Ron Rivera

NFC Coaching Notes: Rams, Hankerson, Lions, Commanders, Packers, Giants

University of Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen has received heaps of interest around the football world, turning down several college jobs and an NFL job to stay in Lexington. But it sounds as if Coen may soon receive an offer he can’t refuse.

In one year at the helm of the offense, Coen took the Wildcats from 115th in yards per game to 50th. He also improved the scoring offense from 107th in the country to 35th, quickly making him one of the hottest names in college coaching.

It just about looked like Kentucky was going to be able to hold on to their game changer, but, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, they are bracing for the possibility of Coen leaving to return to the Rams in Los Angeles. Prior to his year in Kentucky, Coen spent three years on Sean McVay‘s offensive staff, and a chance to rejoin McVay may be too good to pass up.

Here are a couple more coaching notes from the NFC starting with the promotion of a former Hurricane:

  • With wide receivers coach Wes Welker heading to Miami, the 49ers have offered the position to offensive quality control coach Leonard Hankerson, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic. After a five-year career as an NFL wide receiver out of the University of Miami, Hankerson coached wide receivers at UMass and Stephen F. Austin before joining the staff in San Francisco last year.
  • The Lions have parted ways with inside linebacker coach Mark DeLeone this week, according to Justin Rogers of The Detroit News. The son of offensive line coach legend George DeLeone, Mark was hired by Detroit last year after time with the Jets, Chiefs, and Bears. They have two internal candidates who could potentially fill the role: defensive quality control coach Stephen Thomas, who coached inside linebackers in his time at Princeton, and director of football research David Corrao who coached linebackers for the Dolphins during his time in Miami from 2008-2015.
  • With longtime assistant coach Pete Hoener retiring, the Commanders are hiring veteran coach Juan Castillo to handle tight ends, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Castillo is rejoining Ron Rivera, who coached with him for the five seasons Rivera was in Philadelphia from 1999-2003. Castillo has also spent time with the Ravens, Bills, and Bears in various roles on the offensive staff.
  • With their outside linebacker coach Mike Smith leaving to pursue other opportunities, the Packers have hired Jason Rebrovich as his replacement. The 20-year NFL coaching veteran has had stints with the Bills and Jaguars coaching players like Josh Allen, Calais Campbell, and Yannick Ngakoue. In addition, the Packers also announced the return of former offensive coordinator Tom Clements to replace Luke Getsy as quarterbacks coach, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Clements coached for the Packers’ offense for 11 years before retiring after two years with the Cardinals.
  • The Giants have hired Angela Baker as a minority coaching fellow and offensive quality control coach, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Baker is the second female to be added to Brian Daboll‘s staff after Laura Young followed Daboll from Buffalo, where she worked as player services coordinator, for the position of director of coaching operations. The Giants are quickly trying to become a more progressive staff. In 2020, Hannah Burnett was hired as the team’s first full-time female scout.

Commanders Set To Be “Selectively Aggressive” In QB Pursuit

The Washington Commanders have a new name, new uniforms and, in all likelihood, are soon to have a new quarterback. It’s no secret that the team is looking for an upgrade on Taylor Heinicke, but as ESPN’s John Keim writes, the team’s roster is better suited this year than last to aggressively acquire a new signal caller. 

As Keim details, management is satisfied that the team is in a better place to pursue an upper echelon QB than it was in 2021. Last year, Washington offered a first- and third-round pick to the Lions for Matt Stafford, but were outbid by the Rams. Not long after, they unsuccessfully tried to trade up to get Justin Fields in the draft. Even though the team still only won seven games in this campaign, general manager Martin Mayhew used the term “selectively aggressive” to describe the organization’s plans in attaining an upgrade at the game’s most important position.

Head coach Ron Rivera is similarly confident in the rest of the roster: “I look at things with rose-colored glasses”, he said. “I’m an optimist. As you look at things you go, ‘I feel pretty good about this'”. His two years in Washington have seen the team only put up a 14-19 record, but a late-season four-game winning streak in 2021 offered reason for optimism moving forward.

Keim writes that the Commanders “will explore deals” at each tier of signal caller. While that could involve the likes of Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson, someone like Derek Carr could be more of a realistic option. He adds that the “sweet spot” might be Jimmy Garoppolo, due to the relative affordability of the final year of his contract. Acquiring the 30-year-old could keep a core with a strong offensive line (pending the future of All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff, who played on the franchise tag and is not close to a long-term extension) and a talented collection of skill position players intact.

While it would be unorthodox to make QB the final, rather than the first, position to be targeted in roster building, doing so could place Washington back in contention for at least a second playoff berth in three years. To make that possible, the front office has been “studying its options for a while” with regards to an upgrade at QB. Rivera remains positive that the other required pieces are already in place: “Our personnel is more than good enough… I believe in our team. I believe in what we can be”.

Washington Interested In Trading Up For Quarterback?

Although Washington signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and extended Taylor Heinicke this offseason, the team remains in need at the sport’s most important position. The franchise may be prepared to trade up for a quarterback.

Ron Rivera is interested in moving up for a passer, according to ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline. Washington is believed to be high on Trey Lance, but there may be a catch. The WFT is not overly interested in giving up a mountain of draft capital to climb from No. 19 to No. 4, but Pauline notes a quarterback sliding to around the No. 8 spot would be appealing to the franchise. However, a climb to the Falcons’ No. 4 slot should not be entirely ruled out.

Three QBs will be gone by No. 3, and the Falcons are in play to select the fourth. No draft has begun with four straight quarterbacks going off the board, and the Falcons are also interested in dealing down the board. Many believe, however, Atlanta will select Kyle Pitts. The Bengals will not take a quarterback and do not sound too interested in trading out of their No. 5 slot. Trading in front of the Broncos (No. 9) could behoove Washington, and it will be interesting to see if the Panthers (No. 8) pull the trigger on the fourth- or fifth-QB prospect. That scenario is not off the table, even after Carolina acquired Sam Darnold, though the Panthers now loom as a team that could trade down.

Washington also may have to compete with the Bears, though Pauline adds that, in addition to trade-up rumors, they will be in the mix for a second-round quarterback. It cost the 49ers two future first-round picks and a 2021 third-rounder to move up nine slots this year. Should one of the top five QBs slide toward the bottom of the top 10, that would still require a considerable haul — given the value these passers are carrying. Lance not being the 49ers’ pick at 3 could prompt Washington to make its move. Justin Fields is expected to be available beyond No. 3 as well.

Rivera said Friday the team’s offseason moves — such as signing Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel and William Jackson — created more flexibility going into the draft.

I think [execs] Martin [Mayhew] and Marty [Hurney] and their guys really helped put us in a position where we’ve got to really look at drafting best player available, but always keeping in mind what we feel the true need is,” Rivera said, via NBC Sports Washington. “I think what our front office did and what we were able to do in free agency really helped us. I think we freed ourselves up because of what they did.”

Washington has Fitzpatrick signed for 2021; he will turn 39 later this year. Heinicke is signed through 2022, and Kyle Allen could be under team control through the ’22 season as well. He is attached to an ERFA tender. However, none of these players profiles as a long-term option. Washington, after missing on its past two efforts to acquire a true QB solution (Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins), may be keen on addressing the issue in Rivera’s second draft.

Martin Mayhew To Be Washington’s GM

Jan. 22: Mayhew will indeed be the GM, and Hurney’s official title will be Executive Vice President of Football/Player Personnel, as Rapoport tweets. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network says that both men will report to head coach Ron Rivera, who is still heading football operations (Twitter link).

Jan. 21: Washington was connected to hires of both Marty Hurney and Martin Mayhew this week, with the former being expected to lead the team’s front office. This structure may not be Washington’s preferred hierarchy, however.

It could be Mayhew in line to become Washington’s GM. The former Lions GM is the candidate Washington will go with as general manager, according to ESPN.com’s John Keim (on Twitter). Mayhew, who was with the 49ers for four years, will receive a second chance in a GM post.

Washington will still hire Mayhew and Hurney, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, but the latter will be part of a Mayhew-led front office (Twitter link). The ex-Panthers GM will serve as a high-ranking Washington staffer. The Panthers fired Hurney in December, ending his second stint as their front office boss.

The Lions fired Mayhew in 2015, doing so despite the former Washington Super Bowl-winning cornerback helping Detroit to two playoff berths after the franchise sunk to the NFL’s basement during the 2000s. Mayhew spent a year with the Giants before joining John Lynch‘s 49ers staff. The 49ers promoted Mayhew to VP of player personnel in 2019 and stand to benefit from Mayhew’s Washington hire.

The NFL’s Rooney Rule changes last year will mean the team that loses a head coach or executive is entitled to third-round draft compensation. Because the Jets hired Robert Saleh, the 49ers’ third-round pick for Mayhew will come in 2023, according to The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (subscription required). The Saleh move will provide San Francisco with third-rounders this year and next. Overall, the haul stands to be three total Round 3 picks for the 49ers, Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News tweets. These selections will come at the end of the round.

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

NFC East Notes: McCarthy, Eagles, Barkley

The Cowboys have spent this week clearing out some 2020 acquisitions, trading Everson Griffen and cutting Dontari Poe and Daryl Worley. Mike McCarthy does not currently have to worry about being a one-and-done coach. Jerry Jones expressed support for his 2020 HC hire, despite the team’s disappointing start.

One of the, without a question, reasons Mike McCarthy is the coach is because he’s been through it,” Jones said during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan (via the Dallas Morning News). “… Certainly, we couldn’t have anticipated being at this stage with our team this year. But if I were going to hire for a head coach, that we’re going to be at this stage this year and work through this for the betterment of what’s in store for us for the rest of the year and for what’s for us in the future, I got my man.”

McCarthy has kept Kellen Moore as his play-caller and hired Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. While the Cowboys’ offense was surging with Dak Prescott, it has cratered without him. Dallas’ defense ranks 30th in DVOA. Jones retained Jason Garrett for nearly 10 full seasons and has given all but one coach (Chan Gailey) at least three full seasons. Considering McCarthy’s Super Bowl-winning pedigree, it would be shocking if Jones ousts him after one season.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • The Eagles are currently down four offensive linemen, each of their three top receivers, their top two tight ends and Miles Sanders. But they are, despite being 2-4-1, in first place in the NFC East. A Jay Glazer report prior to the Eagles’ Week 7 win indicated they told teams they would listen to offers for their best players, but ex-Eagles president Joe Banner said (via the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Paul Domowitch) Philly is interested in acquiring offensive line and linebacker help. The Eagles have been buyers in trades for years, and Ertz’s ankle injury halted trade talks. Despite the Eagles projected to be nearly $70MM over the 2021 cap, they may again be ready to acquire veterans.
  • On the subject of Eagles veterans, the news is not good for DeSean Jackson. Calling it a similar injury to Dallas Goedert‘s, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo said Jackson suffered a non-displaced ankle fracture and is expected to miss between six and eight weeks (video link). The 33-year-old deep threat has missed 16 games since returning to Philadelphia and looms as a near-certain 2021 cap cut, but Garafolo adds D-Jax does not intend to retire after this season.
  • Saquon Barkley‘s ACL reconstructive surgery is set for Thursday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Interestingly, the World Series delayed the Giants running back’s procedure. Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the operation, but since he is also the Dodgers’ team doctor, he was in the final MLB bubble and off-limits until the Series’ conclusion, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. No word has emerged regarding if Barkley’s surgery will need to be further tabled because of Justin Turner’s positive COVID-19 test. Barkley suffered the injury Sept. 20. Despite this delay, doctors are hopeful he will be ready for training camp, NFL.com’s Andrea Kremer tweets.
  • Washington first-year HC Ron Rivera finished up his chemotherapy and proton therapy treatments Monday. While he still has follow-up appointments on tap, per ESPN.com’s John Keim, this marks a major development in the veteran coach’s recovery from lymph node cancer.

NFC East Rumors: Rivera, Sanders, Cowboys

Ron Rivera announced last week he is battling lymph node cancer. The new Washington HC will attempt to coach the team through his treatment process, though Jack Del Rio is in place as the emergency fill-in. Rivera will undergo a mixture of chemotherapy and proton therapy, and John Keim of ESPN.com notes the veteran coach’s treatment schedule will feature five per week over a seven-week period. Upon hiring Del Rio, Rivera prioritized having someone with head coaching experience on his staff — which he did not have in Carolina. Del Rio served as an acting head coach for part of the 2013 season, leading the Broncos while John Fox recovered from heart surgery.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Gerald McCoy‘s Cowboys tenure may not be over. Despite the organization taking advantage of the injury protection it included in the Pro Bowl defensive tackle’s contract, and releasing him months after he signed the three-year deal, McCoy would like to play for the Cowboys in 2021, Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News tweets. The 10-year veteran indicated he will help the younger defensive linemen still on this year’s Cowboys roster, Ed Werder of ESPN.com adds (via Twitter). McCoy underwent successful quadriceps surgery last week, per Watkins.
  • A key component in the fantasy drafts taking place worldwide this week, Miles Sanders is currently not practicing with the Eagles. And the team has been vague as to why. Philadelphia’s starting running back is dealing with a “lower-body injury,” according to the team. However, the second-year back is expected to be ready to play by Week 1, Tim McManus of ESPN.com notes. Having lost Jordan Howard in free agency and seeing the Seahawks sign one of their UFA targets, Carlos Hyde, the Eagles are set to rely on Sanders more than they did last season. The Eagles were also interested in Devonta Freeman, and while the ex-Falcons Pro Bowler remains available, the team is going with Boston Scott and Corey Clement as its backup backs at this point.
  • Graham Gano‘s Giants deal is worth up to $2.5MM, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Giants guaranteed their new kicker $1MM. This is more money than the team gave Chandler Catanzaro, whose Giants stay lasted barely three weeks. Gano has 10 years’ experience, though he missed all of last season with a knee injury.

Washington’s Ron Rivera Diagnosed With Lymph Node Cancer

Ron Rivera has been diagnosed with lymph node cancer (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). The Washington Football Team head coach says the cancer is in its early stages and regarded as “very treatable and curable.” 

[RELATED: Washington QB Alex Smith Activated]

I was stunned. But I was angry because I feel like I’m in best health I’ve been in,” Rivera said.

The 58-year-old broke the news to his team earlier tonight with a bit of his trademark humor. “I’m going to be a little more cranky,” the coach warned. “So don’t piss me off.” Rivera plans to conduct business as usual, though he tells Schefter that there is a “Plan B” in place, in case he has to take some time away from the team.

As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, that “Plan B” would be having defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio — who has 12 years of head coaching experience between the Jaguars and Raiders — assume HC duties. But RapSheet confirms that the plan is for Rivera to coach uninterrupted through the 2020 campaign.

Rivera, a former Bears linebacker, climbed his way up the ranks before taking over the Panthers’ head coach in 2011. The Panthers never captured the Lombardi Trophy with Rivera, but he did get them to Super Bowl 50 at the end of the 2015 season, and he earned Coach of the Year honors that year. Including playoffs, Carolina went 79-67-1 with Rivera at the helm. The Panthers parted ways with Rivera in December, leading him to Washington just a few weeks later.

We here at PFR would like to wish Rivera a speedy recovery.

Longest-Tenured GMs In The NFL

When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.

A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.

Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000[4]
  5. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  6. Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006[5]
  7. Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
  8. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010[6]
  9. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
  10. John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011[7]
  11. Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
  12. David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
  13. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
  14. Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
  15. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
  16. Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
  17. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
  18. Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
  19. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
  20. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
  21. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
  22. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
  23. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
  24. Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
  25. Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
  26. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  27. Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
  28. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  29. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019[8]
  30. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020[9]
  31. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  32. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
  5. Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
  6. While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
  7. Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
  8. In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
  9. Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020