Matt Bazirgan

AFC Staff Updates: Bills, Patriots, Browns

In the weeks following the 2024 NFL Draft, a number of teams have made changes to their player personnel staff and scouting departments. The Bills, for example, recently announced six updates to a scouting staff that should look fairly different in the coming season.

One of the updates we had seen reported days earlier by Neil Stratton of, who reported that long-time Cardinals area scout Darius Vinnett would be accepting a similar role in Buffalo. Vinnett had been in Arizona for 11 years and had won the Rod Graves College Scouting Award, given at the conclusion of the draft to the Cardinals’ best scout, in 2022. The team also added Vince Magri as a pro scout after having served most recently as the assistant general manager of the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League.

The rest of the moves were promotions to staffers already in place. Matt Bazirgan, formerly the Bills’ senior personnel executive, has been named director of college scouting. Asil Mulbah, whose pro scout position was filled by Magri, has been promoted to assistant director of pro scouting. Keith Jennings joins Vinnett as an area scout after previously working as the team’s BLESTO scout. Lastly, R.J. Webb, previously a pro scout, will now serve as a college scout and will take up Jennings’ former role as BLESTO scout.

Here are a few other scouting updates from around the AFC:

  • After establishing Eliot Wolf as the pinnacle of their personnel structure the Patriots have made a number of alterations to their staff. According to Stratton, pro scouting director Steve Cargile and area scout Taylor Redd will not be returning for the 2024 NFL season. Cargile had been with New England since 2011, while Redd had been around since 2018, meaning both were around for the team’s most recent Super Bowl victory. Replacing Redd will be new area scout Casey Belongia, previously of the Jaguars. Belongia started his career as an equipment manager for the Packers, residing in Green Bay at the same time as Wolf.
  • Lastly, the Browns are bringing Josh Lucas back to the game as their Mid-Atlantic area scout, per Stratton. Lucas had spent the past two years away from the game of football after serving as the Bears director of player personnel. Prior to his time in Chicago, Lucas had been an area scout for the Saints for 10 years and an intern in Jacksonville.

Bills Promote Brian Gaine To Assistant GM

After losing Brandon Beane‘s previous right-hand man to the Giants, the Bills will turn to a former general manager to fill that post. Ex-Texans GM Brian Gaine will now be Beane’s second-in-command.

Gaine will replace Joe Schoen as Buffalo’s assistant GM, while Terrance Gray will rise to the role of player personnel director. The latter has been with the team since Beane’s arrival in 2017. After nearly five years in the assistant GM chair, Schoen became the Giants’ GM in January.

For Gaine, this marks his highest-profile position since the Texans’ surprising decision to fire him after barely a year. Houston hired Gaine from Buffalo in 2018, when he replaced longtime GM Rick Smith. But the team soon turned to then-HC Bill O’Brien, who took on de facto GM responsibilities during a rocky stretch to close out his tenure with the organization. Gaine finished just one season as Houston’s GM but resurfaced in Buffalo soon after.

This marks Gray’s second promotion in three offseasons. Hired as the Bills’ director of college scouting in 2017, the ex-Vikings exec became the team’s assistant player personnel director in 2020. After beginning his personnel career with the Chiefs in 2003, Gray spent 11 seasons as a Vikings scout. Given Schoen’s exit and the Bills’ rise during Beane’s tenure, it would not surprise to see Gray appear in GM searches soon.

Recent hire Matt Bazirgan, who was with Gaine in Houston, will work as a senior personnel exec. Bazirgan spent time as Gaine’s top Texans lieutenant. The team also promoted Mike Szabo to a national college scout role. Szabo stands to move into a post vacated by ex-Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey, who joined Schoen’s Giants staff last month.

NFL Staff Notes: Texans, Ravens, Falcons, Panthers

The Texans hired D.J. Debick away from the Patriots this weekend, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Debick served in New England as a Midwest area scout, but, in Houston, he’ll have a bit more responsibility in the role of assistant director of pro scouting.

Debick is likely a replacement for former co-assistant of director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan, who departed earlier this month to join the Bills as a senior personnel executive.

Here are a few other staff moves from around the NFL, starting with a promotion up in Charm City:

  • The Ravens recently announced the promotion of David Blackburn, according to Wilson. Blackburn joined the Ravens in 2007 as an area scout, getting promoted to national scout in 2020. Blackburn’s most recent promotion places him in the position of director of college scouting, a huge move from where he started 15 years ago with Baltimore.
  • ESPN’s Seth Walder reports that John Taormina is no longer with the Falcons. Taormina joined Atlanta back in 2015 as a football analyst, working his way through a few promotions to his most recent position of director of football data & analytics. Taormina had served in the position for 11 months before parting ways with the team earlier this week.
  • The Panthers made an interesting staff move this week, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic, moving former-communications assistant Jordan Trgovac into a role in the team’s scouting department. Her role will assist with both college and pro scouting. Jordan is the daughter of former Panthers defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac, who has been a senior defensive assistant with the Raiders for the last three years.

Bills To Hire Texans’ Matt Bazirgan

After seeing assistant general manager Joe Schoen become the Giants’ GM, the Bills recently lost exec Dennis Hickey to the Giants as well. Amid the subtractions, Buffalo added to its front office this week.

The Bills are hiring Texans co-assistant director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan, according to Aaron Wilson of (on Twitter). Bazirgan spent four years with the Texans; he will join the Bills as a senior personnel exec. He will reunite with ex-Texans GM Brian Gaine, who has worked on Brandon Beane‘s Bills staff since 2019.

A Jets exec for nearly 15 years, Bazirgan joined the Texans’ front office shortly after the 2018 draft. This move came ahead of a turbulent period for the Texans, who soon pivoted to a Bill O’Brien– and Jack Easterby-led operation. The Texans fired Gaine barely a year into his GM tenure, and while Bazirgan stayed on under current GM Nick Caserio for over a year, he will rejoin his former boss in Buffalo.

Bazirgan, who interviewed for the Texans’ GM job late in 2020, worked as Gaine’s right-hand man during the latter’s short GM tenure and also provided a leadership presence with the team’s college and pro scouting departments. He worked with the Jets for 14 years and rose to a college scouting director post with the AFC East franchise.

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

Texans Interview Matt Bazirgan For GM Job

The Texans’ GM search will include internal candidates. Texans director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan interviewed for the franchise’s vacant GM post on Tuesday.

This would be a long-shot hire, with Bazirgan having arrived in Houston during Brian Gaine‘s short tenure as GM. But he represented part of Houston’s post-Gaine power structure and had a voice in personnel matters.

Prior to Bazirgan joining the Texans in 2018, he spent nearly 15 years with the Jets. Working his way up to New York’s college scouting director by the end of his tenure, Bazirgan has steadily risen since his 2004 NFL entrance as a scouting assistant.

The Texans fired Bill O’Brien in October and are looking to make their third GM hire since 2018. Rick Smith‘s exit after a 12-year tenure led to Gaine, who barely spent a year on the job. O’Brien’s tenure produced fireworks but will leave his successor without much in the way of draft capital. The Texans have interviewed Louis Riddick for this position and remain interested in Patriots exec Nick Caserio as well, but they are covering their bases with the Bazirgan interview.

Texans To Remain Without GM In 2020

Though the Texans failed in their efforts to hire Patriots exec Nick Caserio as their GM this spring, recent reports indicated that Houston — which has operated without a GM in 2019 — would simply hire Caserio in 2020, when his contract with New England is up. However, that no longer appears to be the case.

Per Ian Rapoport of, the Texans plan to go without a true GM in 2020 as well. Currently, head coach Bill O’Brien has final say over football operations, though he works closely with vice president of team development Jack Easterby in that regard. Meanwhile, VP of Football Administration, Chris Olsen, handles contracts and salary cap matters, and Matt Bazirgan is in charge of player personnel.

The Texans are sitting at 7-4 and are in the driver’s seat for the AFC South title, so as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests, owner Cal McNair simply may be saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But while the major personnel moves the club has made without a GM — trading two first-round picks for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills and trading a third-round pick for Duke Johnson, for example — have worked out relatively well in the short term, they will significantly handicap the team down the road. Those moves, combined with the team’s misplay of the Jadeveon Clowney situation, suggest to Florio that the Texans really do need a GM.

Indeed, the club interviewed GM candidates after the Caserio fiasco before electing to move forward with its current power structure. It could be that, given their dearth of high-end draft capital and the outside uncertainty as to how much power Easterby would wield over a new GM, the Texans may have a tough time attracting top candidates, so they will simply forego making the effort for now.

Whoever is calling the shots in 2020 will need to engage in extension talks with star QB Deshaun Watson, which may be tough to navigate with a true GM.

Texans Rumors: Clowney, O’Brien, Ossenfort

Here’s the latest on the Texans:

  • The Texans do not expect Jadeveon Clowney to report to camp, Tom Pelissero of reports (video link). Still, there is reason to believe that he will not miss any regular season games. Pelissero hears that Clowney is studying his playbook and is still in regular contact with teammates, which isn’t the behavior of someone planning an extended holdout. One source close to Clowney even said he’d be “shocked” if the edge rusher was not on the field for Week 1.
  • The Texans’ reconfigured front office has head coach Bill O’Brien on top, Albert Breer of The MMQB writes. For now, everything will run through him in an operation that is likely to mirror New England’s. The rest of the plan goes like this: chief negotiator Chris Olsen will oversee the cap, director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan will handle pro scouting, college scouting director James Liipfert will do exactly what his title states, and EVP Jack Easterby will continue to have a jack-of-all-trades role.
  • On a related note, Breer hears that O’Brien liked New England college scouting director Monti Ossenfort as a GM candidate. Still, it sounds like the Texans are still waiting things out until they can land Nick Caserio.

Texans Won’t Hire GM For 2019

For now, the Texans’ GM job will remain vacant, as Adam Schefter of tweets. Rather than hiring a GM for 2019, the Texans will divvy up the responsibilities among Matt Bazirgan, James Liipfert, Chris Olsen and Jack Easterby.

The Texans fired Brian Gaine earlier this summer in an attempt to quickly replace him with Patriots executive Nick Caserio. The Patriots blocked the move and accused Easterby of tampering with the under-contract employee at the Pats’ ring ceremony.

The inclusion of Easterby in the Texans’ upper management is noteworthy and a bit surprising. Easterby previously served as the Patriots’ chaplain before earning the title of Executive Vice President of Team Development in Houston. Now, it appears that he is wielding more influence than ever.

It has been widely speculated that the Texans are simply biding their time until Caserio’s contract with New England expires. Still, there’s a long way to go between now and the 2020 offseason and things can always change.

Texans Hire Jets Exec As Player Personnel Director

After firing several members of their scouting department earlier this week, the Texans are quickly assembling their new-look scouting branch.

The franchise will bring aboard Matt Bazirgan from the Jets, and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports he will serve as the Texans’ director of player personnel. The Jets granted Bazirgan permission to speak with the Texans.

Bazirgan joins former Patriots exec James Liipfert as new Texans hires, with the latter now in place as Houston’s director of college scouting. The Texans will also bring aboard former Cardinals scout John Ritcher, Wilson reports. Ritcher will become Houston’s southeast regional scout, per Wilson, after spending six years with the Cards.

Bazirgan, who looks set to assume some of former interim GM and VP of player personnel Jimmy Raye III‘s responsibilities, served as the Jets’ director of pro personnel for the past three years. Wilson adds Bazirgan has a strong reputation as a talent evaluator in NFL circles. He spent 14 years with the Jets.