Sean Spencer

Coaching Notes: Broncos, Fangio, Jags, Lions

Ten candidates have emerged in the Broncos‘ coaching search. Despite the team going back-to-back with defensive coaches, Dan Quinn is believed to be one of the early frontrunners, per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler (ESPN+ link). Despite being fired early in the 2020 season, the ex-Falcons HC has become a hot name in the 2022 interview cycle. The interest in Quinn puts him in position to be picky, as the current Cowboys DC has raised his stock after turning around the NFC East champions’ defense this season. He has yet to interview for the Broncos job yet. Quinn and Denver GM George Paton worked together in Miami under Nick Saban from 2005-06. Quinn, 51, was the Dolphins’ defensive line coach in those seasons. The Broncos have also done extensive work on Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett, Fowler adds. Both Hackett and Green Bay QBs coach Luke Getsy are on Denver’s HC interview list.

Here is the latest from the coaching ranks:

  • Bill O’Brien interestingly finds himself in the mix for NFL jobs on two tiers, with the Panthers eyeing him as an offensive coordinator and the Jaguars are set to interview him for their head coach job. O’Brien’s ignominious Texans exit notwithstanding, he has become a candidate to watch for the Jacksonville job, Fowler notes. O’Brien just finished his first season as Alabama’s OC.
  • Should O’Brien land the Jags gig, Vic Fangio will be a DC target, per Fowler. Given Fangio’s history of DC success, and the Broncos sporting an above-average unit during his tenure despite major injuries to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, the recently fired coach will likely have a few options. The Jags are prepared to be patient this time around, with Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson noting this process could last for an additional two weeks (Twitter link). Second interviews are expected here. The Jaguars being thorough should not surprise, given their rash decision to hire Urban Meyer last January.
  • The Lions are considering hiring their next OC from within. After parting ways with one-and-done Anthony Lynn, Detroit is examining tight ends coach Ben Johnson for that role, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties from Lynn midseason, but Johnson’s responsibilities expanded as well. Johnson joined the Lions as a quality control coach in 2019. GM Brad Holmes is also leaving the door open to Campbell remaining the team’s play-caller.
  • Seahawks assistant head coach Clint Hurtt is on the University of Miami’s radar, with Fowler tweeting the Hurricanes are eyeing him for their defensive coordinator job. A Miami alum, Hurtt has spent the past five years as Pete Carroll’s defensive line coach.
  • Joe Judge‘s Giants staff will likely splinter soon. One of Big Blue’s position coaches, D-line coach Sean Spencer, will land on his feet. Duke is hiring Spencer to be a co-defensive coordinator, USA Today’s Josina Anderson tweets. Spencer was set to leave regardless of Judge’s status. Spencer’s pre-Giants coaching resume unfolded entirely at the college level. The 51-year-old assistant spent six years at Penn State prior to his short Giants stay under Judge.
  • Second-year Browns assistant Jeremy Garrett is expected to leave Cleveland and become the Liberty D-line coach, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman tweets.

Giants To Sign DT Austin Johnson

After franchise-tagging Leonard Williams, the Giants will add another piece to their defensive line. They agreed to terms with defensive tackle Austin Johnson on Thursday, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets.

Johnson has spent his entire career with the Titans, who drafted him in the 2016 second round. The Penn State alum worked as a 13-game starter in Tennessee but played in every Titans game from 2017-19.

A clear connection helps explain the signing. One of Johnson’s defensive line coaches with the Nittany Lions is making the move to the NFL; Joe Judge hired Sean Spencer to coach the Giants’ D-line. Johnson played his final two seasons under Spencer with the Big Ten program.

Johnson played 29% of the Titans’ defensive snaps last season and 38% in 2018. The 6-foot-4, 314-pound run-stuffing lineman registered 23 tackles in 2019. He will join a Giants defensive line that is by far their defense’s deepest position. Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill reside up front for the Giants.

Likely set for a rotational role, Johnson will beef up a Giants defense that already ranked seventh in run-defense DVOA last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Quinn, Eagles, Giants

The Cowboys have a few significant contract issues on tap. Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones are free agents, leaving the rest of the team’s crop as clear back-burner mainstays. Perhaps as a result of the high-profile glut atop Dallas’ early-offseason priority list, the team is unlikely to bring back Robert Quinn, Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes. The Cowboys traded for Quinn last year, allowing him to play out the contract he signed as a St. Louis Ram. Quinn, however, enjoyed a bounce-back season in Dallas, recording a team-high 11.5 sacks. That marked the second-most sacks the former All-Pro has recorded in a season. With Quinn only going into his age-30 season, despite being set for his 10th year, he will likely be in line for a nice third contract this offseason.

On the 2020 offseason’s first official day, let’s look at the latest coming out of the NFC East.

  • Joe Judge made another key hire to his staff, filling his defensive line coach role. The Giants HC is bringing Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer to the NFL, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. Although Spencer has coached at the college level since 1995, this will be his first NFL gig. Prior to spending the previous six seasons with the Nittany Lions, Spencer coached Vanderbilt’s D-line from 2011-13.
  • Staying on the subject of NFC East D-line coaches, former Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke is expected to move from a special defensive assistant role to the Eagles‘ defensive line coach, Tim McManus of ESPN.com notes. Burke, who served as Miami’s DC from 2017-18, joined Doug Pederson‘s staff last year. The Eagles fired previous D-line coach Phillip Daniels in mid-January.
  • Philadelphia’s staff may include a college-to-pro promotion. Buzz has formed around the prospect of Vanderbilt wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead making the move to Philly and becoming the Eagles’ receivers coach, McManus adds. A former Colts wideout in the 2000s, Moorehead has spent the past 11 seasons making moves up the coaching ladder at the college level. He’s coached wideouts at Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt over the past seven seasons.
  • The Eagles, however, recently lost one of their coaches to a college role. Offensive assistant G.J. Kinne accepted Tulsa’s offer to become its offensive coordinator, the program announced. A 31-year-old Tulsa product, Kinne spent one season with the Eagles.