Mike Shula

AFC Coaching Notes: Titans, Jets, Bills, Steelers, Raiders, Patriots

After parting ways with the Panthers early this year, former NFL linebacker Chase Blackburn has joined the Titans as the team’s assistant special teams coach. After playing ten years in the NFL for the Giants and Panthers, Blackburn transitioned into the coaching world working his way up to the role of the Panthers’ special teams coordinator, a position he held for four seasons.

Panthers’ head coach Matt Rhule initially retained Blackburn from former head coach Ron Rivera‘s staff, but fired him this January. He finds second life with fellow former NFL linebacker and current Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel. Additionally, after season-long tryouts, the Titans have promoted Clint McMillan (defensive line assistant) and Kylan Butler (offensive assistant) to full time positions.

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

  • The Jets announced a series of assistant coach hirings including Ben Wilkerson and Dan Shamash. Wilkerson moves from one New York team to another, taking the same position as assistant offensive line coach on head coach Robert Saleh‘s staff. Shamash is a New York native that returns to the tri-state area after five seasons as the Chargers’ assistant tight ends coach to become the Jets’ situational football/game management coordinator. He’s worked with Saleh before in Jacksonville.
  • Elsewhere in New York, the Bills announced that they’ve added Mike Shula as a senior offensive assistant. The former college head coach and NFL offensive coordinator spent the past two seasons in Denver as the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach. They also announced the promotion of Eric Washington. The Bills’ defensive line coach of the past two seasons will have the title of senior defensive assistant added to his billing.
  • The Steelers announced the hiring of their new assistant line coach earlier this month. Isaac Williams joins the NFL coaching ranks after years in college football. Williams has been the offensive line coach at North Carolina Central University (2021), Morgan State (2018-20), and Northern Colorado (2016-17).
  • Las Vegas has hired former college coaching assistant Frederick Walker as a new offensive assistant assigned to work with quarterbacks, according to Myles Simmons of NBC Sports. Walker most recently worked as the quarterbacks coach for the UMass Minutemen. His time in the college ranks saw him working with Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones at Duke University as well as Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott during his time at Mississippi State. He’ll work underneath new head coach Josh McDaniels and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi to assist Derek Carr and company on their road back to consecutive playoff seasons.
  • After being passed up by Matt Groh for the director of player personnel promotion, Eliot Wolf was announced as the Patriots’ new director of scouting on Friday, a promotion from his previous title of front office consultant. According to Wilson, the team also announced that Camren Williams would be named college scouting director.

AFC West Notes: Broncos, Staff, Raiders

Entering the season on one of the hottest seats among the current crop of head coaches, Vic Fangio has overseen an up-and-down slate. After starting 3-0, the Broncos lost four straight. They have since rebounded with back-to-back wins, despite significant injury issues. This midseason stretch certainly has helped Fangio’s case for a fourth season in Denver, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes that George Paton is fond of the John Elway-hired HC not necessarily looking to bring in his own leader. While the Broncos have endured several blowout losses during Fangio’s three-year tenure, it appears the defensive-minded leader has a decent chance of saving his job. Paton did say recently the team must play better offensively, potentially putting Pat Shurmur‘s job in question. The Broncos rank 18th offensively but averaged just 16 points per game during their four-game losing streak.

Here is more from Denver and the latest from around the AFC West:

  • The Rams came through with the best offer for Von Miller, but there was at least one more offer including a Day 2 pick. During the low-key Miller sweepstakes, the Rams believed another team offered the Broncos a Day 2 pick and was willing to absorb Miller’s salary, per Nick Kosmider and Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic (subscription required). This motivated the Rams to include a second Day 2 selection in their offer, and Paton essentially bought that pick by agreeing to pick up $9MM of Miller’s remaining salary. The Rams are only responsible for $700K of that total. The Cardinals and Cowboys were believed to be the other teams in on Miller.
  • In a turbulent stretch for the Raiders, more troubling signs were present ahead of Damon Arnette‘s exit. During the first-rounder’s rookie season, he crashed four rental cars within roughly a month-long span, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Arnette, whom the Raiders waived after he appeared in a video threatening someone with a gun, has seen a car accident result in a lawsuit. The Ohio State product is facing multiple lawsuits, one for a car accident that resulted in injuries. The Raiders moved on from both their 2020 first-round picks — Arnette and Henry Ruggs — in a week’s time.
  • Mike Shula will indeed call plays for the Broncos this week, the Broncos announced. Second-year offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will not be with the team after testing positive for COVID-19. Shula last called plays when he served as the Panthers’ OC from 2013-17. He has spent the past four seasons working with Shurmur, holding the posts of Giants OC and Broncos QBs coach in that span.
  • Mark Davis said recently the Jon Gruden emails being leaked during the season created a major issue for the Raiders, who parted ways with the embattled head coach last month. Davis said the NFL may have known about these emails for months and that the Raiders being forced into an offseason coaching change would have obviously been easier, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Gruden has since sued the NFL and Roger Goodell.
  • Tight end Jace Sternberger worked out for the Broncos on Friday, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. A 2019 Packers third-round pick, Sternberger bounced from Green Bay to Seattle to Washington this year. He is now on the workout circuit, battling to stay on the NFL radar. The former Texas A&M standout has not played this season and has 12 career receptions.
  • Andy Reid made a pitch to Odell Beckham Jr., but the Chiefs could not convince the veteran wide receiver to sign on. Kansas City was one of at least seven teams to pursue Beckham, who signed with the Rams on Thursday.

Broncos OC Pat Shurmur In COVID-19 Protocols, Unlikely To Coach In Week 10

Coming off their best performance of the season, the Broncos are unlikely to have their play-caller for Week 10’s follow-up effort. Pat Shurmur is in the team’s COVID-19 protocols, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter).

Denver’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons, Shurmur is not expected to be with the team when it faces the Eagles on Sunday. This opens a clear play-calling void for the Broncos, who have won two straight to reach 5-4. Shurmur tested positive for COVID-19, Vic Fangio said Friday.

Shurmur’s former lieutenant with the Giants, Mike Shula, looms as a clear prospect to call plays. Shula has been the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach for the past two seasons. While Shula served as Shurmur’s OC with the Giants from 2018-19, he spent the previous five seasons calling the Panthers’ plays as their OC. With that stint including Carolina’s 15-1 season, Shula certainly makes sense as an emergency play-caller here.

Shula will relay plays to Teddy Bridgewater, per Fangio (via 9News’ Mike Klis, on Twitter). It should then be expected the former OC will call plays Sunday, though Fangio said Friday he is not certain who will do so.

The Broncos also have former head coach Mike Munchak as their offensive line coach and ex-OC Curtis Modkins coaching running backs, giving the team other options for Sunday. The Broncos certainly will not be the first to go into a game without their play-caller due to COVID, with the Browns and Cardinals having also done so since the pandemic began.

Denver has run into a few coronavirus issues recently, one of which sidelining Noah Fant for last week’s game in Dallas. Fant and guard Netane Muti are off the team’s COVID list, though linebacker Justin Strnad, offensive lineman Austin Schlottmann and IR-stationed cornerback Michael Ojemudia were placed on the list this week. Drew Lock also tested positive in Dallas and flew back to Denver separately Sunday.

Coaching/Front Office Notes: Browns, Broncos, Giants, Titans, Panthers, Dolphins

When previous frontrunner George Paton removed himself from consideration for the Browns’ general manager vacancy, there were reports that he had concerns about Cleveland’s power structure. That might’ve been a bit overblown, as sources told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that Paton was “not at all scared off by Browns’ structure” (Twitter link). Further, Fowler writes that Paton was “impressed with people in the building and thinks highly of” new head coach Kevin Stefanski, while it came down to the fact that he “felt he had a good thing still going in Minnesota.” Paton is currently an assistant GM with the Vikings. That’s good news for Browns fans, but the earlier reports are still concerning. Stefanski, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, and whoever the new GM is will all be reporting directly to owner Jimmy Haslam, which understandably turns off some prospective candidates.

Here’s more from the coaching ranks:

  • We heard Mike Shula’s interview with the Broncos went well, and now he’s about to be hired. Shula is going to become Denver’s next quarterbacks coach, the team is just working out contract details, a source told Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link). Specifically, Klis writes that offsets with the Giants still need to be worked out. Shula had been the Giants’ offensive coordinator before Pat Shurmur was fired, and there was apparently offset language in his contract. Prior to joining New York, Shula was the Panthers’ OC for five seasons. Shurmur has since been hired as Denver’s offensive play-caller, so obviously there’s a lot of familiarity here.
  • Speaking of former Giants coaches, New York’s former head coach Ben McAdoo left his visit with the Browns without a deal, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). Garafolo notes that it is still unclear exactly what role McAdoo was interviewing for in Cleveland. Garafolo also writes he was “in play” to be Carolina’s new quarterbacks coach.
  • Jason Garrett is re-teaming with one of his guys. The new Giants offensive coordinator will be paired back up with Marc Colombo, who is going to be New York’s new offensive line coach, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. Colombo had been Garrett’s O-line coach in Dallas. The Cowboys routinely had one of the league’s best offensive lines, so this seems like a strong hire.
  • Legendary assistant Dean Pees elected to retire as the Titans’ defensive coordinator, leaving Mike Vrabel with a big hole on his staff. The “expectation in [the] coaching community” is that Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen will be promoted to DC, per Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL (Twitter link). Bowen had previously served as a defensive assistant with the Texans, so he has deep ties to Vrabel.
  • Rookie Panthers head coach Matt Rhule continues to fill out his inaugural staff, and he just made a couple of new hires. Rhule is expected to hire Pat Meyer away from the Chargers as his offensive line coach, and Jason Simmons away from the Packers as his defensive backs coach, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Meyer had been Los Angeles’ OL coach and run-game coordinator, while Simmons coached the Packers’ DBs. Rhule’s staff is now almost fully fleshed out.
  • Finally, the Dolphins are hiring a new defensive backs coach in Gerald Alexander, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald tweets. Alexander is coming from the college ranks, where he served as the defensive backs coach at Cal for the past few seasons. Alexander was briefly with the Dolphins as a safety during his playing days back in 2011. Miami had the vacancy after they promoted Josh Boyer to defensive coordinator following Patrick Graham’s departure.

Broncos Notes: Shula, Bolles, Harris

Mike Shula met with Broncos head coach Vic Fangio about the team’s QB coach vacancy, reports Troy Renck of Denver7 (via Twitter). While the two sides didn’t agree to deal, the meeting went well and Shula is considered the favorite for the gig.

Shula was the Giants’ OC for the last two years under Pat Shurmur, and he interviewed to keep his gig on Joe Judge’s new staff. Shula helped in the development of quarterback Daniel Jones, who showed promise at times in 2019. On the other hand, the Giants offense struggled as a whole during Shula’s tenure, as the club went 9-23 over the last two seasons.

Former Broncos QBs coach Rich Scangarello was fired on January 10. The Broncos are looking to reinvent their offense under new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

Let’s check out some more news out of Denver…

  • Nose tackle Shelby Harris has hired Drew Rosenhaus for representation, the agent announced on Twitter. Following a career year, the 28-year-old is set to hit free agency this offseason. Harris set career-highs across the board this season, finishing with 49 tackles and six sacks in 16 games (16 starts). The former seventh-rounder was slapped with a second-round restricted free agent tender last offseason.
  • The Broncos are going to be busy this offseason, but it sounds like the organization will be patient when it comes to left tackle Garett Bolles. General manager John Elway said the team will take its time as they determine whether they should pick up the former first-rounder’s fifth-year option. “We’ll wait,” Elway said (via the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran on Twitter). “There’s no sense doing it early. We’re not going to do it until May. We’ll see when we get there where we are.” As Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com points out, Bolles has been flagged 32 times for holding throughout his career, but the organization has also been fond of his durability.
  • We learned yesterday that the Broncos had moved on from “salary cap guru/contract negotiator” Mike Sullivan.

Giants Interview Mike Shula

New Giants head coach Joe Judge interviewed incumbent offensive coordinator Mike Shula for the same job on his staff, sources tell Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Shula was the Giants’ OC for the last two years under Pat Shurmur and he’ll have a chance to stick under Judge.

[Poll: Which NFL Team Made The Best HC Hire?]

Shula helped in the development of quarterback Daniel Jones, who showed promise at times in 2019. On the other hand, the Giants offense has struggled as a whole during Shula’s tenure and the club went 9-23 over the last two seasons.

Over the weekend, Judge hired Patrick Graham away from the Dolphins to serve as his defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. We also recently learned that Judge’s deal with the G-Men is for five years – they hope he’ll last the full length of the contract, since the Giants’ last couple of coaches only lasted two years.

Falcons To Interview Bevell, Dorsey

The Falcons are interviewing multiple free agent coaches for their vacant quarterbacks coach position. Recently fired assistants Darrell Bevell and Ken Dorsey are set to interview for the post, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Bevell has spent the past 12 seasons as an offensive coordinator, with the Vikings from 2006-10 and Seahawks from 2011-17. He will interview for this lower-level perch nonetheless. Mike Shula won’t, however, with Ledbetter reporting the ex-Panthers offensive coordinator wants to catch on as an OC somewhere else.

The Falcons also interviewed Greg Knapp and Jedd Fisch for this job, one that’s becoming quite the competition. The Falcons already announced Steve Sarkisian will return for a second season as OC, and the team looks set to add a big name to work under him.

These coaches are vying to replace Bush Hamdan, who left at season’s end to become OC at the University of Washington.

Bevell last worked as a QBs coach from 2003-05, when he oversaw Brett Favre‘s work with the Packers. Dorsey coached Panthers passers from 2013-17. Bevell and Quinn worked together as coordinators in Seattle from 2013-14.

Panthers Fire OC Mike Shula

The Panthers announced that offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey have been fired. Mike Shula (vertical)

Shula spent the past seven seasons with the team, working as quarterbacks coach for two seasons before becoming offensive coordinator in 2013. Last year, Carolina finished 19th in total offense (323.7), 17th in offensive DVOA, fourth in rushing offense (131.4), 28th in passing (192.3), and 12th in points (22.7). Ultimately, it wasn’t good enough as the Panthers were eliminated in the first stage of the playoffs.

Dorsey has been the Panthers’ QBs coach for the last five seasons. Although he has groomed Cam Newton into one of the league’s finest quarterbacks, the Panthers believe that they can do better.

The staff shakeup comes just days after a multi-year extension for head coach Ron Rivera. Between the firing of Shula and Dorsey and the likely departure of Steve Wilks, the Panthers will see serious turnover in 2018.

The Panthers join the Bears, Browns, Packers, and Giants as teams in search of a new offensive coordinator.

Coaching Notes: Panthers, Bears, 49ers, Jets

After going 15-1 and losing the Super Bowl last season, the Panthers have taken a huge step back in 2016. The team enters the final week of the season with a 6-9 record, and both the offense and the defense rank towards the bottom half of the league in several team stats.

Despite the struggles, coach Ron Rivera indicated that he isn’t anticipating any changes to his coaching staff…as long as it’s his decision.

“Remember, it’s the same group that was 15-1, same group that led the league in scoring,” Rivera told Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “And in the last five years, we’ve had a top-10 defense. So as I look it and break things down, yeah, there’s some things that we have to work on and change. You guys heard me talk about evolving. We have to.”

As Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com points out, Rivera hasn’t stuck to similar promises in the past. For instance, the team relieved special teams coach Richard Rodgers of his duties following the 2014 campaign. Gantt believes that offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey could find themselves on the hot seat.

Let’s take a look at some other coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Things haven’t gone as planned during John Fox‘s second season with the Bears. The team is looking to avoid their worst 16-game record in franchise history, and blame will naturally lie on the head coach. Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune writes that chairman George McCaskey will likely wait until the end of the season to make any decisions on his coaching staff’s fate. Campbell notes that the organization waited until the 2014 offseason to fire general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman.
  • Eric Branch of SFGate.com wonders if head coach Chip Kelly‘s unwillingness to adjust his fast-paced gameplan could ultimately lead to his demise with the 49ers. As the writer notes, the coach wasn’t necessarily put in a position to succeed with a lack of talent on the roster. However, Campbell believes the coach’s devotion to his gameplan could come up during offseason discussions with CEO Jed York and a new general manager (assuming Trent Baalke is fired). For what it’s worth, Kelly hasn’t indicated that he’s willing to change his ways. “I think we always look at everything on a weekly basis trying to see how we can improve,” Kelly said following his team’s overtime loss to the Jets in early December. “You look at the game yesterday: It’s about making one more play than the other team. It’s not like we’re getting taken to the woodshed and don’t have an opportunity to compete and play.”
  • Jets head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan are expected to receive a “mulligan” from owner Woody Johnson for the team’s subpar performance this season, writes ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. The writer acknowledges that it’s been a tough year for the organization, but he also notes that it’d be a knee-jerk reaction to fire the tandem after only two seasons.

NFC South Notes: Saints, Norman, Shula

Saints offensive tackle Terron Armstead and defensive tackle John Jenkins will see their salaries increase by nearly $1MM apiece for 2016, based on the proven performance escalator clause in their rookie contracts, writes Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Both players had been slated to earn a base salary of about $700K, but will now make $1.696MM each.

Let’s round up a few more of today’s items from out of the NFC South:

  • The Panthers may end up using the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman this winter, which could postpone a lucrative, long-term extension for at least a few months. However, as Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) outlines, it’s just a matter of time until Norman lands that big, multiyear deal.
  • In a separate video for Bleacher Report, Cole wonders if Mike Shula‘s lack of an agent could hinder his chances of landing a head coaching job. The Panthers offensive coordinator didn’t draw much interest last month from the seven teams conducting head coaching searches, despite Carolina’s success this season.
  • Drew Brees turned 37 years old last month, and is entering the final year of his contract, but the Saints don’t need to find his replacement quite yet, says Mike Triplett of ESPN.com.
  • Improving team speed, particularly at linebacker, will be a main focus for Falcons head coach Dan Quinn this winter, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Within his piece, McClure takes a look at some fast, athletic linebacker prospects who may catch Atlanta’s eye as the draft approaches.