Todd Bowles

Latest On Eagles’ Coaching Search, Josh McDaniels ‘Prime’ Candidate?

With the Chargers hiring Brandon Staley and the Lions expected to agree to terms with Dan Campbell, the Eagles are one of two teams (along with the Texans) with a head coaching vacancy. They’re ramping up their search, and it sounds like Josh McDaniels is picking up some steam. 

We heard over the weekend that the longtime Patriots offensive coordinator would interview, and now multiple sources tell Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that McDaniels is a “prime candidate” for the job (Twitter link). That doesn’t mean he’s nearing an offer or anything, as Fowler also reports that former Jets coach Todd Bowles will interview today and has some “internal support” in the building. Bowles is currently the DC of the Bucs, and has done a great job with that young defense.

Fowler also writes that Eric Bieniemy does not have an interview planned despite Philly requesting one on Saturday, so maybe the Chiefs OC has no interest in the job. McDaniels, of course, was the Broncos’ head coach from 2009-10, and has been back as the Patriots’ coordinator since 2012.

He infamously almost accepted the Colts head coaching gig a few years ago before backing out at the last minute, but maybe now he’s finally ready to take the plunge. No matter who gets the job, it sounds like they could be walking into an awkward arrangement where the quarterback situation isn’t quite up to them.

Eagles brass has apparently told candidates that they want to bring Carson Wentz back, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports (Twitter video link). Not just that, Rapsheet even adds that the “priority with the new coach is to make sure Carson Wentz is as good as he was before.”

If that’s true, it sounds like the Wentz position is somewhat non-negotiable. What that means for Jalen Hurts is anyone’s guess, and the potential for a strained relationship with the front office could be what has kept some top candidates away from Philly.

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2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-24-21 (11:20am CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Request Todd Bowles, Arthur Smith Interviews

The Eagles have requested interviews with Todd Bowles and Arthur Smith for their head coaching vacancy (Twitter links via ESPN.com’s Sal Paolantonio and Dan Graziano). They’ll also chat with Robert Saleh, though his dance card is filling up fast.

[RELATED: Eagles Interested In Lincoln Riley]

After much deliberation, the Eagles fired one-time Philadelphia hero Doug Pederson. Now, they’re hitting the ground running in their search, starting with some of this cycle’s hottest names. They’ll also look at some of their current coaches, including assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley. Earlier this week, owner Jeffrey Lurie pegged him as a likely candidate.

Every team without a head coach has asked to chat with Smith. At this point, it would be a shock if the Titans’ offensive coordinator didn’t land one of those jobs. Bowles is also drawing interest, even though his Jets tenure ended with a 24-40 record.

University of Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley might also be in the mix, but it’s not immediately clear if he’s willing to interview.

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Lions To Interview Dan Campbell

The Lions are set to interview Saints assistant Dan Campbell in the coming days, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The club has also formally scheduled an interview with Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles

Campbell moved up the coaching ranks soon after retiring in 2021. Starting as a coaching intern with the Dolphins in 2010, he advanced to Miami’s interim head coach in 2015. After impressing in that brief run, he hooked on with the Saints. A few years later, the Dolphins requested an interview, but he had no interest in a South Beach reunion. He did, however, say yes to the Browns, Cardinals, and Packers.

Bowles, who had just 24 wins across four seasons as the Jets’ head coach, reported to be on the Lions’ list a few days ago. Here’s the current list, via PFR’s 2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker:

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Lions, Falcons Expected To Interview Todd Bowles For HC Vacancies

Todd Bowles will apparently be a popular name on the head-coach circuit. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports (via Twitter) that the Lions requested an interview with the Buccaneers defensive coordinator. The interview hasn’t been scheduled as the two sides await the outcome of Tampa Bay’s playoff game tonight. Garafolo notes that Bowles is also expected to meet with the Falcons about their head coach opening.

Following his stint as HC of the NYJ, Bowles caught on as the defensive coordinator down in Tampa Bay in 2019. His first season in the role saw the unit rank sixth in defensive efficiency, and the team improved to fifth in the same metric in 2020. This year’s squad also ranked top-1o in takeaways, sacks, points allowed per game, and yards allowed per game (all despite having only one Pro Bowl defender in Jason Pierre-Paul). Of course, Bowles defensive prowess isn’t in question; he previously led stellar units in Arizona, and his Jets defenses weren’t all that bad. What was bad was his record as head coach; in four years with the Jets, Bowles had only 24 wins (and that included a 10-win campaign in 2015).

Both the Lions and Falcons are searching for new head coaches following in-season firings to Matt Patricia and Dan Quinn (respectively). Both teams have interviewed Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy and Titans OC Arthur Smith, and they’re both considering their interim coaches (Darrell Bevell and Raheem Morris, respectively). Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has also emerged as a candidate for both jobs.

For Tampa Bay, it’s sounding like the coaching staff could be seeking a new defensive coordinator once their season has come to an end. Greg Auman of The Athletic opines (on Twitter) that defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers or linebackers coach Larry Foote could take over in Bowles’ stead, although Auman also cautions that either of those coaches could join Bowles’ staff if he’s hired elsewhere.

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Extra Points: Coaches, GMs, Schedule, OTAs

After the NFL expanded the Rooney Rule this offseason, it has a “ready list” of minority candidates for head coaching jobs, offensive and defensive coordinator positions and GM candidates, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. Beyond some of the big names — Eric Bieniemy, Marvin Lewis, Todd Bowles, Leslie Frazier among them — coaches like Clemson OC Tony Elliott, Penn State HC James Franklin and Michigan State HC Mel Tucker appear on the HC portion of the list. On the GM side, some first-time candidates include Bills pro scouting director Malik Boyd, Raiders pro scouting director Dwayne Joseph, Ravens exec Vincent Newsome and Chargers player personnel director JoJo Wooden. Former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson — now the franchise’s pro scouting director — also appears on the GM portion of the list. The Rooney Rule now mandates teams interview two minority HC candidates and expanded the rule to include coordinator positions. Franchises must also open their senior-level executive jobs to minority and female candidates.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • Normal NFL offseasons feature several weeks’ worth of OTAs preceding a June minicamp, but the NFLPA would like a schedule that looks closer to this year’s virtual offseason. Union executive director DeMaurice Smith said “there is absolutely no reason” for the NFL to return to full-scale OTAs, per Sports Business Daily’s Ben Fischer (subscription required). Having seen no decline in performance after this atypical offseason, union president J.C. Tretter agrees with Smith. This would be a stretch for coaching staffs, which have steadily seen their time with players cut back. The past two CBA agreements have significantly limited offseason and padded training camp workouts, and 2020’s COVID-19-altered offseason created steeper acclimation challenges for young players.
  • The NFL has agreed to a formula for its 17th regular-season game, making it increasingly likely this season will be the last one of the 16-game era. In what will be the first shift to the league’s scheduling setup since 2002, the 17-game schedule will feature a fifth interconference game. The schedule will pit an AFC division winner against an NFC division winner, and on down the line within each division, but the extra interconference game will not feature two teams who played the previous year, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. In the event the NFL moves to the 17-game season in 2021, the Chiefs and Buccaneers could not play again next season; the earliest such a regular-season rematch would occur would be 2022.
  • Roger Goodell may well be on board with shortening the preseason slate from four games to two. The commissioner “seemed in favor” of halving the preseason schedule at last week’s owners meetings, according to ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham, but some high-profile owners are not. Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, John Mara and Art Rooney II dismissed the idea of going from three preseason games — the new number as of the 2020 CBA — to two, according to ESPN. No vote occurred on the matter, though Goodell discussing the idea publicly points to it remaining an issue going forward.

Bucs Notes: Brown, David, Mickens

Bucs wide receiver Antonio Brown caught three passes for 31 yards in his Tampa Bay debut last week, a shocking 38-3 defeat to the Saints. And while he tries to focus on returning to form on the field, his ongoing civil case continues to evolve. Per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, Britney Taylor, who has sued Brown for sexual assault and rape, has filed a motion seeking to amend her complaint to include a claim for punitive damages (Twitter link).

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk details, Taylor filed a three-page affidavit along with the motion reiterating her allegations. She avers that in June 2017, Brown masturbated in her presence and ejaculated on her back without her knowledge or consent, and that he raped her less than a year later.

The trial is presently set for December, but it is likely that it will be postponed, which means that Brown will be available for Tampa Bay through the end of the season and into the playoffs. However, the league has consistently maintained that it will suspend Brown again for any evidence that comes to light as a result of the litigation, and if a jury ultimately finds that Brown committed the offenses that Taylor alleges, the NFL will almost certainly levy additional punishment. But by that time, the Bucs may no longer be interested in Brown’s services.

Now for more on the Bucs:

  • Tampa’s loss to the Saints has triggered a shakeup to the team’s O-line. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com was first to report (via Twitter), the club is shifting Ryan Jensen from center to left guard, while A.Q. Shipley — a longtime favorite of HC Bruce Arians — will get the nod at center. As James Palmer of the NFL Network tweets, there was significant miscommunication last week between LT Donovan Smith and LG Joe Haeg, which led to the change. Regular LG Ali Marpet is still sidelined with a concussion.
  • The Bucs were said to be exploring an extension for LB Lavonte David this summer, and the last we heard, the two sides had not made much progress. Greg Auman of The Athletic says both player and team still want to continue their relationship, but with a number of players eligible for free agency this offseason, Tampa cannot just write a blank check (Twitter link).
  • Return specialist Jaydon Mickens was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list yesterday, but it sounds like he was in contact with someone who tested positive and did not test positive himself. Mickens took to Instagram to say “I ain’t hurt. Ain’t nothing wrong with me. If you don’t understand why I ain’t playing, just go look it up. It’s some bulls—. But look, we’re about to go ahead and win this game” (h/t Jenna Laine of ESPN.com on Twitter). Assuming he did not test positive, Mickens could be back on the field next week.
  • DC Todd Bowles has drawn rave reviews for his work with the Bucs’ defense, and for good reason. His unit ranked sixth in defensive efficiency in 2019 and is currently the top defense in the league in that metric for 2020, despite last week’s blowout loss. Although Bowles was ousted as the Jets’ HC following the 2018 season, league-wide respect for his abilities did not diminish, and as Dan Pompei of The Athletic writes, there were eight teams interested in his services before he joined the Bucs. If his defenses continue performing at a high level, he could get another crack as a head coach in the near future.

Latest On Redskins’ HC Plans, Front Office

After little emerged on the Redskins front for weeks following Jay Gruden‘s firing, the struggling franchise is dominating the early-weekend news cycle. Bruce Allen‘s role as team president is not safe, with a Black Monday dismissal being considered.

The Redskins are considering firing their 10-year front office czar, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports, adding that Allen may have a chance to remain with the organization in a non-football role. That would be an interesting setup given Allen’s tumultuous tenure in Washington, but Dan Snyder is pondering widespread changes to his football operations department.

Replacement options for Allen include ex-Texans GM Rick Smith and former NFL executive-turned-TV analyst Louis Riddick, La Canfora adds, noting Snyder has done research on a few personnel execs. Smith resigned from his Houston post after the 2017 season but is open to returning to the league. Riddick worked with the Redskins from 2001-07, serving as a scout and pro personnel director. He subsequently held the same role with the Eagles.

As for Washington’s HC opening, Snyder has “strong interest” in Ron Rivera, per JLC. The longtime Redskins owner is also interested in Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, ex-Jets HC and current Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles, longtime Bengals HC Marvin Lewis and former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. These are consolation prizes, though, with La Canfora reporting Snyder’s primary hope is to work out a trade for Mike Tomlin. Snyder is not optimistic about such a deal. The prospect of bringing the Virginia native to Washington surfaced two-plus months ago.

The prospect of bringing aboard a defensive coach opens the door to Washington sticking with top offensive incumbents Bill Callahan and Kevin O’Connell. Snyder is high on both his interim HC and first-year OC, according to La Canfora. Callahan expressed interest in staying on, though it’s not known if he would stick around under another head coach, and O’Connell has been the primary Dwayne Haskins developer this season. Snyder was the driving force behind the Redskins’ Haskins pick, overruling Gruden.

Allen has not excelled in Washington, but neither have most of the head coaches under Snyder. The Redskins have not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons under the 21st-year owner.

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Redskins Will Try To Trade For Steelers’ HC Mike Tomlin

Here’s some pie-in-the-sky fodder for your Sunday morning. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Redskins owner Dan Snyder — who recently fired head coach Jay Gruden — is expected to make a strong push to acquire Mike Tomlin from the Steelers this offseason. La Canfora adds that Snyder, who has long admired Tomlin, is prepared to trade draft picks to Pittsburgh to bring the Super Bowl-winning HC to Washington.

Although there is a large contingent of Steelers fans who are unhappy with Tomlin, his standing within the organization seems just fine. Pittsburgh did raise some eyebrows when it gave Tomlin a one-year extension in July instead of the usual two-year re-up, especially since his new extension does not have an option for a future year. However, he is still under contract through the 2021 campaign, and team ownership has never expressed anything less than full confidence in him.

On the other hand, the Steelers may be nearing something of a crossroads in franchise history. Although Ben Roethlisberger is expected to make a full recovery from his recent elbow surgery and reclaim his starting job in 2020, the team is likely going to need to usher in a new quarterback era in the next couple of years, and GM Kevin Colbert is only under contract through May 2020 (Colbert apparently wants to go year-to-year, which means Pittsburgh may also be looking for a new top personnel exec in the not-too-distant future).

Plus, the Steelers are short on high-level draft capital in the 2020 draft as a result of their trades for Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick, so an offer for Tomlin could be more appealing than it otherwise might be. Sources close to Tomlin suggest the Redskins’ job could appeal to him, particularly since Snyder is willing to give him a top-of-the-market salary and full authority over personnel. Tomlin also has relationships with Washington team president Bruce Allen and GM Doug Williams.

But when weighing the Steelers’ record of stability and status as a perennial contender against the Redskins’ history of dysfunction and misery under Snyder, it is difficult to imagine a trade like this coming to fruition. If Snyder is unsuccessful in his pursuit of Tomlin, La Canfora says current Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles would be a top alternative, and we recently heard that Washington OC Kevin O’Connell will also receive strong consideration.

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com neither refutes nor supports La Canfora’s report, but he does say Snyder will be patient in this process and will not begin his head coaching search until after the season. Snyder will give interim HC Bill Callahan and O’Connell the remainder of 2019 to prove their worth without any additional distractions.

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Jets Shopped Before Firing Bowles, Maccagnan

The Jets started their hunt for a new head coach and GM before firing Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan, according to Manish Mehta of the Daily News and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Jets To Interview Joe Douglas This Weekend]

Maccagnan, exec Brian Heimerdinger, and agent Erik Burkhardt huddled up with Christopher Johnson at his Manhattan condo in late November and early December to discuss the possibility of hiring former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, Mehta hears. Bowles, meanwhile, was not dismissed until Dec. 30.

During that same four-week window, Johnson also had back-channel conversations with at least two established coaching candidates without the knowledge of Maccagnan. Those coaches would have had the power to either keep Maccagnan or fire him in favor of their preferred GM.

Eventually, Maccagnan got his turn in the barrel. The Jets sacked Maccagnan in May, but they reached out to at least one potential GM candidate a week before he was handed his pink slip, according to Volin.

This latest example of the Jets’ dysfunction may give pause to the team’s current group of GM candidates.

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