Rick Dennison

Staff Notes: Dennison, Cards, Falcons, Titans

After two players filed grievances against the Jets in recent months, the franchise has an issue with former offensive line coach Rick Dennison. Now on the Vikings’ staff, Dennison spent the 2018 season as the Jets’ O-line coach and run-game coordinator. A dispute about Dennison’s contract has emerged, with the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta reporting in an expansive piece the Jets and their former assistant have been at odds for a year about his deal. Dennison wanted to stay on as Jets O-line coach, but then-new Jets HC Adam Gase replaced all of Todd Bowles‘ 2018 offensive staff.

The parties are at odds over a roughly $1MM payment. Previous Jets GM Mike Maccagnan, after informing Dennison he would not be on Gase’s 2019 staff, gave Dennison permission to pursue other jobs. The Jets then signed off on the ex-NFL OC receiving the money but subsequently changed their tune, Mehta adds. Gase told some he discussed with Dennison a move to the scouting staff, but Mehta notes no such discussion occurred. Unless the Jets and Dennison reach a settlement, a hearing at the league office is expected to take place this month.

The Jets saw both Luke Falk and Kelechi Osemele file grievances against the team during in the Gase-Joe Douglas regime’s early months. Add the Dennison matter to this interesting list.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Weeks after Jon Gruden brought in Rod Marinelli to take Brentson Buckner‘s job as defensive line coach, the longtime NFL assistant has another gig. Buckner will return to the Cardinals‘ coaching staff, the team announced. Buckner’s first major NFL coaching role came in Arizona; the former 12-year NFL defensive lineman spent all five years of Bruce Arians‘ run as the Cards’ D-line coach. He’ll reprise that role.
  • The Cardinals are making more staff changes. Former 49ers special teams coordinator Derius Swinton signed on to become the Cards’ assistant ST coach. After spending 2018 on the Lions’ staff, Swinton did not coach this past season. Additionally, Spencer Whipple will rise from the quality control level to assistant wideouts coach.
  • Mike Mularkey‘s retirement left a vacancy on the Falcons‘ staff. They filled it by promoting Ben Steele from offensive assistant to tight ends coach, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes. Steele spent five seasons with the Buccaneers — the final two as Tampa Bay’s tight ends coach — prior to joining Dan Quinn’s staff last year.
  • Jason Garrett will bring another ex-Cowboys assistant with him to the Giants. Stephen Brown will join Joe Judge‘s staff as an offensive assistant, according to Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter). Brown spent the past four seasons in Dallas, primarily working with the team’s running backs. Garrett previously hired ex-Cowboys staffers Marc Colombo as O-line coach and Derek Dooley as a senior offensive assistant.
  • The Titans are promoting multiple assistants. Formerly operating as defensive assistants, Scott Booker and Ryan Crow will respectively rise on Mike Vrabel‘s staff. Booker is the Titans’ new assistant special teams coach, and Crow will now coach Tennessee’s safeties under new secondary coach Anthony Midget.

Vikings Hire Rick Dennison

Previously rumored to be following Gary Kubiak to Minnesota, Rick Dennison made it official. After a lengthy delay, the Vikings announced Dennison will serve as their offensive line coach.

Dennison became connected to this role when Kubiak accepted an assistant head coach position with the Vikings, but the Jets and Packers expressed interest in Dennison. The former Texans, Broncos and Bills OC coached the Jets’ offensive linemen last season.

The 2019 season will mark Dennison’s 18th season on staff with Kubiak, whose return as the Broncos’ OC was scuttled due to wanting to bring former Denver assistants Dennison and Brian Pariani — now the Vikings’ tight ends coach — back to Denver as part of his offensive staff. The Broncos preferred Mike Munchak be their offensive line coach instead and ended up going in that direction, severing ties with Kubiak.

Dennison, who will also serve as Minnesota’s run game coordinator, worked with the Broncos from 1995-2009 and again from 2015-16. The Bills fired him as OC after the 2017 season. This will be a key position gig for the 60-year-old coach, with the Vikings’ struggles up front playing a key role in the team missing the playoffs after it entered last season as a Super Bowl contender.

Previous Vikings offensive line coach Andrew Janocko will stay on staff. He will now work under Dennison as assistant O-line coach, the Vikings announced. Janocko served as Minnesota’s assistant O-line coach in 2017, serving under Tony Sparano. After Sparano’s 2018 death, the Vikings promoted Janocko.

The team also announced Drew Petzing will have a new title, rising from assistant quarterbacks coach to head wideouts coach. Petzing served as Minnesota’s assistant receivers coach from 2016-17.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Vikings, Bears

The Packers will not be hiring Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Green Bay was reportedly one of five teams with interest in Rizzi, who also holds the title of assistant head coach in Miami, but the two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement. Per Silverstein, Rizzi’s price tag is believed to be “high,” but he’s still expected to land with another club in the near future. The Dolphins would like to retain Rizzi (whom they interviewed for head coach), but they figure to install an all-new staff under presumptive head coach Brian Flores, so it’s unclear if there is still a fit in South Beach.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Like the Packers, the Vikings expressed interest in hiring Rizzi, but they’ve since gone in another direction. Minnesota has hired Rizzi’s assistant in Miami, Marwan Maalouf, as their new special teams coach, tweets Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio. Maalouf served as the Colts’ special teams coach in 2012 before joining Miami the following season. He’s replacing Mike Priefer, who left the Vikings to take the Browns’ ST job. Last year, the Vikings ranked 20th in Football Outsiders’ special teams metrics, while the Dolphins were one spot behind at No. 21.
  • Rick Dennison preferred to stay on as the Jets‘ offensive line coach under new head coach Adam Gase, but New York instead hired Frank Pollack to guide their front five. However, both the Vikings and Packers remain “strong possibilities” for Dennison, per Marvez (Twitter link). Dennison had been expected to immediately follow Gary Kubiak — who was recently hired as a Vikings’ offensive advisor — to Minnesota, but that union hasn’t yet happened. Green Bay, meanwhile, has already hired Adam Stenavich as its offensive line coach, so Dennison would come aboard in a different position.
  • Early reports suggested the Packers were interested in retaining incumbent tight ends coach Brian Angelichio, but Green Bay has instead hired Falcons quality control/assistant offensive line coach Justin Outten as their new TEs coach, tweets Silverstein. Angelichio was one of a few assistants that was expected to stick around under new Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur, but things must have changed over the past several weeks. Outten, for his part, joined Atlanta as an intern in 2016, and was coaching in the high school ranks as recently as 2015.
  • The Bears hired former Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino last week, and now Chicago has formally announced his title. Monachino will serve as a senior defensive assistant/outside linebackers coach under defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who previously employed Monachino in both Indianapolis and Baltimore.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.