Robert Livingston

COVID-19 Latest: Bubble, Bengals, Dalton

With the NFL passing an in-case-of-emergency amended playoff bracket and having a tentative Week 18 in place in case games need to be rescheduled, the league is planning ahead. Its months-long anti-bubble stance remains, but the prospect of one taking place in the postseason has not been ruled out. The NFL will consider holding conference championship games at neutral-site bubbles, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post. Like the 16-team bracket, this would be a contingency plan. Should the NFL proceed with bubbles for its penultimate postseason round, Maske notes warm-weather cities would be the likely sites.

Here is the latest on the NFL’s navigation of the coronavirus pandemic:

  • As cases spike nationally, the NFL has seen a significant uptick as well this month. Forty-seven percent of the league’s positive coronavirus tests this season came during November’s first two weeks, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones notes. As such, the NFL is bracing for more COVID-related trouble after Thanksgiving. The league expects cases to surge after the holiday, with high-ranking execs informing Jones the bulk of its cases thus far this season occurred because of in-home gatherings. No games have been rescheduled since Week 7, but given the protocol adjustments and postseason contingency plan, the league appears to be preparing for postponements to re-emerge.
  • Beginning Saturday, all NFL teams will be thrust into the intensive COVID-19 protocol. The recently implemented higher-security format will be the new norm, per NFL.com’s Judy Battista. Positive tests were previously necessary to move teams into the intensive protocol — which calls for all meetings to be held virtually, masks to be worn at all times at team facilities and no player congregation to occur outside of teams’ headquarters — but the league’s Thanksgiving-related concerns have prompted precautions.
  • The Bengals were without four coaches during their Week 10 game against the Steelers and will be without three staffers this weekend as well. Cincinnati cornerbacks coach Steve Jackson, wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell and safeties coach Robert Livingston will not be with the team in Washington due to COVID-19 protocols, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Last week, the Bengals were without Jackson, Bicknell, linebackers coach Al Golden and senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner. Bengals DC Lou Anarumo will assume more responsibility this weekend, per the team, in overseeing the team’s defensive backs.
  • Former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will be back in the Cowboys‘ starting lineup this week, but he has not yet fully recovered from the coronavirus. The 10th-year veteran developed symptoms and has not fully regained his taste and smell senses, via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). Dalton’s wife and one of his sons also contracted the virus. The Cowboys activated Dalton from their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

Bengals Notes: Taylor, Turner, Casey, Martin

New Bengals head coach Zac Taylor will call his own offensive plays, as he told reporters at his introductory press conference on Tuesday (Twitter link via Richard Skinner of WKRC-TV). Taylor was hired on the strength of his offensive acumen, so it’s no surprise that he’ll direct Cincinnati’s offense, leaving new offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to serve in a game-planning role. Taylor, for what it’s worth, doesn’t boast much play-calling experience: he led the Dolphins’ offense for a half-season in 2015, and coordinated the University of Cincinnati’s offense the following year. Under former coordinator Bill Lazor, the Bengals’ offense ranked 17th in scoring, 19th in DVOA, and 26th in yardage in 2018.

Here’s more from the Queen City:

  • Taylor will hire Texas A&M offensive line coach Jim Turner for the same role, reports Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Turner has worked with Taylor at three different stops, so there’s obvious familiarity between the two. He’d be replacing Frank Pollack, with whom the Bengals parted ways despite his excellent efforts in 2018. Turner, notably, was Miami’s offensive line coach during the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying scandal, and was eventually fired in 2014 after an independent report indicated he participated in harassment of players. He was also suspended by Texas A&M in 2016 after using sexually-charged presentation slides during a women’s football clinic.
  • Former Texans tight end and current University of Houston tight ends coach James Casey will join the Bengals in the same role, while Ben Martin — who had recently been hired as an assistant offensive line coach at Brown — will take over as Cincinnati’s assistant OL coach, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Casey is only 34 years old, and was still playing as recently as 2015. He joined Houston as an offensive assistant in 2016 and became tight ends coach the following year. Martin, meanwhile, worked at Texas A&M with Taylor.
  • Among the Bengals coaches who are expected to be retained under Taylor are Alex Van Pelt (quarterbacks), Dan Pitcher (assistant quarterbacks), Bob Bicknell (wide receivers), Robert Livingston (secondary), Daronte Jones (secondary), and Brayden Coombs (assistant secondary), per Dehner. Coombs, notably, was thought to be a candidate for the Packers’ special teams coordinator position, but he’ll instead remain in Cincinnati.

Bengals Notes: Davidson, Van Pelt, Staff

The Bengals are attempting to hire a new offensive line coach for the first time in more than two decades after firing Paul Alexander, and the sheer amount of candidates means the club’s interview process is being extended, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). As staffs around the league continue to be altered, more experienced OL coaches are becoming available, so Cincinnati’s plan to have a new hire in place quickly has been consequently changed. In-limbo Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin has reportedly interviewed for the position.

Here’s more from the Queen City:

  • Goodwin isn’t the only candidate to fill the Bengals’ offensive line coach position, as former Broncos OL coach Jeff Davidson has also interviewed for the job, reports Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Davidson, who was fired by Denver last week, has been an NFL coach since 1995 and worked for a variety of teams. He also offers past play-calling experience, as he served as the Panthers’ offensive coordinator from 2007-10. Aside from Goodwin and Davidson, Utah OL coach Jim Harding is also reportedly a candidate to land in Cincinnati.
  • Former Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt is under consideration for a job with the Bengals, per Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link). While it’s unclear exactly which position Van Pelt would fill, it’s fair to assume he’d take over at QBs coach for Cincinnati. Like Davidson, Van Pelt has been an OC before, as he called plays for the Bills in 2009. The Bengals are in need of a new quarterbacks coach given that Bill Lazor — who formerly held that title — is now being retained as their full-time offensive coordinator.
  • The Bengals have promoted assistant secondary coach Robert Livingston to the primary role, according to Owczarski (Twitter links). Livingston, who’s coached in Cincinnati for the past three seasons, originally started as a scout, which should come in handy given that the Bengals use their coaching staff to scout more than any team in the league. Given that former secondary coach Kevin Coyle wasn’t retained, Cincinnati is still on the hunt for another defensive backs coach to work alongside Livingston, per Owczarski.

Coach Notes: Giants, Texans, Bills, Titans

There aren’t many offensive or defensive coordinator jobs still available, as our tracker shows, but teams continue to tweak their coaching staffs in preparation for the 2016 season, interviewing and hiring position coaches and other assistants. Here are a few of Thursday’s updates on that front:

  • First-time head coach Ben McAdoo appears to be considering an assistant with head coaching experience for his staff. Per Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the Giants interviewed former Niners head coach Mike Singletary today for their linebackers coach job.
  • On the other side of the ball, the Giants interviewed Packers assistant Mike Solari on Wednesday for their offensive line coach position, tweets Alex Marvez of FOX Sports. According to Marvez, Solari is a “strong candidate” to be added to McAdoo’s staff.
  • As expected, the Texans have hired former Ravens and Texans defensive lineman Anthony Weaver as their defensive line coach, tweets John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Weaver, who last played for Houston in 2008, will replace Paul Pasqualoni.
  • According to Marvez (via Twitter), the Bills are making Pat Meyer their assistant offensive line coach.
  • Marvez also reports (via Twitter) that the Titans have promoted Nick Eason from defensive line assistant to defensive line coach.
  • The Bengals announced three coaching moves today (via Twitter), re-assigning Robert Livingston as assistant defensive backs coach and adding Robert Couch and Dan Pitcher to their offensive staff.