Rick Dennison

Packers Notes: Staff, Jefferson, Dennison

New Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is interested in Dolphins assistant head coach/offense Shawn Jefferson, reports Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links). If hired, Jefferson would likely join Green Bay as receivers coach, a role for for which Jets WRs coach Karl Dorrell has already interviewed. The Packers allowed their former wideouts coach — David Raih — to join the Cardinals’ new staff earlier this offseason. Jefferson, meanwhile, started his coaching career in 2006 with the Lions before moving on to Tennessee in 2013 and Miami in 2016.

Here’s more from Green Bay:

  • The 49ers have granted the Packers permission to interview Adam Stenavich for their offensive line coach vacancy, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link). Stenavich, currently San Francisco’s assistant OL coach, joined the 49ers in 2017 after spending time in the NCAA ranks with Michigan, Northern Arizona, and San Jose State. Green Bay is on the hunt for a new offensive line coach after allowing James Campen, who’d been with the franchise since 2007, to take an assistant head coach/OL job with the Browns.
  • In addition to Stenavich, Green Bay has interest in longtime NFL offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Rick Dennison, tweets Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Dennison has long been a Gary Kubiak disciple, but surprisingly hasn’t followed him to Minnesota, where Kubiak is now an offensive advisor. Indeed, Dennison’s presence may have been a primary reason for Kubiak not becoming the Broncos’ OC, as Josina Anderson of ESPN.com indicated last week (via Twitter). Dennison spent 2017-18 with the Bills and Jets, respectively.
  • The Packers will also interview Redskins linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti for the same role, tweets Grant Paulsen of NBC Sports Washington. Olivadotti, 45, has essentially been a Redskins lifer: he joined the club in 2000 as a defensive quality control coach, and has worked for the team in various roles ever since, save for a 2011-13 stint at the University of Georgia. He’s familiar with LaFleur, as the two worked together in the nation’s capital in 2010 while LaFleur was Washington’s quarterbacks coach.
  • LaFleur will retain incumbent defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery and running backs coach Ben Sirmans, per Demovsky. At present, it appears Montgomery, Sirmans, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and tight ends coach Brian Angelichio will be the only holdovers from previous head coach Mike McCarthy‘s staff. However, it’s unclear if Montgomery and Angelichio will remain in their current roles or take on new responsibilities.
  • Despite spending the 2018 campaign as the Titans’ offensive coordinator, LaFleur will not bring any members of the Tennessee staff to Green Bay, tweets Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com.

Coaching Rumors: Rizzi, Dennison, Browns

Darren Rizzi interviewed for the Dolphins coaching job that is likely to go to Brian Flores, but the special teams coordinator is a coveted commodity around the league. The Packers are set to interview him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Miami wants to retain Rizzi, who has been with the team throughout the 2010s, but has given him permission to seek employment elsewhere. That may soon prompt an extensive interview circuit. Five teams are interested in bringing him aboard, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. The Vikings look to be one of those. Rizzi, 48, has only coached for one NFL franchise. His pre-Dolphins gigs were college jobs in the northeast, including a one-season stay (2008) as Rhode Island’s head coach.

As week three of many teams’ offseason begins, here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Todd Monken‘s rise to Buccaneers play-caller earned him interest in teams’ OC jobs. He ended up landing with the Browns, but the other recent play-caller on this staff will call Cleveland’s plays next season. Freddie Kitchens will be the game-day director for the Browns’ offense next season, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). This won’t be too new for Monken, who spent the first two seasons as Bucs OC watching Dirk Koetter call plays.
  • The Vikings announced Klint Kubiak (quarterbacks coach) and Brian Pariani (tight ends) are following Gary Kubiak to Minnesota, with the latter’s official title being assistant head coach/offensive advisor. Expected to be part of the Gary Kubiak gang getting back together up north, Rick Dennison was not included in this announcement. But Mike Klis of 9News notes the former Broncos and Bills OC is indeed believed to be part of the next Vikings staff (Twitter link). When Kubiak agreed to reprise his longtime role as Broncos OC, he wanted Dennison to oversee the team’s offensive line concepts, per Klis. The Broncos’ pursuit of Mike Munchak overruled this, and Dennison — the Jets’ O-line coach in 2018 — could be set to have a role in aiding the Vikings’ blockers next season.
  • Speaking of Munchak, the Broncos went beyond their usual offensive line coach budget to bring him over from Pittsburgh, Klis notes (on Twitter). Munchak, who has coached for just two franchises (the Oilers/Titans and Steelers), has family in the area.
  • The Steelers promoted Shaun Sarrett to replace Munchak as their O-line coach, the team announced. Sarrett had previously served as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. He has been with the Steelers for seven seasons, helping instruct their offensive linemen for most of that time.
  • After the Steelers let running backs coach James Saxon go, he will move to Arizona. The Cardinals are hiring Saxon to coach their running backs, Aditi Kinkabwala of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). He will replace Kirby Wilson and attempt to revive Arizona’s No. 32-ranked ground game. Saxon has 19 years’ experience coaching running backs in the NFL — the past five with the Steelers, where he oversaw Le’Veon Bell‘s rise and James Conner and Jaylen Samuels‘ quality replacement efforts — and should help rookie NFL coach Kliff Kingsbury.
  • Kris Kocurek will move from south Florida to the Bay Area, shifting from the Dolphins’ defensive line coach to the same role with the 49ers, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM tweets. Kocurek, 40, was the Lions’ D-line coach for nine seasons prior to moving to Miami.

Vikings To Hire Gary Kubiak

Gary Kubiak will not return to an offensive coordinator role in 2019. Instead, he will take a job with the Vikings as an offensive advisor, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

He was linked to a Minnesota role earlier Monday, and his son’s new position likely played a key role. Klint Kubiak is expected to become the Vikings’ quarterbacks coach, Schefter reports.

This will be Gary Kubiak’s first time on the sidelines in a non-HC role since he was the 2014 Ravens’ OC. He will undoubtedly help OC Kevin Stefanski, whose first NFL play-calling experience came when he was promoted late this season to his current role.

Stefanski is close with Klint Kubiak, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). They worked together when Klint was part of the Vikings’ staffs in 2013-14 as a quality control coach. Gary Kubiak once wanted to bring Stefanski to Denver, per Schefter (on Twitter), but they will pair up in Minneapolis instead.

This also represents a key turning point on the 2019 coaching carousel. Less than a week ago, Kubiak was expected to return to the Broncos’ coaching staff as their offensive coordinator, teaming with new HC Vic Fangio. But conflicts, centering around personnel, scuttled that move. And it will end up sending Kubiak out of Denver, where he held his “dream job” and became a Super Bowl-winning coach.

Interestingly, the two assistants Kubiak reportedly wanted to bring back to Denver, per 9News’ Mike Klis, will follow him to Minnesota. Former Broncos OC Rick Dennison and ex-Denver tight ends coach Brian Pariani will be part of the Vikings’ staff next season, Alex Marvez of Sirius XM tweets, adding that Kubiak’s title is expected to be something along the lines of “assistant head coach/offense.” With Kubiak influencing staff moves to this degree, it looks like he is going to have a key voice for how the Vikings proceed next season. And the Vikings’ 2019 offensive staff will look a lot like the 2016 Broncos’ did.

These moves may well be based around Kirk Cousins. Mike Shanahan drafted Cousins and championed him as a future starter, though Cousins’ time realizing his former coach’s vision came under Jay Gruden. But Shanahan and Kubiak feature nearly identical offensive systems, making Kubiak-to-Minnesota a natural fit.

At 31, Klint Kubiak is a few months older than Cousins. He worked with quarterbacks in Denver for the past three seasons, the first under his father and most recent two when Gary Kubiak was part of the Broncos’ front office. Dennison served as Kubiak’s Denver OC from 2015-16 but was relieved of that job in Buffalo after the 2017 season. He coached the Jets’ offensive line last season.

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Jets To Hire Ex-Bills OC Rick Dennison

The Jets are expected to hire former Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison as their new run-game coordinator/offensive line coach, a league source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News first reported the Jets’ interest in hiring Dennison. Rick Dennison (vertical)

Dennison was canned by Buffalo earlier this month after just one season as the team’s OC. The Bills’ offense was inconsistent, but Dennison inherited a pretty rocky situation at quarterback. On the plus side, the Bills did finish sixth in rushing yards per game (126.1).

The Jets see Dennison as the answer for their run game woes, but the team’s backfield figures to look pretty different in 2018. Technically speaking, Matt Forte is under contract for another year, but the team can save $3MM and eat just $1MM of dead money if he is released. Bilal Powell should be back, but the Jets will need at least one fleet-footed rusher to pair with him. Dennison also has his work cut out for him on the O-Line – the Jets ranked just 27th in adjusted sack rate and 29th in adjusted line yards last year.

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Jets Interested In Rick Dennison

The Jets announced today that they’ve fired offensive line coach Steve Marshall, and the club may already have a replacement lined up. New York has reached out to former Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison in relation to their offensive line coach/run game coordinator vacancy, according to Manish Mehtha of the New York Daily News.Rick Dennison (vertical)

Dennison, a longtime NFL coach and play-caller, was fired earlier this month after spending only a single season as Buffalo’s OC. He hasn’t generated any other known interest, but he’d add experience to a Jets coaching staff that will continue rebuilding a young roster in 2018. Dennison also enjoys a relationship with new New York offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, as the two overlapped with the Broncos from 2006-08.

If Dennison does land with the Jets, he’ll take over an offensive line that struggled immensely last season. New York’s front five ranked just 27th in adjusted sack rate and 29th in adjusted line yards a year ago, and could be playing a new center in 2018. Wesley Johnson, who started 15 games for Gang Green last season, will hit unrestricted free agency in March.

In other Jets staff news, New York is hiring former Titans coach Steve Jackson as their new assistant defensive backs coach, per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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