Romeo Crennel

AFC Rumors: Broncos, Crennel, Rhule, Henry

Mike Munchak is once again a popular head coaching candidate, with at least four teams interested in his services. But we heard last night that Munchak has strong interest in the Broncos‘ opening, and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) reports that Munchak has emerged as the early favorite for that position. Helping the Broncos’ cause is the fact that Munchak has family, including a granddaughter, in the Denver area.

Now for more rumors and rumblings from the AFC:

  • The Broncos are blocking other teams from interviewing senior personnel adviser Gary Kubiak for offensive coordinator jobs, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Kubiak wants to remain in Denver anyway, but he has expressed interest in returning to the sidelines as an OC, and the Broncos would like him to serve in that role under whomever they hire as their next head coach (assuming that person is comfortable with such an arrangement). The Bengals and Falcons had requested interviews.
  • Texans free agents-to-be Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu want to be back in Houston next year, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. There has been no word on whether the Texans will move to re-sign Jackson, but the team does want Mathieu back, as we learned yesterday.
  • Romeo Crennel is expected to return as the Texans‘ DC in 2019, per head coach Bill O’Brien (via Wilson on Twitter).
  • The Jets have interest in interviewing Baylor head coach Matt Rhule for their own HC vacancy, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com suggests that Gang Green will get an interview with Rhule (Twitter link). The team is in Dallas interviewing Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard today, and Albert Breer of SI.com believes New York brass could interview Rhule while they’re in Texas (Dallas is about 90 minutes from Waco).
  • Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers should be able to land a lucrative free agent deal this offseason, but since he is not a prototypical speed-rushing DE, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes it is difficult to pin down what his value will be on the open market. Reiss suggests Flowers could return to New England after testing the free agent waters.
  • The Chargers will remain without tight end Hunter Henry for today’s playoff bout in Baltimore, but if LA wins today, Rapoport says that Henry will be activated tomorrow in the hopes of suiting up against New England next week.
  • Rapoport reiterates that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will not be back in Baltimore next season, but Flacco (unsurprisingly) wants to continue his playing career, and Rapoport suggests that he will get an opportunity as a starter (video link). The only real question is whether Baltimore will be able to trade him or if the club will be forced to cut him.
  • In addition to Flacco, the Ravens will need to decide what to do with impending free agent C.J. Mosley in the offseason. It would probably be unwise to sink too much money into an inside linebacker who struggles in coverage, but Mosley’s leadership abilities for a defense that could be losing a number of key veterans will certainly be a factor in contract negotiations, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

Texans Notes: Clowney, Watson, Mathieu

Jadeveon Clowney did not practice during the first set of Texans OTAs last week because of a surgery he underwent in the offseason, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. Clowney had arthroscopic knee surgery after the season but remains sidelined as Houston’s offseason program commences, per Wilson, who adds the fifth-year edge defender recently sought a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. While the additional medical counsel and the lengthy time off could be deemed a cause for concern, Wilson reports the outlook for Clowney is positive here. An extension for the former No. 1 overall pick has been on the Texans’ agenda for a bit now, and the team is eyeing what promises to be a landmark contract being finalized before the regular season. It doesn’t look as though this knee issue will cloud that. Although, no deal is imminent just yet.

Here’s the latest out of Houston, as its NBA franchise prepares for a rather significant game.

  • As expected, Deshaun Watson participated in part of the Texans’ OTAs. The second-year quarterback took part in individual drills, per Bill O’Brien (via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle). However, Watson also participated in some of the seven-on-seven portion of the workout. Pointing out Watson has not experienced any setbacks this offseason, McClain notes the Texans’ starter is expected to be 100 percent by the time training camp begins. “My knee feels well,” Watson said. “I’m comfortable to be able to throw and get the timing down with the receivers. There’s really no timeline on ACLs. It’s just dependent on how that person feels. I feel good.”
  • Tyrann Mathieu isn’t lobbying for the Texans to use him the way the Cardinals did. The Texans are, for now, planning on keeping their newly signed defensive back at the safety position exclusively. And Romeo Crennel‘s plan for Mathieu helped attract the free agent safety to Houston, he said. This comes after Mathieu spent plenty of time in the slot with the Cards. “Yeah, it definitely helps me slow things down,” Mathieu said of the safety-only role, via HoustonTexans.com. “Just focusing on one position, trying to be the best at that, rather than just being good at everything. So, I think it’s important for me to just embrace it like I have been and just trying to continue to grow as a safety.”

Texans Make Crennel Defensive Coordinator

The Texans didn’t have to look far to replace defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, who left to become the Titans’ head coach on Saturday. The team will make assistant coach Romeo Crennel the new leader of the defense, a source tells The MMQB’s Albert Breer (Twitter link). Romeo Crennel

A longtime coach in the NFL, Crennel has spent the last four seasons in Houston as the team’s defensive coordinator (2014-16) and transitioned to an assistant head coach role in 2017 after the team moved Vrabel to defensive coordinator. In his final season as the team’s defensive coordinator, Houston allowed the fewest yards in the league.

Crennel rose to fame in New England and helped the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title in his first season as the team’s defensive coordinator (2001). He remained with the team through 2004, boasting three top-10 finishes in scoring defense, before joining the Browns as head coach. He spent four seasons at the helm in Cleveland and delivered the team’s last 10-win campaign (2007) before joining the Chiefs as defensive coordinator. The following season, he ascended to head coach and remained with Kansas City for two more seasons.

The transition back to defensive coordinator will be a smooth one for Crennel, who was still heavily involved with the defense in 2017, FOX 26’s Mark Berman reports (Twitter link).

Crennel should benefit from the return of J.J. Watt, who was sidelined for much of the 2017 campaign with an injury.

NFC Notes: 49ers, Redskins, Hawks, Vikings

If, as expected, Kyle Shanahan does indeed become the next head coach of the 49ers, quarterback Colin Kaepernick will almost assuredly not remain with the club in 2017, per Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). Kaepernick already appeared doubtful to stay with San Francisco next season, as a recent contract restructure gives him the right to opt-out of his contract at season’s end — an option he is fully expected to exercise. A Shanahan hire would prove even more foreboding for Kaepernick’s future with the 49ers, according to Cole, as the seven-year pro isn’t a fit for the current Falcons OC’s scheme.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • The Redskins expressed interest in meeting with Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel about their DC position, but Washington’s request was denied, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Crennel has since been promoted to assistant head coach, as linebackers coach Mike Vrabel will take over Houston’s coordinator role. Crennel’s contract was set to expire later this month, but the 69-year-old wouldn’t have had any interest in jobs with other clubs.
  • The Vikings have hired former Denver offensive line coach Clancy Barone as their tight ends coach, reports Mike Klis of 9NEWS (Twitter link). Barone, an NFL coach since 2004, wasn’t retained after the Broncos hired new head coach Vance Joseph. Minnesota finished the season without a formal tight ends coach, as Pat Shurmur, who began the year in that role, was promoted to interim offensive coordinator.
  • Pending Panthers free agent Ted Ginn Jr. has changed his representation, hiring Rosenhaus Sports to replace NC Sports, according to Liz Mullen of of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter link). Ginn, 31, is coming off a two-year contract with Carolina that paid him $2.1MM annually. In 2016, Ginn managed 54 receptions for 752 yards and four touchdowns.
  • Although the Seahawks are unlikely to be active in free agency this offseason, the club has been willing to reward its own players with long-term deals, leading Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times to examine the case to extend safety Kam Chancellor. The 28-year-old Chancellor is only signed through the 2017 campaign, during which he’s schedule to earn a base salary of $6.8MM.

AFC Notes: Titans, Texans, Steelers, Jaguars

Less than a year after swinging a blockbuster trade to give up the No. 1 position in the 2016 draft, Titans general manager Jon Robinson isn’t ruling out more bold maneuverings this offseason. While Tennessee has the fifth and 18th picks in this year’s draft, Robinson told Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com that “it would be a mistake” to assume he’ll end up selecting in those spots. Robinson also implied that, if anything, he’ll move down again. The Titans are without a second-round pick, but they would “love” to have one, Robinson said. “Draft currency is a powerful thing in this league because it gives you a chance to acquire young talent,’’ he added. “They are less expensive players than guys who have played in the league six, seven or eight, nine or 10 years. So to be able to get two of those guys, or one of those guys if we trade, or three of those guys if we trade. … Whatever it is, draft picks are valuable currency as it relates to team building.”

More from the AFC:

  • The Texans retained Romeo Crennel on Wednesday, shifting him from defensive coordinator (Mike Vrabel‘s new role) to assistant head coach. While Crennel’s contract was set to expire later this month, he would not have left Houston for another team this offseason, reports Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Crennel, 69, was either going to remain on head coach Bill O’Brien‘s staff or retire.
  • Speaking of O’Brien, he will not hire an offensive coordinator to replace George Godsey, per Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link). As expected, O’Brien will call the Texans’ offensive plays. He has also moved Sean Ryan from receivers coach to quarterbacks coach.
  • In the wake of Tuesday’s news that suspended Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant will soon apply for reinstatement, agent Thomas Santanello told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that his client is “clean” and “on a mission to come back” (via Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk). Bryant, 24, is currently serving his second substance abuse-related ban – this one a yearlong suspension – since he entered the NFL in 2014, but Santanello insists the highly talented offensive weapon has put his drug issues behind him. “He’s working out four days a week, watches film. He’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. He’s added 10 pounds of solid muscle. He’s a new person,” Santanello continued.
  • Bills outside linebackers coach Jason Rebrovich is likely to interview with the Jaguars on Wednesday for a job on their defensive staff, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN. Rebrovich previously worked under newly named Jags head coach Doug Marrone in Buffalo and at Syracuse.

Texans To Promote Mike Vrabel To DC

The Texans are promoting linebackers coach Mike Vrabel to defensive coordinator, reports Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Predecessor Romeo Crennel will stay on the Texans’ staff and become their assistant head coach.

Mike Vrabel

This is seemingly a boon for Houston, which potentially could have dealt with the departures of both Vrabel and Crennel this offseason. Vrabel drew head coaching interest from the Rams, who instead hired Sean McVay, and both the Chargers and Redskins were eyeing him for their D-coordinator vacancies, according to Breer (Twitter link).

Meanwhile, the soon-to-be 70-year-old Crennel was on an expiring contract prior to Wednesday. Head coach Bill O’Brien made it clear earlier this week that the team didn’t want to lose Crennel.

“Romeo’s done a great job,” O’Brien said Monday. “I know we’d love to have him back. I haven’t sat down with any coaches yet, but I can tell you Romeo’s a great coach. He means a lot to me personally, and we’d love to have Romeo back.”

Crennel had served as the Texans’ defensive coordinator since 2014, and the unit ranked between sixth and eighth in DVOA in each season under his stewardship. Houston also led the NFL in yardage allowed in 2016, which was especially impressive given that superstar end J.J. Watt only played in three games and went on injured reserve in late September. The Crennel-led, Watt-less Texans had other stars emerge, including end Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback A.J. Bouye, while linebacker Whitney Mercilus‘ standout play continued.

Mercilus has worked directly with Vrabel, who was a terrific NFL linebacker in his own right from 1997-2010. Vrabel played under Crennel in both New England and Kansas City during that time, and he then joined him on Houston’s coaching staff in 2014. The two will remain together in 2017, though it’ll be Vrabel manning Crennel’s longtime position. Crennel has been a D-coordinator with four different teams since 2000.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Hope To Retain Romeo Crennel

With offensive coordinator George Godsey now out of the organization, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is going to have at least one new high-level assistant on his staff next season. He could end up on the search for a defensive coordinator, too, as Romeo Crennel‘s contract is up. Crennel intends to coach again next season at the age of 70, and the Texans want to retain him, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Romeo Crennel

“Romeo’s done a great job,” O’Brien said Monday. “I know we’d love to have him back. I haven’t sat down with any coaches yet, but I can tell you Romeo’s a great coach. He means a lot to me personally, and we’d love to have Romeo back.”

Crennel has been atop the Texans’ defense since 2014, and the unit has ranked between sixth and eighth in DVOA all three seasons on his watch. Houston also led the NFL in yardage allowed in 2016, which was no small feat given that end J.J. Watt – the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year – only played in three games and went on injured reserve in late September. The Crennel-led, Watt-less Texans had other stars emerge, including end Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback A.J. Bouye (like Crennel, he’s also without a contract), while linebacker Whitney Mercilus‘ excellence continued.

If the Texans aren’t able to work out a deal with Crennel heading into 2017, it’s possible he could join another staff. However, as PFR’s Coordinator Tracker shows, only the Redskins and Chargers are currently without defensive chiefs. The likelihood is that the 49ers will also be on the lookout for a coordinator after they hire a new head coach. For Crennel, taking over another team’s defense would mean doing so for a fifth franchise. Along with Houston, he has been a D-coordinator in Cleveland, New England and Kansas City.

Related:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bill O’Brien To Return As Texans Head Coach

Although rumors have swirled indicating that Bill O’Brien and the Texans could part ways this offseason, O’Brien today said he will return to coach the team in 2017, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who adds that O’Brien is likely to publicly address the issue following tonight’s playoff game against the Patriots.Bill O'Brien (Vertical)

[RELATED: Houston Texans Depth Chart]

O’Brien has reportedly experienced a tense relationship with general manager Rick Smith, while O’Brien’s lack of confidence in starting quarterback Brock Osweiler could have also been a factor a potential breakup. Texans owner Bob McNair was adamant that he would not fire O’Brien, who will now head into the fourth season of a five-year contract, so the decision to leave would have been O’Brien’s alone. In three seasons with Houston, O’Brien has posted three consecutive 9-7 records while leading the club to two straight AFC South titles.

With the O’Brien situation resolved, the Texans’ next order of business is re-signing defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, whose contract expires at season’s end, tweets McClain. Houston’s defense finished first in yards allowed and seventh in DVOA, so the club is likely highly interested in keeping Crennel around.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Fairley, Wallace, Vaccaro

Lions enigmatic defensive tackle Nick Fairley has quickly worked his way into new head coach Jim Caldwell’s doghouse. Fairley been demoted to the second unit, and if that was meant to be a motivational ploy, it doesn’t seem to be working. In his review of the Lions’ second preseason game, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press said Fairley “might as well have not even played. Watching Fairley intently throughout the second quarter, he rarely got any push up front and only once stumbled into a tackle.”

Here’s a handful more miscellaneous news and notes from around the league:

  • Fox Sports’ Alex Marvez took an insightful look into Mike Wallace‘s slow adjustment to joining the Dolphins. Things are looking up, though, in Year Two, according to head coach Joe Philbin: “The comfort level [Wallace] has with the entire program is miles ahead of where he was a year ago at training camp. Maybe we underestimated just the sheer adjustment of a player moving from one program to another. I think he’s more comfortable in the locker room and with the coaching staff and feels better about his relationships with the quarterbacks.”
  • Saints second-year safety Kenny Vaccaro is establishing himself as a defensive playmaker and leader by example, writes Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune: “[Vaccaro] might have the most swagger of any Saints defender since Darren Sharper. He’s good — and he knows it. And that’s not a bad thing. The Saints’ defense is loaded with alpha males, but Vaccaro is elbowing his way to the head of the pack.”
  • Ryan Griffin is making a legitimate run at becoming Drew Brees‘ backup, according to ESPN’s Mike Triplett. A second-year pro, Griffin went undrafted out of Tulane, but earned a spot on the practice squad before spending the final 10 games on the active roster. “Griffin, 24, continues to show a combination of poise and confidence that belies his lack of experience,” says Triplett. If the Saints are to keep just two quarterbacks, they will have to choose between Griffin’s upside and experience of 33-year-old veteran Luke McCown.
  • Rookie nose tackle Louis Nix III is one of five Texans Houston Chronicle writer John McClain will be watching tonight. Nix practiced this week for the first time since having his knee scoped before camp. “They expect him to compete for a starting job,” says McClain. “They traded into the third round to get Nix (6-2, 331), who has the ideal build for a 3-4 nose tackle who’s supposed to tie up two blockers…If Nix stays healthy and keeps his weight under control, he can be an ideal fit for Romeo Crennel’s scheme.”
  • Ravens defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore, a teammate of Nix III at Notre Dame, suffered a torn Achilles tendon, had surgery yesterday and is expected to be sidelined 6-8 months, reports Aaron Wilson in the Baltimore Sun. The injury is a tough break to say the least for Kapron-Moore, who also missed last season because of a torn ACL suffered in the 2013 BCS Championship against Alabama.

Texans Hire Romeo Crennel As DC

Former NFL head coach Romeo Crennel has agreed to a three-year contract with the Texans as the team’s defensive coordinator, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter confirms (via Twitter) that the deal, which was initially reported earlier in the month by Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, has now become official.

Crennel, who has previously served as the defensive coordinator in Cleveland and New England, also coached the Browns from 2005 to 2008, and most recently was the Chiefs’ head coach from 2011 to 2012. After winning two of three games in relief of Todd Haley at the end of the 2011 season, Crennel and the Chiefs stumbled to a 2-14 record in ’12, prompting the club to replace him with Andy Reid.

In Houston, Crennel will join another team coming off a 2-14 season. The Texans will head into the 2014 season armed with the first overall pick and a new head coach, in Bill O’Brien. According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), the Texans are trying to add another ex-head coach to their staff, as the team pursues Mike Munchak as its offensive line coach.