an OC posting this offseason before the Bears interview, but he has remained on the coordinator radar when holding other roles in the NFL. He interviewed with the Chargers last year before ultimately taking his current Seahawks gig. It will be interesting to see how much interest he gets from other teams in 2024 should more coordinator roles become available.

10:31am: The Bears are looking towards the NCAA to fill their offensive coordinator vacancy. CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones reports that Kentucky offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Liam Coen is expected to interview for Chicago’s OC job.

After spending time in the Northeast college circuit, Coen has bounced between the Rams and Kentucky in recent years. He spent two years as the Rams assistant wide receivers coach before earning the role of assistant quarterbacks coach in 2020. He left to become Kentucky’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2021 before returning to Los Angeles to replace Kevin O’Connell as the offensive coordinator.

The Rams offense struggled with Coen at the helm in 2022. The offense finished the season ranked 27th in points and last in yards, although that was partly due to the Rams starting four different players under center.

Coen went back to his previous role at Kentucky for the 2023 campaign and helped guide the offense to several improvements. Kentucky ultimately finished the season ranked 23rd in red zone TD percentage, 40th in yards per play, and 51st in points per drive (h/t to Adam Luckett of KSR).

Chicago is looking for a replacement for Luke Getsy, who was fired earlier this week. 49ers passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak has already emerged as a candidate for the open job.

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spun for several weeks, many teams made coordinator changes as well. Teams seeking new head coaches are conducting OC and DC searches, and 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 making changes. Here are the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 3-1-23 (3:31pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals 

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Ben McAdoo)

  • Thomas Brown, tight ends coach, (Rams): Hired
  • Jim Bob Cooter, passing-game coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed

Dallas Cowboys (Out: Kellen Moore)

  • Brian Angelichio, tight ends coach (Vikings): Interviewed 2/2
  • Thomas Brown, tight ends coach (Rams): Interviewed
  • Jeff Nixon, running backs coach (Panthers): Interviewed
  • Brian Schottenheimer, offensive consultant (Cowboys): Hired

Denver Broncos (Out: Justin Outten)

Houston Texans (Out: Pep Hamilton)

Indianapolis Colts (Out: Parks Frazier)

  • Jim Bob Cooter, passing-game coordinator (Jaguars): Hired
  • Tee Martin, wide receivers coach (Ravens): Interview requested

Kansas City Chiefs (Out: Eric Bieniemy)

  • Matt Nagy, quarterbacks coach (Chiefs): Hired

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Shane Steichen)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals (Out: Vance Joseph)

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Buffalo Bills (Out: Leslie Frazier)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Al Holcomb)

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

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans 

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Renaldo Hill)

  • Derrick Ansley, defensive backs coach (Chargers): Promoted
  • Doug Belk, defensive coordinator (Houston): Interviewed
  • DeMarcus Covington, defensive line coach (Patriots): Interviewed

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

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

  • Joe Woods, former defensive coordinator (Browns): Hired

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Jonathan Gannon)

San Francisco 49ers (Out: DeMeco Ryans)

  • Vic Fangio, former head coach (Broncos): On radar
  • Chris Harris, defensive backs coach (Commanders): Interviewed 1/31
  • Kris Kocurek, defensive line coach (49ers): On radar
  • Steve Wilks, former interim head coach (Panthers): Hired

Rams Will Not Block Assistant Coach Moves; Frank Reich On OC Radar

Sean McVay has not confirmed he will return for a seventh season with the Rams, keeping the team in suspense. As the Rams wait on an answer, they will not stand in the way of any assistant who has an opportunity with another team.

The Rams will not block any assistant from leaving, Jeremy Fowler of tweets. While teams can no longer block position coaches from coordinator interviews, they can impede lateral moves. The Rams will not do so, adding more uncertainty as McVay determines his path.

Los Angeles has already lost multiple assistants, including offensive coordinator Liam Coen, who officially rejoined the University of Kentucky on Tuesday. Coen, who is now a two-time Rams and two-time Wildcats assistant, agreed to again become the SEC team’s OC weeks ago. Coen was the Rams’ third OC under McVay, following Kevin O’Connell and Matt LaFleur. The Rams went without an OC from 2018-19, following LaFleur’s move to the Titans. McVay’s presence minimizes the role of the Rams’ OC, but the team is eyeing an experienced play-caller for the position.

The Rams have shown some interest in ex-Colts HC Frank Reich for the job, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets. Thomas Brown and Zac Robinson are internal candidates for the gig, per Rodrigue, though filling Coen’s post will obviously need to wait on McVay’s call. Arizona State had Brown on the radar for its HC job, and the Vikings interviewed him for their OC job last year. But the Rams’ tight ends coach remains in place. Robinson is the Rams’ passing-game coordinator; he has been with the team since 2019.

It would represent a major step down, role-wise, for Reich to join the Rams (assuming McVay stays). The five-year Colts coach said he wanted to be a head coach again, hopefully as soon as 2023, and teams have him on their radar. The Panthers are expected to interview Reich. Any coordinator overtures, which should emerge from other teams besides the Rams, will presumably need to wait on Reich’s latest HC carousel ride.

Reich, 61, would obviously provide the Rams with a wealth of experience, but it would be unusual for the longtime play-caller to accept a non-play-calling OC role. Reich did hold such a position in Philadelphia, however, with Doug Pederson calling the Eagles’ plays during Reich’s two-year stay on his staff. In Indianapolis, Reich called plays throughout his tenure. Prior to going to Philly, Reich served as the Chargers’ OC — also under an offense-oriented head coach, Mike McCoy — for two seasons.

Rams OC Liam Coen To Return To Kentucky

DECEMBER 15: Coen is on track to return to Kentucky, but it is not believed the Rams will need to find an interim OC to finish out the season. Coen has not yet finalized a deal with the SEC program, Jeremy Fowler of notes, and is expected to close out the season with the Rams. While Coen has spent four of the past five seasons with the Rams, he appears ticketed to leave the NFL level for a stretch.

DECEMBER 9: Although Sean McVay assistants have vaulted to HC positions at the NFL level, the sixth-year Rams coach will need to find a new right-hand man on offense for 2023. Liam Coen is heading back to Kentucky to take over the position he held in 2021.

Coen will be a one-and-done as a Rams OC, with Chris Mortensen of reporting he will move to the same position at Kentucky (Twitter link). A former Rams position coach, Coen had come back to Los Angeles to replace Kevin O’Connell this past offseason.

The Wildcats recently fired OC Rich Scangarello, who had previously served as an NFL quarterbacks coach and the Broncos’ OC. Scangarello trekked to the college level after six years as an NFL assistant, twice as a Kyle Shanahan staffer in San Francisco. Brian Griese replaced Scangarello as 49ers quarterbacks coach. Coen will now reassume the reins at Kentucky.

Coen, 37, is far from a college lifer. He spent three years on McVay’s staff before initially trekking to Kentucky in 2021. Coen’s first L.A.-to-Lexington move represented a responsibility bump, considering he was working under McVay and O’Connell as assistant quarterbacks coach in 2020. This latest jump may look like a lateral move, but Coen — like O’Connell, Matt LaFleur and Zac Taylor — did not call plays with the Rams. McVay has held that responsibility since arriving from Washington, becoming one of this era’s top offensive gurus.

McVay’s status helped O’Connell, LaFleur, Taylor and even the defensively oriented Brandon Staley to HC jobs, but Coen will take a different route. The Wildcats are coming off a regression offensively. Despite employing first-round quarterback prospect Will Levis, the 2022 Wildcats ranked 106th in scoring offense. Levis broke through under Coen in 2021, and Kentucky ranked 36th in scoring (32.3 points per game). Mark Stoops’ team went 10-3 that season; it is 7-5 this year.

The Rams also took a step back offensively this season, though injuries played a significant role in the defending Super Bowl champions cratering on this side of the ball. L.A.’s offense ranked in the top 10 in total offense and points last season; it sits 29th and 31st, respectively, after 13 games. The team has been without Matthew Stafford at points, and McVay admitted the recently extended quarterback’s offseason elbow injury affected him during the season. Cooper Kupp and much of the Rams’ offensive line have also missed extensive time. Coen did play a key role in helping Baker Mayfield somehow go from Tuesday waiver claim to leading a comeback victory over the Raiders on Thursday night. Still, the Rams are set to finish outside the top 11 in total offense for the first time in McVay’s tenure.

Coen will not have the opportunity to work with Levis for a second time. The high-profile prospect is passing on a potential extra year of college, via the NCAA’s decision to provide an additional eligibility year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to enter the draft. Coen will also follow offensive assistant Jake Peetz in leaving the Rams for a college gig. Peetz, who joined McVay’s staff this year, is joining Matt Rhule at Nebraska.

Panthers’ Post-Rhule Fallout: Termination, Replacement, Trades

The NFL news circuit was set ablaze today when news broke of the firings of Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. The termination of Rhule was not necessarily a surprise, as he’s been firmly on the hot seat all year and the possibility of firing Rhule had been discussed “well before” today, according to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports, but it did create a newsworthy fallout of information that is of interest to those who follow the sport.

Many have talked about the contract implications of Rhule’s termination, alluding to the millions of dollars still remaining on his contract. While it’s completely applicable to Rhule’s situation, it doesn’t sound like it is a concern to Carolina. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted out that “Carolina is on the hook for this season, but the salaries for the ensuing seasons are offset by what his future college job pays him.” Essentially, Rhule will absolutely get his guaranteed money, but the onus won’t be on Carolina to pay it. Whenever Rhule, who is presumed to be a top college coaching candidate for next year, gets another job, his salary from the new school will offset the amount the Panthers owe him.

It was also announced that Panthers defensive passing game coordinator & secondary coach Steve Wilks will sub in as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. The defensive-minded former head coach of the Cardinals has apparently already begun to make the team his own. When Panthers owner David Tepper was asked why Snow was fired, he reportedly pointed the finger at Wilks, telling reporters to direct that question to the interim head coach, according to ESPN’s David Newton.

Here are a few more fallout items from today, starting with some ideas on Rhule’s replacement:

  • The biggest nugget to come out of today concerning Carolina is that, as most NFL executives expected Rhule to lose his job, many in league circles are expecting the Panthers to start dealing veteran assets in an attempt to accrue draft capital that might make the head coaching position more attractive, according to Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post. The Panthers currently only hold four draft picks for 2023: first-, second-, fourth-, and fifth-round picks, supporting the idea that trading away veterans could improve their current situation. Trading away veterans with expensive contracts, such as star running back Christian McCaffrey or wide receiver Robbie Anderson, could prove troublesome, according to La Canfora, so the Panthers are reportedly willing to eat some of those salaries in order to facilitate moving those assets. Early reports claimed that the Bills have reached out about McCaffrey and that they did in the offseason, as well, according to Person, but Tom Pelissero of NFL Network clarified that, while every team will be calling about McCaffrey, the Panthers haven’t engaged in any trade talks yet. In addition to McCaffrey and Anderson, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports expects wide receiver D.J. Moore, defensive end Brian Burns, and defensive tackle Derrick Brown to be on the table.
  • Jeff Howe of The Athletic posed the question today of who might replace Rhule and offered quite a few suggestions. Howe started the list with Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn who took the Falcons to the Super Bowl as head coach in 2016. Next, he mentioned 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. Ryans interviewed for the Vikings’ job this offseason and was expected to interview for the Raiders’, as well. The 38-year-old has rocketed up coaching boards since retiring as a player in 2015. Another name mentioned was Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon who also interviewed for the Vikings last year, in addition to the Texans and Broncos. Howe went into great detail on every candidate, seeming to list anybody who may be up for a head coaching job in the next few seasons. His list included former NFL head coaches including the retired Sean Payton, Steelers senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach Brian Flores, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, and former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, as well as the current interim head coach, Wilks. Other serious candidates Howe mentioned were Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, and Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. The list essentially devolved into an article about anybody who may make the jump to NFL head coach in the next few seasons, pointing out “wait and see” candidates such as Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith, Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell, and Giants defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale.
  • One interesting name that came out of today’s rumors was former Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly. Joe Person of The Athletic advised that an eye be kept on Kuechly, who remains close with Wilks and new defensive coordinator Al Holcomb, to come back in some capacity. After retiring from a pro scout position last year, Kuechly has been working as an analyst on Panthers radio broadcasts.