Shane Bowen

Titans Still Undecided On Defensive Playcaller

The Titans lost defensive coordinator Dean Pees to retirement in January, and the team opted against replacing him with a new DC. However, someone will need to call the plays, and it’s presently unclear exactly who that someone will be.

Even head coach Mike Vrabel doesn’t know at the moment. As Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website tweets, Vrabel says that there will be one playcaller, and he is still deciding who will be tasked with that responsibility. Outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen is one possibility, and there were rumors in the wake of Pees’ retirement that Bowen would be elevated to defensive coordinator. While that did not happen, Bowen could still find himself with an increased role.

Indeed, Albert Breer of notes (via Twitter) that Bowen is on the “coordinator track,” and Vrabel said that Bowen will be the team’s defensive voice when Vrabel is managing his other units (Twitter link via Wyatt). New inside linebackers coach Jim Haslett could also be an option, given his lengthy track record as an NFL DC.

Of course, the odds-on favorite to call plays is Vrabel himself, who has experience doing exactly that as defensive coordinator with the Texans in 2017. After all, if he was going to delegate that responsibility, one would think he would have announced it by now.

Whoever the playcaller is will be charged with getting the most out of a middling unit that was about average in 2019 in terms of DVOA and below average in terms of yards allowed. The team is still in the mix for Jadeveon Clowney, but there has been no recent movement on that front.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching/Front Office Notes: Browns, Broncos, Giants, Titans, Panthers, Dolphins

When previous frontrunner George Paton removed himself from consideration for the Browns’ general manager vacancy, there were reports that he had concerns about Cleveland’s power structure. That might’ve been a bit overblown, as sources told Jeremy Fowler of that Paton was “not at all scared off by Browns’ structure” (Twitter link). Further, Fowler writes that Paton was “impressed with people in the building and thinks highly of” new head coach Kevin Stefanski, while it came down to the fact that he “felt he had a good thing still going in Minnesota.” Paton is currently an assistant GM with the Vikings. That’s good news for Browns fans, but the earlier reports are still concerning. Stefanski, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, and whoever the new GM is will all be reporting directly to owner Jimmy Haslam, which understandably turns off some prospective candidates.

Here’s more from the coaching ranks:

  • We heard Mike Shula’s interview with the Broncos went well, and now he’s about to be hired. Shula is going to become Denver’s next quarterbacks coach, the team is just working out contract details, a source told Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link). Specifically, Klis writes that offsets with the Giants still need to be worked out. Shula had been the Giants’ offensive coordinator before Pat Shurmur was fired, and there was apparently offset language in his contract. Prior to joining New York, Shula was the Panthers’ OC for five seasons. Shurmur has since been hired as Denver’s offensive play-caller, so obviously there’s a lot of familiarity here.
  • Speaking of former Giants coaches, New York’s former head coach Ben McAdoo left his visit with the Browns without a deal, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). Garafolo notes that it is still unclear exactly what role McAdoo was interviewing for in Cleveland. Garafolo also writes he was “in play” to be Carolina’s new quarterbacks coach.
  • Jason Garrett is re-teaming with one of his guys. The new Giants offensive coordinator will be paired back up with Marc Colombo, who is going to be New York’s new offensive line coach, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. Colombo had been Garrett’s O-line coach in Dallas. The Cowboys routinely had one of the league’s best offensive lines, so this seems like a strong hire.
  • Legendary assistant Dean Pees elected to retire as the Titans’ defensive coordinator, leaving Mike Vrabel with a big hole on his staff. The “expectation in [the] coaching community” is that Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen will be promoted to DC, per Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL (Twitter link). Bowen had previously served as a defensive assistant with the Texans, so he has deep ties to Vrabel.
  • Rookie Panthers head coach Matt Rhule continues to fill out his inaugural staff, and he just made a couple of new hires. Rhule is expected to hire Pat Meyer away from the Chargers as his offensive line coach, and Jason Simmons away from the Packers as his defensive backs coach, per Field Yates of (Twitter link). Meyer had been Los Angeles’ OL coach and run-game coordinator, while Simmons coached the Packers’ DBs. Rhule’s staff is now almost fully fleshed out.
  • Finally, the Dolphins are hiring a new defensive backs coach in Gerald Alexander, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald tweets. Alexander is coming from the college ranks, where he served as the defensive backs coach at Cal for the past few seasons. Alexander was briefly with the Dolphins as a safety during his playing days back in 2011. Miami had the vacancy after they promoted Josh Boyer to defensive coordinator following Patrick Graham’s departure.

Coaching Rumors: Giants, Texans, Chiefs

New Giants head coach Pat Shurmur will call his own offensive plays in New York but still plans to hire an offensive coordinator, and Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski is a “strong candidate” for the position, sources tell Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Stefanski, of course, worked under Shurmur in Minnesota, and is now a candidate to take over Shurmur’s old role with the Vikings (where he’d presumably get the opportunity to call games). Minnesota, however, is also considering former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell and Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan for its coordinator job, so if Stefanski isn’t promoted, he could conceivably bolt for New York. Meanwhile, Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley is a “name to watch” for the Giants’ OC position, while ex-Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin could also “be in the mix,” per Vacchiano.

Here’s more on the 2018 coaching carousel:

  • Former Raiders and Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano will join the Texans as a linebackers coach, reports Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Specifically, Pagano is now a senior defensive assistant who will coach outside linebackers, while Bobby King — already on Houston’s staff — will coach inside ‘backers, per Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link). Pagano, the brother of former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, spent five years as the Chargers’ DC before landing with the Raiders in 2017. When Oakland fired Ken Norton Jr. midway through last season, Pagano stepped in as the club’s defensive coordinator.
  • The Chiefs will promote offensive quality coach Mike Kafka to quarterbacks coach, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. Kafka, 30, originally entered the league as a 2010 fourth-round of Andy Reid‘s Eagles and went to play for six other clubs before hanging up his cleats. He coached at Northwestern (his alma mater) before joining Kansas City’s staff in 2017. Reid’s coaching tree is obviously impressive, and the past two men to serve as quarterbacks coach under his employ — Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy — are now head coaches with the Eagles and Bears, respectively.
  • The Titans also have a new quarterbacks coach: former Texans offensive assistant Pat O’Hara, tweets John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who adds ex-Texans defensive assistant Shane Bowen is now Tennessee’s outside linebackers coach. O’Hara interviewed for the Bears’ quarterbacks coach job earlier this year, but Chicago ended up retaining Dave Ragone for the role. Meanwhile, new Titans assistant coach Kerry Coombs will indeed lead defensive backs in Tennessee, meaning he’ll coach the same position group that he did at Ohio State, tweets Paul Kuharsky of Titans head coach Mike Vrabel offered incumbent secondary coach Deshea Townsend a job as Coombs’ assistant (read: a demotion), but Townsend will instead leave the club.
  • The Panthers have hired Air Force defensive coordinator Steve Russ as their new linebackers coach, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Russ will replace Al Holcomb, who followed Steve Wilks to Arizona earlier this week to become the Cardinals’ new defensive coordinator. Although he enjoyed a four-year pro career, the 45-year-old Russ has never coached at the NFL level. He’s been at Air Force since 2012, and previously spent time at Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Ohio. Carolina has also added former Seahawks assistant special teams coach Heath Farwell for the same role, reports Omar Ruiz of (Twitter link).

Titans Notes: Moore, McKenzie, Coombs

New Titans head coach Mike Vrabel swung and missed on each of his first two tries at hiring a coordinator, as Ohio State’s Ryan Day opted to stay in the collegiate ranks rather than become Tennessee’s offensive play-caller, while former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher chose the Giants over the Titans. Vrabel still needs to fill out a staff, however, and he’s been busy making potential additions today.

Here’s the latest from Tennessee:

  • Former Raiders wide receivers coach Rob Moore interviewed for the same position with the Titans, according to Tom Pelissero of (Twitter link). Moore, who got his start in NFL coaching with the Bills in 2013, had been with Oakland since 2015 but wasn’t retained by new head coach Jon Gruden. 2016 was a banner year for Moore, as both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree topped 1,000 yards, but both wideouts took a large step backwards in 2017.
  • Rams assistant special teams coach Tyrone McKenzie interviewed for an unidentified role on the Titans’ staff, per Pelissero. Like Vrabel, McKenzie is a former Patriots linebacker, although the two never overlapped in New England, as Vrabel was traded prior to 2009, the season McKenzie joined the club. McKenzie, also a former Buccaneer and Viking, has only one season of coaching experience.
  • Vrabel is dipping into his Ohio State ties — he played in Columbus before coaching there from 2011-13 — as he formulates his Titans coaching staff, and OSU defensive backs/special teams coach Kerry Coombs will be joining Tennessee, tweets Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports. There’s no word yet as to what Coombs’ role will be, but given that he’s never coached in the NFL before, he’s likely to keep leading the Titans’ secondary. Coombs began his collegiate coaching career with Cincinnati in 2006, and joined Ohio State in 2011.
  • Texans defensive assistant Shane Bowen is another candidate to join Vrabel with the Titans, reports Cameron Wolfe of Bowen not only worked under Vrabel in Houston during the past two seasons, but also spent the 2012 campaign coaching alongside the new Tennessee head coach at Ohio State. A Georgia Tech alum, Bowen coached linebackers at Kennesaw State University from 2013-15.