The move shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given the interest the Packers had in Bisaccia and their stated goal of dramatically improving their ST unit moving forward. Not long after the season ended, it was announced that former coordinator Maurice Drayton would not be returning. That marked the eighth consecutive time the top ST coach either retired or was forced out of Green Bay.
While the move isn’t a promotion for Bisaccia, it looks like it will nevertheless be a lucrative one. Brad Biggs of The Chicago Tribune tweets that his contract is expected to “set a new compensation bar for special teams coordinators”. Perhaps this will bring an end to the cycle of underwhelming performances in the third phase of the game for the Packers, while also giving one of the league’s most well-respected coaches a position on a Super Bowl contender.
February 6th, 2022 at 10:15pm CST by Zachary Links
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:
New Bears head coach Matt Eberflus continues to fill out his first staff. Chicago has hired Richard Hightower as its special teams coordinator, the team announced.
This move qualifies as something of a surprise. Hightower had served as the 49ers’ ST coordinator since 2017, joining the Niners when Kyle Shanahan accepted the team’s head coaching post. The two men were college teammates at the University of Texas, and they also worked together on coaching staffs in Houston, Washington, and Cleveland, so it may have been difficult for Eberflus to prise Hightower away from San Francisco.
On the other hand, the 49ers’ special teams units generally struggled over the past several years and ranked 26th in the league in terms of DVOA in 2021, so Shanahan may have been more willing to let his longtime colleague depart than he might have been in years past. Still, Hightower remains a respected coach, and from 2017-19, San Francisco’s kicking unit ranked first in the NFL in made field goals (102) and fourth in field goal percentage (89.5). The club’s punt coverage ranked second in the league over that three-year span (h/t 49ers.com). Of course, Hightower’s charges also played a pivotal role in the Niners’ upset of the Packers in this year’s divisional round matchup, blocking a field goal on the final play of the first half and returning a blocked punt for the team’s only touchdown.
Rich Bisaccia was recently considered the favorite for the Bears’ ST coordinator post, and as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets, Bisaccia was indeed the first choice. It sounds as if Eberflus would have been willing to let Chris Tabor, who worked as Chicago’s special teams coordinator from 2018-21, to continue in his role, but Tabor jumped ship to the Panthers.
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, among others, believes this move means that Bisaccia will be heading to Green Bay (Twitter link). We heard just yesterday that the Packers are in talks with Bisaccia about their own ST coordinator vacancy.
Hightower, 41, worked as Chicago’s assistant special teams coordinator in 2016. He has 15 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network first reported that the Bears were hiring Hightower (via Twitter).
After losing out on the Raiders HC job, RichBisaccia may quickly land on his feet. According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (via Twitter), Bisaccia has had talks with Packers head coach Matt LaFleur about joining the staff as special teams coordinator.
Per the reporter, the Packers would have to pay up if they want the long-time ST coach to join Green Bay, but the organization may be willing to meet his demands. One thing going for the Packers is Bisaccia’s relationship with defensive coordinator Joe Barry; per Silverstein (on Twitter), the two worked together in Tampa Bay, and Barry is the son-in-law of Rod Marinelli, who is Bisaccia’s “best friend.”
Bisaccia has spent close to two decades in the NFL as a special teams coordinator, having worked for the Buccaneers, Chargers, Cowboys, and Raiders. He joined the Raiders organization in 2018, and he took on the role of interim head coach following the ousting of Jon Gruden in 2021. The 61-year-old ended up guiding the team to a 7-5 record and a playoff appearance.
Following his brief success as HC, Bisaccia had been considered for head coaching gigs with the Raiders and Jaguars this offseason. Meanwhile, the Packers recently moved on from ST coordinator Maurice Drayton following a playoff loss that saw the Packers allow a blocked punt (which was returned for a touchdown) and a blocked field goal.
New head coach Matt Eberflus has wasted no time in starting to piece together his new coaching staff in Chicago.
The Colts’ former defensive coordinator will bring some familiar names with him from Indianapolis on the defensive side of the ball. According to Zak Keefer, of The Athletic, it’s been confirmed that linebackers coach Dave Borgonziwill follow Eberflus to Chicago to retain the same position. Borgonzi has played a crucial role in the development of players like Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, and Bobby Okereke. Rumors have been circulating that cornerbacks coach James Rowe and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli could soon follow in Borgonzi’s footsteps.
On the offensive side of the ball, Eberflus will have to build a new system. We’ve already seen Eagles’ passing-game coordinator Kevin Patullo’s name surface as a potential coordinator, especially being a former coworker of the Bears’ new skipper in Indianapolis. We’ve also seen Packers’ quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy‘s name mentioned as the favorite candidate to land the coordinator job.
Still nothing has been announced, but Sanjay Lal, who has coached wide receivers for six different NFL teams, most recently in Jacksonville, is reportedly interviewing today for the offensive coordinator job, according to Jane Slater of NFL Network. A London-native, Lal started out coaching in a California high school for about six years before earning opportunities to coach at a few local colleges, culminating in a position as the quarterbacks coach at the University of California, Berkeley. Lal got his first NFL opportunity joining Lane Kiffin‘s Oakland Raiders staff in 2007 as a quality control coach, getting promoted to wide receivers coach in 2009. The journeyman coach then spent time as a wide receivers coach for the Jets, Bills, Colts, and Cowboys before not being retained in Dallas when Mike McCarthy took over. After spending a year as a senior offensive assistant in Seattle for a year, Lal got another chance to coach wide receivers for the Jaguars under Urban Meyer, where he spent the past season.
The only other offensive position we’ve heard about comes from Sports Mockery writer Erik Lambert who reports that Eberflus and the Bears will pursue Browns’ offensive line coachBill Callahan. Callahan has coached a laundry list of Pro Bowl players over the years and has two connections to the Bears’ job. Firstly, he worked with Eberflus in Dallas for about three seasons, and, second, Callahan was born and raised in Chicago.
Two names have surfaced so far at the special teams coordinator position. Lambert mentions Raiders’ interim-head coach Rich Bisaccia as the favorite to take over the special teams unit in Chicago as it becomes less and less likely that he’ll be retained as the head ball coach in Las Vegas. The other name mentioned came from Jordan Raanan who covers the Giants for ESPN. Ranaan tweeted out that Giants’ special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is scheduled to interview for the same position with the Bears tomorrow. McGaughey has already interviewed for the Chargers’ special teams coordinator job and has not ruled out remaining with the Giants.
It’s an impressive potential lineup for Eberflus as he attempts to put together his first full staff as a head coach. Updates should be expected shortly as all the names mentioned so far are no longer participating in the playoffs.
Harbaugh is currently negotiating with Michigan after he led the Wolverines to their first College Football Playoff appearance and their first outright Big Ten Championship since 2003. He had signed an extension at the start of the season to secure him in Ann Arbor through 2025, but, with mounting interest from the Raiders, the negotiations are giving Michigan a chance to convince him to stay. The Raiders are searching for a new general manager as well as head coach, following the departures of Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden. Harbaugh isn’t the only target in Vegas, though. He’ll have to compete with interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, who, despite a season of turmoil, led the Raiders to a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Jerod Mayo and DeMeco Ryans have also been mentioned as candidates.
Rhule’s interest in heading back down to the college ranks of coaching have not quite been a secret. Sources have informed La Canfora that Rhule was watching the situations at Penn State and LSU closely, in case a beneficial opportunity presented itself.
Rhule got his first head coaching opportunity at Temple in Philadelphia, where he had spent years as an assistant under Al Golden. He took his first Power 5 opportunity as the head coach at Baylor, following the scandal that led to Art Briles‘s dismissal. He took the Bears from 1-11 in his first season to 11-3 in his third season and rode that success straight to the NFL.
There are still many situations that need to play out. Harbaugh would have to leave Michigan. Rhule would have to decide to put his name in the ring for the vacancy at Michigan. Michigan would have to determine that Rhule is the best candidate for the position. None of this is guaranteed, but, if it all plays out, look for Carolina to be added to our 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.
We heard earlier this evening that the Raiders had requested permission to interview two GM candidates. There was one issue: Mike Mayock was still the team’s general manager. Now, we’re learning that Mayock is out in Las Vegas. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Raiders have informed Mayock that he won’t be retained.
“We have relieved Mike Mayock of his duties as General Manager of the Las Vegas Raiders,” the team said in a statement (via Albert Breer on Twitter). “We thank Mike for his contributions over the last three years in helping to form the foundation for the franchise to build upon in its future.”
Per Rapoport (on Twitter), the Raiders organization made their decision to fire Mayock “several days ago.” Their requests to interview Patriots exec DaveZiegler and Colts exec EdDobbs were made earlier this evening. It’s uncertain when Mayock learned of his fate. According to Breer (on Twitter), there were rumblings prior to the draft that Mayock could be on his way out with the organization. He kept his gig and saw his team make the playoffs, but Aaron Wilson tweets that the organization had been putting out feelers on potential HC and GM candidates over the past few days. It doesn’t sound like that sits well with current Raiders staffers; NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe tweets that scouts, coaches, and executives were currently prepping for the draft and free agency without knowing there could be a major shakeup atop the front office.
The broadcaster-turned-GM didn’t have final say over transactions during much of his tenure with the Raiders; that honor belonged to head coach JonGruden before he resigned this season. There were plenty of misfires during the duo’s time with the organization; both of the Raiders’ 2020 first-round picks (Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette) were cut this year, and the front office surely has regrets with how things unfolded with acquisitions like Antonio Brown, Trent Brown, and Lamarcus Joyner.
However, as PFF’s Doug Kyed tweets, Mayock should be credited with a handful of late-round hits, including defensive end Maxx Crosby, wideout Hunter Renfrow, tight end Foster Moreau, and cornerback Nate Hobbs. The Raiders also improved during each of Mayock’s three seasons at the helm, culminating in the GM’s first playoff appearance this season following a 10-win regular season. Not to mention, that playoff performance came amid a tumultuous season off the field. Alas, the organization will now look for a new GM to guide the front office, with Ziegler and Dobbs first on the list of candidates.
Meanwhile, this news doesn’t bode well for interim head coach Rich Bisaccia‘s chances of keeping his gig. The long-time special teams coordinator guided the team to a 7-5 record and a playoff appearance, but a new GM will surely prefer their own coaching staff. We already heard earlier tonight that the organization requested permission to interview Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. According to Schefter (on Twitter), Bisaccia “remains with the team at this time.”
At the moment, interim head coach Rich Bisaccia and general manager MikeMayock are still on the Raiders payroll. However, that hasn’t stopped the organization from requesting interviews with potential replacements. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter), Las Vegas requested permission to interview Patriots linebackers coach JerodMayo for their HC job and Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler for their GM job. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the Raiders are expected to put in a request for Colts executive EdDodds, as well.
We heard recently that Mayock’s job wasn’t necessarily safe, even following a tumultuous season where he was one of the organization’s calming presences en route to a playoff appearance. Mayock has spent three season’s as the Raiders GM, with the team improving their win total each season. Bisaccia, meanwhile, helped steadied the ship amid a rough season, but recent reports indicated that he was a long shot to keep his job, and that appears to be more apparent following the Raiders one-and-done postseason.
Mayo is now the team’s first definitive HC candidate. The linebacker previously had a standout career with the Patriots, with the former 10th-overall pick earning two Pro Bowl nods and a Super Bowl ring during his eight seasons in New England. Mayo rejoined the organization as their linebackers coach in 2019. While New England is currently operating without a true defensive coordinator, Mayo (along with Steve Belichick) are assumed to be atop the defensive coaching depth chart.
Ziegler has risen from the scouting level to director of pro personnel to his current post. While he has spent much of his career as a Pats exec, he began his NFL run with the Broncos. Last offseason, he was connected to gigs with the Broncos and Giants.
Dodds was a popular name in the GM circuit last offseason, when he was connected to gigs with the Lions and Panthers. Dodds has worked with the Colts since 2017, and he was promoted to his current position in 2018. Dodds previously spent time in the Seahawks front office, where he played a major role in constructing a Super Bowl-winning roster. He’s already been mentioned as a candidate for the Bears GM gig this offseason.
The Raiders’ season is over after a gut-wrenching, mistake-filled, sometimes controversial seven-point loss to the Bengals in last night’s wildcard game. The contest ended with a Derek Carr interception on a fourth-and-goal throw that came up several yards short of the endzone, and it’s fair to wonder whether that was Carr’s last pass in silver-and-black.
Team owner Mark Davis was clear that he was not going to begin thinking about 2022 and beyond until the Raiders’ 2021 campaign had come to an end, but now that it has, he has some catching up to do in terms of his search for a permanent head coach (and, perhaps, for a new general manager). No club in need of a new HC or GM has actually hired one just yet, but interviews have gotten underway, and Davis plans for his search to be thorough and legitimate.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says that Carr’s future in Las Vegas will be tied to the club’s head coach hire, and he classifies the Raiders’ QB decision as a “mutual” one. The implication is that the head coach and Carr — who stated this summer that he would rather quit football than play for another team — will both have a say in the matter.
Carr has certainly earned that right. While interim head coach Rich Bisaccia has received much-deserved credit for keeping the team together in the wake of the Jon Gruden fiasco, the Henry Ruggs tragedy, and other assorted on-field and off-field difficulties, Rapoport points out that Carr was also instrumental in rallying the troops through the turmoil and closing the regular season on a four-game winning streak. And while Carr’s name has frequently popped up in trade rumors due to his generally strong-but-not-elite play, he has finished in the top-10 in QB rating in two of the past three seasons.
On the other hand, his two turnovers in last night’s playoff loss — including a fumble and the game-ending interception that for some reason was thrown short of the goal line — was emblematic of a season in which he threw for a career-high 14 picks and fumbled a career-high 13 times. In his eight-year career, he has totaled double-digit fumbles five times and has twice led the league in that category. His 57-70 record also leaves much to be desired.
Carr, who will turn 31 in March, has one season remaining on the five-year, $125MM extension he signed in 2017. That $25MM AAV is now a middle-class figure for QBs, and in Rapoport’s estimation, Carr will be in line for a top-of-the-market extension. Rapoport reiterates that GM Mike Mayock‘s job is not necessarily safe, and whoever ends up as the Raiders’ general manager will obviously have a significant say in Carr’s contract and his status with the team as well. If Las Vegas and Carr agree to seek a trade, RapSheet names the Saints, Texans, and Colts as potential landing spots.
For what it’s worth, Carr said in last night’s postgame presser that Bisaccia is the “right guy” for the HC job, and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com suggests that the glowing way in which Raiders players talk about Bisaccia is different than the usual player-speak (Twitter link). Though Bisaccia may not be the favorite, he has given Davis something to seriously consider despite the early playoff exit.
Although Rich Bisaccia has steadied the ship amid a rough season, he does not have the smoothest road to becoming the next full-time Raiders HC. The Raiders will conduct a true search, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link), unlike the token 2018 process that ended with a quick Jon Gruden hire.
Bisaccia will improve his chances to take over with a win Saturday, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk indeed notes the previous Las Vegas special teams coordinator has elevated his stock in recent weeks. An upset win over the Bengals — which would double as the Raiders’ first playoff win since the 2002 AFC championship game — may not be enough for the current interim HC.
Regardless of what happens Saturday, Bisaccia will be interviewed for the full-time gig. However, he is not expected to be the favorite, per Rapoport. A loss today will likely doom Bisaccia’s chances as well. The Raiders rallied by winning their final four games to reach the playoffs, but they did finish with a minus-65 point differential — largely on two Bisaccia-helmed blowout losses to the Chiefs — en route to the AFC’s No. 5 seed. The Raiders will not go through interviews until their seasons ends, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
Jim Harbaugh, who started his coaching career with the Raiders as QBs coach on that 2002 Super Bowl-qualifying squad, has been linked as a frontrunner. But the Michigan HC appears in NFL rumors annually only to remain at the Big Ten program. This does represent the closest Harbaugh link to the league since he left for Ann Arbor, and given the Raiders’ interest in the ex-49ers HC back before they hired Jack Del Rio, this is obviously a scenario to monitor closely.
Bisaccia, 61, has been an NFL coach since 2002. He does have extensive ties to Gruden, having coached with the since-resigned HC throughout his Tampa Bay tenure and during his three-plus years back running the Raiders. It would be interesting to see Mark Davis commit to a career special teams coach who was one of Gruden’s right-hand men, but he will at least be part of the search.