Ray Horton

Coaching Rumors: Titans, Cowboys, Texans

Weather-related concerns are forcing the Titans to shift the timeline of their head coaching search, as Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets. Whereas Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel and Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur were originally scheduled to interview with Tennessee on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, Vrabel and LaFleur will now sit down with Titans general manager Jon Robinson on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Vrabel, LaFleur, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks — whose is currently en route to Tennessee for his interivew, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer — are the only definitive candidates for the Tennessee job thus far, but reports have indicated the Titans could also have interest in Eagles OC Frank Reich.

Here’s more from the 2018 hiring cycle:

  • Former NFL defensive coordinators John Pagano and Ray Horton will meet with the Cowboys, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Pagano, the longtime Chargers’ DC, spent last season as an assistant head coach (and later, interim DC) for the Raiders, while Horton — formerly the defensive play-caller for the Cardinals, Titans, and Browns, didn’t work in the NFL in 2017. Dallas already has a defensive coordinator in Rod Marinelli, but the Cowboys were reportedly willing to promote Marinelli to assistant head coach in order to keep ex-LBs coach Matt Eberflus.
  • While the Cowboys are apparently considering additions to their defensive coaching staff, they’ve made a hire on the offensive side of the ball in new wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal, tweets David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. Lal, 48, originally joined the NFL ranks with the Raiders in 2007, and has since coached wideouts for Oakland, New York, and Buffalo. Former Cowboys wide receiver/current Cowboys scout Miles Austin also reportedly interviewed for the position.
  • The Texans have hired former Raiders special teams coach Brad Seely for the same position, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Seely was forced out in Oakland earlier this month when the Raiders hired Rich Bisaccia as their new assistant head coach/special teams. He’ll replace Larry Izzo, the former NFL linebacker who led Houston to a No. 31 ranking in special teams DVOA a season ago. Seely, 61, has been an NFL ST coach since 1989, and the Texans will be his eighth professional stop. He should have a working relationship with Houston head coach Bill O’Brien, as the pair spent time together with the Patriots from 2007-08.

Browns Hire Gregg Williams As DC

SUNDAY, 12:12pm: The Browns have made the hire official, and as Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets, Jackson will allow Williams to bring his own assistants. Therefore, there will be changes on the defensive staff, and Ulrich adds (via Twitter) that Jackson is “not done” evaluating the staff as a whole, so other changes could be on the way. Jackson will, however, retain play-calling duties, as Ulrich tweets.

SATURDAY, 08:22pm: Gregg Williams will replace Ray Horton as the Browns’ defensive coordinator, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The team recently extended an offer for the veteran DC to come in, and as a result, “wholesale changes” are coming to the Browns’ defense, per La Canfora.

The 58-year-old DC will transition from a Rams defense he helped elevate into one of the more formidable units in the game over the past three years to one that ranked as the No. 31 DVOA group during a horrendous Browns campaign.

Williams was reportedly open to staying in Los Angeles but understood that was unlikely after Jeff Fisher‘s departure. We heard earlier today Williams could bring some Rams assistants to northeast Ohio with him. He also might be bringing a new defense along. The Rams operated as a 4-3 defense during Williams’ years, and the Browns use a 3-4. Although, Cleveland isn’t exactly at the rebuilding stage where it couldn’t retool.

La Canfora confirms Williams plans to bring three or four coaches to with him to Cleveland, adding that Hue Jackson signed off on this change despite being close to Horton. The reporter adds Horton became unpopular on the personnel side of the organization.

Rebounding after the Bountygate scandal forced him off the sidelines for a year, Williams helped the Rams elevate into an upper-echelon defense this season despite one of the league’s worst offenses. The Browns boasted the league’s No. 27 defense in 2015 and 31st-ranked outfit this season, the latter coming after the organization made a change to go with a grass-roots rebuilding operation. That came after several recent rebuilds failed, but the Browns will have a proven DC around which to construct a stoppage corps in the near future.

This will be Williams’ seventh DC gig, with a three-year HC tenure with the Bills coming in between that lengthy run that dates back to running the Tennessee Oilers’ defense in 1997.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Browns, Bills, Shanahan, Rex

The Browns’ firing of defensive coordinator Ray Horton is not yet official, but the team is leaning toward making a change, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com was among those to report (Twitter link). Should Horton get the ax, Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would be in prime position to succeed him in Cleveland. The Browns have given Williams until Monday to accept the job, according to Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link).

More coaching-related info:

  • The Bills have requested an interview with Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. Panthers D-coordinator Sean McDermott‘s Wednesday meeting with the Bills went very well, notes Garafolo (Twitter links).
  • Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan‘s head coaching interviews with the Jaguars and 49ers took place Friday, tweets Jason Cole of Bleacher Report. Shanahan will meet Saturday with the Broncos, relays Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post (Twitter link). The 37-year-old reportedly prefers the Broncos’ job to the other openings around the league.
  • The Redskins, in search of a defensive coordinator, have received the Panthers’ permission to interview assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Steve Wilks, writes Mike Jones of the Washington Post. Rapoport connected Wilks to the Redskins on Thursday, noting the coach’s relationship with ex-Panthers and now-Redskins cornerback Josh Norman.
  • Unsurprisingly, Rex Ryan won’t work anywhere as an assistant next season, reports Chick Hernandez of CSN Washington (Twitter link). The two-time head coach will wait for a third opportunity to come along in 2018; in the meantime, he’s likely to take a job as a television analyst.
  • Check out PFR’s Head Coaching Search Tracker to keep up with all the latest interviews.

Browns To Fire DC Ray Horton

Ray Horton is out as defensive coordinator in Cleveland, according to Alex Marvez of The Sporting News (on Twitter). Already, the search is on for his replacement. Gregg Williams has been offered the job and Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has been contacted about the vacancy. Ray Horton (vertical)

The Browns were a dumpster fire on both sides of the ball this year, but head coach Hue Jackson apparently feels that the team will need a philosophical change on defense. This year, the Browns finished next-to-last in defensive DVOA and they would have been dead last if it weren’t for the Lions’ awful ratings.

Williams is currently in the midst of his second stint as the Rams’ defensive coordinator. After coach Jeff Fisher was canned, the Rams informed all assistants that they were free to seek other jobs. Williams, naturally, isn’t just waiting around to see if the next head coach in L.A. wants to keep him on board. However, the Cleveland job might not be the gig he has his eye on. There are better situations out there from a personnel standpoint, including the Redskins gig.

Phillips has enjoyed great success in Denver, but he is on an expiring contract and unlikely to return. Phillips would be a splashy hire for a Browns team desperately seeking advancement in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ray Horton Discusses Job Security

Ray Horton‘s first season in Cleveland hasn’t gone as planned. The Browns’ defensive coordinator has struggled mightily through the team’s first 11 games. Not only are the Browns winless, but the defense ranks towards the bottom of the league in nearly every statistical category.

Ray HortonTo make matters worse, a report earlier this month from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora indicated that Horton could be on the hot seat. La Canfora reported that Horton “is facing a very uncertain future.”

“Horton is a very unpopular pick in various quadrants of the organization to return as defensive coordinator but is supported staunchly by [head coach Hue] Jackson,” the reporter wrote.

Horton addressed these reports yesterday. Unsurprisingly, the long-time coach told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that he’s not worried about his job security.

“I don’t live that way, I don’t want my kids to live that way and I don’t want my players to live that way,” said Horton. “I would think, ‘man, what an awful life if you have to worry all the time about stuff.’ You do the best job you can in life with what you have, meaning personally. Do I worry that way? I think you guys know me very well. I try to be very honest and very fair. I don’t live that way.”

Horton cited the mediocre records of Tom Landry, Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson when they were first getting started in the NFL, noting that it takes some time to build a competent team or unit.

“I’m not comparing myself to them, please do not think I am – but you go through things in this business,” he said. “Locally, you look at the Cleveland Cavaliers. They had LeBron, LeBron left and LeBron came back. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, and to answer your question very bluntly, I don’t live that way. I never have, and hopefully, I never will.”

Is the coach at least seeing some improvement from his defense?

“It’s hard to see maybe from the score and the record, but we are getting better,” said Horton. “Our guys are getting better, and we’re going to put this together. I’m encouraged every day because our guys are getting better. They’re understanding more. They’re seeing more. They’re getting live action out there.

“When you talk to coaches on other teams, they see it. A lot of times, it is hard to see the forest through the trees, but we have some guys that are playing very well that are going to be the foundation of our team. They’re going to be the ones that help us get over the top.”

Following two seasons with the Titans, Horton returned to the Browns this offseason. The 56-year-old was Cleveland’s defensive coordinator in 2013.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Notes: Manziel, Horton, Benjamin

The Dallas Police Department obtained medical records for Colleen Crowley this week as part of the criminal investigation into whether Johnny Manziel assaulted her, according to ESPN.com’s Pat McManamon. Crowley filed a complaint weeks ago alleging that the Browns quarterback assaulted her and ruptured her eardrum. In Texas, causing serious injury could be considered aggravated assault, which is a felony. According to a source, as of one week ago, Crowley could not hear out of her left ear.

Manziel won’t be a member of the Browns much longer as the team is expected to cut him in March. Earlier today, the Browns held an introductory press conference for their new coaches and those coaches fielded questions on players who will be a part of the club in 2016. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

  • Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said that he left the Titans to be with new coach Hue Jackson and also said that he fell in love with Cleveland and its fans, as Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal tweets. If not for that, Horton says he could have stayed in Tennessee.
  • Horton said the Browns have to give outside linebacker Paul Kruger help on the opposite side (Twitter link via Ulrich).
  • Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor made it clear that the team wants wide receiver Travis Benjamin and safety Johnson Bademosi back, as Ulrich tweets.
  • Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com (on Twitter) “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Browns lock Benjamin up to a new deal very soon. Benjamin said in December that was about 75% or 80% of the way to reaching a new deal with the Browns.
  • Browns associate head coach (offense) Pep Hamilton said the staff hasn’t discussed possibility of having wide receiver Josh Gordon on the team next season, Ulrich tweets.

AFC Notes: Browns, Raiders, Chargers, Manning

Although Hue Jackson‘s recent comments have seemingly indicated a preference the Browns move on from Johnny Manziel, Jimmy Haslam knows the sides can mend their damaged relationship, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

The Browns’ owner admitted both his regime and the team’s previous power structure have made critical misjudgments in the draft, he does not like the idea of moving on from a No. 1 pick that’s contributed so little to the franchise.

Oh, yeah, I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Haslam told media about being able to go forward with Manziel. “We talked to Johnny before he left [for the offseason]. I know a big deal was made that Hue hasn’t called Johnny yet. Well, we’ve got 53 players on the active [roster] and 10 more [on reserve/futures deals], and there were a couple of other real prominent players that he just talked to in the last day or two. So I’m sure he’ll get around to talking to him.

Jackson hasn’t sounded too optimistic regarding Manziel, who entered rehab but endured several alcohol-related slip-ups during the season, with the new Cleveland coach saying Manziel’s alleged secret excursion to Las Vegas while in concussion protocol would have been a “non-starter” under his watch. In between, the 23-year-old Manziel started six games and completed 57% of his passes, throwing for seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

Here’s some more Browns- and AFC-related news.

  • Haslam said there is no awkwardness between him and newly rehired DC Ray Horton, Ulrich tweets. The owner told media, including Ulrich, Horton did a good job as the Browns’ DC in his one-and-done stint in 2013. The Browns ranked ninth defensively under Horton that season. The Browns ranked 27th in 2015 and 23rd in 2014 in total defense.
  • Should the Browns select Carson Wentz with their No. 2 overall pick, “they’ll be set for 15 years,” an NFL personnel man whose team does not need a quarterback told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He’s the best quarterback in the draft. If I were picking at No. 2, I’d take him. It will solve all of their problems and they’d get that team turned around,” the personnel man said. Sources told Cabot the Browns’ interest in Wentz is real, and although most mock drafts don’t have the North Dakota State fifth-year senior going off the board that soon, Jackson has experience coaching a Division I-FCS first-rounder. He helped guide Joe Flacco, chosen out of Delaware in 2008, previously.
  • New Dolphins DC Vance Joseph will allow Ndamukong Suh to provide input, and the new coach is trying to forge a relationship with the league’s highest-paid defender, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Suh, per a teammate, did not have much use for since-fired DC Kevin Coyle. Suh’s requested input regarding the Dolphins’ scheme, and Joseph said he’d listen.
  • Miami’s also open to giving former top-five pick Dion Jordan another chance despite his rampant trouble with the league, Jackson reports. Jordan hasn’t played since participating in 10 games in 2014. The league suspended the former No. 3 overall pick for the entire 2015 season for violations of its substance-abuse policy. The Dolphins would allow a potential Jordan return to the team, providing he’s clean and if the league reinstates him in April, Jackson writes.
  • With Raiders owner Mark Davis‘ planned trip to Las Vegas on Friday to possibly discuss the Raiders playing in a planned $1 billion domed stadium representing Thursday’s biggest news, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk cautions fans to slow down on any Las Vegas Raiders-themed discussions. Using Tony Romo‘s cancelled fantasy football convention at a Las Vegas Sands-owned, non-gambling facility last summer as an example, Florio does not believe the NFL will allow the Raiders to move to Vegas. The NFL previously said a Vegas-hosted Pro Bowl or merely a single game would not likely be sanctioned.
  • The Chargers hired recently fired Patriots offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo as an offensive line assistant, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (on Twitter). DeGuglielmo will work alongside Jeff Davidson with the Bolts’ linemen.
  • Should Peyton Manning determine Super Bowl 50 isn’t his “last rodeo,” the Broncos would have a difficult choice on their hands, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com writes. Should Manning return, he’s due to occupy an untenable $21.5MM cap hold next season. If Manning helps Denver win the Super Bowl, John Elway could be faced with a choice akin to what Ted Thompson encountered in 2008, when Brett Favre‘s backtracking forced an awkward trade. But Aaron Rodgers being under contract and Brock Osweiler not differentiates the scenarios. Corry argues the cleanest solution, albeit one that would put Elway in a complicated spot in terms of PR, would be to release Manning, sign Osweiler to a long-term deal and free up $19MM in cap space. If Manning decided he wanted to play again despite this, Corry cites the Rams and Texans as teams that would fit the soon-to-be-40-year-old quarterback’s needs, with their strong defenses and warm-weather or climate-controlled settings.

Coaching Notes: Browns, 49ers, Dolphins, Singletary

Browns coach Hue Jackson was seeking a defensive coordinator who was familiar with the division, making Ray Horton the perfect fit. As Tom Withers of the Associated Press writes, the 55-year-old has spent time on the coaching staff for the Steelers and Bengals.

“He knows this division,” Jackson said. “He was raised in this division. He played in this division. He understands what needs to be done to get our defense back to where it needs to be. I wanted somebody that knew the lay of the land and understood the division, understands the culture here and understands the change that we need to make and someone who can lead our young players and develop players to get better.”

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the league…

  • The 49ers have hired former Buccaneers linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson for the same position, tweets Alex Marvez of Fox Sports. Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole notes that Nickerson will be coaching the inside linebackers, while Jason Tarver will handle the outside linebackers.
  • The Dolphins have hired former Broncos offensive lineman Chris Kuper as their new offensive quality control coach, tweets ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
  • Former 49ers coach Mike Singletary has interviewed for several assistant gigs, but the 57-year-old told CSNBayArea.com that he’s seeking a job with more responsibility. “I didn’t want to be a linebacker coach again,” he said. “I’ve been studying my tail off since I left San Francisco to become a coordinator at the very least, and hopefully become a head coach. When that didn’t happen, I began to work that much more, visiting coaches and learning everything I could possibly learn, primarily on offense.”

Coach Rumors: Ragone, Titans, Manusky, Giants

While the 49ers have been making the most news today in forming their new coaching staff under Chip Kelly, here is the latest from around the league, starting in Chicago.

  • The Bears hired former Texans quarterback and Titans quarterback coach Dave Ragone as their new quarterback coach, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Bears wide receiver coach Mike Groh was also considered for the job, Rich Campbell of Chicago Tribune tweets. The 36-year-old Ragone worked with new Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, Chicago’s previous QBs coach who was promoted last week, with the Titans. Ragone coached the Titans’ quarterbacks in 2013 and instructed their wideouts during the previous two seasons. He spent this past season as an offensive quality control coach in Washington. Prior to that, he began his coaching career guiding Josh McCown with the Hartford Colonels of the now-defunct United Football League.
  • Longtime offensive line coach Russ Grimm will head to Nashville to become the Titans‘ offensive line coach, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports tweets. Grimm hasn’t coached since 2012, which was his final year of a six-season stay with the Cardinals. The 56-year-old Grimm, a Hall of Fame Washington guard, began his coaching career as Washington’s tight ends coach in 1992, a year after retiring before beginning as the team’s line coach in 1997. Grimm crossed paths with Titans HC Mike Mularkey during his time in Pittsburgh (2001-06), where Mularkey served as the offensive coordinator from 2001-03.
  • New Browns DC Ray Horton planned to hire ex-Browns defensive lineman Nick Eason for his defensive staff, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports (on Twitter), but the Titans promoting him from assistant defensive line coach to defensive line coach convinced him to stay in Tennessee.
  • The Giants hired former Eagles outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern to be their linebackers coach, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). McGovern spent 23 years coaching at various colleges in the northeast before teaching the outside backers with the Eagles under Kelly the past three seasons.
  • Washington hired another former player and longtime coach to preside over its outside linebackers, adding Greg Manusky to its staff, Andrew Walker reports on the team’s website. Manusky began his career in Washington, but only coached there in 2001. The 49-year-old former linebacker served as defensive coordinator for the Colts from 2012-15 before being fired earlier this month. He was previously the DC for the 49ers and Chargers for a combined five seasons.
  • Former Panthers and Bears safety Chris Harris will serve as the Chargers‘ assistant defensive backs coach, Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk reports. Harris worked as a quality control coach with the Bears in 2013-14 and played for the Panthers toward the end of current Chargers HC Mike McCoy‘s lengthy stay in Charlotte. Harris replaces Greg Williams, whom the Colts recently hired as their DBs coach.

Browns Hire Ray Horton, Other Coaches

FRIDAY, 8:49am: The Browns have officially confirmed the hiring of Horton as the team’s defensive coordinator, along with the other moves noted below and a few more. Here’s the full list of coaches and titles announced today by the team:

  • Ray Horton, defensive coordinator
  • Pep Hamilton, associate head coach/offense
  • Al Saunders, offensive assistant/wide receivers
  • Kirby Wilson, running backs/run game coordinator
  • Hal Hunter, offensive line
  • Mark Hudson, assistant offensive line
  • Greg Seamon, tight ends
  • Bob Saunders, offensive quality control
  • Shawn Mennenga, special teams assistant
  • Stan Watson, special teams quality control

WEDNESDAY, 7:32pm: In addition to naming Saunders, Hamilton and Wilson to his offensive staff, Jackson has hired Hal Hunter as his O-line coach, Breer tweets. Hunter had been the Colts’ assistant O-line coach since 2013. He was at the helm of the Chargers’ line from 2006-12.

5:08pm: The Browns’ Hue Jackson-led coaching staff is rounding into form. Jackson has hired Ray Horton as his defensive coordinator, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).

Additionally, the Browns have addressed their offensive staff by hiring Al Saunders as a senior assistant, according to Cabot (Twitter link), Pep Hamilton as assistant head coach/offense and Kirby Wilson as their running game coordinator (Twitter links via ESPN’s Josina Anderson).

The last few days have been a whirlwind for Horton, who appeared likely to join the Browns before a report came out that he was negotiating a contract extension with the Titans – whose defensive he coordinated over Pep Hamilton (vertical)the last two seasons. However, the extension didn’t come to fruition and Horton interviewed with the Browns to become their new D-coordinator on Tuesday. Horton is familiar with Cleveland, having coordinated its defense to a top 10 ranking in 2013. Before that, he worked in the same capacity in Arizona from 2011-12. Horton’s defense in Tennessee finished 12th overall in 2015-16, but the team seemingly marginalized his role in the offseason when it hired Dick LeBeau as an assistant head coach. LeBeau was given “complete control” of the defense, and Horton had to report to him during the season as a result. Horton has already put in requests to bring some of the Titans’ defensive coaches to Cleveland, according to Cabot (Twitter link), as he tries to improve a Browns ‘D’ that finished 27th in the league in 2015-16.

Jackson and Saunders have a working relationship that dates back to the 2009 season, when both were with the Ravens. Saunders was also on Jackson’s staff when Jackson was the Raiders’ head coach in 2011. This is the fourth decade in which Saunders has worked as an offensive assistant at the NFL level. The 68-year-old spent this season on the Dolphins’ staff and has been an offensive coordinator with four different teams. While the Browns will value Saunders’ input, Jackson will call the plays.

Hamilton was the Colts’ O-coordinator from 2013 until this past November, when they fired him after their third-ranked attack in 2014 regressed significantly. Part of his duties in Cleveland will entail working with quarterbacks, tweets Albert Breer of NFL.com. Cabot reports (via Twitter) that he’ll be the Browns’ passing game coordinator. The 41-year-old has plenty of experience in that realm, having coached QBs with the Jets (2004), 49ers (2006) and Bears (2007-09) at the pro level.

Prior to joining the Browns, Wilson worked with running backs for six different NFL organizations since 1997, having spent the last three years in Minnesota. The Vikings attempted to keep Wilson, according to ESPN’s Ben Goessling, but the expiration of his contract enabled him to land a promotion with the Browns.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.