Rob Chudzinski

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.

AFC Notes: Colts, Bills, Jets, Jones

While the Colts are set for a front-office transition, they are set to return most of their offensive coaching staff, with one exception. The Bills’ previous wide receivers coach, Sanjay Lal, will make the move to Indianapolis to work in the same capacity, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Lal coached Buffalo’s wideouts for two seasons. Between 2009-14, he worked with the Raiders’ and Jets’ receiving corps. Lal replaces Lee Hull, whom the team dismissed.

Aside from that switch, the Colts will return OC Rob Chudzinski‘s staff. Former Dolphins HC Joe Philbin will remain in charge of Indianapolis’ offensive line, Quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer will return as well. Although, no such assurances are made to this staff beyond the 2017 season, and per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, the assistants are exhibiting a sense of relief at the Senior Bowl that Ryan Grigson‘s firing did not come with a sizable staff shakeup.

Here’s more from the AFC.

  • Jim Irsay continues to consult with former Colts GM Bill Polian, per Holder, about the search to replace Grigson. Holder isn’t certain the Hall of Fame executive will sit in on the interviews, but it’s clear he’s functioning as a sounding board for his former boss.
  • When Doug Whaley listed some of the Bills‘ free agents, he categorized three players (Stephon Gilmore, Robert Woods and RFA punter Colton Schmidt) as starters before pointing to the other 25 players in that grouping as performers brought in for depth purposes. “The rest of those guys, we brought in for backup depth purposes and they’ve played extremely well, and that’s a compliment to our pro personnel department,” Whaley said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. “But we feel we have confidence that we can get a lot of those guys back on extended contracts.” Mike Rodak of ESPN.com points out UFAs like Lorenzo Alexander, right tackle Jordan Mills and Zach Brown enhanced their value this season (Twitter links) and won’t likely be regarded as depth players once they hit free agency. Rodak (via Twitter) also doesn’t see Alexander, used as an outside linebacker in Rex Ryan‘s 3-4 scheme, as a fit in Doug McDermott‘s 4-3.
  • The Jets are almost certainly set for some type of negotiation with Darrelle Revis about reducing his contract, but should he return in 2017, a transition to safety is in play. New Jets secondary coach Dennard Wilson said he “wouldn’t think it would be a problem” for Revis to take up playing on the back line, per Connor Hughes of NJ.com. Wilson demurred when asked whether he wants Revis on the 2017 team. The Jets can save $9MM by cutting Revis before the second day of the new league year but will incur a $6MM dead-money hit — one that would be alleviated, due to offset language, if Revis lands elsewhere.
  • Gang Green has done “extensive homework” on former Texans OC George Godsey, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Rapoport views Godsey, who mutually parted ways with the Texans after the team’s divisional-round loss to the Patriots, as a strong candidate to succeed Chan Gailey.
  • One of the Jets’ considerations with their No. 6 overall pick will be North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com notes. However, Pauline said upon discussions at the Senior Bowl that labeling the Jets as being infatuated with the early-entry Tar Heels talent may be a bit overblown, noting the Jets are part of a “pack of teams” at the top of the draft considering Trubisky.
  • Adam Jones could face a suspension next season after his profanity-laced tirade against police officers was captured on video. The Bengals cornerback issued an apology statement, via the Associated Press, following the franchise’s apology. Jones will be set for his age-34 season next year, which doubles as the second year of his latest Bengals contract.

10 Coaching Candidates For The Rams

In an iconic scene from season nine of The SimpsonsKrusty the Klown announced his retirement to a scrum of not-so-stunned reporters. Krusty The Clown

But Krusty,” one reporter asks. “Why now? Why not twenty years ago?

It wouldn’t have been out of place for any Rams beat reporter to channel that sentiment and ask a similar question of COO Kevin Demoff when he addressed the media on Monday. Jeff Fisher‘s dismissal was long overdue and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the coach’s family who disagrees.

For now, the Rams will turn things over to special teams coordinator John Fassel on an interim basis. While this is ostensibly a chance for Fassel to impress team brass and land the head coaching job for 2017, most are expecting the Rams to hire a name brand coach that will energize the fan base and give the team some additional panache in free agency.

With a few weeks to go between now and the official end of the Rams’ season, here are ten names that could be considered for the job:

Jim Harbaugh (vertical)Jim Harbaugh, head coach at the University of Michigan: Some say that living well is the best revenge. Others say that the best revenge against your former employer is setting up shop across the street and destroying them. Santa Clara-to-Los Angeles is a lengthy drive, but you get what we’re getting at.

Harbaugh, in theory, could leave his alma mater and crush the 49ers by joining up with a divisional rival. The Rams have reportedly been loafing in practice and Harbaugh is the kind of throwback disciplinarian that the team badly needs. It’s fair to assume that the Rams will get in contact with Harbaugh, but it will be tough to get him to leave his lucrative job in Ann Arbor.

With National Signing Day around the corner, Harbaugh could publicly remove himself himself from consideration if he is not at all interested in an NFL return. Alternatively, if Harbaugh wants to get sweet revenge against the Niners, Stan Kroenke better have his checkbook ready. Signing Harbaugh could cost upwards of $10MM/year and that’s before factoring in his buyout clause with the Wolverines. If Harbaugh bolts, he’ll owe U-M the prorated portion of his $2MM signing bonus. With two of the seven years served, 5/7ths of that amount comes out to roughly $1.43MM.

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Colts Name Rob Chudzinski O-Coordinator

Hours after announcing former Ravens assistant Ted Monachino as their new defensive coordinator, the CRob Chudzinski (vertical)olts have made another significant move with respect to their coaching staff. This time, though, the Colts are staying in house, promoting interim offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to the full-time job, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Chudzinski, 47, has extensive experience as an O-coordinator, having held that post in Cleveland (2007-08) and Carolina (2011-12) before joining Indy’s staff as an assistant in 2014. Chudzinski took over as the Colts’ coordinator in November after the firing of Pep Hamilton.

With the promotion of Chudzinski and, more importantly, the return of star quarterback Andrew Luck from injury next season, the Colts will hope to revive an offense that finished the 2015-16 campaign 28th in yardage and 24th in points. In Luck’s only game with Chudzinski calling plays this season, Nov. 8 against Denver, he completed 21 of 36 passes for 252 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers in a 27-24 upset win, also adding 34 yards on six rushes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Rumors: Payton, Coleman, Blackmon, Colts

Sean Payton decided again to squash any potential move to another team next season, per ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett.

It’s come up every, I’m going to say, two to three years. And I guess … listen, it comes with the territory,” the Saints coach told media. “This is where I call home. I just finished building a home here. I’m close enough to my son back in Dallas where I’m pretty much back there once a week or he’s over here; my daughter is off in college now. So, I see myself coaching this team long past this season.”

Payton made similar comments in October after ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Dolphins, and possibly other teams, would make a play for his services after this season. The 10th-year coach has two years remaining on his contract, so such a move would require compensation.

Drew Brees‘ coach for each of his Saints campaigns, Payton also anticipates the 15th-year quarterback to stay in New Orleans next season, when he’ll be 37 and occupy an untenable $30MM salary cap number.

I understand (the question). It’s the business we’re in. And yet he’s playing at a very high level,” Payton told media. “His mechanics, his arm strength has been outstanding. Two weeks ago in Tampa Bay, he made a throw down the sideline and into the wind in Cover 2 that was unbelievable. So, yes, to answer your question, I do (expect him back).”

Here is some more news emerging from the Southern divisions.

  • Tevin Coleman slipped in the shower at the Falcons‘ facility and entered the concussion protocol as a result, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports. The rookie runner who began the season as Atlanta’s starter has 392 yards on 87 carries this season.
  • The Jaguars recouped an undisclosed amount of Justin Blackmon‘s bonus money despite the embattled receiver going on his second full-season absence from the league, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union reports. Previous reports indicated the Jaguars were keeping the former top-10 pick on their roster to recoup as much as $4MM of Blackmon’s signing bonus, instead of cutting him and not reacquiring any money. O’Halloran estimates, with Blackmon accruing another DUI this month, the receiver’s suspension has no end in sight and the Jags could conceivably keep him on their roster for years, with it not costing any cap space to do so.
  • After T.Y. Hilton criticized the Colts‘ game plan for a lack of deep shots, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski indicated the team’s tenuous situation has limited the number of downfield strikes he’s willing to attempt, according to an Associated Press report. This isn’t the first time in-house criticism of play-calling’s surfaced, with since-deposed OC Pep Hamilton receiving his share previously this season.
  • Including Chuck Pagano only being offered a one-year extension and Ryan Grigson‘s failure to upgrade the Colts’ offensive line, the Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer examines the main components that led to the Colts’ tumble this season.

AFC Notes: Jets, Texans, Ravens, Finney

The Jets‘ $150MM secondary is in danger of becoming a bust, Brian Costello of the New York Post opines. For a while, it looked like the offseason additions of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist were paying off. However, the Jets have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for 1,227 yards over their past four games and teams averaged 27.3 points per game on them during that run. Revis has been strong overall, but Cromartie has struggled mightily, with Pro Football Focus ranking him 100th out of 110 qualified corners.

As we wait to see whether Todd Bowles and the Jets’ defense can get things turned around, here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Texans only have two quarterbacks on their active roster, and one of them – Brian Hoyer – suffered a concussion during Monday’s game against the Bengals. However, head coach Bill O’Brien said on Tuesday that while the Texans have discussed adding a QB, they’re sticking with the roster as is for the time being (Twitter link via Adam Wexler of KPRC-TV Sports).
  • Placing Breshad Perriman on injured reserve, ending his rookie season before he saw a single snap, has further complicated the Ravens‘ uncertain wide receiver situation as the team heads into 2016, writes Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. With the futures of Steve Smith and other wideouts up in the air, Baltimore had hoped to get an idea of what the team could expect from Perriman going forward, but he remains a question mark for now.
  • Offensive lineman B.J. Finney, who is currently on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, received a sizable raise from the Steelers and is now earning $25,588 per week, which is essentially the same as an active-roster, minimum-salary player, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com.
  • According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is expected to receive consideration from the University of Miami for the school’s head coaching job.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Colts Fire OC Pep Hamilton

The Colts have fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Coach Rob Chudzinski will be promoted in his place, as Tom Pelissero of USA Today tweets.

This season has not gone as planned for the Colts, who are the defacto No. 1 team in the AFC South. Locked at 3-5 with the Texans for first place, the Colts are looking to shake things up and save their season. Chudzinski, who previously held the title of associate head coach in Indianapolis, drew interest from multiple teams with offensive coordinator vacancies over the offseason. The Colts did not allow him to pursue those jobs and that was probably because they viewed him as a safety net for Hamilton.

Hamilton has garnered some head coaching buzz in the past but the Colts’ offensive performance this season hasn’t done him any favors in that regard. Of course, Hamilton has built up a strong reputation as an offensive mind over the years and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get back into the OC mix this spring.

La Canfora’s Latest: Colts, Texans, Trades

With 2015 shaping up to be Chuck Pagano‘s last in Indianapolis, as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com writes, the Miami Hurricanes job could be in play for the fourth-year coach.

The rest of the Colts‘ staffers are set for an uncertain future, with Jim Irsay considering changes after the thus-far-underwhelming team’s Week 10 bye.

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton‘s job is on the line. Pagano, per La Canfora, wanted associate head coach Rob Chudzinski to run the offense, and longtime organizational staffer Clyde Christensen also looms as an OC candidate in the event Pagano’s preferences are no longer relevant.

Pagano’s Miami connection stems from being the Hurricanes’ secondary coach from 1995-2000.

Irsay hopes to lure a top head-coaching candidate to Indianapolis next year, and that would mean GM Ryan Grigson would almost certainly be shown the door, the CBS reporter notes.

Here are some additional notes from La Canfora on Week 8 Sunday.

  • The schism that formed in Houston recently between Bill O’Brien and GM Rick Smith regarding now-ex-Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett will lead to a change in the organization’s power structure, La Canfora reports. The ninth-year GM could see a reassignment if O’Brien is to assume more control, as he’s used to the head coach having from his years with the Patriots. The present setup involves both O’Brien and Smith reporting to owner Bob McNair separately, and McNair doesn’t see that as a sustainable model in light of the Mallett incident. It’s caused a divide within the organization, sources told La Canfora. “It’s gone from a slow drip to a waterfall,” a team source told the CBS scribe, describing the rift that’s become off-putting for McNair.
  • Matt Forte and Brian Cushing are available for trades, La Canfora notes, mentioning the Bears, Texans and 49ers as the teams most likely to operate as sellers in advance of the Nov. 3 trade deadline. The 49ers have also entertained teams’ interest on offensive lineman Alex Boone and have fielded calls on Vernon Davis. The Seahawks are a team that is willing to trade a depth piece to acquire an offensive lineman to help fix their biggest issue, La Canfora reports. The Ravens and Chargers, despite carrying 11 losses between them, are viewed as being more hesitant to sell off veterans.

Coaching Rumors: Dolphins, Pagano, Texans

A report this weekend indicated that Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley is expected to receive consideration in the offseason for the Dolphins‘ head coaching job. However, asked if there’s any truth to those Haley rumors, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link) replied, “None.”

It isn’t the first time that Salguero has shot down a Dolphins-related report from La Canfora — during the 2014 offseason, La Canfora reported that the club was exploring trades involving players like Mike Wallace and Dion Jordan, which Salguero’s sources emphatically denied. It’s not entirely clear if the team was indeed considering deals back then, but the Dolphins ultimately traded Wallace a year later, and probably wish they had moved Jordan as well.

In this case, the performance of the Dolphins and interim coach Dan Campbell down the stretch will play a significant role in what candidates Miami considers after the season — if the club continues to look as good as it has in Campbell’s first two games, it’s hard not to imagine the team hiring him on a full-time basis.

Here are a few more coaching notes and rumors from around the NFL:

  • While Chuck Pagano‘s job in Indianapolis isn’t totally safe, it’s highly unlikely that the Colts will make a change this week, tweets Bob Kravitz of WTHR.com. Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star is skeptical that firing Pagano is the answer to turning things around for the Colts.
  • If the Colts do decide to make an in-season change, that move is most likely to happen during the club’s Week 10 bye, says Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). Cole identifies offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, assistant head coach Rob Chudzinski, and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen as the four in-house candidates to replace Pagano.
  • In the wake of Monday’s report that head coach Bill O’Brien and general manager Rick Smith disagreed on whether Ryan Mallett should be cut, Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk examines the Texans‘ organizational structure, suggesting that it will likely continue to cause problems. In Smith’s view, it may be time for either the head coach or GM – or both – to go. For what it’s worth, following Mallett’s release today, Tania Ganguil of ESPN.com tweeted that Rick Smith was always on board with the decision, but disagreed about the timing of the move, which would’ve left the team with just one active veteran quarterback.
  • The Lions‘ firing of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi should officially put head coach Jim Caldwell on notice, writes Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com.
  • The Eagles are almost certainly giving DeMarco Murray more playing time than Ryan Mathews because of the difference between the two players’ contracts and guaranteed money, and that’s just one example of how Chip Kelly‘s moves as a GM are hampering him as a head coach, says Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Michael Reghi, Bud Shaw, Dan Labbe, and Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group debate whether Browns head coach Mike Pettine should be on the hot seat in Cleveland.

South Notes: Pagano, Titans, Mathis, Panthers

Expectations are high in Indianapolis this season, with Colts owner Jim Irsay suggesting that he’d like to see his team win “at least two world championships” while Andrew Luck is the quarterback. Those high expectations, combined with the fact that Chuck Pagano is entering the final year of his contract, could mean it’s a “Super Bowl or bust” season for the Colts’ head coach, writes Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com.

La Canfora hears that there’s “consistent chatter” around the Colts about possible tension between Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson, who haven’t always seen eye to eye on staff decisions — per La Canfora, Grigson strongly supported Pep Hamilton as offensive coordinator, while Pagano was more inclined to go with Rob Chudzinski.

I’m skeptical that Irsay and the Colts are drawing a hard “Super Bowl or bust” line with Pagano, but it’s somewhat surprising that the two sides haven’t been able to work out a new deal yet. As we wait to see what this season brings for Pagano and his team, let’s round up a few more Friday notes from around the NFL’s two South divisions….

  • The Titans are monitoring Evan Mathis‘ situation, according to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com (Twitter link), who suggests Tennessee’s interest in the veteran guard could intensify if the team’s offensive line play doesn’t improve in this weekend’s preseason game vs. the Rams.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Field Yates examines the Panthers‘ options for replacing Kelvin Benjamin, wondering if the Colts might be a logical trade partner — players like Donte Moncrief and Duron Carter may find themselves pushed far down on Indianapolis’ depth chart, with T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, and Phillip Dorsett expected to be the club’s top three wideouts. For what it’s worth, Carolina was one of the teams interested in Carter before he signed with the Colts.
  • Jim Woodcock, spokesman for Jaguars owner Shad Kahn, denied an international report claiming that the Jaguars have extended their deal with London’s Wembley Stadium through the 2030 season, per Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union. However, Woodcock added that discussions for the team to continue its London series “have been frequent and promising.”