January 15th, 2020 at 6:48pm CST by Dallas Robinson
New Redskins head coach Ron Rivera had already brought in new coordinators on both sides of the ball (Scott Turner on offense, Jack Del Rio on defense), and he’s now filled out the rest of his staff. Rivera and Washington announced the following 16 hires earlier today:
Pete Hoener, tight ends
Jim Hostler, wide receivers
Randy Jordan, running backs
John Matsko, offensive line
Drew Terrell, assistant wide receivers
Travelle Wharton, assistant offensive line
Ken Zampese, quarterbacks
Chris Harris, defensive backs
Sam Mills III, defensive line
Richard Rodgers, assistant defensive backs
Steve Russ, linebackers
Brent Vieselmeyer, assistant defensive backs
Luke Del Rio, offensive quality control
Ben Jacobs, assistant special teams
Vincent Rivera, defensive quality control
Todd Storm, offensive quality control
Both Hostler and Zampese have both previously served as offensive coordinators. Hostler was the 49ers’ OC for a single season in 2007 under head coach Mike Nolan, but was fired after only one year at the helm. Zampese, meanwhile, was the Bengals’ offensive playcaller in 2016 and part of 2017 before being let go. He’s since coached for the Browns, the AAF’s Atlanta Legends, and the University of Florida.
Unsurprisingly, a number of new Redskins coached worked under Rivera in Carolina, including Hoener, Hostler, Matsko, Terrell, Wharton, Mills, Rodgers, and Russ.
The Redskins’ Scott Turner interview produced a job offer. The second-generation coach will become Washington’s new offensive coordinator, the team announced. Washington also announced that Nate Kaczor would return as the team’s special teams coordinator.
The son of former Redskins head coach Norv Turner, Scott worked under Ron Rivera with the Panthers from 2018-19. Scott Turner will succeed Kevin O’Connell in this role. O’Connell was initially a candidate to remain with this new Redskins regime and even drew consideration for the HC job Rivera eventually secured. But the one-year coordinator now appears headed elsewhere.
Scott Turner served as Rivera’s quarterbacks coach in Carolina, up until Rivera’s dismissal. After Rivera was ousted, Turner was elevated to OC and he impressed with his play-calling acumen. The 37-year-old assistant will now be tasked with developing Dwayne Haskins.
While Turner worked with young Panthers signal-callers this season in Kyle Allen and Will Grier, the Redskins having selected Haskins in the first round makes this a much higher-profile assignment for the young assistant. Turner previously served as Carolina’s offensive quality control coach from 2011-12, so this will be his third job working with Rivera.
Cam Newton played well under the guidance of the Turners to start the 2018 season. The dual-threat quarterback had the Panthers at 6-2 and was completing passes at a higher rate. However, Newton’s midseason shoulder injury altered the franchise’s quarterback situation. Newton being done for the 2019 season after Week 2 thrust Allen into action. After the UDFA showed initial promise under the Turners, keeping the Panthers afloat in the NFC playoff race, he faltered down the stretch as the Panthers lost their final eight games.
Despite featuring All-Pro Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers ranked 28th in offensive DVOA (31st in passing offense). Washington possessed one of the few lesser-regarded attacks by comparison, ranking 30th in this metric.
In other Redskins news, Joe Person of The Athletic reports that former Panthers DL coach Sam Mills III will be joining Rivera’s Washington staff (Twitter link).
Tom Pelissero of NFL.com first reported that Turner would be hired (Twitter link).
January 4th, 2020 at 9:29pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Ron Rivera became the first head coach hired this cycle when the Redskins brought him in, and he isn’t wasting anytime assembling his staff. Notably, Rivera is raiding his old Panthers coaching staff and bringing a bunch of guys with him.
Panthers offensive line coach John Matsko, receivers coach Jim Hostler, and trainer Ryan Vermillion are all joining Rivera in Washington, according to a Twitter thread from Joseph Person of The Athletic. Person adds that defensive line coach Sam Mills III will also interview for a spot on Rivera’s staff. Obviously, the new head coach is interested in getting the gang back together again. We had heard initially that he was likely to keep offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, who did good work with Dwayne Haskins down the stretch, but that might not necessarily be the case.
We heard yesterday that Panthers offensive coordinator Scott Turner would get an interview in Washington, and there’s apparently another high profile contender. Recently fired Giants coach Pat Shurmur is getting consideration for the job, Grant Paulsen of The Athletic is told (Twitter link). John Keim of ESPN.com later tweeted confirmation that the Redskins are interested in Shurmur. That would certainly be interesting, especially with Shurmur potentially staying in the NFC East, though Keim says no interview is imminent and it’s unclear if there will be an interview at all.
Shurmur has never panned out as a head coach, but he’s been highly regarded as an offensive coordinator. Right before getting hired by the Giants, he received a ton of praise for his work with Case Keenum in Minnesota. Matsko had been with Rivera since he started in Carolina in 2011, so it’s not surprising he got brought along.
The Redskins didn’t let him get away. Washington will hire former Panthers HC Ron Rivera as its next head coach and will give him a five-year contract, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). The hire will be announced tomorrow.
Washington fired former head coach Jay Gruden in October, which allowed owner Dan Snyder to get a jump on the hiring process. That may have been crucial, because when Rivera was let go by Carolina earlier this month, he immediately became one of the most qualified coaching candidates on the market, and he would have had other suitors, like the division-rival Cowboys and Giants. But Snyder, who perhaps realized that his silver tuna acquisition of Mike Tomlin was never going to happen, acted quickly to bring Rivera to Washington and keep him there.
Rivera, who played linebacker for the Bears from 1984-92 and who was a part of Chicago’s Super Bowl XX victory, became the team’s quality control coach in 1997. He paid his dues and moved up the coaching ranks, ultimately becoming the Bears’ defensive coordinator in 2004. But it was his stint as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator from 2008-10 that solidified him as one of the best defensive minds in the game, and he parlayed that status into a head coaching gig with the Panthers in 2011.
The Panthers never captured the Lombardi Trophy with Rivera, but he did get them to Super Bowl 50 at the end of the 2015 season, and he earned Coach of the Year honors that year. Including playoffs, Carolina went 79-67-1 with Rivera at the helm.
Although Redskins QB Dwayne Haskins may never be Cam Newton, Rivera obviously feels comfortable enough with the Ohio State product to accept the Washington job. Indeed, many believed it would be difficult for the Redskins to attract a top HC candidate, so it’s a good sign for Washington fans that Rivera apparently believes in the direction the team is heading. And now that Bruce Allen is out of the building and Rivera is in, perhaps the team can bring in a top exec as well (though Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets that the team may not complete its front office changes until after the draft).
As far as Rivera’s staff is concerned, there has been speculation linking his former defensive coordinator in Carolina, Steve Wilks, to the same job in Washington. Though Wilks is currently under contract with the Browns — and therefore in limbo — John Keim of ESPN.com says he will not be coming to Washington (Twitter link). Indeed, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that Rivera is targeting former Jaguars and Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator, which could make for a very strong staff in the nation’s capital. Schefter says Del Rio is the leading candidate for the job.
Joe Person of The Athletic says (via Twitter) that Eric Washington and Sam Mills III could be other names to watch for the DC job, and La Canfora says Rivera is likely to retain offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell.
The hire has been well-received, and given the way Snyder handled the Rivera hire and the Allen dismissal, perhaps Redskins fans can feel a bit of optimism heading into the new year.
In agreeing to trade for Joe Flacco, the Broncos made an early move to attempt to upgrade at quarterback. As bad as things have gone at quarterback for the Broncos over the past three years, the Jaguars have experienced more trouble. The Jags were mentioned as a Flacco suitor earlier this offseason, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets the team continued to have interest until the Broncos pulled the trigger. However, Denver’s offer of a fourth-round pick was the best proposal Baltimore received, La Canfora adds. This was the Broncos’ fourth-round pick (No. 106), not the selection they acquired from the Texans in exchange for Demaryius Thomas (No. 118).
Shifting to non-Flacco matters, here is the latest from the South divisions:
Thomas’ Texans tenure did not last long, with the team predictably balking on the former Pro Bowl wide receiver’s lofty 2019 salary. But with the Texans making the move to release the 31-year-old wideout while he is still recovering from a severe Achilles injury, Thomas is in line to receive injury protection, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. Article 45 of the CBA stipulates Thomas would stand to receive $1.2MM from the Texans, reducing the franchise’s cap savings on this move from $14MM to $12.8MM. Nevertheless, Thomas’ salary coming off the Texans’ books increases their cap space to nearly $76MM.
Although Pro Football Focus had not viewed Donovan Smith as an upper-echelon tackle, the Buccaneers‘ front office has held him in higher regard. Even as the team shifts to Bruce Arians calling the shots on the sideline, keeping Smith off the market may still be on the table. Indications point to the Bucs placing the franchise tag on Smith if no deal can be reached before then, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The 2019 tag for offensive linemen is expected to come in at just more than $14MM. Were Smith to reach the market, he could command a lucrative deal. Although, with only three tackles making $14MM per year, it would be a stretch for the Bucs’ four-year left tackle starter to exceed that total — the annual offensive line sellers’ market notwithstanding.
Ben Jacobs‘ early-offseason release will not lead to the longtime special-teamer catching on elsewhere. The former Panthers linebacker will instead take a staff position with Carolina, the franchise announced. Jacobs is the Panthers’ new assistant special teams coach. Jacobs, 30, spent six years with the Panthers, serving as a core member of Carolina’s ST units for most of that time. He will work under fellow former Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn.
The Panthers will be the latest team to bring in a game management coach. Sam Mills III, son of the former Panthers and Saints linebacker, will begin working in this role, the team announced. A 15th-year Panthers staffer, Mills will retain his defensive line coach title while helping Ron Rivera on game days with replay challenges, clock management and other situational elements.
December 3rd, 2018 at 9:12am CST by Dallas Robinson
Blame for the Panthers’ four-game losing streak has begun to be distributed, as Carolina has fired defensive line coach Brady Hoke and cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).
In formally announcing the changes, the Panthers indicated head coach Ron Rivera will continue to call defensive plays, while defensive coordinator Eric Washington will control the club’s defensive front seven. Rivera will offer more assistance in coaching the secondary, while Sam Mills III will take over as Carolina’s defensive line coach after previously serving as an assistant.
“In my judgment, I felt this was best for the team moving forward,” Rivera said. “These are always difficult decisions, and I thank Brady and Jeff for their hard work. Ultimately, I’m charged with putting the team in the best position to succeed, and I felt these moves were necessary in order to do that.”
A report on Sunday indicated new Panthers owner David Tepper is considering major changes to the club’s decision-making structure, and while letting go of positional coaches certainly isn’t the same as firing Rivera or general manager Marty Hurney, it’s a start. A month ago, Carolina stood at 6-2 and looked poised to secure an NFC Wild Card spot, or possibly chase down the Saints in the NFC South. Now, after losing to Buccaneers on Sunday, the Panthers have just a 16% chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.com.
Hoke, a former collegiate coach at Michigan, San Diego State, and Ball State, joined the Panthers earlier this year after Wasington was promoted to defensive coordinator. While the Panthers have fielded an excellent run defense under Hoke’s tutelage, the team ranks 24th in sacks and 25th in adjusted sack rate. Those figures are a far cry from 2017, when Carolina finished third in the NFL with 50 sacks and a 9.1% adjusted sack rate.
Imamura, whose official title had been assistant secondary coach/cornerbacks, was hired by Carolina in 2017 after previously serving as a defensive quality control coach for the Rams. His role grew this summer after Curtis Fullerresigned as the Panthers’ secondary coach — Richard Rodgers was promoted to replace Fuller, while Imamura took on more responsibility as Rodgers’ assistant. Carolina ranks 27th in pass defense DVOA, down from 11th a season ago.