Rick Dennison

Bills Fire OC Rick Dennison

The Bills announced that they have fired offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. The team has yet to hire a replacement for Dennison, making them one of several teams on the lookout for a new OC. Rick Dennison (vertical)

Dennison came to the Bills last year following the hire of Sean McDermott as head coach. The Bills managed to make the playoffs, but it was in spite of a poor passing game. The Bills placed 29th in total yards, 22nd in points, and averaged only 176.6 passing yards per game, though a Dennison defender would point out that he had to deal with the inconsistencies of Tyrod Taylor and the rawness of rookie Nathan Peterman at quarterback. Meanwhile, the team depleted itself of offensive weapons with the trade of Sammy Watkins and the loss of Robert Woods.

The Browns found their new OC on Friday morning and the Cardinals, Colts, and Giants may all be looking for a new play-caller once they hire head coaches. Already, we’ve seen six OCs replaced this offseason. When all is said and done, there will be no fewer than seven OC shakeups on the year and possibly eleven or more.

Former Chargers coach Mike McCoy could be a candidate for the opening in Buffalo, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB (on Twitter). Alex Marvez of SiriusXM (on Twitter) hears that McCoy and Colts OC Rob Chudzinski are the top two candidates for the job. Both men previously spent time with the Panthers, which helps their cause with McDermott.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fallout From Bills’ Front Office Shakeup

The Bills deciding to trade out of their No. 10 slot, when the Chiefs surrendered their 2018 first-rounder to headline a package that netted them Patrick Mahomes, indicated Doug Whaley was not going to be around much longer, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Buffalo moving down 17 spots — a move the Bills were believed to be pushing for prior to the draft — signaled a long-term plan more than one designed to help an embattled GM’s team win now. (However, Chiefs GM John Dorsey told B.J. Kissel of KCChiefs.com — Twitter link — Whaley was involved in talks that originated early this week.)

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com notes the Bills’ chaotic front office situation goes back to 2014, when Terry and Kim Pegula took over and were surprised when Doug Marrone exercised an opt-out option that garnered him $4MM and left the Bills without a coach despite having completed a rare over-.500 season in 2014. The current Jaguars HC’s 9-7 campaign, aided the Patriots resting starters in Week 17 of that season, represents the most the Bills wins since 2004.

La Canfora notes Whaley has not gotten along especially well with any of his coaches, describing less-than-ideal relationships with both Marrone and Rex Ryan, and the one with Sean McDermott did not take off. Bill Polian declined to join the Bills in January of 2015, and La Canfora notes that decision kept Whaley in charge and helped lead to Marrone bolting on his contract.

Now running the show in Buffalo, McDermott was not happy the Patriots plucked Stephon Gilmore in free agency, La Canfora writes. The RFA decisions on Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee did not help, either. The CBS-based reporter notes some of Pegula’s confidants advised him to fire Whaley years ago. The Bills signed Whaley to an extension last year, however.

A source categorized the Bills’ draft room this weekend as “one of the weirdest three days,” per Breer, due to the fact a leadership component wasn’t entirely present. McDermott, though, was the one who was providing the final say, Breer reports. The first-year HC was given autonomy to remove prospects from the draft board as well. Pegula said today Whaley put together the draft and the organization decided to fire him after the three-day event, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com relays.

Scouts were upset with Ryan’s program last year, Breer notes, adding that Bills coaches felt some of Whaley’s draft decisions — be it the trade-up for Sammy Watkins or selection of injury-risk Shaq Lawson — didn’t fit the schemes they were using. As for Watkins, it’s possible the Bills made his injury situation worse. Breer reports that the wideout’s foot injury was too severe for him to complete walkthroughs, but no one put a stop to his comeback attempt, and the pain worsened as he pushed through it to lead to a two-month shutdown. Watkins returned for the final six games but only cleared 80 receiving yards twice, albeit on a run-centric team. Already rumored to be set to decline Watkins’ fifth-year option, the Bills are probably more likely to go in that direction now that Whaley is gone, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap tweets.

Further complicating things with McDermott: Anthony Lynn was Whaley’s first HC choice, according to Breer, and ownership went with the former Panthers DC — with whom Whaley did not have much of a relationship — while letting Lynn proceed to the Chargers’ job. Tyrod Taylor‘s return on an adjusted deal also went against Whaley’s wishes and was more in line with new OC Rick Dennison‘s. The latter was the Broncos’ OC when the team pursued Taylor in 2015.

As far as the selection of the next GM, the Pegulas might not lean on team president Russ Brandon too much, with Terry Pegula saying today the owners would ask Brandon questions if they believed they need to (Twitter link via Breer). Former Eagles president and Browns CEO Joe Banner understandably expects the new GM to be someone with close ties to McDermott, the longtime exec told Sirius XM Radio (Twitter link). Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane could well become a candidate.

Staff Notes: Bills, Saints, Jags, Broncos, Jets

The Bills’ hiring of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison on Thursday is “very good news” for quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com said Friday on NFL Network (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com). While it previously appeared Taylor was on the outs in Buffalo, which faces a March 11 deadline to retain him for a guaranteed $30.75MM, it would “make no sense” for the team to change QBs after landing Dennison, per Rapoport. Dennison worked as Taylor’s position coach with the Ravens in 2014 and then served as the O-coordinator in Denver, which made a push to sign Taylor in free agency before he headed to the Bills in March 2015. With Dennison now in Buffalo, Rapoport expects the Bills to continue with Taylor, though he notes that they could first restructure his contract.

More coaching-related updates:

  • Ex-49ers head coach Jim Tomsula interviewed for the Saints’ open defensive line coach job earlier this week, multiple sources told Sporting News’ Alex Marvez. Tomsula was only at the helm in San Francisco for one year, a five-win 2015, but he was a successful D-line coach with the franchise from 2007-14.
  • Former Jaguars great Keenan McCardell will interview to become their wide receivers coach, according to Hays Carlyon of 1010XL. McCardell most recently coached the Redskins’ receivers from 2014-15, but he’s best known for his illustrious career as an NFL wideout from 1992-2007. Most of McCardell’s success came in Jacksonville, where he hauled in 499 passes and 30 touchdowns between 1996-2001. All told, McCardell combined for 883 catches and 63 scores with five teams.
  • The Broncos are set to name Geep Chryst their tight ends coach, reports Marvez (Twitter link). Chryst is familiar with Denver’s offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, as the two were together in Carolina from 2006-08. His highest-profile work came as San Francisco’s offensive coordinator in 2015 (under the aforementioned Tomsula).
  • The Jets have hired Robert Nunn as their defensive line coach, tweets Marvez. Nunn previously held the same position in Cleveland, which fired him Tuesday.
  • The Bills have tabbed Andrew Dees as their assistant offensive line coach, writes Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk. Dees also handled that role with the Bills in 2012 before serving on the Chargers’ staff from 2013-15. In his second stint in Buffalo, he’ll work under newly hired O-line coach Juan Castillo.
  • Dees is replacing Tony Sparano Jr., whom the Jaguars have hired as their assistant O-line coach, relays Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link).

Bills Hire Rick Dennison As OC

The Bills announced that they’ve hired longtime NFL coach Rick Dennison as their new offensive coordinator.Rick Dennison (Vertical)

[RELATED: 2017 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker]

Dennison, 58, boasts an expansive offensive coaching career, and most recently served as Denver’s play-caller under former head coach Gary Kubiak. New Denver head coach Vance Joseph opted to overhaul the majority of the Broncos’ offensive staff, meaning Dennison and most of his assistants became coaching free agents. Dennison, who also coached alongside Kubiak in both Houston and Baltimore, will presumably bring his zone-blocking scheme to Buffalo, a dramatic shift from the Bills’ recent man-blocking run game.

In Dennison, first-time head coach Sean McDermott adds a veteran offensive mind after striking out during the early part of his search for a new coordinator. Former Jaguars OC Greg Olson was viewed as a favorite for the job, but ultimately spurned Buffalo in order to accept the Rams’ quarterbacks coach gig. Former Chargers head coach Mike McCoy and Chiefs co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress were also viewed as candidates, while the Bills last night interviewed Panthers QBs coach Ken Dorsey for the role.

What exactly Dennison is inheriting in Buffalo is unclear, especially at the quarterback position, where the Bills are fully expected to move on from incumbent quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Buffalo does feature one of the more impressive run units in the league (1st in rushing DVOA in 2016), but without knowing who will be under center Week 1, it’s difficult to evaluate how Dennison will approach his new job. Dennison does have a connection to Taylor, as he served as Baltimore’s QBs coach while Taylor acted as Joe Flacco‘s backup in 2014.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Won’t Consider Assistants For HC Job

No one currently on the Broncos’ coaching staff will be considered for the newly-opened head coaching job, GM John Elway told reporters today. The Broncos are looking for a new head coach after Gary Kubiak announced that he’ll be stepping away from the positionJohn Elway (vertical)

Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis served as interim coach when Kubiak was forced to miss a game in October, but he apparently won’t be getting an interview. Same goes for offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, even though Phillips has previous head coaching experience with Dallas. Elway says that he hopes to retain the team’s assistants, though Phillips’ contract is set to expire. It’s also not a given that the next head coach will want to keep the current staff in tact. Without naming names, Elway said are three or four candidates that the team is “excited about.”

Meanwhile, Kubiak confirmed that he is retiring from coaching – not just stepping down from his current job. An emotional Kubiak said he’ll find other ways to spend his time and also said that he’ll be “okay” despite speculation about his health situation.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Hire Rick Dennison As OC

Having been officially announced as the Broncos’ new head coach earlier today, Gary Kubiak has already begun to put together his staff, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Two league sources tell Klis that the Broncos have hired Rick Dennison as their offensive coordinator and Brian Pariani as their tight ends coach.

Though there was some speculation that either Dennison or Pariani would remain in Baltimore, perhaps as candidates for the Ravens’ newly-opened offensive coordinator position, it comes as no surprise that both coaches are following Kubiak to Denver. Both men also worked with Kubiak in Houston before joining him in Baltimore this past season.

As Klis writes, the 56-year-old Dennison is “well-schooled in the zone-blocking, play-action offensive system” that Kubiak prefers to use. With the Broncos, the former Ravens quarterbacks coach will either work with Peyton Manning or Manning’s replacement – possibly Brock Osweiler – if the future Hall-of-Famer decides to call it a career.

With Dennison heading to Denver, the Broncos and Ravens could end up essentially swapping offensive coaches, as former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase is viewed as a top candidate for Baltimore’s OC job. We heard earlier today that Gase figures to land in either Baltimore or Jacksonville.

Broncos Hire Gary Kubiak As Head Coach

MONDAY, 9:53am: The Broncos have officially announced that they have agreed to terms with Kubiak, according to the team’s official Twitter account. Kubiak will become the 15th head coach in team history.

SUNDAY, 8:17pm: The Broncos have seemingly concluded their head coaching search, as they are currently in the process of negotiating a four-year contract with Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak to coach the team, reports Mike Klis of the Denver Post.

Kubiak is expected to be introduced as early as Tuesday, according to Klis. He is likely to bring Ravens quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison along with him to serve as his offensive coordinator, reports Albert Breer of NFL.com (via Twitter). Kubiak could also bring tight ends coach Brian Pariani, writes Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter).

Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com doesn’t believe that it is a lock for either Dennison or Pariani to head to Denver, and writes that either one could be a candidate to take over as the Ravens offensive coordinator (via Twitter). Former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase could also be an option in Baltimore, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).

Breer also notes that Kubiak figures to target Bengals secondary coach Vance Joseph (via Twitter).

Before the Broncos job opened up, Kubiak announced that he was not interested in pursuing head coaching opportunities, electing instead to remain with the Ravens as the offensive coordinator. However, things changed when the Broncos and John Fox parted ways, prompting Kubiak to change his mind and make himself available to interview in Denver.

Kubiak has a long history with the Broncos, playing for the team for nine seasons as a backup to Hall of Fame quarterback and current general manager of the Broncos John Elway, and losing three Super Bowls as a player. He returned to Denver as a quarterbacks coach for the 49ers, where he won his first Super Bowl as a coach. Kubiak later became the offensive coordinator for the Broncos under head coach Mike Shanahan, coaching Elway to two Super Bowl victories.

As Kubiak became a clear frontrunner for the job, it was reported that he would accept the position should the Broncos offer it to him.

The Ravens have now lost their offensive coordinator in Kubiak, who lead the team to a record-setting year for the franchise. The team will now look to hire its fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons, writes Zrebiec (via Twitter).

This also further complicates the issue of whether or not Peyton Manning will return to the Broncos in 2015. Kubiak is a widely regarded offensive mind, and three years ago when Manning was a free agent he was reportedly interested in teaming up with Kubiak and signing with the Texans. The rumor is that Kubiak did not pursue the idea of signing Manning, instead preferring to continue working with Matt Schaub, writes Pro Football Talk (via Twitter).

Kubiak’s attitude towards coaching Manning would likely had to have changed if the team plans on bringing Manning back. Otherwise, Kubiak will be starting from scratch at the quarterback position, possibly with former second-round pick Brock Osweiler.

Coach Rumors: Austin, Kubiak, Broncos

Teryl Austin‘s decision to pull out of the Broncos‘ coaching search was as much about what seems to be happening in Denver as it was about his own situation, tweets Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, hinting that Gary Kubiak looks like the odds-on favorite for the Broncos job if he wants it.

Having said that, Birkett adds in a second tweet that Austin’s second interview with the Falcons on Thursday went very well. According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network (Twitter link), Atlanta has narrowed its list of targets to Austin, Dan Quinn, and perhaps one other candidate, with Quinn expected to get a second interview next week following the NFC championship game.

Here’s more on coaching openings around the league:

  • The Broncos‘ interview with Kubiak is scheduled to happen on Sunday, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). According to Schefter, before Denver talks to Kubiak, the team will meet with Doug Marrone on Saturday.
  • If Kubiak leaves Baltimore to take the Broncos‘ head coaching job, the Ravens‘ contingency plan is to promote quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison to offensive coordinator, writes Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. However, as Jeff Zrebiec of the Sun points out (via Twitter), Dennison would also be a strong candidate for OC in Denver under Kubiak.
  • Kyle Shanahan would be another offensive coordinator candidate for both the Broncos and Ravens in that scenario, per Wilson and Dianna Marie Russini of NBC 4 in Washington (Twitter links). Per Russini, Shanahan turned down the opportunity to interview for the 49ers‘ OC job.
  • Sources tell Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com that Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph would be a top candidate for defensive coordinator in Denver if the Broncos hire Kubiak.
  • New Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was interested in bringing Buccaneers defensive line coach Joe Cullen with him to Oakland, but Tampa Bay denied the Raiders permission to interview him, according to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports (Twitter link).

Ravens Hire Gary Kubiak As OC

1:50pm: The Ravens have officially announced the hiring of Kubiak as the team’s offensive coordinator and Dennison as the QB coach.

12:19pm: The Ravens will officially announce their new offensive coordinator later this afternoon, according to the team (Twitter link). Wilson tweets that Dennison is expected to join the staff under Kubiak, though it’s not clear if any other additions will be announced today.

11:07am: While there are still some details to be ironed out, everything points to Kubiak becoming the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator, tweets Zrebiec.

According to Michael Preston of the Baltimore Sun, Kubiak is trying to put together an offensive staff before he officially accepts the job, meaning the team’s old coaches could be in trouble. Preston adds that Kubiak’s hiring has been pushed by Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti rather than Harbaugh (Twitter links).

MONDAY, 8:06am: The third candidate in the mix for the Ravens’ offensive coordinator job appears to be Gary Kubiak, who has emerged as the favorite for the position, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, former Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison has also spoken with John Harbaugh over the last few days, though based on Schefter’s report, it sounds as if Dennison may be drawing Baltimore’s interest for another spot on the staff, rather than the OC vacancy.

SUNDAY, 10:53pm: The Ravens have recently interviewed a third candidate in their search to fill the offensive coordinator vacancy previously occupied by Jim Caldwell, according to Jeff Zrebiec and Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun. Until now, it was believed that former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and current Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler were the only remaining candidates.

Former Steelers running back coach Kirby Wilson, who appears poised to join the Vikings’ staff, had also been in the mix for the Ravens’ position, but was informed this weekend that Baltimore was going in a different direction.