Lou Anarumo

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.

Bengals Planning Zac Taylor Extension

In charge of one of the longest-odds Super Bowl entrants in NFL history, Zac Taylor has transformed his career this season. The third-year Bengals HC has gone from the hot seat to extension candidate.

The Bengals are indeed preparing to give their young coach a new contract, with Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com reporting the surprise Super Bowl team is planning to extend Taylor soon after Sunday’s game.

The ex-Sean McVay disciple was 6-25-1 as a head coach coming into this season and had only a partial year of NFL OC work (with the 2015 Dolphins) under his belt. Rumors about Taylor’s firing emerged, but Mike Brown opted to keep his play-caller for a third season. Taylor’s offense took a significant step forward, and Joe Burrow‘s ACL recovery went historically well — despite the burgeoning-superstar quarterback leading the NFL in sacks taken — to the point the Bengals have reached the third Super Bowl in franchise history.

Taylor’s offense features Burrow and near-lock Offensive Rookie of the Year winner Ja’Marr Chase, with Tee Higgins taking a step forward as well. Burrow and his skill-position troops compensated for Cincinnati’s below-average O-line, which the AFC champions will surely aim to bolster in the offseason. Cincinnati’s offense ranked seventh in scoring this season — the team’s highest mark since 2015.

At 38, Taylor is one of the youngest coaches in Super Bowl history. The Bengals, of course, have a track record of patience with their head coaches. Most notably, Brown gave Marvin Lewis 16 seasons — far more than most expected — after the latter turned the team around in the 2000s.

Cincinnati is also planning to keep most of Taylor’s staff. Extensions are in the works for several assistants, per Wilson, who notes wide receivers coach Troy Walters, linebackers coach Al Golden, D-line coach Marion Hobby and tight ends coach James Casey are among those set to receive new deals. Re-ups for DC Lou Anarumo and OC Brian Callahan should be expected as well. Each received moderate interest on this year’s coaching carousel, with Anarumo interviewing with the Giants and Callahan with the Broncos — former employers for each — and no other teams.

2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

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

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

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

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Giants Interview Lou Anarumo For HC Post

The Giants are interviewing Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo for their vacant head coaching position today, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter). This appears to be the first time Anarumo has ever generated HC interest.

Anarumo, 55, began his coaching career as the RB coach at Wagner College in 1989, and he joined the NFL ranks over 20 years later, becoming the Dolphins’ defensive backs coach in 2012. He was briefly promoted to defensive coordinator partway through the 2015 season and resumed his role as DB coach for the 2016-17 campaigns under Adam Gase.

He served in that same capacity for the Giants in 2018 before being hired as the Bengals’ DC in 2019. When he took the job, Cincinnati was coming off a season in which it finished dead-last in total defense. In his first two years working under head coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals still fielded bottom-10 defenses, and Anarumo’s unit wasn’t much better in 2021 in terms of yards allowed. However, the defense did perform well this year when it mattered most, including last night’s divisional round win over the Titans, which featured three interceptions of Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill.

Anarumo, a New York native, has ties to the organization that go beyond his one year as DB coach. He and Big Blue’s new GM, Joe Schoen, spent a few years together with the Dolphins, and while Schoen’s connections to other head coach candidates — namely, Bills OC Brian Daboll and DC Leslie Frazier — are more recent and probably more meaningful, the new top exec clearly sees something in Anarumo worth exploring.

Here’s an updated list of the Giants’ HC candidates:

COVID-19 Latest: Bubble, Bengals, Dalton

With the NFL passing an in-case-of-emergency amended playoff bracket and having a tentative Week 18 in place in case games need to be rescheduled, the league is planning ahead. Its months-long anti-bubble stance remains, but the prospect of one taking place in the postseason has not been ruled out. The NFL will consider holding conference championship games at neutral-site bubbles, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post. Like the 16-team bracket, this would be a contingency plan. Should the NFL proceed with bubbles for its penultimate postseason round, Maske notes warm-weather cities would be the likely sites.

Here is the latest on the NFL’s navigation of the coronavirus pandemic:

  • As cases spike nationally, the NFL has seen a significant uptick as well this month. Forty-seven percent of the league’s positive coronavirus tests this season came during November’s first two weeks, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones notes. As such, the NFL is bracing for more COVID-related trouble after Thanksgiving. The league expects cases to surge after the holiday, with high-ranking execs informing Jones the bulk of its cases thus far this season occurred because of in-home gatherings. No games have been rescheduled since Week 7, but given the protocol adjustments and postseason contingency plan, the league appears to be preparing for postponements to re-emerge.
  • Beginning Saturday, all NFL teams will be thrust into the intensive COVID-19 protocol. The recently implemented higher-security format will be the new norm, per NFL.com’s Judy Battista. Positive tests were previously necessary to move teams into the intensive protocol — which calls for all meetings to be held virtually, masks to be worn at all times at team facilities and no player congregation to occur outside of teams’ headquarters — but the league’s Thanksgiving-related concerns have prompted precautions.
  • The Bengals were without four coaches during their Week 10 game against the Steelers and will be without three staffers this weekend as well. Cincinnati cornerbacks coach Steve Jackson, wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell and safeties coach Robert Livingston will not be with the team in Washington due to COVID-19 protocols, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Last week, the Bengals were without Jackson, Bicknell, linebackers coach Al Golden and senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner. Bengals DC Lou Anarumo will assume more responsibility this weekend, per the team, in overseeing the team’s defensive backs.
  • Former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will be back in the Cowboys‘ starting lineup this week, but he has not yet fully recovered from the coronavirus. The 10th-year veteran developed symptoms and has not fully regained his taste and smell senses, via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). Dalton’s wife and one of his sons also contracted the virus. The Cowboys activated Dalton from their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

Bengals Sign CB Tony Lippett

The Bengals signed free agent cornerback Tony Lippett, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). To make room, they’ve waived linebacker Chris Worley.

For Lippett, a former second-round pick, it’s a new adventure in a familiar scheme. He spent time with defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo in Miami, so he may have a leg up on the competition as he guns for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Lippett, transformed from a collegiate wideout to an NFL corner and made 13 starts for the Fins in 2016. However, he missed the 2017 with a torn Achilles and missed the club’s final cutdowns in 2018. He bounced around a bit last year, including a three-game stint with the Giants.

Bengals Hire Lou Anarumo As DC

At long last, the Bengals’ defensive coordinator position has been filled. On Thursday, the Bengals hired Lou Anarumo to serve as the team’s new DC. 

I’ve always had great respect for Lou, and I know he is a tremendous defensive coach,” head coach Zac Taylor said in a statement. “He’s a great fit for what we want to build here in Cincinnati. Lou is an excellent communicator who the players will have great respect for, and he will get the best out of them.”

The Bengals have had quite the ordeal when it comes to their DC search. At various points, they thought they had deals with Jack Del RioDom Capers, and Florida DC Todd Grantham for the job. For one reason or another, none of those coaches put pen to paper. After exploring a wide range of other candidates, Anarumo came away with the job.

Anarumo served as the Giants’ defensive backs coach last year, a position he has held at multiple NFL stops. He doesn’t offer the same level of DC experience as Del Rio or Capers, but he did hold that job in an interim capacity with the Dolphins in 2015.

Anarumo will have to get up to speed quickly. Last year, the Bengals finished dead last in total defense with 413.6 yards allowed per game and ranked 32nd against the pass with 275.9 yards permitted per game. The Bengals have work to do on offense, as well, but they won’t get far if they have a repeat of 2018 when they allowed 28.4 points on average to opponents.

Bengals Eyeing Lou Anarumo For DC

Giants defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo is set to interview with the Bengals on Thursday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) hears. At the moment, he is the frontrunner for their defensive coordinator job, according to Pelissero. 

Anarumo worked with new Bengals head coach Zac Taylor in Miami from 2012-15 and both men finished out the ’15 season as interim coordinators on opposite sides of the ball. After that, Anarumo reverted back to being Miami’s defensive backs coach under Adam Gase and hooked on with the Giants in January of 2018.

Outside of Anarumo’s interim DC stint in South Beach, he has exclusively served as a defensive backs coach for the last two decades. However, he’s a highly-respected coach and his history with Taylor may allow him to climb the ranks.

The Bengals have been left at the altar a few times in this cycle. Previously, they were close with coaches like Jack Del RioDom Capers, and Florida DC Todd Grantham, but they were unable to seal the deal.

Giants Rumors: Shurmur, Callahan, Staff

Pat Shurmur will be calling plays for the Giants in his first season as head coach, Dave Gettleman said this week from the Senior Bowl (via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, on Twitter). This will mark the second time Shumur’s gone this route. He called plays for the 2011 Browns, but the offense ranked 29th. Additionally, Shurmur is not guaranteed to hire an offensive coordinator, Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com notes. While Shurmur did not hire a non-play-calling OC in his first year with the Browns, he did bring Brad Childress aboard in 2012. Shurmur also functioned as a game plan-centric OC with the Eagles under Chip Kelly from 2013-15, indicating he may value the job.

Here’s the latest from Giants headquarters:

  • While he might not hire an OC, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv notes Shurmur could opt to give an assistant a dual role of OC and quarterbacks coach. The Giants have recently dismissed Lions QBs coach Brian Callahan on their radar for this potential position, Vacchiano reports. Callahan is an in-demand name, however. He interviewed for the Titans’ OC job and is slated to meet with the Raiders and Jets about the respective teams’ QBs-coaching jobs.
  • Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski is set to interview for Shurmur’s old post next week, but Albert Breer of SI.com notes rumblings emerged of Shurmur bringing Stefanski to New York with him. Breer tabs Stefanski as a rising star, and the 35-year-old Vikings staffer worked as their assistant QBs coach from 2009-13 before taking over as head QBs instructor this past season. He may have a decision to make soon since the Vikings’ offensive staff has splintered following their NFC title game loss.
  • Harold Goodwin looks set to lose his Cardinals OC job. Reports circulated indicating Mike McCoy will join Steve Wilks‘ staff, but Goodwin could have a landing spot in New York. Vacchiano notes Goodwin could be a candidate for both the Giants’ or Jets‘ offensive line coaching jobs, illustrating the Todd Bowles/Goodwin Arizona connection as a possible Jets pipeline. With Gettleman pointing out how far Big Blue has to go to repair its front, this will be a pivotal hire.
  • The Giants did make some additional assistant hires on Thursday, organizing their defensive position groups’ hierarchies. Gary Emanuel will preside over the Giants’ defensive line, Bill McGovern will stay on to coach linebackers and Lou Anarumo will oversee the defensive backs, Alex Marvez of the Sporting News tweets. Anthony Blevins will also become the Giants’ assistant special teams coach after serving in that role with the Cardinals last season, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (on Twitter). McGovern coached Big Blue’s ‘backers under Ben McAdoo for the past two years. Emanuel coached the Colts’ D-line during all six of Chuck Pagano‘s years in Indianapolis, and Anarumo instructed the Dolphins’ DBs during the same time period. Anarumo also served as Miami’s interim defensive coordinator for part of 2015.
  • James Bettcher has only worked with 3-4 defenses, and the Giants have played a 4-3 look for ages. But Vacchiano doesn’t think it would mark that big of an adjustment. He writes that Olivier Vernon may be a good fit as a stand-up outside rusher. Damon Harrison would make sense as a 3-4 nose, given that he played there with the Jets. Vacchiano adds that the Giants may have to overhaul their linebacking corps to make that switch — which isn’t certain yet — work.

Coaching Rumors: Spagnuolo, Fins, Cowboys

While Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo interviewed for the position, there is an upside for him in current Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur likely accepting the team’s offer to be their next head coach. With Shurmur on board, the veteran defensive coordinator is a more likely option to stay in the role he began the 2017 season in, opines Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com.

Back in 2008, Spagnuolo hired Shurmur as his offensive coordinator when he got the Rams head coaching job. The two also have history in the Andy Reid‘s coaching tree back when the now Chiefs head coach hired both coaches out of the college ranks.

Spagnuolo does have a track record of defensive success, and while this past season was more trying, the Giants unit was one of the best in football just two years ago. Based on the coaches’ history with one another, it appears that Spagnuolo has a good shot to retain his job. But if Shurmur does decide to go in a different direction, Dunleavy throws at names like Ohio State linebackers coach Bill Davis, Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Chiefs linebackers coach Gary Gibbs that could make sense for the post.

Here’s more coaching news from around the league:

  • The Dolphins have let go of their secondary coach Lou Anarumo, per Barry Jackson the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Anarumo had been with the team since 2012. This is just one of a few changes Miami has made in regards to their coaching staff this offseason.
  • The Cowboys and Bengals have switched offensive line coaches this offseason. After Cincy hired former Dallas offensive line coach Frank Pollack to the same role, we learned today that the Cowboys have hired the guy who held that post for the Bengals in Paul Alexander, reports Alex Marvez of SiriusXM (Twitter link).
  • In other offensive line coach news, the Seahawks have brought in Mike Solari to replace Tom Cable as the primary guy handling the offensive front, according to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network (Twitter link). Solari has a history in Seattle, he served as the team’s offensive line coach from 2008-09. The team also recently hired Ken Norton Jr. to replace Kris Richard as defensive coordinator earlier today.
  • Andy Reid is adding a new face to the Chiefs coaching staff for 2018. The team has hired Jay Valai as a defense quality control coach, reports Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star (Twitter link). Perez adds that Valai will also assist the either the Chief’s defensive back of linebacker group in addition to his primary duties.