Louis Riddick

NFC East Notes: Commanders, QBs, Bieniemy, Cowboys, Smith, Saban, Giants

The Commanders centered their 2023 offseason on Sam Howell, who had played all of one game as a rookie. While the second-year passer showed some encouraging signs, the team was prepared to bench him for Jacoby Brissett late in the season. Howell did become the first Washington quarterback to go wire to wire as the starter since Kirk Cousins in 2017, but the team lost eight straight games to end the season. It remains likely the Commanders draft a QB at No. 2 overall rather than turn to Howell and perhaps another Brissett-level vet as competition, ESPN.com’s John Keim writes.

Washington held the No. 2 overall pick in 2020 but had just taken Dwayne Haskins in the 2019 first round. This effectively took them out of the Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert sweepstakes, joining the Giants (who had chosen Daniel Jones in 2019) in that regard. Washington then took Chase Young. Timing was an issue for the team then, but Howell’s presence — especially with a new owner, HC and football ops boss in town — is unlikely to represent a sufficient deterrent to impede a QB investment this year. Two years remain on Howell’s rookie contract.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • With the Commanders being the seventh team to hire a head coach, and not doing so until Feb. 1, Eric Bieniemy received confirmation he was out late during this year’s hiring period. The one-and-done Commanders OC signed a multiyear deal in 2023, and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes the former HC interview mainstay could well take a year off — as money will continue to come in from Washington — and regroup for a 2025 return to the sideline. Bieniemy, 54, may be off the HC radar; but the longtime Chiefs assistant could well resurface as an OC candidate — particularly given this position’s turnover rate in recent years — in 2025. The possibility the Chiefs bring him back, as they did Matt Nagy, also should not be discounted.
  • Over the past decade and change, the Cowboys have generally done well in the first round. They have landed a number of All-Pros — from Tyron Smith to Travis Frederick to Zack Martin to CeeDee Lamb to Micah Parsons — and a few other regular starters. Mazi Smith‘s trajectory is less certain to produce an impact player. Last year’s No. 26 overall pick played 304 defensive snaps as a rookie and logged only four in Dallas’ wild-card loss. Pro Football Focus rated the Michigan alum as one of the worst D-tackle regulars last season. The Cowboys were displeased Smith dropped around 20 pounds from his Combine weight (323) at points last season, per the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken. Drafted as a player who could potentially anchor the Cowboys’ interior D-line, Smith has work to do. The Cowboys also have starter Johnathan Hankins due for free agency in a few weeks.
  • This can be field in the “what if?” department, but as the Giants interviewed Louis Riddick for their GM job — during the cycle that produced the Dave Gettleman hire — the ESPN talent/ex-NFL exec said (h/t Empire Sports Media’s Anthony Rivardo) he reached out to Nick Saban to gauge his interest in becoming the team’s head coach. The Giants interviewed Riddick in December 2017; the ex-Monday Night Football analyst had been up for a few GM jobs around that point. Riddick was also a defensive back during Saban’s tenure under Bill Belichick in Cleveland in the early 1990s. (Saban was the Browns’ DC from 1991-94.) The Alabama icon, who retired last month, was loosely connected to the Giants’ coaching job during the cycle that produced the Ben McAdoo promotion. Saban, who coached the Dolphins for two years (2005-06) before leaving for Tuscaloosa, was not interested in the Giants’ job during the cycle that ended with the Pat Shurmur hire in 2018.

2022 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

Along with the head coaches being fired, a few NFL teams are looking for new general managers. Listed below are the GM 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 GM changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 5-24-22 (9:03pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Las Vegas Raiders

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers Continue Interviews To Replace GM Colbert

With the announcement that general manager Kevin Colbert will be stepping down after the 2022 NFL Draft, the Steelers have been working to find his eventual replacement. Today the team tweeted out three more names that interviewed for the position this week: Ravens’ director of player personnel Joe Hortiz, 49ers’ director of player personnel Ran Carthon, and Eagles’ vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the team has also interviewed their vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan, someone we had mentioned as a candidate but had not yet reported as interviewed. Schefter also listed the team’s pro scouting director Brandon Hunt as a candidate who had been interviewed. This is the first time we’ve seen Hunt’s name mentioned in the conversations to replace Colbert.

To date Pittsburgh has interviewed 12 candidates, not including ESPN analyst Louis Riddick who was reportedly scheduled to interview for the position earlier this month.

With two months until the Draft, the Steelers appear in no hurry to make a decision. They will likely continue to take their time evaluating their prospects. Be sure to follow along with the latest on our 2022 NFL General Manager Search Tracker.

Steelers To Interview Louis Riddick For GM

The search for a new general manager in Pittsburgh has led the team to Louis Riddick. The ESPN analyst is scheduled for an interview (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network).

[Related: Steelers Interview Three GM Candidates]

The 52-year-old began his front office career as a scout in Washington in 2001. He spent seven years there, then an additional six with the Eagles. The final four seasons of that time, in which he was Philadelphia’s director of pro personnel, represent his most senior job title. He has been out of the NFL since 2013, most recently working as an analyst on Monday Night Football. Last offseason, though, he received GM interest from the Lions, Texans and Jaguars.

A Pennsylvania native, Riddick played college football at Pitt, so he would certainly represent a hometown candidate to replace Kevin Colbert. He will be the fourth external candidate to interview for the role, though there are no details on when the sit-down will take place.

Here is where the Steelers’ GM search stands so far:

Latest On Joe Judge, Giants’ GM Position

The latest reporting on the matter suggests that Joe Judge will be back as the Giants’ head coach in 2022, though Judge will be required to make some changes to his offensive staff, including offensive coordinator. However, Judge may not be out of the woods just yet.

Last month, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post wrote that Judge would be back unless someone the team interviews for the soon-to-be-vacant GM post offers both a compelling reason to let Judge go and a compelling replacement for him. Even SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano’s more recent report (cited in our piece linked above) mentioned that the new GM may be given the chance to “weigh in” on Judge’s status.

In that same vein, sources from other ownership groups tell Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports that they would not be surprised if Giants co-owner John Mara decides to move on from Judge, and minority owner Steve Tisch is said to be willing to consider an organizational overhaul that includes the head coaching position. However, Mara himself has thus far remained resolute in his desire to keep Judge aboard.

When GM Dave Gettleman‘s imminent ouster was first reported back in November, it was said that his replacement would ideally have a background in the Patriots’ scouting system and would have philosophies more in line with those of Judge, an ex-New England staffer. Just a month later, though, ownership’s thinking apparently changed a bit, as Schwartz wrote that a prospective GM’s preexisting ties to Judge could actually be a detriment to that person’s candidacy. Indeed, Mara reportedly wants to know what the new GM truly thinks of Judge and does not want that opinion to be influenced by prior relationships.

As for who the new GM will be, we have heard that assistant GM Kevin Abrams is a “strong contender.” That does not come as a surprise given the Giants’ penchant to hire those with connections to the franchise, though sticking with the status quo in this instance would likely incense the Big Blue fanbase. However, Vacchiano does not see Abrams as a mere extension of Gettleman despite the many years the two execs have spent together in the New York front office, and he believes Abrams would be a worthy hire despite what fans might think.

Other candidates include Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort and Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, both of whom were with New England when Judge was there. Again, those Foxborough ties may or may not hurt Ossenfort’s and Ziegler’s case to become Giants GM, but there will be no shortage of other potential targets.

Vacchiano names former Chiefs and Browns GM John Dorsey as another candidate, and if the Giants want to go with a more experienced hand, they would be hard-pressed to do better. Fans who pay attention to front office maneuvers and the annual GM cycle will also recognize Eliot Wolf, Louis Riddick, Dave Caldwell, and Scott Pioli, who all appear on Vacchiano’s list.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (via Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post on Twitter) says Judge himself is pushing for Abrams to be promoted. As Schwartz pointed out, though, Judge might not have much say in the decision, and Dunleavy posits that Judge’s advocacy for Abrams means that old friends Ossenfort and Ziegler are not interested in the post.

Dunleavy also mentions Dawn Aponte as someone who might get an interview (Twitter link). Aponte’s name has not appeared on PFR pages since 2018, but she has served in high-ranking executive positions for the Jets, Browns, and Dolphins, and she currently works in the league office as the NFL’s chief administrator of football operations.

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team

Deshaun Watson Considering Trade Demand?

Multiple reports over the past few days have indicated that quarterback Deshaun Watson is unhappy with the Texans, and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com has thrown his hat into the ring. Mortensen says that the rumblings about Watson’s displeasure are accurate, and that Watson could even demand a trade (Twitter links).

In addition to Watson’s concerns about how the Texans’ GM search unfolded, which we have already detailed, Mortensen says the three-time Pro Bowl passer continues to be concerned about the team’s insensitivity to social justice issues. In Watson’s view, that insensitivity manifested itself in the team’s decision to not interview Chiefs’ OC Eric Bieniemy, who is black, one of the hottest head coaching candidates in this year’s cycle, and a personal favorite of Watson’s (though Mortensen clarified in a later tweet that Watson’s anger is not “strongly connected” to social justice matters and is more related to the state of the franchise).

And according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Watson is not just upset by the fact that owner Cal McNair did not consider the GM or head coaching candidates that Watson endorsed, despite assurances that he would at least take his quarterback’s opinions into account. McNair, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the search firm Korn Ferry assist with the GM and HC hunt, ultimately disregarded the firm’s GM recommendations. Korn Ferry tabbed Steelers vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick as the two most viable candidates for the GM position, but McNair instead forged ahead with Nick Caserio, whom he had been targeting for some time.

Schefter went on to say that Watson, whose anger level on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 2 when the team traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last year, is currently at a 10. While Caserio said in his introductory press conference that Watson is the Texans’ quarterback — thereby implying he would not trade him — Watson could certainly make life difficult for Caserio if he chooses to do so.

Interestingly, a Watson trade would not be as damaging to the Texans’ books as one might think, given that the Clemson product just signed a massive extension earlier this year. A trade would leave Houston with just $21.6MM in dead money for the 2021 season, and as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, multiple GMs believe the Texans could acquire up to three first-round picks in a Watson deal.

Watson does have a no-trade clause written into his new contract, but according to Mortensen, he would consider a trade to the Dolphins. Of course, Houston would have had the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft, but it traded that selection, along with its 2021 second-rounder, to Miami as part of the Laremy Tunsil swap in 2019. The Dolphins, who also hold their own first-round selection in this year’s draft (No. 18 overall) have the capital and the cap space to get a deal done.

Mortensen suggests that Tua Tagovailoa would head to Houston as part of a Watson trade, which would be a controversial and career-defining move if Caserio were to make it. Obviously, that is little more than speculation at this point, but it appears Watson’s feelings towards the Texans will be a major storyline of this offseason.

In related news, Korn Ferry named Colts DC Matt Eberflus as one of the top candidates for the Texans’ HC vacancy, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (via Twitter). McNair at least tried to interview Eberflus, but Eberflus turned down the request. Breer notes in a separate tweet that Houston is also eyeing Bills OC Brian Daboll, who has interviews lined up with the Chargers and Jets.

Jaguars To Interview Louis Riddick For GM Opening

Louis Riddick is a popular man these days. The Monday Night Football commentator, who has already interviewed for the GM openings in Houston and Detroit, will interview for the Jaguars’ GM position as well, according to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (via Twitter).

Schefter reported a few days ago that Jacksonville was interested in Riddick, but it had not yet set up a summit. If his interview with the Jags goes well, Riddick might be stepping into a very intriguing opportunity.

Thanks to the Jets’ shocking win over the Rams on Sunday, the 1-13 Jaguars now find themselves in pole position in the race for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, widely regarded as the best quarterback prospect the league has seen in a long time. Jacksonville’s next GM may very well have the chance to hitch his wagon to Lawrence, and he will also have two first-round picks and a league-leading amount of cap space at his disposal.

Jacksonville parted ways with former general manager Dave Caldwell at the end of November. Though the Jags looked to be a team on the rise after narrowly missing a Super Bowl berth in 2017, they lost double-digit games in every other season with Caldwell in the GM post. They are once again in a rebuilding phase, but Lawrence would go a long way towards accelerating that process.

The team will also have a decision to make on head coach Doug Marrone at the end of the season, and the new GM will presumably have a major say in that regard.

Louis Riddick Interviewing For Texans GM Job; Jaguars Interested

The Monday Night Football booth may see more turnover. Three of the teams that fired their GMs this season are interested in Louis Riddick, a former NFL front office executive-turned-TV analyst.

Ahead of his meeting with the Lions, Riddick is interviewing with the Texans, Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com report (on Twitter). The Texans are interviewing Riddick on Wednesday, while the Lions are scheduled to do so Friday.

The Jaguars have also expressed interest, Schefter adds (on Twitter), but have yet to schedule a meeting. The Jags fired Dave Caldwell a day after the Lions axed Bob Quinn. Both teams appear set to construct rebuilds, and one of the projects could mean ESPN again changing up its Monday-night booth.

A former NFL defensive back, Riddick worked as the Eagles’ director of player personnel from 2010-13. He spent nine years with Philadelphia. Before that, he broke into the scouting world with Washington from 2001-04. Riddick has been with ESPN for several years and joined Brian Griese and Steve Levy in the network’s latest reprise of its Monday Night Football team this season.

The Texans are using a search firm headlined by ex-coaches-turned-analysts Tony Dungy and Jimmy Johnson. They are moving on from a tumultuous GM period, with coach-GM Bill O’Brien making several splashy and scrutinized moves during his year and change in power. The Texans and 12-year GM Rick Smith parted ways after the 2017 season, and Houston employed Brian Gaine for barely a year before giving O’Brien personnel power. As a result, the Texans do not have a bevy of cornerstone players under contract beyond Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt. The latter may well be traded next year.

Jacksonville shifted front office structures during Caldwell’s tenure, using Tom Coughlin as its top decision-maker from 2017-19, but kept the former employed for nearly eight seasons. During that time, seven double-digit loss campaigns sandwiched the Jags’ outlier 2017 AFC championship game run. The next Jags GM is projected to inherit the NFL’s most cap space in 2021, and he will have two first-round picks — the first of those likely coming at No. 1 or No. 2 overall — to use to construct a rebuild.

Lions To Interview Louis Riddick

The Lions plan to interview Louis Riddick for their GM vacancy on Friday, a source tells NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Riddick, who currently works for ESPN, last worked in the NFL in 2013 in the Eagles’ front office.

Riddick is now the first known out-of-house candidate to be interviewed by the Lions. He’s best known for his time in Philly from 2005-13, including his run as the Eagles’ director of player personnel from 2010-13. Before that, he broke into the scouting world with the [Washington Football team] from 2001-04, so his executive tenure has come entirely in the NFC East.

The former NFL defensive back could now transition to the NFC North, though the Lions are expected to cast a wide net in their search. Their pool of candidates may include former Giants general manager Jerry Reese. Reese, who was fired by the G-Men in 2017, has the support from advisors to the Ford family and his predecessor Ernie Accorsi.