Todd Haley

Cardinals Rumors: Munchak, Wilks, Caldwell

The Cardinals are the only NFL team looking for a new head coach that either hasn’t already made a hire or does not have a clear-cut front-runner for the position. Indeed, many coaches around the league have “trepidation” about the Arizona gig, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Among the factors concerning potential contenders are the Cardinals’ lack of a solution at quarterback and the increasingly difficult path to contention in the NFC West. Additionally, Arizona prefers to keep the majority of its defensive staff in place, meaning a new head coach might not get the opportunity to hire his own coaches, as La Canfora writes in a separate piece. The immediate outlook for the Cardinals isn’t very positive, meaning ownership could make “sweeping changes” again in just a few years.

Here’s more on the Cardinals:

  • Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak withdrew from Arizona’s coaching hunt last week, but La Canfora reports (via Twitter) that Munchak would have been the favorite for the club’s head coaching position had he not pulled out. Munchak cited family concerns when explaining why he decided to remain in Pittsburgh, but there was at least some thought the Steelers could promote the NFL Hall of Famer to offensive coordinator after ex-OC Todd Haley‘s contract expired. Instead, Pittsburgh tabbed incumbent quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner for the role, meaning Munchak will return for a fifth season as the team’s OL coach. Munchak, 57, has previous head coaching experience, as he posted a 22-26 record with the Titans from 2011-13.
  • Among the candidates who are still in contention for the Arizona job, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has reportedly made a “very strong impression” on Cardinals ownership during the search process, tweets La Canfora. Wilks, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, and Eagles quarterbacks John DeFilippo all have or will receive second interviews. Incumbent DC James Bettcher, meanwhile, won’t require a second meeting given his familiarity with Arizona’s decision-makers.
  • While the Cardinals’ search is still ongoing, candidates have already started to formulate hypothetical coaching staffs. Flores for instance, would likely install former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator were he to land the Arizona gig, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Bettcher, meanwhile, is eyeing former Broncos play-caller Mike McCoy for OC and ex-Colts head coach Chuck Pagano for DC, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • We touched on Haley earlier, and the former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator says he would have interest in taking over OC duties for the Cardinals, per Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (Twitter link). Haley, of course, has worked in Arizona before as the club’s offensive coordinator from 2007-08. Also a potential candidate for vacant OC jobs in both New York and Cleveland, Haley will likely need to wait until the Cardinals settle on their next head coach before taking any serious looks at a reunion in the desert.

Browns Interview Todd Haley For OC Job

The Browns continue to search for an offensive coordinator, with multiple recent head coaches on the team’s short list for the position.

One high-profile coordinator is as well. Todd Haley and the Browns have discussed this job, with Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com reporting the sides are engaged in “serious talks” about the role. Haley has formally interviewed for the post (Twitter link via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal).

The Steelers let Haley’s contract expire after their season ended, and the two sides are going their separate ways after six seasons together. The Browns have obviously not enjoyed a similar kind of consistency on their staff but are set to change their offensive coaching arrangement.

Cleveland’s interviewed Ben McAdoo and Sean Ryan for the job, and Mike Mularkey is a consideration as well. Hue Jackson has gone without an OC the past two seasons, which have been worse than any other two-year run in NFL history.

The 50-year-old Haley has been an offensive coordinator for eight seasons, with his Cardinals run ending with a narrow Super Bowl loss to the Steelers and providing a springboard for Haley to catch on as the Chiefs’ head coach. After the Kansas City tenure did not go especially well, Haley helped Ben Roethlisberger to his best statistical seasons. Over the past four years, the Steelers were second in cumulative offense — behind only the Patriots. And Haley’s overseen the work of two of the game’s best players in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

While Ryan would prefer to call plays, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes the Texans’ QBs coach might not be viewed as experienced enough to do so over Jackson. However, Cabot adds Haley’s extensive run as a play-caller would probably induce Jackson to give him the keys to the 2018 Browns’ offense, if hired.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Fire Offensive Coordinator John Morton

John Morton is out as offensive coordinator of the Jets, according to Manish Mehta of the Daily News (on Twitter). The Jets were hoping that Morton would be hired away by another team, but that never happened. Instead, the well-liked Morton has been pushed out. John Morton (vertical)

Under Morton’s watch, the Jets finished 28th in total yards, 19th in rushing yards, and 24th in both scoring and passing yards. Overall, however, the Jets’ offense performed better than most expected.

Quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates is a strong candidate to take over his job, but nothing has been finalized just yet. Former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley could also be a candidate for the position, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter).

It has been rumored that Bates is the Jets’ preferred choice for the OC job, but he has indicated to the team that he is not interested in the position. It’s possible that Bates could have a change of heart if the Jets are willing to pay him more than the average OC.

Another name to keep an eye on is Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. DeFilippo was the Jets’ top choice to replace Chan Gailey last year before Philly blocked the interview request, according to an earlier report from Mehta. However, DeFilippo could be in play for a head coaching position this offseason and figures to have several other offensive coordinator opportunities.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers To Hire New Offensive Coordinator

The Steelers are allowing offensive coordinator Todd Haley to walk now that his contract has expired, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The team will now look to hire a new OC. Todd Haley (vertical)

[RELATED: Ben Roethlisberger To Play 3 More Years?]

The Steelers may have a couple of in-house candidates to replace Haley. One is quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner, who was previously assigned to act as a “buffer” between Ben Roethlisberger and Haley on the sidelines. The other is offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who appears to have withdrawn his name from consideration for the Cardinals’ head coaching vacancy.

On the whole, Haley’s offense has been a success in Pittsburgh, but his bickering with Big Ben and off-the-field incidents have tested the patience of his superiors. Haley’s latest unfortunate headline came when he suffered a shattered pelvis during a barroom brawl on New Year’s Eve.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ben Roethlisberger To Play 3 More Years?

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has privately told teammates that he wants to play for at least three more seasons, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.Ben Roethlisberger (vertical)

The 35-year-old Roethlisberger indicated following Sunday’s Divisional Round loss that he plans to return for the 2018 season, an important disclosure given that he reportedly mulled retirement prior to the 2017 campaign. Coming off a season which was largely in line with his career norms (64.2% completion rate, 28 touchdowns, 92.4 quarterback rating), Roethlisberger sounds as though he’s eager to continue his career through at least next year, and potentially beyond. He’s under contract through 2019, with cap charges of $23.2MM in each season.

Roethlisberger’s relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley has reportedly been the source of some strain, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported Sunday that the rapport between the two Steelers “in in as bad of a place as it’s been in years.” Haley’s contract is now expired, per Bouchette, and it’s unclear if he’ll return to Pittsburgh in 2018 after failing to “build support among key players” on the club’s offense. If Haley leaves the Steelers, quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner would represent a “strong candidate” to become the team’s next offensive coordinator.

Appearing on his local radio show on CBS Pittsburgh this morning, Roethlisberger seemed to refute any concerns regarding Haley. “There’s always issues in a competitive field,” said Roethlisberger, noting that the reported rift is “perceived as a bigger deal” than reality might warrant (Twitter links via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com). “You might butt heads at times, it doesn’t mean you have any personal problems.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Todd Haley’s Contract With Steelers Expires

Todd Haley‘s contract with the Steelers has expired, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. As Bouchette explains, the team does not typically allow a coach’s contract to lapse if they intend to keep him, so this could indeed be the end of his time as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator. 

Haley is reportedly at odds with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his off-the-field behavior probably doesn’t help matters. This season, Roethlisberger requested that QBs coach Randy Fichtner coach from the sidelines instead of the press box so that he can provide a buffer between him and Haley. Although the Steelers have enjoyed great success with Haley as the OC, this could be the offseason that they go in a different direction.

Fichtner has been with the team since 2007 and has served as the QBs coach for the last eight seasons, so he could be a candidate for the position if Haley is pushed out the door. His relationship with Big Ben could also help his case.

The Steelers have not allowed a coordinator’s contract to lapse without an extension since after the 2011 season. In that instance, Bruce Arians was nudged out the door in what was referred to as a “retirement.”

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Notes: Brown, Bell, Haley

Antonio Brown is likely to play in the Steelers’ divisional round contest against Jacksonville this afternoon, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports, although Schefter adds that Brown’s injured calf is not close to being fully healed. The league’s top wideout, who is one month removed from the partially torn left calf muscle that forced him to miss the final two games of the regular season, will go through pregame warmups to test the calf, but as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets, every expectation is that Brown will play and will play regularly. Brown was forced to miss Friday’s practice because of an illness, but he was a full participant in practices on Wednesday and Thursday, and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that Brown’s illness will not impact his playing status [Twitter update: Brown is active, per Schefter].

Now for several more notes on the AFC North champions:

  • His idle threats notwithstanding, no one expects Le’Veon Bell to retire or sit out the 2018 season if he is hit with the franchise tag for the second straight year, least of all the Steelers themselves. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link), the Steelers are indeed expected to put the franchise tag on Bell, which has been a foregone conclusion for some time now. As Rapoport observes, Pittsburgh has historically refused to cede to the demands of players who threaten to sit out, and he does not expect the club to change it standard operating procedure for Bell. If Bell does play 2018 under the tag, he will have earned roughly $26.5MM over the 2017-18 seasons, while he would have earned $30MM if he signed the long-term deal the Steelers offered him last year. Nonetheless, we will still need to wait to see what the future holds before we can say for sure whether that was a wise financial move for Bell.
  • We heard at the end of December that the relationship between Ben Roethlisberger and OC Todd Haley is strained, but Rapoport goes one step further, saying that the relationship “is in as bad of a place as it’s been in years.” Nonetheless, Roethlisberger has thrived under Haley’s leadership, which puts the Steelers in something of a bind. Haley’s contract expires at the end of the season, so Pittsburgh will need to decide whether it wants to bring him back and hope he and Big Ben can put aside their personal differences since the on-field product has been so good, or whether it wants to move on. Of course, the decision could be made for the Steelers if Roethlisberger makes good on his threat to retire, or if offensive line coach Mike Munchak gets a head coaching job elsewhere and brings Haley with him, which Rapoport says is a distinct possibility.
  • Speaking of Munchak, who has already interviewed with the Cardinals for their head coaching job, we heard this morning that he could be a dark horse candidate for the Giants’ HC vacancy.

North Notes: Bears, Packers, Ravens, Browns

The Bears have concluded their head coaching interview with Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards, the club announced today. Chicago is able to interview Edwards given that Minnesota secured a first-round playoff bye, and he’s one of seven candidates to be linked to the Bears’ vacancy. Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks are all being considered for the job alongside Edwards.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Incumbent cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt is considered the favorite to become the Packers‘ next defensive coordinator, reports Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Green Bay will start its DC search by interviewing three internal candidates: Whitt, safeties coach Darren Perry, and assistant head coach/linebackers Winston Moss. While all three coaches are currently under contract with the Packers, there’s no guarantee that any or all of them will return in 2018, as Demovsky writes in a separate piece. If Green Bay hires an outside candidate to replace Dom Capers, that new coach could aim to bring in his own assistants.
  • The Ravens will bring back offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinwheg in 2018, but it’s unclear if senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach Greg Roman will return given that his contract has expired, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Roman, a former play-caller for the 49ers and Bills, could potentially draw interest as an offensive coordinator once head coaching vacancies are filled around the league. Meanwhile, Baltimore may potentially hire a quarterbacks coach to work on Joe Flacco‘s mechanics, head coach John Harbaugh told reporters today, including Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Mornhinwheg currently holds the QBs coach title in addition to offensive coordinator.
  • Reports earlier this week indicated the Browns are interested in former Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, and Cleveland will in fact interview him for their open offensive coordinator position, according to Rapoport (Twitter link). Browns head coach Hue Jackson, who calls his own offensive plays, had not employed an OC during his first two years in Cleveland. Zampese, the Bengals’ quarterbacks coach from 2003-16, lasted only two touchdown-less games as the club’s offensive play-caller in 2017. The Browns are also set to interview Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan for offensive coordinator in the near future.
  • Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley suffered a shattered pelvis during an incident at a bar on New Year’s Eve, but the injury is not expected to affect Haley’s ability to coach during the Divisional Round, reports Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While there certainly could be more to the story, Haley was reportedly shoved while out to dinner with his wife in the Pittsburgh area.

La Canfora’s Latest: Jets, Panthers, Steelers

While Josh McCown hasn’t yet announced whether he’ll continue his career in 2018, those close to him believe the veteran quarterback will return for another season, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. McCown, who is currently on injured reserve after breaking his hand, posted arguably the best campaign of his career while starting 13 games for the Jets this year. Given that he’ll be entering his age-39 season, McCown won’t command a long-term contract, and could theoretically make sense as a bridge quarterback for a number of clubs. When he does hang up his cleats, McCown is expected to generate interest as a coach.

Here’s more from La Canfora as Week 16 comes to a close:

  • Speaking of the Jets, it would qualify as “shocking” if Gang Green doesn’t release defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson prior to next season, per La Canfora. Wilkerson has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, and he isn’t expected to play for New York again this season despite being fully healthy. Missed meetings and other off-field offenses have led the Jets’ coaching staff to become “fed up” with Wilkerson, and there’s almost no chance the club will opt to pay him $17MM in 2018. Still, Wilkerson is expected to generate interest if he hits the free agent market next spring.
  • Although reports of a $2.5 billion price for the Panthers may have been exaggerated, sources still expect the Carolina franchise to garner at least $2 billion, as La Canfora writes. Although the NFL will require full cooperation as the league investigates claims of harassment against owner Jerry Richardson, the league won’t be able to tell Richardson to whom he can sell his team. Because Richardson isn’t keeping the club in his family, he has the right to sell to whomever he chooses.
  • The relationship between Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley has become strained, per La Canfora, who adds Roethlisberger has asked for a “buffer” between him and Haley during games. As such, quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner has begun coaching from the sidelines (instead of the press box) in order to act as that go-between. While reports of complications between Roethlisberger and Haley may have no affect, the relationship could potentially affect offseason staff plans for Pittsburgh.
  • The Patriots, Eagles, and Vikings are all expected to lose members of their staff this offseason as coaches leave for promotions with other clubs, according to La Canfora. New England, Philadelphia, and Minnesota are three of the most successful teams in the league in 2017, and coordinators such as Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, Jim Schwartz, Frank Reich, John DeFilippo, Pat Shurmur, and George Edwards could all be on the move.

NFC Notes: Giants, Bradham, Gholston

The Giants coaching questions are now back in full force after the team lost to Washington on Thanksgiving night. There was some reprieve from the consistent rumors after Giants head coach Ben McAdoo beat the Chiefs two weeks ago, but now there is speculation about where the front office may turn if they chose to replace McAdoo at the end of this season.

Ralph Vacchiano of SNY speculated a number potential candidates to replace McAdoo if the team were to move on from the second-year head coach. Vacchiano had a number of former head coaches on his list, which included Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith. He also included big college names that seem a little more like long shots in Stanford head coach David Shaw and Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Up and coming coordinators Teryl Austin and Frank Reich rounded out his list.

New York is a pretty big draw that could get a few more well known coaches to at least consider the position. Plus, the team will have a top pick, solid defense and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. to build around. More coaching rumors will be popping up as the seasons moves along, but it’s interesting to see what names may be on the radar, even though there’s been no indication that the front office will assuredly to fire McAdoo.

  • The Giants have dealt with a number of injuries this season. The team has likely lost two more players for the season in cornerback Donte Deayon (fractured forearm) and linebacker Curtis Grant (knee), reports Dan Duggan of NJ Advanced Media. New York has placed seven defenders on IR so far this season, so losing two more depth pieces doesn’t bode well for how competitive the Giants can be in the final six weeks of the regular season.
  • The Eagles are the best team in the NFL right now, and are in the process of deciding which of their building blocks to lock up for the long haul. The team already agreed to a contract extension with Timmy Jernigan earlier in the month and now may be turning their attention to linebacker Nigel Bradham, opines Jeff McLane of The Inquirer. A former fourth round pick back in 2012, the 28-year-old leads the team in tackles with 56 and ranks as the 33rd best linebacker in football, according to Pro Football Focus. The Eagles have 13 players heading for unrestricted free agency after the season, so they’ll definitely have to make some tough decisions regarding who they want to build around and who they’re willing to let go.
  • The Buccaneers will likely welcome back William Gholston this Sunday after the defensive end missed the team’s previous two games with a neck injury, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. While the absence seems short when compared to some other more serious injuries, Gholston is thankful that the ailment wasn’t more severe. “The neck is a little worrisome, because you have to think about everything else, think about family and all that,” Gholston said. “They definitely took all of the correct steps. … I’m not glad it happened, but I’m glad they took the right steps for me to get back.” Tampa Bay will try to extend their win streak to three games when travel to Atlanta for a Sunday afternoon matchup.