Mike Westhoff

Broncos To Hire Ben Kotwica As ST Coordinator; Mike Westhoff To Join Staff

While the Broncos are still searching for their new offensive and defensive coordinators, they are making a coordinator hire Friday. The team is set to add Ben Kotwica as its special teams boss, JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington tweets.

Kotwica has been a special teams coach in the NFL since 2007. He most recently worked as the Vikings’ assistant special teams coach, moving to Minnesota after Kevin O’Connell took over. Kotwica has not worked for Sean Payton previously, but he will head up a staff with a familiar name.

Payton’s Mike Westhoff meeting is expected to produce a hire. The Broncos and Westhoff have agreed to terms, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com tweets. Westhoff has been on Denver’s radar for a bit, having resided on Payton’s New Orleans staff from 2017-18. He has been retired since, however.

Kotwica, 48, and Westhoff, 75, were on Rex Ryan‘s Jets staff together. The latter worked as Gang Green’s ST coordinator during that period, overlapping with Kotwica from 2007-12. Kotwica took over as the Jets’ ST boss in 2013, after Westhoff’s exit, and headed up Washington and Atlanta’s ST staffs from 2014-20. Despite being out of coaching since the Bills fired him during the 2016 sea son, Ryan has become a frontrunner for the Broncos’ DC job. He would have some familiar coworkers on staff.

Westhoff, who has been in coaching since 1974. He has been an NFL special teams coordinator since 1986, enjoying lengthy tenures with the Dolphins and Jets. A Don Shula hire in Miami back in 1986, Westhoff coached the Dolphins’ special teams for 15 seasons. He then headed up the Jets’ for 12 years. He will be the second former ST coordinator the Broncos have brought out of retirement in two years. Denver hired Jerry Rosburg in September to oversee game management, after concerning issues early in the season. Rosburg ended up finishing the season as the Broncos’ interim HC.

On his first day in charge, Rosburg fired Broncos ST coordinator Dwayne Stukes. Veteran NFL reporter Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings slotted the Broncos 25th. While the Eagles and Chiefs ranked 31st and 32nd this past season, respectively, those squads had considerably more to fall back on compared to the Broncos.

Coaching Notes: Pleasant, Curry, Broncos

A defensive coordinator interviewee earlier this decade, Aubrey Pleasant was without a job midway through last season. The Lions fired the veteran assistant, leading to a Packers move. But the former Rams assistant is coming back to Los Angeles. The Rams are rehiring Pleasant to be their defensive backs coach and defensive pass-game coordinator, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The sides have been talking about the job for about a month, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets.

Both the Saints and Vikings interviewed Pleasant for their DC positions in 2021, shortly after he had taken a job as the Lions’ secondary coach. But the Lions fired him in October. The Packers, who have ex-Rams staffer Joe Barry in place as DC, hired him as a consultant to close out the season. Pleasant, who has been in the NFL for 10 seasons, will return to a Rams organization that previously had him in place as its cornerbacks coach from 2017-20. In addition to Pleasant, the Rams are adding Mike Harris as their assistant DBs coach, Rodrigue adds (on Twitter). Harris spent the past two years as a Bears offensive assistant.

Here is the latest from the coaching ranks:

  • The Broncos’ lone known offensive coordinator candidate thus far, Ronald Curry will not be moving. The Saints will retain their quarterbacks coach, Aaron Wilson of KPRC tweets. Curry, a former Sean Payton hire, interviewed for both the Buccaneers and Broncos’ OC positions. As Denver will continue its search, Tampa Bay hired Dave Canales earlier this week. A former NFL wideout, Curry has been with the Saints since 2016.
  • While multiple former Payton assistants connected to a reunion will not be heading to Denver, former Saints special teams coach Mike Westhoff will meet with his former boss tweeted about his upcoming Broncos meeting. Westhoff, 75, has been retired since 2019 but was rumored to be a candidate to join Payton in Denver. He worked for the Saints from 2017-18 but enjoyed long tenures (with the Dolphins and Jets) previously. In addition to former Saints coaches, Payton has been connected to coaches out of the league. Rex Ryan is favored to be the next Broncos DC, though interviews are ongoing, and Mike Zimmer has surfaced as a possible Broncos assistant option.
  • Canales will bring a Seahawks assistant to Tampa. The Bucs are hiring Brad Idzik to be their wide receivers coach, John Schneider said during a radio interview (via Seahawks.com’s John Boyle, on Twitter). Idzik previously worked as the Seahawks’ assistant wideouts coach. This marks a return trip for Idzik, who is the son of former Bucs front office bastion (and ex-Jets GM) John Idzik. The younger Idzik had been with the Seahawks since 2019.
  • The Raiders will greenlight a reunion as well, hiring Matt Lombardi to be their assistant wide receivers coach, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). Matt Lombardi is the younger brother of Raiders OC Mick Lombardi and the son of former Raiders exec (and Browns GM) Michael Lombardi. Matt Lombardi spent the past three years with the Panthers, being one of Matt Rhule‘s hires.
  • Staying with the family theme, the Giants have added Brian Daboll‘s son to their staff. Christian Daboll will work as an offensive assistant in New York, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News tweets. Christian Daboll had previously worked as a student assistant at Penn State. Although the Giants have the younger Daboll listed as a staff member, they have not announced the hire.

Broncos To Interview Ronald Curry For OC

After some early work on his defensive coordinator position, Sean Payton is moving on his OC pursuit. The first candidate, unsurprisingly, worked with the new Broncos HC in New Orleans.

The Broncos have set up an interview with Saints quarterbacks coach Ronald Curry, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com notes. Curry, who coached with Payton from 2016-21, is also in consideration for the Buccaneers’ OC job. Payton deciding on Denver could make a difference for the former NFL wide receiver.

Entering the coaching ranks on Jim Harbaugh‘s 49ers staff back in 2014, Curry moved up the ladder under Payton. The Saints promoted Curry to wide receivers coach in 2018 and to QBs coach in 2021. Dennis Allen kept him on in that role in 2022. Regardless of Curry’s contract status, the Saints could not block him from joining the Broncos as OC due to the promotion it would entail. Curry, a quarterback at North Carolina, played seven seasons as a Raiders wideout in the 2000s.

Curry’s promotion came shortly after Drew Brees‘ retirement, and the Saints — who had previously enjoyed one of the longest-tenured starting QBs in NFL history — have started five over the past two seasons. The team benched Jameis Winston following an early-season injury, sticking with Andy Dalton the rest of the way. Despite not being a regular starter since his Bengals tenure wrapped in 2019, Dalton ranked ninth in passer rating. Curry just finished working as the National Team’s play-caller at the Senior Bowl.

Payton is expected to call plays in Denver. The Broncos went through three play-callers this past season; OC Justin Outten represented the last of those. While the Broncos put up multiple barriers to keep DC Ejiro Evero, they allowed Outten to interview for the Ravens’ OC post early. That points to the former Packers assistant not being in the team’s plans any longer. Outten has spoken with the Ravens twice about their OC job. Eventually let out of his Broncos contract, Evero is now the Panthers’ DC.

The Broncos are expected to bring in Saints staffer Zach Strief and have Declan Doyle on the radar for a Louisiana-to-Colorado move. Payton has also made an offer to Saints assistant Kevin Petry, according to Duncan. Petry has worked as an operations assistant with the Saints for the past six years. Payton is also interested in bringing Mike Westhoff out of retirement, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. Westhoff, 75, worked as a special teams assistant in New Orleans from 2017-18 but has not coached since. He previously enjoyed long tenures with the Jets (2001-12) and Dolphins (1986-2000) and has been in coaching since 1974. The Broncos are also interested in ex-Saints co-DC Kris Richard and longtime offensive staffer Dan Roushar, whom the team fired last month.

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Carroll, Foster, Saints

Appearing on Dave Dameshek’s podcast, Cliff Avril said that following the Seahawks‘ loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, Pete Carroll started losing the trust of his players. The former Seattle defensive end said “a lot of guys got turned off” when the head coach opted for a potential game-winning pass instead of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch.

Of course, we know what happened next. With the ball at the one-yard line, quarterback Russell Wilson ended up throwing a game-deciding interception to New England cornerback Malcolm Butler.

“If we win that Super Bowl I think we would have won another one,” Avril said (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “I do think the team would have bought in more to what Coach Carroll was saying, instead of going the opposite way.

“Guys started kind of questioning him more instead of following his lead if we had won the Super Bowl.”

The Seahawks ended up losing in the divisional round during the 2015 and 2016 playoffs, and they failed to make the postseason in 2017. The team ultimately let go of a number of veterans this offseason.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner has left Athletes First and is without an agent, reports Liz Mullen SportsBusiness Daily (via Twitter). Wagner signed a four-year, $43MM extension (about $22MM guaranteed) with the Seahawks back in 2016, and he still has two years remaining on that deal.
  • According to Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Hays Webb, 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster had “several months of clean drug screen results” during his pre-trial diversion program (via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch on Twitter). Foster ultimately completed the program. In this past week, Foster has seen both of his offseason arrests lead to dismissed cases. Yesterday, the former first-rounder had a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge dismissed, and we learned earlier this week that he wouldn’t be charged in a domestic violence case.
  • The Saints are still hoping that special teams coach Mike Westhoff will return to the organization after he successfully completes recovery from offseason surgery, according to Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. The 70-year-old underwent surgery for “an issue from his hip all the way down his leg,” and he’s yet to return to New Orleans. Sean Payton had previously expressed some optimism in Westhoff’s return, but he also said he didn’t expect the coach to come back until training camp. After retiring in 2012, Payton convinced Westhoff to return to the NFL towards the end of last season.

Saints Notes: Fairley, Kelemete, Kuhn, Line

After missing the entire 2017 season as a result of a heart ailment, free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley wants to play during the upcoming campaign, tweets Nick Underhill of the Advocate. The Saints, who inked Fairley to a four-year deal last offseason but released him last month, are not expected to be involved in a potential Fairley pursuit, per Underhill. Fairley was an excellent interior defender at full strength, but it’s unclear if any NFL club would be willing to bet on his health. Indeed, Fairley hasn’t been medically cleared to play, as Underhill tweets, so a return to the league seems unlikely.

Here’s more from New Orleans:

  • Free agent offensive lineman Senio Kelemete is experiencing a “healthy market,” according to Josh Katzenstein of the Advocate, and while the Saints will likely be interested in retaining him, any reunion will be based on cost. New Orleans isn’t likely to offer Kelemete a chance to start, as the club is set with Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Max Unger, Larry Warford, and Ryan Ramczyk from left to right. Kelemete’s versatility and ability to play nearly every position on the line is his key asset, but he’d surely prefer a starting job to a reserve role.
  • The Saints and free agent fullback John Kuhn have mutual interest in a return, sources tell Herbie Teope of NOLA.com. Kuhn, who was sidelined for the majority of the 2017 campaign after suffering a biceps injury, is currently considering whether he’ll continue his playing career or enter the coaching ranks, per Teope. Fellow Saints fullback Zach Line, who appeared in 12 games for New Orleans following Kuhn’s injury, is drawing interest around the league, reports Katzenstein, but the Saints have interest in retaining him, as well.
  • Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland orchestrated arguably the NFL’s best draft class last spring, and he’d like to become a primary decision-maker again in the future, as Underhill writes. “Absolutely, why wouldn’t it be?” Ireland said when asked if getting a second GM job is his goal. “I’m not in a hurry. I told myself when I got to New Orleans I was going to help this team build. I’d really have to think twice about leaving the New Orleans Saints before we won a Super Bowl.” Ireland previously served as the Dolphins’ general manager from 2008-13, and the club posted a 46-50 record under his lead.
  • Although he hasn’t expressed a willingness to accept a full-time position, the Saints would like to have special teams consultant Mike Westhoff return next season, according to Katzenstein. Westhoff is currently recovering a surgical operation which could limit his availability, but New Orleans is willing to allow the 70-year-old a varied schedule. He wouldn’t be accepting the lead special teams coach role, as the Saints intend to retain Bradford Banta (primary ST coach) and Kevin O’Dea (assistant).

NFC Notes: Panthers, Cards, Lions, Falcons

Although rookie wideout Curtis Samuel is done for the season after suffering an ankle injury, the Panthers have not made contact with old friend Corey Brown, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Brown has enjoyed two separate stints with the Bills this season, but he’s yet to actually see the field. The 25-year-old spent the 2014-16 campaigns in Carolina, averaging 26 receptions, 340 yards, and two touchdowns during that time. However, Person suggested on Monday that the Panthers will fill their wide receiver vacancy from within.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters has a high ankle sprain and will be sidelined for “awhile,” head coach Bruce Arians told reporters, including Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). High ankle sprains are typically four-to-six weeks injuries, which means Peters will be a candidate for injured reserve, especially since Arizona isn’t in the playoff hunt. Peters, 29, has played the second-most snaps among Cardinals defensive lineman this season, so his absence will certainly be felt. Backups Robert Nkemdiche, Rodney Gunter, Olsen Pierre, and Xavier Williams could now be line for more action.
  • The Lions are now paying practice squad tight end Hakeem Valles at the active roster rate ($32K per week), reports Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That’s because the Cardinals recently attempted to poach Valles when they lost fellow tight end Ifeanyi Momah for the remainder of the season, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Valles, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Monmouth in 2016, spent the 2016 campaign with Arizona, appearing in 11 games (one start) for the club). Detroit, meanwhile, currently has three tight ends on its 53-man roster: Eric Ebron, Darren Fells, and Michael Roberts.
  • Before he decided to sign with the Saints, running back Jonathan Williams was also offered a contract by the Falcons, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton told reporters, including Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune (Twitter link). Williams had been earning $30K weekly (nearly an active roster rate) while on the Broncos’ practice squad, but he jumped at the chance to be placed on the Saints’ 53-man squad. Atlanta needed another running back while Devonta Freeman deals with a concussion, and it ultimately signed Terrence Magee of the Browns’ taxi squad.
  • New Saints special teams assistant Mike Westhoff wasn’t looking to get back into coaching, but New Orleans presented him with an appealing opportunity. “I don’t want to regret something I didn’t try,” he told Brian Costello of the New York Post (Twitter link). Westhoff added his new role isn’t a long-term gig, and he’ll only coach for this season. The Saints have struggled on special teams for the past two-plus years, a track record that forced the club to hire a new ST coach (Brad Banta) this offseason. However, New Orleans ranks 27th in special teams DVOA through 10 weeks.

Saints Add Mike Westhoff To Staff

The Saints are beefing up their coaching staff midway through the season. Special teams guru Mike Westhoff is joining New Orleans on the sideline, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Mike Westhoff (vertical)

The Saints currently have Bradford Banta as their Special Teams Coordinator with Kevin O’Dea and Deuce Schwartz as his top assistant. It’s not immediately clear if any of those three men will be displaced by Westhoff’s arrival or whether they will now be reporting to him.

Westhoff, 69, has built a reputation over the years as one of the league’s most knowledgeable special teams coaches. After serving as the Dolphins’ special teams and tight ends coach from 1986-2000, he joined the Jets in 2001. He retired after the 2012 season, but the coaching itch apparently has not subsided.

The Saints are atop the NFC South with a 7-2 record. Next up for New Orleans is a home contest against the Redskins on Sunday.