Chargers Rumors

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Flores, Evero

By far the biggest name on this year’s coaching carousel, Sean Payton looks to have seen his momentum stall a bit. While Payton is interviewing with the Cardinals today, his candidacy has not produced a second interview anywhere yet. The Panthers met with Payton this week but just hired Frank Reich. While the Texans remain on the radar for the longtime Saints HC, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com does not get the sense much momentum is present for such a partnership. The Broncos have been connected to other names recently as well, but that path may be dwindling as well. There might not be a place for Payton — as odd as that sounds, given his track record — on this year’s market, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com offers (video link)

Trade compensation being required to land the Super Bowl XLIV-winning HC, with the price varying from a first-rounder and other early picks to two first-rounders, has affected teams’ plans here. Payton, 59, has also been mentioned as waffling on this year’s lot of jobs. Returning to FOX for another year and surveying the 2024 market, when two jobs he has long been connected to (Chargers, Cowboys), could be available might be what comes out of this run of interviews. Payton remains in this year’s mix, but buzz has died down.

Here is the latest from the coaching landscape:

  • Regarding the Cardinals‘ search, Brian Flores remains firmly in the mix. GM candidates received the impression Arizona is high on the three-year Miami HC-turned-Pittsburgh linebackers coach, Fowler notes. Previously mentioned as a frontrunner — due partially to the Cards hiring ex-Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort as GM — Flores may have a right-hand man on defense lined up. Some around the league expect the ex-Dolphins HC to bring Gerald Alexander, Miami’s defensive backs coach for the past three years, with him to Arizona, per Fowler. With the Dolphins looking for a new DC, Alexander may be on the move anyway. While ESPN colleague Dan Graziano points to Vance Joseph and Aaron Glenn remaining strong candidates, Flores has generated the most buzz to this point. Flores has also interviewed for the Falcons and Vikings’ DC posts.
  • Raheem Morris booked a second HC interview with the Colts and also met with the Broncos and Texans. Should the Rams‘ DC land a second HC opportunity, Albert Breer of SI.com notes Ejiro Evero is the team’s top candidate to replace him. The Denver DC is no lock to be available. He is under contract with the Broncos, who blocked a Falcons DC interview, and has gone through second HC interviews with the Colts and Texans. Denver could pass on retaining Evero by hiring a defensive-minded coach, of course. Evero came to Denver from Los Angeles; he spent five years on Sean McVay‘s staff.
  • The Browns considered bringing in Vic Fangio for a DC interview, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, but they stood down and ended up hiring Jim Schwartz. Cleveland having run a 4-3 defense in recent years may have been a reason for passing on a Fangio meeting, Cabot offers. Fangio has remained quite popular still, having interviewed for three DC jobs — the Dolphins, Falcons and Panthers — already.
  • The Bills are making a change to their defensive staff. They fired safeties coach Jim Salgado, Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN.com tweets. Salgado had been on McDermott’s staff throughout the head coach’s six-season tenure.
  • Giants DC Don Martindale is attached to a three-year contract, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Giants thought enough of the veteran coordinator, whom the Ravens did not bring back last year, they gave him the three-year deal as opposed to the more common two-year pact. Giants ST coordinator Thomas McGaughey also received extensive interest from other teams, with Duggan adding the Chargers joined the Panthers in offering him their ST coordinator jobs. McGaughey, who has been with the Giants since 2018, turned down a Bears interview and opted to stay and work for Brian Daboll.

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spins, many of the league’s offensive and defensive coordinator positions are open as well. Teams seeking new head coaches will soon begin OC and DC searches — some have already started those processes — but a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

The Browns and Patriots have begun 2023’s coordinator hires. Here are the rest of the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 1-26-23 (10:06pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Carolina Panthers 

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

Chargers Request OC Interview With Bills’ Joe Brady

Joe Brady is emerging as a popular name for offensive coordinator jobs, but it’s uncertain which organizations he’ll speak with. The Chargers are one of the teams that’s requested permission to speak with the Bills QBs coach about their OC vacancy, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter).

[RELATED: 2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker]

Garafolo adds that Brady has “multiple requests” from teams, and considering his current title, we can assume these mystery suitors are eyeing the coach for OC opportunities. It’s uncertain which (if any) interviews Brady will consider taking, according to Garafolo.

Following a successful stint as LSU, Brady was named the Panthers offensive coordinator for the 2020 campaign. Carolina’s offense was unremarkable during Brady’s tenure, including a 2021 campaign that ultimately led to the coach’s firing (30th in yards and 29th in points). He was hired by the Bills last offseason to be their new QBs coach after Ken Dorsey earned a promotion to OC. Brady managed to rehabilitate his image thanks to Josh Allen‘s MVP-like season, and now he’s firmly back on the OC radar.

Joe Lombardi was canned following a disappointing end to the Chargers’ season. Since his firing, five candidates have emerged:

Chargers, Commanders To Interview Rams’ Thomas Brown For OC

Thomas Brown interviewed for the Texans’ head coaching job, but he will have the chance at two coordinator positions soon. The Chargers and Commanders will meet with the Rams’ tight ends coach this week.

Mentioned previously as a Commanders candidate, Brown will meet with the NFC East team Tuesday and has a Chargers summit scheduled for Wednesday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Despite only being an NFL assistant for three years, Brown has impressed to the point he could be the next Sean McVay assistant to move up the ladder.

McVay’s coaching tree is already one of the league’s sturdiest. Matt LaFleur, Zac Taylor and Brandon Staley have become head coaches after short spans on McVay’s staff, and Raheem Morris has rebuilt his stock in Los Angeles as well. Wes Phillips became the Vikings’ offensive coordinator last year — a position for which Brown interviewed — while Ejiro Evero‘s value is surging after relocating from L.A. to Denver for a DC opportunity. Joe Barry‘s Rams stay restored his value; he is now going into his third season as the Packers’ DC. Shane Waldron is now entering Year 3 as Seattle’s OC.

Brown was on McVay’s staff with a few of these coaches, coming to L.A. in 2020 after nine years in the college ranks. Viewed as a rising talent for a bit now, the 36-year-old staffer will interview to replace Scott Turner and Joe Lombardi. The Commanders are further along in their search, having fired Turner several days before the Lombardi ouster created the chance to work with Justin Herbert. Washington has some intriguing pieces on offense, though it once again features quarterback uncertainty. Conversely, Herbert’s presence should make the Bolts job one of the most coveted positions available this year.

Chargers To Conduct OC Interviews With Luke Steckel, Greg Olson

The Chargers’ search for a new offensive coordinator is continuing, and two more names have been added to the list of candidates. Los Angeles will conduct an interview with Titans tight ends coach Luke Steckel this week, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

The 37-year-old began his coaching career with the Browns in 2009. He spent four years in Cleveland under the title of assistant to the head coach. He held a similar one the following year when he joined the Titans staff, and began working with the team’s offense in a number of different capacities.

One of those came as an assistant wide receivers coach, a post which the Princeton graduate held in 2017. For three seasons after that, he returned to the general position of offensive assistant. Over the course of the past two years, he has operated as the team’s TEs coach, including this past campaign where veteran Austin Hooper rebounded to a degree from a down 2021 season in Cleveland and rookie Chigoziem Okonkwo flashed potential as the campaign progressed.

Meanwhile, Pelissero’s colleague Ian Rapoport tweets that the Chargers will also interview Rams assistant Greg Olson tomorrow. The 59-year-old, unlike Steckel, has a plethora of NFL experience, including 14 years as an OC at the pro level. Most recently, that involved a four-year stint with the Raiders in which his units generally put up middling numbers.

Olson rejoined the Rams’ staff last offseason, having spent one year as the team’s QBs coach during Sean McMay‘s first season as head coach. The latter recently confirmed that he will remain in place for 2023, though many changes (including OC Liam Coen returning to Kentucky) have already taken place. Olson could be in line for a larger role with the Rams given their multiple shake-ups, but the Chargers would also represent an intriguing opportunity.

L.A’s AFC franchise suffered a shocking Wild Card defeat this season, contributing in part to Joe Lombardi‘s dismissal. Their search for his replacement will include an attempt to build off of his success in the passing game, but also find more balance for the unit and maximize Justin Herbert‘s potential. Steckel and Olson represent intriguing, yet very different, options for the team to consider.

Chargers Request OC Interview With Vikings’ Jerrod Johnson

Joe Lombardi was handed his walking papers earlier this week, and the Chargers are eyeing an assistant QBs coach to fill the offensive coordinator vacancy. According to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (on Twitter), the Chargers have requested permission to interview Vikings coach Jerrod Johnson for their OC job.

[RELATED: Chargers Fire OC Joe Lombardi]

The former NFL journeyman got into coaching via a Bill Walsh Diversity coaching fellowship with the 49ers in 2017. He later spent three seasons with the Colts before earning the role of assistant quarterbacks coach with the Vikings in 2022.

Along with new head QBs coach Chris O’Hara, Johnson helped guide Kirk Cousins to one of his most successful NFL seasons. Cousins’ 4,547 passing yards were his most during his time with the Vikings, and while his touchdowns (29) were down and his interceptions (14) were up, the QB still played a major role in Minnesota’s 13-4 record.

This isn’t the Chargers’ first attempt to snag a Vikings offensive coach for the vacancy. The organization requested an interview with Vikings OC Wes Phillips, but the coach ultimately rejected the opportunity. Otherwise, Rams passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson is a candidate for the position, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen recently opined that Frank Reich would be a good fit for the job.

Rams’ Zac Robinson OC Candidate For Chargers, Ravens

After parting ways with offensive coordinators Joe Lombardi and Greg Roman, the Chargers and Ravens are both searching for new play callers to lead their young quarterbacks next season. Both teams took a step towards filling their empty roles today, requesting an interview with Rams passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson, according to reports from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport.

Robinson enjoyed a short career as an NFL quarterback after being drafted in the seventh round out of Oklahoma State in 2010. He bounced around from the Patriots to the Seahawks to the Lions all within his rookie season. After being waived by Detroit just prior to the 2011 NFL season, Robinson signed with the Bengals. He would remain in Cincinnati until injuries would effectively end his playing career in 2013.

After then-Rams quarterback coach Zac Taylor left to become the head coach of the Bengals, Robinson was hired as the assistant quarterbacks coach six years later in Los Angeles. He would momentarily be asked to change rooms as the assistant wide receivers coach but would switch back to assistant quarterbacks coach with the first departure of Liam Coen to Kentucky. When Coen returned as offensive coordinator, Robinson was promoted to passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, officially dropping the assistant moniker from the title.

The Rams offensive unit had an uncharacteristically poor statistical season this year. They were surely hampered by injuries and losses to key players such as quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and last year’s leading rusher Sony Michel. Still, for a Rams offense that has routinely finished top-ten in the league in yards and scoring since Sean McVay took over in 2017, finishing 27th in the league in scoring and dead last in yards gained this season is a stark change from the norm in Los Angeles.

This downturn in production hasn’t stopped the Chargers and Ravens from showing their interest in the 36-year-old assistant. The other Los Angeles team is set to interview Robinson on Monday, according to Albert Breer of NBC Sports. The date and time of his interview with Baltimore has yet to be determined.

Robinson has a connection to Chargers head coach Brandon Staley, who coached alongside him for the Rams in 2020, when Staley served as the team’s defensive coordinator. Los Angeles is a potentially attractive destination full of offensive talent. With a young quarterback in Justin Herbert, star running back in Austin Ekeler, veteran receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and others, Robinson would be gifted a full cupboard of weapons.

The Ravens pose a different challenge for a rookie coordinator. The team certainly has weapons with former-MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson expected to return, a dangerous one-two punch of running backs in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, a star tight end in Mark Andrews, and young wideouts Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay, who were both having career years before getting injured. The challenge comes from the style of offense that Baltimore has run lately. Under Roman, the Ravens ran several run-pass option plays that utilized the team’s rushing ability while allowing Jackson to punish defenses with his arm, as well. With some speculation that Jackson and company could move towards a pro-style offense, similar to what Jackson ran at Louisville, Robinson or any other new offensive coordinator would be tasked with implementing a whole new playbook in Baltimore.

The name Matt Weiss had been floated around Baltimore, as well, for the offensive coordinator position, but after being fired by the University of Michigan as he undergoes criminal investigation, according to Josh Alper of NBC Sports, Weiss is likely no longer being considered. Weiss had spent 12 years with the Ravens in a vast array of roles before joining the younger Harbaugh brother in Ann Arbor. He was promoted to co-offensive coordinator for the Wolverines this season before his off-the-field activities led to his termination.

Regardless, Robinson will throw his hat in the ring for both jobs. The Chargers and Ravens are the first teams to kick the tires on Robinson, but they surely won’t be the last. Robinson looks to continue the branching out of McVay’s coaching tree, adding to the list of young assistants who have found success out from under McVay’s wing.

Chargers GM Expresses Support For Brandon Staley, Decision To Play Starters In Week 18

Speculation swirled about Brandon Staley‘s employment status ahead of the Chargers-Jaguars wild-card game and following his team’s 27-point collapse, but the Bolts will keep their head coach for a third season.

Eleventh-year GM Tom Telesco said Staley was never on shaky ground. Rumors connected the Chargers to Sean Payton, who has been connected to this job for a while. The Los Angeles-stationed FOX analyst will need to accept another position or wait until 2024 for the AFC’s Los Angeles gig to potentially open up, however.

That was probably more [media] discussion than ours,” Telesco said of Staley’s hot-seat status, via ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry. “The front office’s belief in Brandon hasn’t changed. He’s got our belief. Our players believe in him. He’s a tremendous leader.”

The Payton matter has lingered for a while, but the Chargers’ past two games accelerated rumblings of a firing. The Chargers’ decision to play their starters in Week 18 ended up being costly, with Mike Williams suffering a transverse process fracture — an injury discovered late last week — that prevented him from making the trip to Jacksonville.

Los Angeles totaled three second-half points in the third-biggest collapse in playoff history, and the team lost wideout DeAndre Carter during the Jaguars matchup. Staley’s decision to play starters against the Broncos in their regular-season finale was believed to be an organizational decision. Many Chargers staffers knew this was the plan, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who indicated everyone was onboard with Staley’s call (video link). Telesco confirmed as much Thursday. “Brandon kind of mapped out what his plan was and yeah, I’m going to support that,” Telesco said.

Staley, 40, is 19-15 with the Chargers, who have continued to battle injuries under his watch. Several big-ticket players missed extended stretches for the team this season, extending a trend that persisted during multiple previous Bolts regimes. Staley’s seat stands to be hot in 2023, as the Chargers have not ranked inside the top 20 on defense — the third-year HC’s side of the ball. But the Chargers gave both Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn four seasons apiece.

The Chargers have made some changes in the wake of that loss. They fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day. Staley cited the offense needing to reach a new gear, and Telesco said (via Thiry) Justin Herbert will have input as to who the team hires as its next play-caller. While the team is not planning any contract talks with Herbert until after Super Bowl LVII, at least, it will entrust Herbert with contributing to this big-picture decision. Herbert became extension-eligible this month but can be controlled through the 2024 season, via the fifth-year option the Bolts will exercise in May.

As for the Chargers’ OC plans, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen notes Frank Reich makes sense as a candidate (Twitter link). Reich was with the Chargers for three seasons under McCoy, and he served as their OC from 2014-15. Reich has booked HC interviews with the Cardinals and Panthers; the former Colts HC has ties to each of those teams as well. The Rams have been connected to Reich as a potential OC, making it fairly clear the respected coach will have options in the event he is unable to snag one of the available HC jobs.

One candidate the Bolts wanted to meet with has cut off a potential partnership. Vikings OC Wes Phillips rejected a Bolts interview request, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Phillips, who just finished his first year as Minnesota’s OC, holds a non-play-calling role with the team. While calling Herbert-run plays will be a draw for OC candidates, Fowler notes Phillips will stay with the Vikings.

Lastly, the Chargers fired linebackers coach Michael Wilhoite, Daniel Popper of The Athletic tweets. A former NFL linebacker, Wilhoite had been with the Bolts for two seasons. This marked the 36-year-old staffer’s first gig coaching a position; he worked as a lower-level Saints assistant before heading to L.A.

Chargers Fire OC Joe Lombardi

Significant changes have been made to the Chargers’ coaching staff, though not necessarily the one many have been anticipating. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Shane Day have been fired (Twitter links via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network). The team has confirmed the moves.

Lombardi was hired in January 2021 to serve on head coach Brandon Staley‘s staff. The former came to Los Angeles after two different stints with the Saints serving as their QBs coach. His work alongside Drew Brees certainly made him an appealing candidate to help usher in the Justin Herbert era with the Chargers, though his results have been varied.

The Chargers had one of the best offenses in the league in 2021, with the team ranking fourth in yards and fifth in points per game. Herbert and the team’s array of pass catchers accounted for much of that success, as Los Angeles ranked second in the league in yards gained through the air. The team fell short of the postseason after a wild season-finale loss to the Raiders, however, leading to questions regarding their defensive performance and Staley’s in-game management.

This year, a number of moves made in the offseason — including further additions on the offensive line — led to increased expectations for Lombardi’s unit. The Chargers once again ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in terms of yardage, but their scoring fell to the middle of the pack. Running back Austin Ekeler helped lead the way as a number of injuries weighed down their efficiency through the air, but the team nevertheless seemed well-positioned to win this past week in Herbert’s postseason debut.

The Chargers were well on their way to doing just that when they raced to a 27-0 lead over the Jaguars on Saturday night. During the second half, however, the tide started to turn as Jacksonville worked their way back into contention. Lombardi’s play-calling down the stretch — which saw Ekeler receive only 13 total carries on the night, in spite of his pair of early touchdowns and the team’s large advantage on the scoreboard — drew heavy criticism. Now, Staley has responded by parting ways with the 51-year-old coordinator in a major shake-up to his staff.

Lombardi came to the Chargers with two years of OC experience dating back to his time with the Lions. Detroit put up underwhelming totals during his tenure there, something which, coupled with this unceremonious exit from Los Angeles, will hurt his chances of landing another OC role in the future. Day, meanwhile, has also had his two-year stint come to an end. He served as the Chargers’ passing game coordinator in addition to his duties coaching Herbert and the team’s other signal-callers. The 48-year-old position coach has been an offensive assistant with six different NFL teams, and will now look for his next opportunity on the sidelines.

Today’s move means there are now six offensive coordinator vacancies around the NFL. This one is likely to be the most coveted, considering the presence of Herbert, Ekeler, a high-end pairing of wideouts in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and a rebuilt offensive front. While the search for Lombardi’s successor will be a key storyline for the Chargers, this news also strongly points to Staley’s job being safe, something which the team’s players advocated for in the wake of the weekend’s defeat.

50-50 Chance That Sean Payton Coaches In 2023?

Sean Payton is perhaps the hottest name in this year’s head coaching cycle, and he has been connected to three teams currently in need of a new HC. He will at least take an interview with the Broncos — an opening that he reportedly prefers to the Texans’ and Cardinals’ vacancies — but he may opt against returning to the sidelines in 2023.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk hears that whether Payton takes a coaching job this year or waits until 2024 is a 50-50 proposition. Although Payton is said to be amenable to working with Denver quarterback Russell Wilson and helping him to regain his earlier form, it is also possible that more attractive opportunities are on the horizon.

Indeed, in the wake of the Chargers’ historic collapse in their stunning wildcard round loss to the Jaguars on Saturday night, there was rampant speculation that the Bolts might elect to fire second-year HC Brandon Staley and enter the Payton sweepstakes. For his part, Payton is said to be deeply interested in the Chargers’ gig and the opportunity to work with talented young quarterback Justin Herbert.

On the other hand, there are reasons to doubt that Los Angeles would make such a bold move. As former NFL exec Andrew Brandt observes, while the Broncos’ new ownership group is the wealthiest in the league and could therefore afford to pay Payton the $16MM-$20MM salary he will likely command, Chargers owner Dean Spanos is among the most cash-poor and may be unwilling to pony up that kind of cash while also paying out the remainder of Staley’s contract (Twitter link).

Plus, Herbert himself is now extension-eligible and could be in line for a contract with a $50MM AAV. That is a lot of money for Spanos to stomach, to say nothing of the trade compensation that the Chargers would need to send to the Saints to acquire Payton’s rights.

As of the time of this writing, there have been no concrete reports on Staley’s job security in the wake of the loss to Jacksonville. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently said that Dallas’ current head coach, Mike McCarthy, is in no danger of losing his job, regardless of what happens in the team’s wildcard round contest against the Bucs on Monday. Still, one wonders whether a poor showing by McCarthy’s troops could change that thinking, especially given the long-rumored connections between Payton and the Cowboys’ post.